Macrieve, p.38
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       MacRieve, p.38

         Part #14 of Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole
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Page 38


  "Actually, thats not quite true," Gisela said. "If a succubus and incubus are fated, they become even stronger with their union. But then, all Ubus receive-and give-strength each time they join with their fated one. "

  Had Will been stronger after taking Chloe? The first time, hed gotten drunk. The second time, hed been growling at sheep, feeling like an imbecile for hurting her.

  His eyes darted. What if she was his-and he wasnt hers?

  Nieve said, "I know what Im hoping for with my cousin. " In a lower voice, she asked her mother, "Can you imagine birthing a litter of Lykae?"

  "You think I canna hear you?" he snapped, more angry at himself than at her. Being here, learning about these people wasnt . . . comfortable. He felt like his prejudice was being dismantled-with a wrecking ball.

  It called to mind a long-ago battle when hed sustained a mace blow to his favorite breastplate, the dented metal gouging his skin throughout the melee. Afterward, hed watched the smithy hammer and hammer it, pounding it back to its original shape.

  Aye, Will had been twisted by Ruelle . . . but mayhap he could be wrought anew, one pounding blow at a time?

  Mayhap Im on the smithys anvil right now.

  Once Gisela had collected a few drops of Chloes blood, she added a white powder to them. "Now we have to wait fifteen minutes for the test results. " She reached for the smallest of five sandglasses, then turned it upside down to start the counter.

  "What do you think is wrong with her?"

  The woman glanced away. "I hesitate to say. Lets wait for the results. "

  "Why have you no come for Chloe in years past?"

  "We had no idea she existed until a succubus escaped from an Order prison just a few weeks ago. She returned here with word of Chloe and Webb. I believe youre familiar with the Order. "

  He cast her a cruel smirk. "Im surprised any succubae from that prison lived to tell tales-since I beheaded five of them. "

  Neither Gisela nor Nieve appeared upset by that. "Actually, a succubus named Dehlia escaped with a guard, one whod been planted there to spy on the Order. Do you remember Calder Vincente? Theyre wed now. "

  Out of all the guards, Vincente had been the single one Will mightve considered sparing. "Wait, why would you be talking to that succubus? Was she no an outcast? And for that matter, was no Chloes mother?"

  "I said Ubus in your realm were most likely exiles from ours. There are also hunters tasked with executing those exiles. Dehlia was one. As was Fiore. My three brothers roam the outside world even now. Aside from me, our family is comprised of hunters. "

  Confusion churned. He stroked Chloes forehead for calm. "So youre telling me that her mam hunted evil succubae?"

  "Yes. With much success. " Gisela was unmistakably proud of her late sister. "She was the best of them all, aggressive and unrelenting. "

  So thats where my mate gets it from. "But why cast out criminals, only to dispatch hunters after them?"

  "Ages ago, we had little concept of your world," Gisela said. "Were self-sustaining here, had no reason for a portal. Back then, our leaders believed the rift was solely to dispose of those who would harm others. But after the Murkian Wars-"

  "Murkian?" He pinched the bridge of his nose, having a feeling he didnt want to hear what was coming next.

  "The creatures from the Woods of Murk grew in number, discovering our portal," Nieve answered, sounding like she recited from a textbook. "Bent on seizing females and resources, they attacked, overrunning us. We fought them back with greater numbers, but we only had so many trained soldiers. Our foes were vicious, kept coming until we knew Ubus would fall. "

  "And? What happened then?" he asked, still flummoxed that Ubus had not only guardians but hunters and soldiers. And hard-hitting lads and lasses who liked sports.

  For some reason, Nieve pursed her lips, so Gisela answered, "We were saved by you and your brother, when you led forces to rid the Woods of Murk of evil. "

  Youre bluidy kidding me. "We aided you?"

  "Our realm would have been lost. Once saved, we realized how unfair our exile system had been to your family and people. No one had any idea youd been . . . personally affected. "

  Will repeated, "We aided you?"

  "You regret your actions?" Gisela queried in a stern tone. "If not for your assistance hundreds of years ago, Fiore would never have been born, much less sent out into the world to hunt. She would never have been imprisoned by Commander Webb, would never have given birth to your mate. Chloe wouldnt exist. "

  Will sank back, stunned to his core. Because he could take the chain of events back one more step. Will would never have suggested raiding the woods if he hadnt been filled with rage-toward Ruelle.

