Read Dangerous Creatures (Book 3, Pure Series) Page 3 by Catherine Mesick online for free (2023)

I hurried over and looked over my things—nothing appeared to be out of place. The desks in the study hall were arranged in vertical rows, and I turned to the girl behind me.


Jane's eyes were closed, and her chin was propped on her hand. She blinked several times, and then looked up at me.

"Oh, hey, Katie." Jane looked around as if she were a little startled.

"Jane, did you happen to see if anyone went through my backpack while I was out in the hall?"

"No, I'm sorry. I didn't see anything. I think I actually just fell asleep." She put a hand up to her forehead. "I can't believe I did that. I've never fallen asleep in class before."

"It's only study hall," I said.

"Still. It doesn't feel right somehow. So what's up with your backpack? Is something missing?"

"I don't think so," I said. "I don't know. I just thought I saw someone, that's all."

Our study hall teacher walked into the classroom then and shut the door, and I sat down.

As I pulled out some work to do, I ordered myself to get my nerves under control—imagining things wasn't going to help me.

By lunch time I had managed to settle myself down, and I was in a relatively good frame of mind as I walked into the cafeteria. I spotted Charisse and Branden at a table, and I went over to join them.

Branden looked up as I sat down.

"So, you were out with the creepster last night."

I sighed. I was still angry with my friends for their treatment of William at the carnival—but it was really nothing new. They'd disliked William since he'd moved to Elspeth's Grove, and they'd always been very vocal in their disapproval of him. They wanted me to stop seeing him, and they'd never made any secret of that.

But as William had explained to me, humans were naturally wary of vampires—and though his circumstances were unique, he was still, technically, a vampire. And William believed that that wariness was a good thing—he wanted people to stay away from vampires. Though he himself didn't consume human blood—he didn't need to—few vampires shared his forbearance.

And even though my friends disliked William, they were still my friends—and as William had said, they couldn't help the way they felt. So I had grown used to their harassment—these days I only grew really angry with them when William was actually with me.

I prepared myself for a fairly contentious lunch that would eventually settle down.

"Branden, please," Charisse said. "'Creepster' is kind of a strong word."

"What was that?" I asked.

"Yeah, what was that?" Branden said.

Charisse shrugged. "I don't know. He didn't seem so creepy last night."

Branden was incredulous. "You're the one who turned away from him and marched straight ahead."

"I know," Charisse said. "It was force of habit. And he was still a little creepy. Not just so much."

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"'He' has a name, you know," I said.

Charisse went on as if I hadn't said anything. "Besides, isn't 'creepster' Simon's word?"

"No," Branden replied. "Simon's word is 'drifter.' 'Creepster' is mine."

"My mistake," Charisse said. "Anyway, I was thinking that maybe we could ease up a little." She turned to me. "That's why you've been avoiding us today, isn't it? You're angry because we didn't talk to you last night."

Simon joined us at that moment.

"Yeah, what's going on?" he said.

"It wasn't me you weren't talking to," I said. "It was William."

"I spoke to him," Simon said. He was smirking—no doubt he was thinking about William's necklace.

"I didn't come here to argue," I said.

"We didn't come here to argue, either," Charisse replied.

"Everybody's on edge," Simon said. "Seeing David last night affected all of us."

"Russian mob," Branden said. "I'm telling you."

"Russian mob," Simon said scornfully. "That's ridiculous."

"You're only offended because of Katie," Branden replied.

"Well, Katie was born in Russia," Simon said. "Everybody from Russia isn't a mobster."

"I never said everybody from Russia was a mobster."

"You implied it," Simon countered.

"I did not."

"Then what were you saying?"

"A few of the Russians around here are mobsters. Not all of them—just a tiny percentage of them."

"That's not better," Simon said.

"Fine." Branden sighed. "There are a few Russians around here who happen to be mobsters, but Katie and her grandmother have never been involved with them. They are completely absolved of all wrong doing." He waved a french fry. "Besides every country has mobsters. It's not a big deal. We have plenty of home-grown ones, too."

"Do you know how ignorant you sound?" Simon asked.

Branden and Simon continued to argue, and I tuned them out and concentrated on my lunch. Branden did indeed have a theory that a few of the local Russian immigrants were involved with the mob. According to him, they had run an illegal alcohol ring that had been shut down by the police. But he believed further that the moonshine had only been a front—that they had set the ring up and had allowed it to be shut down for the purpose of lulling the police into a false sense of security and blinding them to their true purpose.

Branden believed that the group was actually mining for something in the cave near the Old Grove—the same cave where David's body had initially been found. Branden had had his theory since last year.

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The whole thing seemed highly unlikely to me. But it was true that there were a lot of Russian immigrants in the area—a few of whom had been busted for an illegal moonshine ring. And it was also true that I didn't know why my grandmother and so many others had chosen to settle in Elspeth's Grove. But it was hard for me to believe that there was some kind of widespread conspiracy operating here—and even harder for me to believe that there was a large-scale mining operation going on. Such a thing would be very hard to hide.

