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Vortex blues, p.8

Vortex Blues, page 8


Vortex Blues

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  He took a deep breath and looked up at her, wondering how he’d ended up on his ass leaning against the elevator wall. “I’m fine. I’m not sure what happened.” His tongue traced the small cut in his bottom lip as he tried to figure out what had happened.

  “Listen to me, Mitch. Since I can’t stop you, you can come.”

  “How very generous of you.” He pushed to his feet to stand in front of her, his eyes narrowed as he leveled her with a glare.

  She ignored his sarcasm and continued. “But we don’t engage them until Rocky gets here—he can take much more damage, and you can shoot and stay out of range.” She took a deep breath and then pierced him with a worried stare. “And Mitch…”

  The fear that laced her words stopped him cold. “Yeah?”

  “Don’t die.”

  Chapter Seven

  Molly darted out of the elevator before Mitch could stop her, and followed the outside wall until she could find which direction to go. The icy fingers of dread had turned into molten led inside her stomach and she swallowed hard biting back the fear that rose inside her throat like bile.

  I can’t believe I just did that! And without Mitch’s consent!

  The tang of his blood mingling with hers inside her mouth accused her more than seeing Mitch pass out as her blood invaded his body and bonded with his cells. She’d done something she swore she’d never do with anyone—she’d bonded Mitch to her.

  She could rationalize all she wanted. True, it would give him some immunity from any other succubus—cursed or natural—and it would slightly increase his stamina, reflexes and strength. But it would also make him her food of choice. No other human would offer the energy that Mitch now would, not to mention he’d crave her as well.

  Bonding was his best protection in this situation, but she couldn’t be sure she didn’t have any ulterior motives behind it.

  Thoughts of something happening to Mitch had flitted inside her mind as she’d kissed him, and in her heart, she knew she couldn’t bear it, so she’d gone with her instincts. She closed her eyes trying to blot out the expression of suspicion that lit Mitch’s eyes when he’d found himself on the ground.

  She had to believe he’d be okay, or she wouldn’t be able to function. She had a moment to appreciate the irony that she was right. Love had made her vulnerable.

  Well, now she’d done everything she could to keep him safe, she just hoped it was enough.

  She inched forward so she could peer around the side of a stalagmite the size of city hall, and she searched the landscape for any sign of Cleo. The stone thrummed with power under her fingertips making her entire body tremble and buzz.

  The twelve vortexes shimmered and flashed, reminding her of powerful tornadoes filled with pixie dust and tethered to the ground by their tails. They appeared to sit almost next to each other inside the giant cave, but in reality, they were several miles apart—otherwise they would rip each other and everything in the surrounding area apart.

  As each one shifted and pulsed, the area around it became fuzzy and indistinct for a few minutes until the energy passed to the next vortex. That wouldn’t help in her search for Cleo or the other succubi.

  “She’s close, I can taste her energy.”

  Molly bit back a scream and resisted the urge to punch Mitch for scaring the crap out of her. She glared at him and then continued to search for Cleo’s energy. It took concentration and just the right window of non-interference from the vortexes. However, when Mitch pressed close behind her, his hot breath feathering against her nape, he shattered any hope of concentration.

  Shivers cascaded throughout her body, and she had to close her eyes for a moment and breathe deep to dispel the effects. Now that she’d marked him, he was supposed to be more susceptible to her—not the other way around! This had to be part of that whole inconvenient “love” package again. She scowled and internally called herself a fool for believing in such nonsense.

  As the vortexes pulsed again, a faint buzz of Cleo’s energy feathered against her senses, and she nodded to let Mitch know she’d heard.

  “So, what’s the plan?” Rocky whispered behind them. It took a moment for her brain to translate his soft rumble into words, then she shrugged.

  “I think our only hope is to distract them long enough to give Cleo a chance to wear them down. I’m no match for a natural succubus—especially an ancient one, and neither is Mitch. Rocky, you can cause some damage without them really harming you. We’ll still have to keep them from surrounding you in case they have any charms or spells they’ve bought from the locals.”

