Unraveled, p.64

Unraveled, page 64

 part  #2 of  Intertwined Series

 

Unraveled
 



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Page 64

 

  “How can I trust you?”

  “Do you have any other choice?”

  God, she wished Riley was here to tell her whether or not fairies kept their promises. “And what about the witches meeting?”

  Triumph replaced the fairy’s frustration. “I cannot force them to call a meeting to order. ”

  At least she’d been honest. About that. “All right. I’ll help you. ” After that…

  THIRTY

  THE KISS ON THE COUCH, when he’d tasted blood. It hadn’t been his own, Aden realized now. It had been Victoria’s. She’d given him several drops—accidentally? purposely?—but that had been enough. Now he was inside her head, hearing her thoughts, seeing the world through her eyes. Feeling her pain.

  And oh, was she in pain. There was a burn in her chest, directly over her heartbeat, as if the skin had been singed away. She barely seemed to notice, though.

  She stood in front of Riley, gaze cutting through the darkness. They were in the woods, wolves and goblins fighting all around them. Snarls rent the air, as did shouted commands and groans of agony.

  “—found him,” she was saying. “He’s in a cave, an entire state away. ”

  Riley swiped at the blood dripping from his hairline. “I know. We can feel him, too. We just can’t leave this forest until this swarm of goblins is taken care of. Otherwise, they’ll hunt humans. ”

  “Well, I need a few of your men to follow me to the cave—after they return to the mansion and gather as many vampire warriors as possible. ”

  Riley shook his head. “You’ll get the wolves and the vampires, but you aren’t to enter the cave alone. ”

  Stubborn. As always. “I can move faster than you can. ” To prove it, she grabbed a goblin racing past by the neck, swooped down and bit, hard, sucking him dry in seconds. The body fell, and she tried not to cringe as she swallowed that last drop of blood. Goblins’ blood always tasted like bile. “You’ll just slow me down, and Aden could be…hurt. ”

  “You’ll be distracted by the witches, Victoria. ” Riley’s gaze was pointed. “You know you will. You’ll do more harm than good. ”

  No. She wouldn’t. Aden was priority one. “As you just saw, I ate. I’m not hungry, and this conversation is wasting precious time. I’m only here to tell you not to let your wolves or the vampires inside the cave while I’m in there. They’ll ruin everything. Okay? They are only to fight the witches outside. ”

  Now he frowned, suspicion dancing in his eyes. “Why? What will they ruin? What are you planning?”

  What’s necessary. She didn’t say the words aloud.

  “And anyway, I need you to listen to me. Your father—”

  Is dead. She already knew. “Goodbye, Riley,” she said, and rose on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek. Then, before the shape-shifter could grab her, she teleported. The ground abandoned her feet, wind rustled her hair and she spun…spun…darkness closing in, sounds fading away. When she reached her new destination, the darkness gave way to beams of light. Panting breaths disrupted the quiet.

  Suddenly, Aden was looking at himself.

  “Aden. ” Her voice stroked his ears. “Aden. Wake up. ”

  A sharp sting lanced his cheek, then another, as he watched Victoria slap him. Slowly he blinked open his eyes. The cave seemed coated with Vaseline. He blinked again, once, twice, his own image fading and Victoria’s taking its place.

  She was here. With him. “Leave,” he croaked. If they found her… “Now. ”

  “Shhh. ” She tugged at the ivy around his wrists, but when she cut one vine, another quickly grew in its place. “Was the meeting called to order?”

  “No. ” The admission shamed him. “What time is it?”

  “Almost midnight. The true countdown has begun. ” Still she tugged and clawed. “They kept us busy or I would have been here sooner. ”

  “Leave me here, and try to get the witches to return to me. That’s the only way. ”

  “No. I won’t. If I don’t do this now, I may not…I may…”

  Be dead, he finished for her.

  “And you’ll be stuck,” she whispered, still chopping at the vines. “I can’t allow that. ”

  He couldn’t fail. He couldn’t. Wouldn’t. “Do you know where the witches are?”

  What are you planning? Caleb asked, speaking up for the first time in what seemed an eternity.

  Aden ignored him. When it came to the witches, the soul had no objectivity.

  With a screech of frustration, Victoria grabbed the vine, pulled herself up and slashed the root with her teeth. Aden’s arms fell heavily to his sides as she spat the leaves onto the ground.

  “The witches?” he prompted, trying to rub feeling back into his shoulders.

  You’re not thinking about hurting them, are you? Caleb demanded.

  And if he is? Irritation pulsed from Julian. What if it’s them or us?