  That bitch had set fate in motion. Without her, there would be no Chloe.

  Without his torment, there would be no Chloe. Fate is our faith.

  He recalled how her eyes had blazed when hed told her about Ruelle. Chloe had been wracked with fever-yet in every line of her body, hed seen her fierce need to fight.

  For me, hed thought in bewilderment. She wants to fight for me. It had humbled him-and given him hope. Now he knew that everything was fated, he would suffer his torment again just to see that look from his mate.

  How the hell had he ever associated Chloes expressive glowing eyes with Ruelles malicious gaze . . . ?

  "What happened to Fiore?"

  "She must have been forced to use her strew on Webb to try to escape, or because she was starving," Gisela said. "We steer clear of mating with humans because of the inherent weaknesses of cambions. "

  "What weaknesses?"

  "A cambion can die from hunger. " As Will registered that with a new spike of alarm, Gisela added, "And yet she cant strew. "

  "This one can. " Thered been times when he was out of his mind with lust for Chloe. Yesterday, hed roared to her, "I am fucking ravening for you!" while hed thrust with all his might-as feral as the beast that had followed him.

  Now he said, "You will no convince me differently. "

  "Check her lips," Nieve said. "There should be an opening there. " She held up her own upper lip, pointing out a slit within, just above the top edge.

  Will checked Chloes. All smoothness.

  And down came the hammer once more. He gave a crazed laugh. How many times had he abused her, then blamed her strew? Hed taken her virginity like a monster, then railed at how much control she had-over him. When hed felt tenderness toward her, when hed wanted to hold her . . . it hadnt been strew.

  No, hed been falling in love with her. All on his own.

  I love her. I love Chloe MacRieve.

  Nieve said, "Without that ability, she is very vulnerable. "

  His head whipped up. "You consider the fact that she canna rape to be a negative? A lack to be avoided at all costs?"

  Giselas tone was indignant. "Understand me, wolf, the only time a decent Ubus would use strew is if she was starved. Ideally, we would use it only on whoever was starving us. "

  "I doona understand. "

  "Succubae are abducted and held captive more often than any other species. Dont forget-Chloes own mother was a captive. If Chloes abducted from you and cant attract nourishment, then she could die before you ever found her. Period. "

  He swallowed. "How did Fiore die?"

  "We learned from Vincente that she tried to escape with Chloe shortly after her birth. Webb caught her and killed her. He was going to kill Chloe as well, but her blood tests indicated she was human-"

  "My dad was going to kill me?" Chloe said weakly, just as the sandglass emptied.

  Chapter Forty-Senven

  "Chloe, lass, stay with me! Stay awake. "

  She was in a bed, felt like it was spinning. Her pain was worse, her nausea unbearable. She could barely process what shed just heard.

  MacRieve knelt beside her, clasping her hand in both of his. Before shed passed out earlier, he had appeared crazed. Though he seemed more in contr
ol now, underneath he still seethed with something. "Were at your aunts. In the Ubus Realm. Were about to get you fixed up. "

  In a bleary voice, she said, "I dont have an aunt. "

  He slid one hand under her head, gently lifting it so she could see two women standing at the foot of the bed. She recognized them from the wall at Glenrial! They were so beautiful; both looked to be about her age.

  "You do now, love. This is your aunt Gisela"-he pointed out the black-haired one-"and your cousin Nieve," he said, indicating the brunette.

  "I-I have family?"

  "By all accounts, its . . . extensive," he replied, but she couldnt read his tone. He didnt sound disgusted. After what hed told her earlier, he should hate all succubae.

  "Um, hi," Chloe murmured to them. She tried to wave, but couldnt lift her arm.

  "Rest easy," Gisela said, and again Chloe was struck by how caringly these two looked at her. So far from malicious and evil. "Youre safe here. When youre better, well tell you all about Fiore and Webb. "

  Had she really said Webb had considered killing his own daughter? Even more hazily, Chloe thought shed heard that Fiore had died by his hand.

