Her eyes shot open at the sound of a familiar voice screaming her name, pleading for her to help. Saraid scanned her surroundings, hoping to spot a sign to lead her in the right direction. The same voice screamed again, a blood curdling scream.
“Oh, no. I’m too late,” Saraid cursed herself under breath and ran in the direction of the screams.
As Saraid ran faster, the screams drew nearer. “Just around this corner,” she chanted.
She reached the end of the darkened gray hall and rounded the corner. Saraid stopped, gasping as she fought for air. This hall, like the last was empty. There was no sign of the woman or her attacker anywhere. She inched herself further down the empty hall, looking for a trace of Wendy. She was there, somewhere, she could feel her fear deep in her bones.
“Wendy, I’m here. Where are you?” Saraid yelled into the empty air around her. The sound of her voice echoed along the vast hallway, causing her to immediately regret the action.
Straining her ears, listening and hoping for a response, she felt herself slightly relax. Sure, she was hoping Wendy would come bounding at her with her arms wide open, ready to return home, but she was also grateful that whoever, whatever else was here, didn’t answer instead.
She caught a glimpse of something at the end of the hall, exiting through the door there. The door bounced against the frame and opened just enough to see the faint glow of a light.Not thinking twice about it, Saraid took off at a run, her legs propelling her faster with every stride until she stood just outside of the tall, wooden door. Her hand reached slowly for the knob and the door flung open, smashing her slight frame into the wall.
The room was a swirling mass of grey and white as she fought to steady herself. She brought her hand up to her nose and pinched the bridge to stifle the fountain of blood streaming down her face.
“Not exactly.” The responding voice was accompanied by an intimidating chuckle. How could someone invoke so much fear with a simple laugh?
“Well, no shit! It’s called a figure of speech,” Saraid spat.
The stranger’s eyes seemed to glow, but the grayness of this realm gave no clue as to their true color. He was angry, that much she was sure of, it was written all over the harsh lines of his face.
“You may want to watch your tongue succubus, or I’ll be mopping your friends’ blood with it.”
He knew just what to say to get under her skin, to give her pause and to make her think before she spoke.
“Where is she?” Saraid asked defiantly, arms crossed over her chest, ignoring the blood still trickling from her nose.
“I will tell you, for a price.” His words stretched out to her ears like a siren’s song, calling her forward.
Fighting the urge to reach for him, she kept her hands pinned under her arms and stared out at him with a look derived of pure stubbornness.
“Name your price, Asshole.”
“Do you kiss your bird with that mouth, or your Tiger? Perhaps your Vampire then?”
“Never mind, I’ll go find her myself,” she snarled as she made a move to go around him.
His hand on her arm sent a jolt of pain into her shoulder before his grip loosened just enough to still her.
“A kiss. That is the price for your friend.”
Her whole body stilled as she looked up into the face of the man who scared her more than any other person or creature she had ever met. His demand confused her.
“A kiss? You want me to kiss you after you just broke my damn nose and tried to kill my friend, are you fucking crazy? Let me go!”
Saraid struggled against his hold but she could not break free from his grasp. He was too strong for her to fight alone. He brought his face down to hers and whispered, “Just one kiss.”
His mouth met hers despite her many efforts to break free. Parting her lips with his tongue as he drew her lower lip between his teeth, scraping it ever so slightly upon its release. Something about this man was calling to her magic, drawing it to the surface.
He grabbed her hands and pinned them over her head as he slammed her back into the wall. His kiss was slow and hungry and dangerously seductive. He drove his tongue deep into her mouth and came back up, hovering over her lips, as she watched helpless as her magic left her body and entered his through his kiss.
“No,” she repeated in her head as she fought to keep her magic inside.
She closed her eyes and thought of Liam, of Treasa, and of Jax, Chase, and Guin. She could see their smiling faces looking up at her and the sight gave her the strength she needed to fight.
“Stop,” she panted.
His mouth continued its claim and she could feel her anger heating her face. She fought to release her hands and failed so she brought her knee up to meet his groin, tearing an agonizing scream from his throat. Her hands were free.
Saraid threw her hands outward, pushing his body off her and sending him sailing down the hallway, “I SAID NO!”
He made a move to come after her, causing her to blink. When she blinked them open, she lay in her bed, staring up at the ceiling. “It was just a dream, a bad dream.”
Her nightgown was soaked with sweat, leaving her skin chilled when she climbed out of the bed to make her way to the bathroom. When the light switched on and she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, she knew that something was terribly wrong.
Her face was a mixture of ivory and crimson from the blood that now decorated her features. She touched the bridge of her nose and winced. The demon bastard really did break her nose. She turned to the linen closet to fetch a washcloth when she heard the creaking of the floorboards, signaling that someone was awake. She didn’t want anyone to see her this way. Just as she reached for the washcloth, she felt Liam enter the room. “Damn it all to hell!”
Liam paused in the doorway, taking in the sight of his wife’s mangled face. His face shone bright with fury, yet he said nothing as he crossed the room and retrieved the washcloth from Saraid’s hand. He took her hand in his and led her to the sink, where he picked her up and set her down on the white marble counter.
The faucet sprang to life and Liam held the cotton cloth under the water and wrung it out until it held no excess liquid. He finally spoke as he gingerly worked the cloth around her face, careful not to apply too much pressure.
“I don’t suppose you want to tell me what happened?”
She placed her hand on his, stilling his progress. “Of course, I want to tell you, but I’m not sure I know what happened.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, we went to bed and then I woke up in the veil. I heard Wendy screaming so I went after her. There was this man there and he told me that he would tell me where Wendy was, for a price.”
Liam looked taken aback and asked, “What was his price?”
Saraid directed her eyes straight into Liam’s, trying to gauge his reaction before she answered, “He wanted to kiss me.”
She could feel Liam tense. “I told him No, Liam. I told him no, but I couldn’t fight him off.”
Liam grabbed the sides of her face gently and tilted it up, so he could look into her eyes. “You do not need to explain your loyalty to me. You have never given me a reason to doubt your love for me.”
She didn’t realize how much she needed to hear those words. She lost countless nights of sleep out of fear that Liam would get tired of having to share her with the others, but he remained at her side.
“He was too strong for me, Liam. I couldn’t fight him off until I thought of you, Treasa, and the others. He kissed me, and it felt like he was draining my magic. No, it was like he was eating my magic.”
Something she said had registered and whatever it was, was bothering him.
“What is it Liam?”
“It sounds like you met Reaper.”
“Who the hell is Reaper?”