Unraveled, p.12

Unraveled, page 12

 part  #2 of  Intertwined Series

 

Unraveled
 



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Page 12

 

  Great. Neither of them knew what to expect, then.

  “We’ve always maintained distance from each other, and have an unspoken pact. We do not use them for sustenance, and they do not bespell us. Until lately. ”

  “So you’re uncomfortable around witches. ”

  “I suppose. ”

  “And you’re also at war with the Fae. ”

  “Yes. ”

  “And you hate goblins. ”

  “Anyone with sense does. ”

  Were vampires allied with anyone? Well, besides werewolves, their trusted protectors.

  Maybe you joined the wrong team.

  The stray thought hit her, and she blinked. Wrong! She’d joined the right team. She’d joined Riley’s team. How dare her mind consider anything else.

  Are you seriously angry with your own brain?

  She hated that cynical inner voice. Besides, what other team would she have joined? The witches? Yeah, that would have been nice. Wasn’t like they could curse her every time she angered them.

  Oh. Wait. They could.

  But, God, if she could just talk to a witch. Ask a few questions, figure this thing out. How, though? It wasn’t like the witches were wearing signs around their necks announcing what they were, or popping up at school or this ranch and asking if there was anything they could do for her.

  But Victoria and Riley could spot them at a glance. What if they went into town—where most of the creatures were congregating, trying to figure out how they’d been summoned to Crossroads and not yet realizing Aden was the source—and kidnapped a witch?

  Her eyes widened. Of course. Kidnap a witch, ask questions, get answers and boom. Success. Death curse reversed.

  She could have danced.

  Of course, she’d never kidnapped anyone and had no idea how to go about it. But she’d figure something out.

  Who are you?

  The old Mary Ann never would have considered such a risky plan. This was a new world, however, and she had to adapt. Or die. She wasn’t ready to die.

  “Let’s backtrack to the witches…” After she outlined her plan to Victoria, the vampire glanced over at her for the first time since she’d entered the room and nodded thoughtfully.

  “Excellent. ”

  She beamed.

  “I had not thought you so mercenary, Mary Ann. ”

  Slowly her “beam” dimmed. “What do you mean?”

  “Only that I approve of your plan. Kidnap and torture for information. And after the meeting, we can even bargain for our captive’s release. If the witches vow never to curse us again, she lives. ”

  And if they refused to offer such a vow? Mary Ann’s stomach hollowed. No way would she commit murder. And torture? No! In her mind, she kind of expected the witch to offer answers in exchange for freedom. Easy, done. Just like that. Clearly, Victoria thought differently. And that she could resort to brutality so easily and without a hint of remorse…

  First, you didn’t mind Riley acting all He-mannish. Second, Victoria’s a vampire, remember? Raised by one of the most vicious men in history. So for eighty years, and by her own admission, Victoria had viewed humans as food, nothing more, nothing less. Life had no true value to her. Besides, witches weren’t human, Mary Ann didn’t think, but they were a source of irritation to the vampire. Irritations were probably to be snuffed out immediately. Painfully.

  That’s what Vlad the Impaler had most likely done, and that’s what Victoria assumed she needed to do. Someone would have to teach her otherwise.

  So. New task to add to Mary Ann’s ever-growing list. Teach Victoria to respect other species. Hopefully, Riley wouldn’t need the lesson, as well. If he did, however, she would give it to him. There would be no killing unless absolutely necessary.

  Unless absolutely necessary? Who are you? she wondered again. And just how was she supposed to teach a vampire and werewolf anything when they were far older than she was and had a lifetime of experiences she couldn’t even imagine?

  “When is he going to wake up?” Victoria suddenly asked.

  Mary Ann pulled herself from her thoughts. “When his body is ready, I suppose. Rest is healing. ”

  “I wish…I wish I could turn him into a vampire. Then his skin would be indestructible. ”

  She really needed to eliminate that word from her vocabulary. Vampire skin could be burned by je la nune; at least, that’s what she thought Aden had called it. He’d also said je la nune was fire dipped in acid then wrapped in poison and sprinkled with radiation. Or something like that. That’s what was hidden inside of Victoria’s ring.

  What a painful way to die. Mary Ann wasn’t sure Aden would prefer that to the few cuts and bruises he had now.

  “He’s going to die, you know?” Victoria said softly. She rested her head on Aden’s chest, as if she were listening to his heartbeat. Silky black hair spread around her shoulders and draped over the arm she had wrapped over Aden’s stomach. Together, they looked like a magazine ad for a fancy perfume. “Has he told you yet?”