But there was something strange about that cave. Last year, I had tracked a creature known as a kost there—the creature had been hiding in the cave during the day when it was most vulnerable. And a few months later, I had seen something else there that I couldn't quite explain—I had seen an image—or a walking vision—of an ancient vampire known as the Werdulac. The phantom of the Werdulac had walked out of the cave and then held its hand out to me. The Werdulac's image seemed to have cast a strange spell over me, and just as I was reaching out to take the proffered hand, the image was shattered by a nearby sound. The phantom vanished, and I was left to face an actual flesh-and-blood vampire named Anton.

I was lucky to have escaped that encounter with my life.

I came out of my reverie to find that Branden and Simon were still arguing.

"It's no coincidence that the body was found by the cave the first time," Branden was saying. "David interrupted their activities, and he paid the price. The second time he was found it was to send a message to the whole town—stay out of our cave or else you'll get a broken neck—and then some."

"Speaking of broken necks," Simon said.

"Don't change the subject," Branden said. "You know I'm right."

"No, this is important," Simon said. "I was talking to Travis Ballenski—"

"Whose dad is a cop," Branden finished.

"Yes, whose dad is a cop. And he said that when they looked over David's body, the broken neck had healed."

I looked up at Simon sharply.

"What does that mean?" Branden said.

"Well, David's neck had been broken."

"I know that," Branden said. "I was just talking about how that had happened."

"The operative word is had," Simon replied. "David's neck had been broken—that's a fact. Last night, when they looked over the body, his neck was fine—it looked as if it had never been damaged."

"How could they tell?" Branden asked. "Doesn't the body get all stiff or something?"

"That's called
rigor mortis, and it starts to pass off after about twenty-four hours. The body would no longer be rigid by now—remember he's been dead for a week. But last night, David's head wasn't flopping around like it had before. And get this—"

Simon glanced around and then leaned forward.

"There were spidery gray lines on David's face and body from some kind of toxin. But the lines weren't there when he was buried the first time, and they aren't a part of natural decomposition or even the embalming process. It's like he'd been poisoned after he was dead."

"Simon! Branden! Stop!" Charisse said. "This is lunch. People are trying to eat here."

"Sorry," Branden said.

"Sorry, Charisse," Simon said. "But the whole thing is really bizarre. First Mr. Del Gatto was completely torn apart last year, and now David Hutchins is killed and dug up—and then he's magically healed and dropped in a fountain with a rod in his chest. It would be nice to have a normal death around here for a change."

"It would be nice to have a death?" Branden said.

"You know what I meant," Simon said. "I bet Katie understands what I was trying to say."

He appealed to me hopefully, but unfortunately, I felt as if I couldn't breathe.

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"I would really like to put an end to this conversation."

"I second that," Charisse said. "I hereby impose a moratorium on talking about dead people at the lunch table."

"Sorry," Simon said. "No more dead people."

The conversation moved on to other topics, but I was too lost in my own thoughts to follow along. The news about David Hutchins—if true—was deeply disturbing. If the broken neck that had caused his death had healed, then there was no doubt about it—David had become a vampire.

So now the question was, had the wound to the chest that David had received at the carnival successfully killed him for a second time? Or was he going to rise every night and prey on innocent people?

I knew for a fact just how hard it was to put an end to a vampire.

After lunch, I was even more anxious for the end of the day to come—I needed to tell William what I had found out. But it occurred to me that William might have heard about David's healing already, and if he did, then he might be very busy at the moment. Contrary to popular belief, vampires could go out in the sun. But sunshine made them slow and weak and sluggish—and that was the reason they tended to avoid it. And like other 'living' creatures, they needed a period of metabolic rest and repair—so they would typically seek out a safe, secluded place to sleep during the day when they were at their weakest and most vulnerable.

If you wanted to stop a vampire, daytime was the best time to do it.

When the last bell finally rang, I hurried to my locker. I quickly began exchanging my books, and in my haste, I dropped a few of them on the floor. As I began to pick everything up, a folded-up note dropped out of one of the books and fluttered to the floor.

I picked it up and read the message inside.


Chapter 3.

Who I was was actually a little complicated.

To those who knew about such things, I was known as the Little Sun. From my mother I had inherited the ability to use a sphere of pure energy known as the clear fire. And the purpose of the clear fire was to fight creatures of darkness.

The clear fire wasn't effective against vampires, unfortunately, but it was effective against even darker creatures—in particular one known as the kost. A kost was a terrifying creature—a human corpse that was animated by an ancient evil spirit. The human personality of the kost was actually long gone, and the evil spirit—though it had access to its host's memories—was the driver. The kost extended its unnatural life by killing—it fed off the fear and expiring life force of its victims.

A man named Gleb Mstislav had become such a creature back in Krov, Russia, and my mother had fought him with the clear fire. Gleb had eventually managed to kill my mother by poisoning her, but before she died, she was able to use her power to seal him within his family's stone crypt.

