The warlord wants foreve.., p.12
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       The Warlord Wants Forever, p.12

         Part #1 of Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole
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Chapter Twelve

 

  The coven met around the safe, all of them waiting for Regin to swing the Sword of Woden to cut through the vampire's mojo-protected metal. Woden's sword cut through anything. Well, anything but the chain, as Myst and Regin could attest to after one scary experiment that nearly made Myst a good deal shorter.

  The sisters were still debating who would accept the responsibility of the chain because Myst was no longer allowed, not as long as Wroth lived. But no one wanted the thing, and killing Wroth seemed a bingo solution to them.

  Regin raised the sword above her, and even the wraiths flying outside that they'd hired to guard Val Hall against intruders - like Wroth - seemed to slow their circling to catch a window. With a dramatic breath, Regin sliced through the safe as easily as powder, though sparks flew. When all was clear, Myst wearily reached forward to collect her torment.

  She frowned to find a small, ornate box of wood inside as well. All of her sisters seemed to realize at the same time that it was about the size of those velvet jewelry boxes - because the room went quiet, then they dove for it like a wedding bouquet. "Shiny, in the box, shiny," one of the younger sisters whimpered. Myst was closest and snagged it and even if she hadn't been able to she would've bitch-slapped anyone who made a run with it.

  "Open it, then," Regin cried, out of breath.

  Myst did.

  And light seemed to blaze from it.

  "Great Freya," someone breathed. "Diamond. Big. Glittery. "

  Another said, "That's not a rock, that's real estate. When did vampires start coming off with the bling? No. Really. "

  Myst closed her fingers over what had to be a perfect four-karat diamond, so she could look at the actual ring. It was inscribed with her name.

  Suddenly feeling exhausted, she rose, dragging her feet to her room away from the excitement, though they booed her for taking away "My Precious. " The chain was heavy and cold in her other hand. Nïx followed her up. She was a good listener and even though her lucidity came in erratic spurts, she'd been a boon to talk to.

  Myst eyed her sister as she raised the ring. "You didn't look surprised about this. " Nïx's pupils enlarged at it before Myst tucked it and the chain in her jewelry case. "You knew what was in the safe?"

  "I'm not predeterminationally-abled for nothing," she said as she dug two bottles of fingernail polish and some cotton from her pocket. She hopped on the bed and set them up to paint each other's toenails, patting the bed for Myst to come sit. Myst had missed this little ritual, but she had no interest just now. Instead she crossed to the window and said, "Nïx, why didn't you come for me? You knew how to find me. "

  "You were fated to spend that time with Wroth. "

  Wroth. Who had found her so lacking that he'd needed to change her.

  What had he seen that disgusted him so much? She'd wracked her brain for the last three days, but found nothing she'd be truly ashamed of, certainly nothing that would make a vampire lose his freaking mind. "He's out there right now. " Myst stared out into the fog-shrouded yard. "Watching this house, waiting for a chance to take me again. But if I stay behind the wraiths, then I'm just as contained here as I was there. "

  "Without the weakness of the chain, you could fight him, yes?" Nïx asked. "I even imagine kicking some vampire tail might be good for you. "

  A few moments later, Regin popped her head in. "Cara and I are going out to canoodle ghouls. You in?"

  Myst frowned, then turned to Nïx. "Any reason I shouldn't?"

  She bit her lip, staring at the ceiling as if trying to recall a memory when it was just the opposite. "No, I think it would be just the thing. "

  Myst nodded slowly. "Yeah, I think I could use a little goo. "

  Regin beamed, then bounded across the landing to scream downstairs, "Myst is back online!"

  Ready to fight, needing it, she quickly dressed as Nïx did a buff-job on her neglected sword. Myst had no doubt Wroth would be out there watching her and that she would sense him every hour. How long would he follow his "tarnished" Bride? she wondered, but she knew the answer, had felt the wild emotion roiling within him. He'd follow forever.

  Wroth crept among the shadows as Myst split up from Regin and Cara at a sprawling cemetery. Myst easily vaulted to the top of a mausoleum to observe the field below her, where ghouls snapped and clashed against each other or lazed in the dampness of the night.

  He was spellbound, watching as she rested on the edge of the roof, perched down as a gargoyle might. Her eyes swirled silver and her claws curled into the clay tile. She was clearly eager for the kill but waited, studying them. This was the first time he'd seen her in days.

  After Wroth had found her gone from Blachmount, he'd traced to her eerie home, but found it had just gotten eerier. Ghostly, howling creatures in ragged red cloth circled the manor like a tornado. He'd shrugged and traced to her room, but the things caught him. They had a grip he couldn't have imagined, and when he'd finally landed, his lesson had been learned. He rotated his arm, pleased he'd finally been able to force it back into its socket.

  Those beings circled the house to protect it, and did so without cease and without fail, as he could well attest to. But the sentinel that protected Myst from threats like Ivo kept Wroth from her as well. Myst stayed behind them for night upon night, yet now he'd finally found her outside of their protection, no doubt waiting for her sisters to return so they could attack.