  “What’s to tell? All humans die. ”

  “No. He’ll die. Soon. ”

  At first, Mary Ann could only blink over at her, certain she’d misheard. Then, as the words penetrated—He’ll die. Soon. —they became real. All the moisture in her mouth dried, her limbs shook and her heart did that hammering thing. “How does he know he’s going to die?”

  “One of the souls inside his head is psychic. A death predictor. ”

  “Wh-when is this supposed to happen? How is it supposed to happen?”

  “A knife through the heart. The other, the timing…that, he doesn’t know. Only that it will be soon, like I told you. ”

  Soon. What was soon, though? A day? A week? A year? And a knife through the freaking heart? Dear God. An even worse way to die than from the je la nune. He really did need tough vampire skin.

  Why hadn’t he told her?

  “Why can’t you turn him?”

  “Attempts were made to turn humans in the past. None were successful. ”

  “Can’t we—?”

  “Stop it from happening, now that we know about it?” Victoria laughed without any trace of humor. “No. Apparently, that will only make things worse for him. He told me that stopping a death, once it’s been predicted, does not change the outcome, only the way that outcome is achieved. And when changed, that outcome becomes far more excruciating. ”

  Aden. Dead. Soon. No! Tears burned her eyes, stinging down her cheeks. “How does he live with that knowledge?” Don’t talk like that. Something can be done. Surely.

  “I don’t know. But I don’t think I could. He is human, yet he is stronger than I will ever be. ” She traced something over his heart, but Mary Ann was too far away to tell what that something was. If she were guessing, though, she would say it was the same thing Victoria had traced on the tabletop in the cafeteria.

  “And you’re sure you can’t make him a vampire?” There had to be a way to save him.

  “I am sure. Our blood is…different than yours and in large doses, which would be required to turn someone, it drives humans to insanity and death. Sometimes the vampire trying to do the turning dies, as well, though no one knows why. ”

  No way Aden would risk Victoria’s life. That she knew. “How did you become vampire, then?” The question emerged broken, hoarse.

  “I was born this way. My father was the first to change, you see. He was a blood-drinker, even as a human, and slowly found himself changing. His skin thickening, his hunger for everything else fading away. His body no longer aging. He had his most trusted men and their females drink blood, like him, and they, too, changed. He then had his beloved pets, the wolves, drink. They changed, as well, though they became vicious. It is their offspring, like Riley, that you see now, able to shift into human form. ”

  “Why can’t Aden drink that blood? What your father and hi
s people drank?”

  “He drank from people, Mary Ann, and those people are long gone. Dust in the grave. ”

  “But if Aden drank from people…maybe…”

  “That, too, has been tried. That, too, has failed. ”

  So that was it? They were supposed to give up and watch Aden die? Soon? No. Absolutely not. She refused. There had to be a way to save him, she thought again. Please let there be a way to save him.

  Suddenly Riley strode from the closet, wiping his hands together and claiming their attention. He was fully dressed now. His clothes were wrinkled, torn and bloodstained, and there were streaks of dirt on his face and arms.

  “It’s done,” he said, and there was no emotion in his voice. “No one will know a prince was killed in Aden’s home. ” His gaze raked Mary Ann, ensuring she was okay, before moving to Aden and Victoria. “How is he?”

  “Better. ”

  As if he’d heard the question, Aden moaned.

  Both Mary Ann and Riley stilled before rushing to the bed and crouching beside him. Mary Ann latched onto his hand and squeezed.

  Victoria rose over him, on her knees, and patted his cheeks. “Can you hear us, Aden?”

  Slowly he blinked open his eyes. There was a collective intake of breath as they waited…waited… He focused, though his multicolored irises, a mix of brown, blue and green, were glassy.

  “Victoria?” he asked groggily.

  “I’m here. How are you? Is there anything I can get you?”

  He frowned, his head tilting to the side. He blinked again, and his frown deepened. Then he shocked everyone by snarling, “No!” grabbing Victoria by the shoulders and throwing her behind him as he popped to his knees. “Don’t you dare touch her!”

  Startled, Mary Ann followed the line of his gaze. She saw…no one. “Aden?”

  “How are you still alive?” he demanded. “Riley killed you. I felt you die!”

  “Aden?” Victoria approached him again and curled her fingers around his forearms, urging him down. “Who are you talking to?”
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