The moon hung full and luminous in the sky as Jessye and her team hugged the western wall of the property. The mission was simple: capture Lorrie, dead or alive. If alive, she would be tried in the high court for the murder of Syrus and Rysen's family.
But only if she was taken alive. Jessye preferred her dead.
Over the past few months, Lorrie had managed to capture and kill too many of Jessye's people. She glanced at Syrus in front of her. Correction: their people. The last one had been taken from one of Syrus's safe houses.
Anger trembled through her before she could gain control of it. Syrus paused in front of her and looked back at her in question. She shrugged. He shook his head and moved forward.
She crept after him. A shiver of unease traced its chilly fingers up her spine as the seconds slipped by. Syrus paused again, his dark head turning this way and that in the pale moonlight. She opened her mouth to ask what was wrong but closed it when she saw him give the signal to keep moving. She blew out a relieved breath and crept along until he stopped again.
“Halt! Who's out there?”
She rolled her eyes. Moron. Like someone trying to break in is going to answer
. She shook her head and waited. Her grip on the dagger in her right hand tightened. She wanted revenge, but first they needed to get into the compound.
“Jessye, I'm going to send some people on ahead. You're with me.”
Syrus's voice slipped into her mind seamlessly, raising goose bumps over her skin. It still made her uncomfortable having this mental connection to him.
The sounds of a scuffle ahead brought her out of her thoughts. A soft groan floated on the air as she and Syrus moved forward.
“Threat's taken care of.” Adrian, Syrus's second in command, shifted from wolf back to man and returned to the group.
Lights flashed on, and for a second, Jessye was blind. A whip cracked, and pain stung the side of her neck.
A woman encased from head to toe in leather appeared before her, a bright red band on her arm signifying she was one of Raphael's guards. She flicked her wrist, and a sharp crack
rent the air. Pain burst on Jessye's neck again. Not too far from her, she heard the sounds of Syrus and Adrian fighting off their own attackers.
Jessye growled and took a step forward. She focused her energy into her hands and threw a burst of power at her opponent. Jessye aimed her power at the woman's wrist.
The whip flew from her hand to the ground. It didn't stop her, though; she flicked her wrist again, and a burst of power hit Jessye on the cheek. With a growl, Jessye rushed her and took her down. Jessye got the upper hand and managed to land a few blows to the woman's face. Her rival finally stopped moving.
All around her, the sounds of fighting filled the air. “Fall back. There's too many of them,” Adrian yelled.
A hole opened up in the enemy line, and Syrus rushed through it.
“Shit.” Jessye ran after him. She refused to have him captured or killed because he'd lost his head in the name of revenge.
“God damn it, Syrus. Get back here!” She didn't care if anyone heard her; all she cared about was getting the team back to the safe house alive. Their footsteps rang across the cobblestoned walkway as he ran around the side of the house. She swore, her legs working overtime to catch up. “Get your ass back here, you meathead. You're going to get us killed.”
Either he didn't care or he couldn't hear her, because he ran faster, climbed up the gate, and went over the top. A soft thud
told her he'd landed.
Jessye grumbled as she followed, tired, her energy nearly spent. She looked around for Syrus and found him a few feet away. “The mission is shot. We need to go, now
He stopped moving, much to her relief. “Lorrie's in there. I know she is.”
“And we'll come back and drag her out by the hair, but we need to go now. Think of your people. They need you.”
I need you, she added silently.
He turned around, and for a moment hope bloomed inside her. But the feeling was short-lived. A lithe blonde encased in a pearlescent silk sheath came into view. One pale hand held a wicked-looking curved dagger with serrated edges.
“Syrus, look out!” She ran toward him and watched in slow motion as Syrus turned around. His face contorted in a mixture of shock and anger. He lunged for the woman and missed, and the blade sank into his side. Syrus tried to reach for her again, only to have her move out of the way.
“I'm going to kill you.” Syrus lifted his arm. A dagger gleamed in the moonlight. He thrust it at her.
Lorrie sidestepped him. “Missed me. Try again, mongrel.”
The dangerous dance happened in flashes of awkward movement. His steps stumbled as she moved with fluid grace out of the way. Syrus tripped and fell to a knee. A cruel smile curved on her lips. The dance slowed down until both parties were standing still: him kneeling, his dagger hand planted on the ground while his arm covered his midsection, and Lorrie standing over him.
Dark red stained his shirt. The blot grew bigger with each movement. Lorrie raised her knife again. The shock wore off. Jessye leaped into action, rushing toward him. Lorrie looked up. A sneer contorted her pretty face. She turned and ran into the darkness. Jessye would have gone after her had Syrus not sunk to the ground, holding his side. Jessye dropped down beside him. Taking him in her arms, she tried to cover the bleeding with her free hand.
“Lorrie... Go after Lorrie.” Syrus struggled to get up.
A quick survey of their surroundings showed that Lorrie had disappeared.
“Shut up and lie still. I'm not leaving you. We'll get her next time. I can't teleport. I don't have enough energy.”
The blood felt hot against her palm. The pungent scent of his liquid life floated through the air and grew thicker with each second. He was losing so much blood that she wondered if he would be able to heal.
She looked around, panicked. Her heart thudded against her chest, and a sense of dread took hold of her. Exposed, in the middle of what appeared to be a driveway, she heard the sounds of a scuffle drift through the night toward her. No help was coming for them.
Sweat soaked her brow and ran in rivulets down her face. Her damp shirt stuck to her like a second skin.
Moving as quickly as she could, she laid Syrus on the ground, shrugged out of her jacket, and wadded it against the wound.