  But dawn was coming soon and he needed to -

  She leapt from the roof, drawing her sword from her back sheath as she dropped into the middle of the group of ghouls. There were at least fifty of them.

  "What the fuck are you doing?" he bellowed, tracing to her side, unsheathing his own sword.

  "This isn't happening," she said to herself. "You're not going to ruin my personal life and my fast-track career, Wroth. "

  "But in the middle?"

  "I'm enraged enough to do this. You have no idea" - she struck out, slicing a ghoul from crotch to neck - "how much I need this. "

  "I do have an idea. " A perfect one. He'd felt her rage and her need to fight from inside him. And yet he'd told her that as his wife she would never again fight.

  "You had better leave, because once I finish with them, I won't stop there. "

  "I deserve your anger. I've wronged you and seek to make amends. " He wasn't optimistic about his chances for that. She couldn't be all things to him already and then forgiving on top of that.

  "You think?" When one ghoul's claw came close to his neck, he leapt back and she snapped, "Don't let them scratch you!"

  "Concerned for me, Myst?" He didn't dare hope.

  "Of course I don't want you to get scratched. " She eyed him. "Vampires are easier to kill. "

  "If I help you will you speak with me?"

  "Don't need your help. " And she didn't. She was merrily felling them one after another with a skill that awed him, her sword flying so fast it was barely visible.

  "Then you'll have to listen here," he grated, digging into the fight with her. "I'd had five years of torment. I'd had a hell of wanting you and feared you would leave me at the first opportunity. Then I had dreams of your memories. " These ghouls were irritating him, especially when they got between him and Myst while he was trying to convince her about something so critical. He began killing them more quickly. "In each one you were evil. . . a seductress. "

  "Still am, Wroth. " She kicked a ghoul in the belly, freeing her sword from his chest.

  "No, you're not - "

  "Duck!" Her sword whistled over his head to decapitate a ghoul behind him. "Yeah, well, as I recall, every sunset I asked you about your dreams and you brushed away my concerns. "

  He slew two with one sword thrust. "I know. I should have asked you, because all those excruciating scenes of you. . . doing things were all out of context. " When the largest ghoul out there howled and attacked him, Wroth stabbed the thing in the face, dropping it. She raised her eyebrows as if im
pressed, then scowled, remembering herself.

  "Myst, even then I was still falling for you. "

  That at least got her to pause. She blew a curl out of her eyes and just when he tensed to trace behind her, she took two hands and plunged her sword back along her side to kill the ghoul at her back.

  Now he raised his eyebrows, but continued, "I was angry when I saw your plan to trick me, but I finally understand that you rightly wanted your freedom back. I know what and who you are now. I saw all the memories, clearly at last. Not out of context. " Goddamn it, more ghouls? "Myst, can we not just speak about this? Away from here? Dawn nears and all I ask is for a chance to - "

  "I gave you a chance. Freely. And you threw it away. You were about to brainwash me. "

  With one hand, he carved at a ghoul. "I couldn't have lived with myself for that. I was wrong in many ways. I took your freedom when you needed it, and I hurt you just when you'd given yourself to me. " Never had he regretted his actions so much.

  He could have won her. A heart for a heart.

  "I wanted you so badly I resorted to anything I could and treated you ill when you didn't deserve it. " He looked around. He'd been so intent on her, he'd scarcely noticed they'd cut such a swath that the others had run. "If you give me a chance, I will make it up to you. "

  "Oh, you got it, Wroth. Just let me go gift wrap my chain for you. "

  Wroth's eyes flickered black and his voice went low. "I'd destroy the thing if I saw it. "

  His reaction surprised her. "You'll certainly never get within arm's reach of it. "

  "Myst, I felt your feelings for me, felt you struggling against them. I know you care for me. " Long moments passed as they stared into each other's eyes.

  She was weak, undeserving of her family, she knew, especially when her heart had leapt at the sight of him. But she shook her head. "I can't. It's just too late. I have a lot to lose from this. I won't hurt my family by accepting you. "

  "Kristoff seeks peace. He would fight the Horde with you. There would be no conflict with them. And I would. . . make an effort with your sisters, Myst. I know how important they are to you now. Believe me, I know. "

  She tapped her chin. "So you can see why the idea of being forced to forget them made me cranky? Huh? And what if you saw more out of context? This would just happen again and again. "

  "I would not drink from you. "

  She rolled her eyes. "Yeah, just like I'm going to finally beat my Xbox addiction. "

  "I'm pleased you feel the same about that option. I've already vowed never to use the information to harm the Valkyrie in any way. And I would have to tell you everything I was thinking as if you could read my mind as well. We are wed. We should know each other's secrets. Myst, we are kindred. "

  That made her hesitate. She'd felt that way too. Kindred.

  What the hell was she thinking? He'd been about to brainwash her.

  Making her voice firm, she said, "Wroth, I'm sorry, but I could never trust you - " Her words were cut off by a massive arm squeezing the breath from her throat. Not a ghoul. A demon? she thought wildly. A turned demon?

  Wroth raised his sword, a savage, killing look in his eyes, but the arm tightened and he froze.

