Flameout (Souls of Fire #3) - Keri Arthur Page 0,1

and another member of the Paranormal Investigations Team. They might be infected, but they had no attachment to the hive, and did not fall under the will of its leader. How long that would last, no one could say.

All anyone really knew for sure was the fact that this virus had the potential to become a plague even worse than the Black Death. It wouldn’t just kill millions; it would change them, thereby making them an even greater threat to those who remained uninfected.

Unfortunately, the two scientists who’d been leading the charge for a vaccine were now infected themselves, and under the control of the hive.

As situations went, it was pretty damn dire.

And it wasn’t helped by the fact that the sindicati—the vampire equivalent of the mafia—were also after both the scientists and the missing research notes. Vampires could be infected as easily as humans, but I suspected their interest in a cure was more monetary based than self-preservation. The government had already gone to great lengths to keep this outbreak a secret, so it was a given they’d pay billions to get either a vaccine or a cure.

The man who’d been operating the small excavator climbed out of the cabin and walked to the edge of the grave where a second cemetery worker already stood.

He looked down into the hole for a second then glanced at Sam and said, “Do you want me to start the opening procedure now, sir?”

Sam nodded, the movement sharp. Abrupt. Tension rolled off him in waves and held within it hints of fear and resignation. He might not want the leader of the cloaks to be Luke, but he, like me, had all but come to accept the fact that this time, the sindicati had been telling the truth.

Not that Anthony De Luca—the leader of the faction currently trying to wrest control from the vampires they considered too old-school and out-of-date to be running the sindacati, and who’d given me the information—had had any reason to lie. He’d thought he was safe simply because he had sole control over both Mark Baltimore’s and Professor Wilson’s original research notes and that it would protect him from both his red cloak partners and from his opposition in the sindicati. He’d been wrong—at least when it came to the latter.

With De Luca now dead, the notes he’d so carefully guarded were out there somewhere in the wider world to be found, as, apparently, were the backups of Professor Wilson’s notes. Of course, the two sindicati factions and PIT weren’t the only ones currently scrambling to find those notes. The red cloaks undoubtedly were, too. They might control the two scientists, but their job would be made far easier if they didn’t have to start from scratch.

The cemetery worker climbed into a harness and was lowered into the opened grave. There was a soft thud as he landed on the coffin’s lid. It wasn’t a wooden sound—it was metallic.

I glanced at Sam in surprise. “You buried him in a metal coffin?”

“It’s lead-lined rather than mere metal, and the choice was out of my hands.” His voice was grim. “The government didn’t want to risk toxins leaching into soil—not when we have no real understanding of the virus.”

I frowned. “But isn’t the virus transferred via a bite or scratch? Besides, it can take twenty years or more for a normal coffin to decompose, so it’s doubtful whatever is left of the body by then would actually infect the soil.”

“Maybe. Maybe not.” He shrugged. “I can understand them not wanting to take the risk, however, given there are toxins out