Closing her eyes, she reached out with her mind for help. “Don't you dare die on me.” She hit him in the shoulder with her free hand.
He coughed. “If I didn't know any better, I'd think you cared about me. You've done a damn good job of avoiding me these last few months.”
“I don't care about that,” she lied. She looked around, but no one had answered the call. The sounds of battle continued to drift toward her. “You're the leader of our little motley crew of rebels. I refuse to try and lead them without you. I'd just end up killing them all.”
A light breeze brushed her face, and she shivered. Goose bumps broke out over her skin as the sweat cooled.
“I'm not healing.”
“I'm not healing, and I feel odd, like fire is lapping through my veins and swirling around my stomach.” He struggled again to sit up. “My heart is pounding so fast.”
His voice sounded hoarse, as if he had been yelling.
No, no, no. It can't be...
Not voicing her worry, she raised her blood-covered hand to her nose. A light, bitter odor wafted to her nostrils. With great trepidation, she flicked her tongue over her palm. A burst of acid washed over her taste buds, chased by a sickening sweetness.
He'd been poisoned.
“I'm dying, aren't I?” he asked softly.
“Not on my watch, meathead. I'm going to get you out of here if it's the last thing I do.” She gathered as much of her energy as she could and focused on teleporting them. Warmth flooded her body and pulsed through her veins. A sense of floating surrounded her. The sensation stopped. The gates they had climbed over came into view. They had moved only a few feet.
A sense of weariness took hold of her. Panting softly, she tried to push back her exhaustion and gather more energy.
“Sassy, you okay?”
She slapped him on the arm. “Stop calling me that, or I'll have to start calling you sugar britches
in front of your troops.”
He chuckled. “What else should I call you? Honey
seems to be too sweet for such a firecracker like you. How about I start calling you Sparky
She winced. “That's even worse than Sassy.”
“Then Sassy it is. Just as long as you don't start calling me sugar britches
.” A fit of coughing cut off his laughter.
Her heart stuttered in her chest. He opened his mouth, but she shook her head and put a finger to her lips.
Voices floated toward them. It sounded as if they were arguing.
Her energy still hadn't recovered. She couldn't move them just yet, but she could shield him. “I'm going to get up. Don't move, do you understand? Regardless of what you see me do, don't move.”
“What are you doing?” He struggled but couldn't sit up.
Jessye moved out from under him and laid his head on the ground. “Don't move. I'm too tired to deal with distractions.” She stood up. Her fangs lengthened, and she bit into her palm. Blood welled up fast, and a pang of pain hit her abdomen. Hunger mingled with a gnawing ache that quivered in waves through her body. I need to feed.
With that reminder, she called on her remaining power and focused on what Blyder had taught her about protection magick and blood.
Apprehension dogged her steps as she began to walk in a circle. She made two complete loops, muttering in the old language, and turned her palm downward to let the blood drop to the ground. With each drop that hit the stone, a small beam of light shot upward to the sky. She continued to walk the third circle until Syrus was completely encircled in light.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him try to rise. “Stop moving. If you break the beam of light, it will cut you in two. Besides, I don't want to tell Rysen I lost you.” Her head swam, making concentration difficult.
She muttered the last of the incantation and slammed her palm down onto the ground. When she lifted her hand, what remained was not a bloody bite wound, but a perfect pentagram. She straightened up and swayed on her feet.
“What's wrong with you?”
It took a bit more energy than she had to regain her balance.
“Damn it, Sassy. Answer me. By the laws of blood claim, as I have declared you my consort, I order
you to tell me what is going on.”
“Shut up and stay where you are. If you hurt yourself trying to get to me, I swear I'll kill you. You and Rysen need justice for Lorrie killing your family. Don't let stupidity stop you.”
The voices came closer. She reached down and unsheathed a small knife from her boot.
“It's okay, ma chère
. Just us.” Adrian came into view, and her shoulders sagged in relief. Golden eyes flashed at her. Shoulder-length dark brown hair blew in the breeze. Rips in his black outfit showed off peeks of his muscular body. “The house is abandoned. Everyone fled once they saw the bursts of light coming from this direction. They probably thought bad magick was happening, and frankly, so did I. Glad to see it was just you protecting le capitaine
. Temar will take down the barrier. You should lean on me, oui
? You look about ready to collapse.”
He held out his hand, and she looked down at it.
“It's clean. I promise you. Washed off the blood before we came over.”
“Don't be stubborn, Sassy. Take his hand,” Syrus said. “And once we get back to the compound, and I'm able to see straight, I'm going to spank your ass.”
She whirled around too fast, and the world tilted on its side. She clenched her jaw and glared down at him. “Try it, and you'll be pulling back a stump.”
Syrus's sapphire blue eyes glowed, making her pause. “You'll do as you're told, Consort, and I'll do as I please.”
Adrian grabbed her biceps and held her back. “Calm down, chérie
,” he whispered against her ear. “He is worried is all. Be still and let this pass. Come let us patch you up, then you can proceed to tear each other apart, oui?”
Fire roared through her veins. Warmth seeped into her body. She could feel her energy supply begin to rise. With the surge of power came the tingling reminder of a need for sex and more blood.
“Fine. Wouldn't want to kill my consort before I've had a chance to teach him some manners.” She pulled out of Adrian's arms, but it wasn't anger that made her walk away. Syrus looked so pale that his skin was almost translucent.
She marched off and joined the rest of their mission party. She rested for a bit, and as her power rose, her body mended itself. A few minutes later, she had enough energy to teleport. “I'm going on ahead.”
Not waiting around for a reply, she traveled with her mind to the compound.