Shane went first, and then Claire; the ladder felt rickety, but it held just fine. She hopped the last couple of steps down to land on the cave floor. Michael had turned on the tunnel lights, so there was no risk of walking into an ambush by . . . whatever, but she was still wondering what he’d seen, exactly. If he wasn’t just yanking Shane’s chain, of course. He never got tired of that.
No sign of trouble all the way to the big cave, and Michael hit the main switch there to turn on the banks of lights. The machine—Claire hated to call it a computer, really—was sitting exactly as she’d left it, screen showing normal readouts. Nothing wrong at all.
“Okay, I need to put in a password,” she said. “Hang on a second.”
She thought about it, and tried Myrnin’s name at the keyboard. No, the red light stayed on. She tried Amelie’s. The red light stayed on.
She tried putting in Ada’s name.
The red light stayed on.
Claire blinked at it. Myrnin didn’t have more than three passwords. He couldn’t even remember more than one at a time. He didn’t have a birthday he could remember; he didn’t have any family; what could he possibly use for a password?
Ah. She had it.
The red light stayed on. Claire frowned at it. “Seriously? Now you get security conscious?”
“Problem?” Michael asked.
“No. I’ll get it.” She tried Bob, for Bob the Spider. Bob was busily spinning webs in a fish tank near Myrnin’s chair. Myrnin fed him a steady diet of crickets and flies, which seemed to make Bob happy. That qualified as a pet, right? People liked to use pet names for passwords.
It wasn’t Bob either.
She tried, in desperation, Oliver. Not it. She plugged in the names of every possible vampire she could remember, including Bishop.
None of them worked.
“At least he didn’t put a lockout on it,” she muttered. She’d tried at least thirty passwords, without success. “Come on, I built you, you stupid piece of junk! Give me a break!”
“How about pulling the plug?” Shane asked. “Just turn off the power.”
She thought about it, but shook her head. “I don’t know what everything does in here. I could shut down something vital. Or destroy something we can’t rebuild easily.” She sighed. “He won’t be happy, but I’m going to have to ask Myrnin for the password.”
Michael’s head suddenly turned, but before he could speak, a rich, slow voice from the darkness said, “Ask Myrnin what, precisely?”
That was Myrnin’s voice. His hunting voice. Claire had heard it before, and it gave her immediate, life-threatening chills. He stepped out of the dark. The cheerfully neon Hawaiian clothes were gone. He was dressed in elegant black, with a bloodred vest, and his long hair was freshly combed and rippling in waves down to his shoulders, very old-school Gothic vamp. He was smiling.
Not in a nice way at all.
“Visitors,” he said, still using that creepy, oddly soothing voice. There was something about it that made Claire feel a little sleepy. A little . . . relaxed. “So lovely to have visitors. I get them so seldom. Especially here.”
“Myrnin,” Claire said. He was steadily coming toward her, without looking like he was moving at all. His large eyes were fixed on her, luminous, fascinating. She couldn’t blink.
“Yes, my dear. How surprising that you know.”
“Know what?” She felt stupid, almost drugged. He was close now, gliding up to her. She felt the cool brush of his fingers on her cheek.
“My name,” he said. “How surprising that you know my name. Perhaps you should do me the courtesy of giving me yours.”
A rush of adrenaline spilled into her body. He didn’t know her. Or Michael. Or Shane. He was acting like they were strangers.
To him, they were intruders.
She licked her lips and said, “Myrnin, I work for you. I’m Claire. Remember? Claire.”
“Nice try, sweet one, but I already have an assistant. Maybe I’ll save you for her. She’d like you.”
Ada. Claire’s heart thumped painfully as she took it in. Myrnin had been sucked under by the machine, and he thought Ada was still here. Still alive.
“You’re talking about Ada,” she said, and tried to keep her voice calm and even. “She’s not here, Myrnin. She’s not coming back. Ada’s dead.”
It was kind of cruel to say it like that, but she needed to snap him out of it, and that was the verbal equivalent of a hard slap.
Myrnin pulled up short, dark eyes gone cool and unreadable, and then he slowly smiled. “I’d know if she was gone,” he said. “Can’t you feel her? She’s here. She’ll be back. I know she’ll be back.”
“Claire?” Shane said. He started to move toward them, but Myrnin suddenly moved, backhanded him, and sent him rolling toward the wall.
“No interruptions,” he said. “I’m talking!” He was suddenly, terrifyingly angry. “Why would you say something like that, I wonder? Unless you’d done something to Ada?”
“Stop,” Michael said urgently. “Claire, come over here.”
Myrnin made an exaggerated, annoyed motion with his hands and turned to face Michael. “I said no interruptions! Oh—you’re not human, are you? Hmm. One of Amelie’s latest, I take it. I thought she’d sworn off of new fledglings, after that last disaster.”
Michael grabbed Claire’s arm and pulled her close. “Yeah, well, I’m Amelie’s, and this one’s mine. That other one, too.”
Shane, Claire thought, would punch him for that one. When he finally got up.
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