Night Huntress 06 - Eternal Kiss of Darkness
by the assistance of machines made her knees give out. She sat in the nearby chair, unable to tear her gaze away from her unconscious little sister.
    “What disease does she have?”
    Mencheres’s soft, deep voice startled Kira for a second. She’d almost forgotten the vampire was here. He circled around Tina’s bed, looking down at her sister with his usual hooded expression.
    “Cystic fibrosis,” Kira rasped. “She was born with it.”
    The irony of that stabbed a fresh spurt of pain in Kira. According to what Mencheres just revealed, Kira might also have been born with a genetic mutation, but though hers might steal her freedom, it wouldn’t grow deadlier until it killed her, like Tina’s.
    “She is dying,” Mencheres said, still with that same indecipherable expression.
    “Don’t say that.”
    Kira gave the vampire a look filled with all her impotent rage over her sister’s condition as she stood up. She knew it was true. All her instincts warned that this time, Tina wouldn’t recover. She’d felt that dread growing in her all day even though she’d tried to discount it.
    His black eyes were hard. “As she is now, that is fact, but what are you prepared to do to change that fact?”
    Did he mean… ? Kira looked at Tina, at Mencheres, then at the EKG machine monitoring her sister’s weak pulse. A pulse that Mencheres no longer had.
    “Nothing quite that drastic,” Mencheres said, with the barest hint of a nod at the heart monitor. “My blood healed your injuries. It cannot cure your sister’s disease permanently, but it could heal the complications that cause her to be in this condition.”
    Hope smashed through Kira as she stared at Mencheres. His blood had healed her—from a mortal injury, no less. Even if it didn’t cure Tina’s cystic fibrosis, could it heal Tina enough to get her off the ventilator? Maybe even out of the hospital?
    “You’d do that?” It took everything Kira had not to beg as she waited for his response.
    “Yes. For a price.”
    Her knees felt weak again, but this time, with a different sort of dread. Of course the price of Mencheres’s help would be for Kira to accept the loss of her freedom… forever. After all, he’d repeatedly said he wouldn’t let her go until he could erase her memory of vampires. Six days later, he still couldn’t manipulate her memories or hear her thoughts. Kira didn’t hold out much hope that tomorrow would magically make any difference. Genetic mutation. Natural immunity.
    She looked back at Tina. If his price for getting her to accept her fate as a permanent captive was to heal her sister enough to give Tina another chance at living, she’d agree. She might not have a choice about losing her freedom, but she could see that Tina benefited from it. A thousand times, she’d wondered, “Why her?” about Tina’s condition, and yet not once had she ever heard Tina echo that sentiment. Her sister had accepted her fate with an ice-cold bravery that Kira had long been in awe of. Now, it was Kira’s turn.
    “I can guess your price,” she said, straightening her shoulders. “And I’ll agree, if you heal Tina more than this one time. Do it enough times to give her a normal life span, and I’ll stay locked up for the rest of mine. A life for a life.”
    Mencheres stared at her in silence for so long, Kira wondered if she’d dared to demand too much. Was he angry by the condition she had added to his price? Amused? Scornful? None of the above? It was true Mencheres could just hold her hostage forever without helping Tina, but if wanted her to be as docile as Selene, Kurt, and Sam were, then this was what he had to do.
    “Call the nurse,” Mencheres said.
    That wasn’t really an answer, but Kira didn’t press. She went to the nurses’ station and within minutes returned to the room with Tina’s nurse.
    Mencheres looked up at the woman and his eyes flashed

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