  "I wouldn't do that if I were you," Ivo said as he sauntered to the front of his gang of vampires. "He'll snap her head right from her neck. " Ivo's red gaze flickered over her. "Now Myst, I thought I told you to wait in my dungeon. " To the demon, he said, "She's not the one. "

  He narrowed his eyes at Wroth. "So you're the turned human who took my castle from me. Grenades? Guns? I'll kill you just for bastardizing our war. " He glanced from Wroth to Myst, then back again, smiling to see Wroth's body seeming to vibrate with tension. "I believe I have something he wants very badly indeed. I'll take his life in exchange. "

  The demon held her neck tight in his grip. She struggled against him until she could breathe, but he was unbelievably powerful. He was a turned demon, supposed to be a true myth. Apparently, the Horde had just upped their game. She'd known he'd been up to something. . .

  Wroth could trace away in a heartbeat. They couldn't get him, unless they had her. Wroth's eyes were assessing, and she could see him studying the situation.

  "You walk into the sun, and I'll vow to the Lore that I'll free her. I'll hunt her again, but for this dawn I vow that she'll live. If you trace instead, I'll take her back to Helvita and dine on her perfect flesh every night for eternity. "

  "Fight me, coward," Wroth bit out, his eyes black with rage, his muscles tense and knotted with it.

  "Why would I do that?" Ivo sounded confused. "Fight you for the cards I already hold?"

  Wroth was so big and powerful and yet that strength was useless to him now because they wouldn't fight. She could feel his frustration roiling from his body in waves.

  "You know we've got the power here. And you know my vow will compel me to release her. "

  She'd seen Wroth examining the situation, and she saw the exact moment that he determined his options. A calm seemed to wash over him.

  "Her life or yours. "

  One tight nod. "Done. " No hesitation. "It is done. "

  "Catch and release?" Myst sneered to Ivo as he and his gang traced with her back into the shade to ready for the dawn. Birdsong had begun. "Are you kidding me?" To Wroth, she said, "Are you eager to be ash?"

  The sunlight hit the tops of the trees, descending inch by torturing inch. He stood sure and so brave, as if he was proud to give his life for hers.

  The morning breeze blew his hair from his face. His eyes were riveted to hers.

  The sunlight was inches away from him, almost reaching the moss of the great oaks that buckled the feet of the mausoleums. Now she felt frustration as she'd never known. "Wroth, don't be stupid. "

  In a low, steady tone, he said, "I love you, Myst. "

  Feeling erupted in her chest to answer his words. Yes, he'd wronged her, and yes, he was a vampire, but. . .

  The light hit him. He did not close his eyes to the extreme brightness that would have hurt even her eyes.

  And she knew it was because he wanted to see her longer.

  Soon the intensity of the sun was too great; he fell to his knees, his hands curling in agonizing pain. He opened his eyes once more. Glowing, bare. A last look.

  He's going to die.

  They always do.

  Just. . . gone.

  "No. " Saying the word out loud was like blasting a mountain to free an avalanche. An immortal like him didn't have to die. He could stay with her. "No, no, no. "

  "Milaya, don't fight," he bit out. "It is done. "

  The demon holding her smelled of rotting flesh. The cowardly gang of vampires smirked at Wroth's death when Wroth was so much greater than they. How dare they?

  She'd waited millennia to love - she'd waited for him - and they dared take him from her. From Myst the Coveted. She screamed long and loud with the shriek her kind was known for. The one that preceded death. The demon cursed and fought to snap her neck, but her muscles had lain in perfect concert and alignment to prevent it.

  Wroth struggled toward her, trying to get to her even as he burned as though from the inside. Battling to save her as he died.

  He was hers.

  She freed her arms and raised them up. Lightning leapt to enter her grasp and filled her body. That they would dare. . .

  The two holding her were blown from her, percussive thunder exploding them from within. Her hand shot down to collect one's sword just as he was cast into the light.

  She struck out, slashing and clawing at the others with the rare gift of direct lightning from the sleeping ones pouring strength into her. She cut through the number, barely flinching when her arm was broken and the butt of a sword cracked her cheekbone. Don't look through that eye, switch hands. She cut a swath to Ivo, who alone remained.

  "And here I thought you were merely the pretty one. " With a mock bow, the coward traced.

 
Arm shattered, face beaten to a pulp, she flew to Wroth. She vainly attempted to cover his body, dragging him into the cool shade even as she bit her wrist open for him to drink. He was unconscious, his body twisting in pain, his skin looking like lava burned within him.

  "Seems like we missed the party," Regin said as she and Cara strolled over to Myst. "Why does Myst get to kill all the vampires? No. Really. This was just supposed to be ghouls. "

  "Myst, what are you doing? We heard your scream and thought it was something important," Cara said. She waved a dismissive hand at Wroth's writhing form, clearly unable to comprehend why Myst was frantically dragging him with one arm while shoving her gashed wrist at his lips. "The being dies. Leave him. "

  Regin added, "Oh, for Freya's sake, Myst. He's a vampire. Let him fricassee. "

  Myst shrieked and snapped her teeth at her sisters. Then she screamed two words she'd never uttered in her entire life -

  "Help me. "

 
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