  Guys, you need to— Elijah began, only to be interrupted.

  “Couldn’t get enough of me, princess, and decided to find me?” Jennifer asked. “I’m touched, really. ”

  “Yes, thank you for joining us,” Marie said. “Now I won’t have to go to the trouble of sending you an engraved invitation to the night’s festivities. ”

  The witches had returned.

  At the sound of Jennifer’s voice, Victoria had spun around, arms splayed to act as Aden’s shield. He shoved her behind him. They wanted him alive. Victoria, not so much. When she tried to return to her position in front of him, he reached back and squeezed her wrist.

  “Do you think we failed to realize the exact moment you had stepped onto our land, tick?” Marie said. One by one, the witches marched to their boulders, claiming their spots around him. They still wore red robes. “Now we can watch you die and revel in the knowledge that we have one less bloodsucking enemy to contend with. ”

  “No,” Aden barked. Despite the cold, sweat beaded over his skin. “Call the meeting to order. Now. ”

  Marie nodded as if she had every intention of obeying. “I will. As soon as you give me your vow of loyalty. ”

  “And trade one death sentence for another? No. ”

  She gave another of those acquiescent nods. “Then you have brought this on yourself, Haden Stone. I had hoped it would not come to this, but… You will not help us, and so you must die with your friends. Sisters?”

  Arms outstretched, fingers interlocked, completing their circle.

  Behind him, Victoria stiffened. “On my signal, drop,” she whispered. “I’ll take care of the witches. ”

  No! Caleb shouted.

  It’s the only way, Elijah said. Like Julian told you, it’s the witches or us.

  Then it’s us! They are to be left alone.

  Aden blocked them out. In less than a single second, he had figured out Victoria’s plan, and he wanted to vomit. The pain in her chest…she’d closed her ward. She was going to free her beast, let him kill these witches to protect Aden—but by doing so, she’d also kill every chance of a meeting being called to order.

  Victoria planned to die, but she intended to take those who threatened Aden and her people with her.

  He had to stop her. Had to save her. What good was his life without her in it?

  “Stop,” a soft voice called before he could decide on a plan of his own.

  Brendal strode into the cave, a visibly frightened Mary Ann trailing close behind her. No. No! Aden cursed under his breath. Not her, too. Not here. Not with Victoria’s beast so close to bursting free.

  Victoria groaned, the repercussions hitting her, as well.

  “Don’t do it,” he whispered. “Please. ”

  “Oh, good. All we lack is the wolf,” Marie said. Her tone was optimistic, but her features were almost…grim. Definitely haunted. “I’m sure he’s on his way. Where that one goes, he goes. ”

  “I didn’t see any hint of the wolv
es outside,” Brendal said.

  “They’ll come, so remain on alert. For now, take the girl outside. ” Marie waved to the mouth of the cave with a suddenly trembling hand. She looked at it, frowned. “Take her now. ”

  “I feel like…I’m being…” another witch began, rubbing at her chest as if she were pained.

  “My powers are…”

  “Drainer,” the witches said in unison, and there was enough horror in their voices to make Aden cringe. Only Marie and Jennifer appeared unsurprised.

  “Remove her and hold her until the spell takes effect,” Marie snapped. The howl of a wolf echoed through the cave, and she stiffened. “As predicted, the wolves have arrived. ”

  Brendal shook her head. “I don’t think I will. Take her out, that is. ”

  “What are you talking about?”

  “Mary Ann,” Victoria suddenly shouted. “Run!”

  No, no, no! The signal. Aden dropped to the ground as Caleb shouted a tortured denial. Victoria’s beast flew overhead with a roar.

  Mary Ann yelped, but ran as commanded, slowing only when Brendal grabbed the back of her T-shirt. She whipped around and shoved her flattened palm into the fairy’s nose. There was a moan, a spray of blood. She was released and darted away.

  After that, Aden lost sight of her. The witches ran for the exit, but the beast beat them to it, flashing sharp, dripping teeth, roaring. He chomped at them, and they scrambled backward. He didn’t let them get very far before he batted them with his tail and his wings. So much strength…they propelled into the cave walls, dust pluming around them.

  Most of the witches must have been warded against physical injury because no cuts appeared, even when those razor-sharp teeth bit into flesh. But they did scream, as if they could feel the damage that should have been done to their bodies. A few were not warded; they bled. And bled.

  Aden jumped to his feet. A shaking Victoria clutched at him, trying to hold herself back, muttering, “So good. Just a taste. A little taste. ”

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