  This almost reminded her of Custer’s last stand—almost. If Custer would’ve listened to his intelligence officer instead of spending all night in the local whorehouse that Molly and Cleo ran at the time—his situation might have turned out differently. Molly wasn’t sure she had that same option.

  “I only have two extra clips, so I’ll make sure my shots count.” Mitch placed a gentle hand on her shoulder, his body heat searing into her, branding her as she’d done to him. She placed her hand over his just long enough to allow the energy of their auras to merge and retreat.

  “Rocky, take Mitch through vortex number four and come up behind them.” She turned to face Mitch, resting her back against the cool stone of the stalagmite. “Don’t let go of Rocky’s hand inside the vortex or you could get lost in whatever world it’s open to at that moment. And don’t let the mistresses see you. Hide behind something and take your shots from there.” Before she could stop herself, she reached out to gently trace the dark stubble along Mitch’s jaw. “I’ve done everything I can to give you some immunity from them. Don’t waste my effort.”

  Mitch opened his mouth, but before he could speak she cast a stern glance at Rocky and slipped around the rock face away from the accusation she kept imagining inside his eyes.

  She skirted the edge of the vortex boundary, scanning the area for any sign of the women. Energy whirled around her, distorting her perceptions, so she narrowed her eyes and relied on her senses to keep her from stumbling. Several long minutes later, it paid off when she saw the group.

  The bevy of mistresses she remembered only too well from the night they cursed her and branded her a whore for eternity. Granted, she’d ended up with a better life than would’ve been possible had she remained human, but just the sight of them brought back all the pain, humiliation and shame from that long ago night.

  The four stood several feet apart in front of Cleo. Each of them breathtaking with perfect even features, and generous curves, and very different coloring and textures of long flowing hair. They reminded her of four stunning sisters—so alike, yet so different. All the better to attract their prey.

  Cleo stood in front of them, proud and defiant, as if she weren’t severely outnumbered and already injured. Her normally stylish twist had fallen from its clip to stream around her face in dark waves, and a swollen cut still oozed blood marring her bottom lip.

  Molly did a double take as she realized she’d never seen Cleo in jeans and a simple T-shirt before. Her clothes were streaked with dirt, and if Molly hadn’t recognized her energy, she might not have realized it was the proud woman she’d known for centuries.

  Molly inched forward and crouched behind a large red boulder so she could hear the ensuing argument.

  “If that law is repealed, there’s nothing to prevent the humans from methodically hunting every one of us down. A holocaust, but this time for supernaturals.” Cleo punctuated her heated words with an imperious sweep of her hand.

  The leader of the mistresses—Molly’d never known any of their individual names—glared at Cleo while the others sneered. “Humans are food, they have no right to subject us to their laws. If they declare war on us, there are more than enough supernaturals to kill them all. After all, Cleo, it’s survival of the fittest.” She pushed her wavy red hair off her shoulder, reminding Molly of a beautiful supermodel—except for the evil glee lighting her face.

; “You’re deluding yourself, Helen. Not all the supernaturals will stand with you, and ultimately, you’ll be destroyed.”

  Helen huffed out an impatient breath. “I grow tired of this chatter, Cleo. This is the last time we’ll ask you to join us. Five powerful ancients together can subjugate any race we choose.”

  Cleo squared her shoulders. “I’ll never join you, Helen. We’ve all made our choices, and worked on opposite sides of this issue for years. But when you endanger us all, you go too far, and when you dared to violate my blood-mate—you made it personal.”

  At least that solves the mystery of who attacked Denali.

  “You’re pathetic. You were once a queen, and now you’re some deluded do-gooder. Finding depraved humans to feed the new succubi we make? I don’t understand why you just don’t let nature take its course. You know we’ll win in the end.”

  “Don’t be so sure…ladies. I didn’t survive this long by giving up.”

  The three flanking Helen slowly inched forward, ready to pounce on Cleo at any moment.

  Where the hell are Rocky and Mitch?

