Blood Debt - By Tanya Huff

Chapter One
"How are you feeling?"

The young man attempted a shrug but didn't have the energy to actually lift his shoulders. " 'M okay," he muttered, watching the doctor warily. The incision throbbed, and he was too tired to take a piss without the huge orderly holding his pecker, but he wasn't going to tell the doctor that. Some people said he had authority problems. So what.

He had his money; all he wanted now was a chance to spend it. "When can I go?"


"Leave," he growled.

"That's what I came in to tell you." Her face ex?pressionless, she stepped away from the bed. "You'll be leaving this afternoon."



When she was gone, he swung his legs out from under the covers and carefully lowered them to the floor. Straightening slowly, he released the rail and stepped forward. The room whirled. He would have fallen except that a beefy hand wrapped around his arm and effortlessly kept him upright.

"You walk too fuckin' quietly, man," he said, turn?ing to face the orderly. "Damn near scared me to d... "

The last word got lost in sudden pain as the fin?gers tightened.

"Hey, man! You're hurting me!"

"I know." Something glittered in the depths of soft brown eyes, something usually buried beneath an expression of unquestionable docility.

The setting sun brushed molten gold over the waves of English Bay, gilded a pair of joggers on Sunset Beach Park, traced currents of gleaming amber be?tween the shores of False Creek, shone through the tinted glass on the fourteenth floor of the Pacific Place condominium tower and into the eyes of a young man who sighed as he watched it set. Nestled between the mountains and the Strait of Georgia, Vancouver, Brit?ish Columbia, enjoyed some of the most beautiful sun?sets in the world-but that had nothing to do with the young man's sigh.

Lifting a hand to shade his face, Tony Foster stared out the window and counted down the minutes. At 7:22 P.M., his watch alarm began to buzz. Pale blue eyes still locked on the horizon, he shut it off and cocked his head back toward the interior of the condo-minium, listening for the sounds that would tell him the night had truly begun.

Lying in a darkness so complete it could only be deliberate, Henry Fitzroy shook off the bindings of the sun. The soft sound of the cotton sheet moving against the rise and fall of his chest told him he had safely survived another day. As he listened, the rhyth?mic whisper became lost in the heartbeat waiting in the room beyond his bolted door and then in the myr?iad noises of the city beyond the walls of his sanctuary.

He hated the way he woke, hated the extended vul?nerability of his slow return to full consciousness. Every evening he tried to shorten the time he spent lying helpless and semiaware. It didn't seem to do any good, but the effort made him feel less impotent.

He could feel the sheet lying against his skin, the utter stillness of the air....

And a sudden chill.

Which was impossible.

He'd had the air conditioner disconnected in this, the smallest of the three bedrooms. The window had been blocked with plywood, caulked, and curtained. The door had flexible rubber seals around all four sides-not air-tight by any means, but the cracks were far too small to allow such a rapid change in temperature.

Then he realized that he wasn't alone.

Someone was in the room with him. Someone with no scent. No heartbeat. Fleshless. Bloodless.

Demonic? Possibly. It wouldn't be the first time he'd faced one of the Lords of Hell.

Forcing a sluggish arm to move, Henry reached over and switched on a lamp.

Sensitive eyes half closed-even forty-watt bulbs threw enough light to temporarily blind-he caught one quick glimpse of a young man standing at the foot of his bed before the faint, translucent image disappeared.

"A ghost?" Tony propped one leg on the wide arm of the green leather couch and shook his head. "You're kidding, right?"


"Cool. I wonder what he wants. They always want something," he added in answer to the question im?plicit in Henry's lifted red-gold brow. "Everyone knows that."

"Do they?"

"Come on, Henry. Don't tell me in four-hundred-and-ninety-five odd years you've never seen a ghost?"

One hand flat against the cool glass of the window, the other hooked in the pocket of his jeans, Henry Fitzroy, bastard son of Henry VIII, once Duke of Richmond and Somerset, remembered a night in the late 1800s when he'd watched the specter of a terrified young queen run screaming down the hall to