  Gisela glided over to a counter, peering down at a shallow dish. "For now, you must concentrate on getting better. "

  "I feel even worse. Whats wrong with me?"

  "Good question," MacRieve said. "Were about to find out. "

  Gisela gave a sidelong glance toward her daughter. "The odium curse. "

  MacRieve swallowed audibly, his hands tightening on hers. "What does that mean?"

  "Shes gravely ill. As I suspected, shes . . . at a critical point. "

  "Critical p-point," Chloe said through another wave of shudders. "Dying?"

  When Gisela didnt deny it, MacRieve said, "Nay, I doona understand this! Shes no injured. Shes no wasting away. "

  "No, shes received nourishment," Nieve snapped. Even in Chloes condition, she could tell Nieve didnt like him. "Indeed, its poisoned her. "

  He exhaled a shaky breath. "I knew it was me who caused this, but I doona know how. "

  Nieve said simply, "Some part of you mustve hated her. "

  Given his history, of course MacRieve hated me.

  Gisela frowned at her more blunt daughter, then said, "In the Lore, most powers are tempered with weaknesses. Yes, succubae-and even cambion-have the ability to bind a male to them with venom. Thats one of our powers. But the male must want that bond as well. "

  "I doona understand. "

  Makes two of us.

  "The venom reverses itself if one of us was to mate an unwilling man more than once. Once might be forgiven, might be the difference between life and death. But after that, every time she takes from him, shell sicken in the same way males do after taking on venom. "

  "Thats why she has the symptoms I had when bound to Ruelle. "

  These women knew hed been envenomed? Had they heard his earlier confession?

  "Exactly. A male sickens from withdrawal, a succubus from excess. The odium curse prevents males from becoming enslaved by strew and envenomed against their will. "

  "This dinna happen with Ruelle. "

  Gisela cast him a pained look. "Because back then, you believed you loved her, did you not?"

  A strangled sound rose from his chest. "So I poisoned Chloe. " He absently brought Chloes hand to his face, brushing it over his cheek.

  Longing for his mates touch? She wanted to stroke his jaw, to tell him that everything would be okay. But she was too weak.

  "Considering what you suffered, you were understandably averse to your mate," Gisela said. Then she turned to Chloe. "The good news is that youll make a full recovery, if we act quickly. We have consorts here to help you, some whove proven most potent. Rest easy, niece, all you need is untainted nourishment. "

  "Consorts?" Chloe looked at MacRieve. She didnt want to sleep with another man; surely MacRieve would stop this!

  His jaw slackened as Giselas words sank in. "You want me to sit back and allow another male to take my woman?" His head suddenly jerked as if hed been slapped; probably his Instinct yelling at him.

  She could imagine what it was saying right about now. -Fuck no. -

  "It would be a great honor among the consorts here to mate Fiores daughter. Chloe could be well with her first taking. If not, then certainly by her second. "


  MacRieve shot to his feet, inserting himself between them and Chloe. "Have you lost your minds?"

  Nieve said, "If you loved her, youd do this for her. Youve gotten her sick, and youre too selfish to do whats right. Think, wolf-if nothings changed, youll simply poison her again. She wont survive it. "

  Gisela said, "It would likely kill her. "

  That gave Chloe pause. She didnt want to die-partly because she didnt want him to die. And after what hed told her tonight, she couldnt imagine him wholeheartedly, unreservedly having sex with her, taking on her venom. In a faint tone, she said, "MacRieve, I dont want another man. But I dont . . . I cant take any more . . . poison. And I feel like . . . I only have so much time left on the clock. "

  He turned back to the bed to gently cup her face. "Let me see you well. If this is how I keep you alive, then no man could be more willing. I will do anything to keep you. "

  Nieve added, "Even if youve neutralized the hatred, your beast would kill her on the night of the full moon. Shes too weakened to withstand it. "

  Chloe gazed away. Her bones still felt like they were shattering; what had been a pleasurable romp with his beast before would be torture now. "I cant . . . too much. "

  "Chloe, my beast will no rise. I know you have no reason to trust me in this, but Im asking you to believe in me anyway. "

  Gisela shook her head. "The moon is dawning even now. A mated Lykae cant suppress his beast through sheer will alone. Its simply not possible. "

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