  Helen bared even white teeth that glistened with lime green poison deadly to humans and not much better for any other species. “Your elf was just food, Cleo, just like the rest of the weaker races. And hurting you personally was an added bonus. You stole our prize centuries ago when you took Beck’s little wife.”

  Molly’s brow furrowed and her stomach roiled.

  Beck’s wife?

  The succubi had targeted her? Why?

  Cleo’s cultured laugh echoed through the eddies of power which emanated from the vortex. “Only one is born in each ten generations who cursed, can equal the strength of one of us. I’d heard the prophecy as well as you. But the part you always forget about is that one can either be a supernatural savior, a protector for the humans or a bridge between the two. Molly made her own choices. You had no claim to her.”

  Her breath burned inside her lungs as Cleo’s words played over and over inside her mind. She’d been cursed because of some prophecy? Her entire life changed on the whim of a few words? She bit back the bitter laugh that tried to erupt from her throat. How ironic that she didn’t even know which of the three outcomes Cleo listed that she turned out to be.

  The brunette to Helen’s right spat on the ground at Cleo’s feet. “We had claim to her. Her husband owned her, and he promised her to us.”

  Cleo placed her fists on her hips and glared at the brunette. “Camille, after all these years you’re still an idiot. Some things never change.”

  Camille rushed forward, nails extended to rake Cleo’s face, while a bellow of outrage exploded from her throat.

  Cleo stepped to the side, blocking Camille’s flailing hands and ramming her knee into the woman’s stomach.

  Camille’s breath whooshed out in an audible rush, while the other three rushed Cleo.

  Without thinking, Molly bolted to her feet to help Cleo in any way she could, even as the entire scene before her slowed so that each panting breath seemed to take several minutes.

  The loud pop of a gunshot rang in her ears, echoing through the thick air surrounding the vortexes, the sound waves visible in the supercharged air.

  Helen jerked sideways away from Cleo, her hands cradling her face, and her inhuman shriek renting the air.

  Rocky’s grey head appeared behind the group of succubi, and he grabbed a handful of brunette and blonde hair in his beefy hands and yanked, pulling them away from the fray.

  Molly reached for the last succubus—the raven-haired beauty that had killed her merchant lover as soon as they’d cursed her and left her for dead. Red hazed her vision as anger and frustration from the last two hundred years rose inside her like a demon waking. A thousand bees seemed to buzz inside her ears, and she could almost taste the adrenaline surging through her system.

  The succubus stumbled back from a blow from Cleo. Molly took advantage of her off-balance stance. She swept the succubus’ feet out from under her and used one arm as a clothesline across the woman’s throat. The succubus hit the ground hard with an echoing thud.

  Molly immediately drew her Glock, pointing it straight into the beautiful face. Outrage twisted the porcelain features before Molly squeezed the trigger and one blue eye exploded, followed by the other, and then the bared teeth. Blood sprayed outward with every shot, coating Molly and everything within range with succubus gore. Molly’s finger squeezed the trigger over and over until her clip clicked empty.

  The faceless succubus snaked out her arm, grabbed Molly’s legs and pulled her to the ground before she rolled on top of her. Claw-like hands closed around Molly’s throat, and dots swam in front of her eyes.

  As her vision narrowed, her ears cleared of the terrible buzzing. She thought she heard Mitch call her name, and then a sickening thud before pain flashed through her entire body. She coughed as air rushed into her bruised windpipe, spiking pain through her head like an ice pick.

  Her vision slowly cleared, and she turned her head to find Mitch lying beside her, small bubbles of blood blooming on his lips, and his sea green eyes glazed with pain. Rocky and Cleo knelt next to him, their faces twisted with anger.

  Terror crystallized her senses, and Molly pushed up and scrambled to Mitch’s side. His chest resembled the succubus’ face she’d emptied her clip into, and her analytical cop side was surprised he was still alive.

  “No.” She almost didn’t recognize the flat, dead voice as her own.

  Cleo placed a comforting hand on her arm and she shrugged it off. “I’m sorry, Molly. There’s too much damage.”

  “No,” she repeated, as an eerie sense of calm suffused her. The past two hundred years she’d allowed her entire life to be manipulated by circumstances and the whims of others. She may have made herself a life within those confines, but she was done letting others control the direction of her existence.

