The Undead Next Door (Love at Stake 4) - Page 62

"Lots of good memories here, huh, Billy?" Cody looked back at the sheriff. "Remember that time we brought two cheerleaders here?"

Billy didn't answer.

"This was our favorite place to go parking during high school," Cody explained to Heather. "Didn't Billy bring you here?"

"No." So Billy must have cheated on her during high school. That wasn't surprising since he'd gone out with her only so he could be around Sasha. "Billy, where's Sasha? What have you done with her?"

"Sasha!" Cody snorted. "Boy, she was here, making out, every Saturday night. We never did get a turn with her, did we, Billy?"

"What are you doing?" Heather whispered.

"I'm trying to remind him that we're old friends," Cody hissed.

"He stopped being your friend when you married me," Heather reminded her ex.

"Yeah." Cody sneered at her. "It's all your fault."

They arrived at the double wooden doors of the chapel. Heather glanced at the sun. It was just peeking over the horizon, shooting its last golden rays through the gaps in the tree line. The sky was pink in the west, but already dark in the east where a full moon was rising.

"Inside," Billy ordered.

Cody pushed at the right half of the double door, and it swung open with a loud creak. Heather and Cody stepped inside. She moved out of Billy's way as he entered and slammed the door shut.

The air inside was cool and musty. The ceiling soared high overhead. A section behind the altar had collapsed, leaving a gap in the roof. The top half of the rising moon crept into the gap, illuminating the altar below.

The altar was nothing more than a long wooden table, scarred with years of abuse. Visitors had carved their names into it. Teenage lovers had chiseled hearts with their initials. Three pillar candles were clustered in one corner.

Along the walls, windowpanes had been smashed out. The long arched windows now served as gateways for the birds that fluttered in to make nests in the high rafters.

Close to the entrance, in the nave of the chapel, an old staircase led up to a lopsided wooden choir loft. Beneath the choir loft, the chapel was dark. Heather detected movement in the shadow beneath the stairs.

Sasha stepped into the dim light. "Welcome." Her eyes were glassy and unfocused, her skin deathly pale, and she seemed thinner than ever. A surge of anger gripped Heather. Louie was feeding from Sasha. He wasn't just controlling her, he was killing her!

"Sasha!" Heather walked toward her. "You have to fight this. He's going to kill you."

She blinked. "He loves me."

"No! Wake up!" Heather reached for her, planning to give her a good shake.

"Back off." Billy pointed his pistol at her.

Heather stepped back. "He's controlling both of you."

"What the hell?" Cody turned to Heather. "Who's controlling them?"

"Louie," Heather replied.

"Henry." Sasha sighed with pleasure.

"Henry?" Heather asked.

"Henry," Billy repeated like a robot.

"Who's Henry?" Cody asked.

"He's Louie," Heather explained.

"Sheesh!" Cody shook his head. "You're all crazy."

"Henry came to rescue me from the jailhouse last night," Sasha whispered. "He rescued Billy, too."

"Who the hell is Henry?" Cody demanded.

"He's an assassin," Heather whispered.

"Get over by the wall," Billy ordered them.

Heather inched over slowly.

"Why does this Henry want to kill us?" Cody cried. "I don't owe him any money."

Billy tossed some rope to Cody. "Tie her up."

"Why? So you can kill us?" Cody screamed. "Why should I do anything you say?"

Billy fired his pistol. The bullet hit a flagstone by Cody's feet, splintering the rock into a cloud of gravel.

"Fine!" Cody marched over to Heather.

"Sit!" Billy pointed his gun at her.

She eased down with her back to the rough stone wall. Her heart thundered, echoing in her ears.

Cody squatted in front of her and tied up her ankles. "What the hell does this Henry got against us?"

"He wants to kill me."

"Dammit, I should have known this was your fault." Cody looped more rope around her wrists, then straightened. "You stupid bitch, you're going to get me killed, damn you!" He stiffened suddenly and fell on the floor.

His body twitched, then he flipped over onto all fours. "I am a cockroach!" He scurried into the shadows near the stairs.

"Stop him!" Sasha cried.

Billy fired his pistol.

"No!" Heather cried, straining at the ropes.

"I am a cockroach!" Cody squeaked from the shadows.

Billy shot again. There was a scurrying sound on the staircase.

He was climbing up to the old choir loft. Heather winced. It couldn't be safe up there. Of course, it wasn't any safer down here.

She could barely make out Cody's dark figure as he scrambled across the choir loft. Billy took aim and fired. Cody jumped and ran in the opposite direction. Billy shot again.

Heather watched, horrified. It was like shooting a duck at the firing range of an amusement park.

Just then, a tremendous howl filled the air. Billy stopped shooting to listen.

Heather caught her breath. She'd never heard a dog or coyote howl so loud. The sound was deafening. And it had to come from a very large creature.

"What was that?" Sasha whispered.

"I don't know," Billy replied. "But it sounds close."

Heather jumped when she heard a loud noise in the courtyard. It sounded like metal being ripped apart.

The chapel grew darker. The sun must have set. The only light was from the stars and full moon that gleamed through the hole in the roof.

Billy and Sasha stiffened and turned to face the altar.

"The master awakes," Sasha whispered. She hurried to the altar and picked up a box of matches off the table. She lit the three candles.

Billy set his pistol on the table. A few feet behind the table, he leaned over and hooked his fingers through a large metal ring in the floor. He pulled, and a wooden door screeched open.

A figure in black levitated through the opening in the floor. He kept floating up toward the hole in the ceiling. Moonlight surrounded him like a silver nimbus. Heather couldn't see his face, but she felt him looking at her.

She jumped when Billy slammed the cellar door shut.

The vampire Louie lowered to the floor. His hair was no longer white, but black like his trench coat. He looked about thirty-five years old, Heather estimated, but she knew he was probably well over five hundred.

Billy and Sasha bowed. "Master."

"You brought me Jean-Luc's latest whore," Louie said quietly. "Very good." He glanced at the choir loft. "And you brought me another mortal."

Cody scurried into the shadows.

"He will amuse me before he dies." Louie turned to look at Heather.

She swallowed hard. She'd never seen such cold, black eyes. In that terrible moment, she realized there was nothing human left in him. He'd simply become a creature that preyed on humanity.

He stepped toward her. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Henri Lenoir." His lips curled in a humorless smile. "You won't live long enough to tell Jean-Luc. It'll be our little secret."

She bent her knees to conceal her hands in her lap. Cody hadn't tied them very well, so it might be possible to work them free. For now, it might be best to keep Louie talking. That would give Jean-Luc and his friends more time to find her. And it would give her more time to get her hands free. "Why do you hate Jean-Luc so much?"

Louie removed his black leather gloves and stuffed them into the pocket of his trench coat. His hands were pale, the fingernails long and painted black. "Casimir has offered me a small fortune to kill Jean-Luc. And I will have his position as Coven Master of Western Europe once Casimir takes over. The reward is great for such a small task. But I want to make Jean-Luc suffer first. That is where you come in. I'll be killing you for free."

"What if I paid you not to kill me?"

A corner of his mouth twisted. "You are an amusing one, but I doubt you could afford me." His black eyes raked over her. "Besides, I enjoy killing women."

Her stomach twinged.

"I plan to kill you slowly." He moved closer. "You don't seem very afraid."