And so Gleb had remained a prisoner for many years—unable to leave and unable to die.

And my grandmother, who didn't believe in the supernatural, or in my mother's power, moved me out of Russia to get me away from what she believed was superstition.

She believed very firmly that the superstitions of Krov had ruined my parent's young lives and eventually led them both to their deaths.

And I myself had known none of this until shortly after my sixteenth birthday, when the supernatural seal on the Mstislav family crypt was broken, and Gleb was released. Gleb and his son, Timofei, had then come after me.

Despite my lack of knowledge, I was able to locate the clear fire in Krov, Russia and use it—albeit in an imperfect way. And William and I had managed to defeat the gruesome father and son together. But my powers ultimately derived from the Sìdh—the same tribe that had banished William—and they were angered by my relationship with him. They had blocked my ability to use the clear fire in an attempt to force me to give William up. But that was something I could never do. And the loss of the clear fire would not have been so terrible, but I was known as the Little Sun and because of that, there were plenty of creatures that wanted to be rid of me—and the loss of my powers was not well known.

My life was, in fact, under constant threat from an ancient vampire known as the Werdulac, who had a very old score to settle. And unfortunately, I was part of his plan.

Many centuries ago, the Werdulac had raised an army of vampires and had attacked the Sìdh—he'd sought to be ruler of the light as well as the dark. But the Sìdh had crushed the Werdulac and his army, and the Werdulac himself had been burned and his ashes encased in ice and entombed somewhere deep within the earth.

The vampires that survived that battle had sworn an oath that they and their descendants would cease hostilities against the Sìdh forever. They were honor-bound not to harm anyone of Sìdh blood. The Sìdh themselves were eventually defeated by an army of ordinary human beings and sent to live underground, banished from the mortal world. Both the Sìdh and the Werdulac seemed to have left this world for good.

But the powerful spirit of the Werdulac survived, and over the centuries his body had begun to reconstitute itself. He wasn't strong enough yet to break free of his icy prison, but his spirit had gone out and drawn followers to him. As the Werdulac continued to heal, he'd used his followers to begin building a new army to attack the Sìdh he hated so much. But this new army was not made up of vampires. The Werdulac had watched modern vampires from his icy prison, and he was disgusted with what he saw—he believed modern vampires to be weak and ineffectual, and he wanted to destroy them, too. Apart from a few rogue vampires who worked for him, the Werdulac's new army was made up of hybrid creatures—part vampire and part kost and completely under his control. And to get his rematch with the Sìdh, the Werdulac needed only one other thing. He needed me.

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Because of my Sìdh blood, if I was killed by a vampire, the Sìdh could be released from their banishment to avenge my death. Toward that end, the Werdulac had placed a price on my head last year, and he'd revived Timofei Mstislav as a hybrid.

William and I had been attacked by the hybrid army back in Russia and had defeated them—with a lot of help from the Russian vampires. But since then, things had been quiet, and the Werdulac and his army seemed to have vanished—there had been no sign of him or his hybrids in months.

I had been targeted by the Werdulac last year, and I had survived, but I had barely escaped with my life.

If the author of the mysterious note truly knew who I was, then he or she was right. If I was being targeted again—by the Werdulac, or anyone else, I really had no way to defend myself.

I looked down at the note in my hand again. I didn't have the first note I'd received to compare it to at the moment, but it seemed to me that the handwriting on the two notes was the same.

So who were the notes from? And did
my mysterious correspondent actually have information about a real threat?

A shadow fell across me where I sat in front of the school, and I looked up to see William silhouetted against the sun.

I thought fleetingly of David. If he was still alive, he was probably hiding from the sunshine—and possibly even sleeping. But William seemed to be different from other vampires in that regard—he wasn't noticeably weaker during the day, and he never needed to sleep. William was oddly suited to hunt the very beings with which he had a kinship.

I stood up.

"How about I walk you home?" William said.

"Sure." I glanced at his face—he looked troubled.

We began to walk.

"You don't have good news, do you?" I said.


"I don't have good news either." I handed him the note.

William looked it over. He didn't say anything.

"I know you don't want to alarm me," I said, "but I think you're going to have to. Today at lunch I heard that David's broken neck had healed itself. Is that true?"


"So David has become a vampire."


"Is he still—alive?"

"I don't know."

I glanced up at William. "You don't know?"

"No. I saw the examination of David's body at the police station, and then the body was wheeled down the hall to be put into cold storage. I waited until the way was clear and then slipped in to examine the body myself. But the drawer the body was supposed to be in was empty—and it wasn't in any of the others, either. I searched the entire police station. David's body has disappeared."


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"Yes—it had to have been taken within the short span of time that the body was out of my sight."

"But can't you sense the presence of a vampire?"

"I should be able to do that—if the vampire is 'alive.' I don't know why I wasn't able to sense David's presence at the carnival."


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