  The only way a cursed succubus could break the curse was to find someone willing to sacrifice their life for hers. A life for a life. But she’d lived several lifetimes, and would gladly trade hers for the knowledge Mitch would get just one.

  She gently lifted him, adjusting her hands when he winced from the movement. “It’s okay, Mitch. Trust me.”

  Cleo’s eyes widened with understanding. “Molly, you can’t do this. You probably heard about the prophecy, you’re important to the world. You have to fulfill your destiny.”

  Molly ignored her, starting toward the vortex with Mitch cradled gently in her arms.

  “Leave her be, Cleo.” Rocky’s rumbling voice buzzed around her, joining the energy created by the vortexes. “I fought alongside you a minute ago, but that doesn’t mean I like you.”

  Cleo sputtered, then sounds of cursing and struggling reached Molly. Apparently, Cleo hadn’t believed Rocky.

  She stepped just inside the outer edge of the vortex, the energy buffeting against her like a thousand ant bites. “Goddess, hear me! I invoke my rights of vengeance.”

  For a long moment, nothing happened, and Molly tightened her grip on Mitch, trying to will him to live. Then finally, the form of a woman shimmered into existence in front of her. Long flowing hair alternated the colors of the rainbow, and her skin alternated between every shade known to earth. But her beauty surpassed anything Molly had ever seen.

  She dropped to her knees, careful of Mitch’s still form in her arms, as the Goddess’ power nearly overwhelmed her.

  “You offer me a man near death to lift your curse, Molly Beck?” The voice came from all around her including inside Molly’s mind. “You must bring one who is alive and can willingly make the choice. It is the way of things.”

  Molly shook her head, forcing herself to raise her gaze to those all knowing eyes. “Please hear my plea, Lady. I bring you my life in exchange so this human may live.”

  Mitch shook his head side to side, but only a grunt emerged from his throat.

  The Goddess shook her head slowly, and Molly’s heart constricted
inside her chest. “It is not the way of things. What makes you think I would honor such a request? Besides, the human does not wish such a trade.”

  “I will offer you anything I have, My Lady, anything to ensure this man lives.” Her throat closed and she struggled to breathe. Fear that her plea would be denied burned her insides.

  The Goddess’ form shimmered as she moved. “Are you going to tell me that you cannot bear to go on living if this one dies?” She gestured toward Mitch. Molly’s gaze followed, and she nearly drowned in the pain-glazed sea green eyes.

  “I admit, I love him, My Lady. But I’ve survived over two hundred years watching those I’d come to care for die.” She swallowed hard as she struggled to put her roiling emotions into words. “Mitch is like no other. He slipped past the stone I’d built around my heart and taught me how to truly live life, even if it was only for a short time. I’ve lived more fully in these few short hours than most people do in a thousand lifetimes.”

  Hot tears streamed down her face and she forced her gaze back to the Goddess and away from Mitch. “I’ll do anything you ask. Just please, let him live.”

  The Goddess’ expression turned sly. “Anything, Molly Beck? Anything at all?”

  “Anything you wish, My Lady.” Molly kept eye contact for what seemed like centuries. She’d meant exactly what she said. Even if she were tortured until the end of time, the knowledge that Mitch would live out a lifetime, remembering what they’d created between them would sustain her.

  Finally, the Goddess’ expression softened and she smiled. She reached forward and took Molly’s hand in her own. The contact sent warm energy down Molly’s arm, rejuvenating her body and strengthening her.

  The stinging pain across her palm surprised her, even as she watched blood well from the three-inch cut. But she didn’t question, she’d offered anything, and she meant to see it through.

  The Goddess gently placed Molly’s hand over Mitch’s bloody chest and laid her own on top. “You are wise, Molly Beck, to so highly prize what you’ve found with this man. Very few of my children truly find it, and when they do, they often do not realize how precious it is until it is gone. I’ve read your souls and your hearts and declare from this day forward both of you are bound by blood oath to each other.”

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