“Skyler!” The chorus of voices just beyond the closed door might as well split my skull into two as I squeezed my eyes shut against the fresh wave of pain. My headache was so bad that I was practically seeing double of everything. How I was still in my right frame of mind… I had no idea. I opened my eyes and slowly turned at the sudden rush of blood in my ears. The unmistakable scent of witch blood reached me as my vision narrowed and darkened. I stiffened, every muscle in my neck tensing to the point of pain. To make it worse, the sound of seven hearts pounded into my ears as the sharp scent of fear rose thick in the air. The group came to a stop several yards from me, and the witch with fiery red hair and brilliant green eyes stepped forward, as if to protect the children that had accompanied her. I swallowed hard and forced myself to remain in place as she slowly approached me. She stopped just out of my grabbing range and eyed me warily.
“Who are you?” the witch asked.
“I might inquire the same of you,” I said and eyed the group behind her. “Who are these children?” I asked, glancing at each one of them but Corinne who stood slightly apart from the others.
“Are you going to answer my question with a question?”
“Are you?” I asked as a growl rose from my throat. She glared at me, and I wondered just how fast I could drain her of every single drop of that sweet blood. “Before you decide on what you will say next, I advised you to tread carefully,” I said softly. “I am not one to be trifled with. My self-control is waning ever thinner the longer you stand in my presence,” I finished in a whisper.
“I’m Davina,” she said a moment later, and I smiled. “These children, as you put it, are Alyssa’s siblings and friends.” A cool hand wrapped around my arm, and I glanced down into Corinne’s pleading eyes.
“Not to worry, little sister,” I said quietly. “Much it pains me to do so; I will not harm the witch.” I refocus on Davina and gave her a tight smile. “You have a reprieve for now,” I said to her. “I only came to collect Ariella’s child.” I pulled away from Corinne and turned back to the door where Alyssa stood, fear rolling off of her in waves.
“Freya,” the fledgling whispered, and it took every last ounce of my self-control not to lunge for her.
“Alyssa,” I all but hissed. “Allow me entry into your home, young one.” Without a word, she nodded and stepped back, her throat working as she swallowed. Not even daring to so much as breathe, I stepped through the door and straight for the living room. Stopping beside the unconscious form of Skyler and ignoring Amaris, Alyssa and the two boys watching on in interest, curiosity and fear, I bent and scooped her up into my arms. Though I was not breathing, the sight of the fledgling’s blood on the floor and her nearly broke my death grip hold on my self-control. Straightening, I strode out of the house and paused in front of Davina. Lucky for her, she stood where she was and not taken a step back. “We will meet again, you and I,” I growled softly. She nodded but wisely kept silent. “We shall have much to discuss. Until then, be wary of those closest to you.” With that ominous bombshell I just dropped on her, I launched myself into the sky.SKYLER
“Wake up,” a female voice called out, pulling me from my peace that was the dark. “Wake up.” A cool hand brushed my hair out of my face, and I groaned. “Open your eyes.” It felt like I was on fire, my blood pulsing in time to the echo of Ari’s pain I could still feel. I blinked my eyes opened and was grateful that the lights weren’t on. I stared into Sarisa’s bright red eyes and sighed.
“Did you kill our emergency stashes?” I asked and coughed to clear my throat.
“No,” she said, straightening. “How are you feeling?”
She hesitated. “Did you feel everything?”
“I don’t think so. One minute I was having a conversation with Amaris, and the next I was screaming. The pain was so bad.” I frowned and slowly sat up. “I think I threw up before passing out.”
“You did,” Sarisa said and grimaced. “Amaris showed us, and you… threw up quite a lot of blood.”
“Where is Amaris anyways? I didn’t hurt her, did I? And where is my sire?” I asked and bolted off the table, before I was even done asking the question.
“Wait,” Sarisa spluttered as I flashed out the door. I didn’t make it far, as she was all of a sudden there, her arms going around me and jerking me against her.
“Let me go,” I said, grunting as I struggled to break free of her hold. She released me, but kept one hand firmly around my upper arm.
“I recommend that you not rush in there,” she said gently. I paused, dread coming over me like a black tide. “She is in bad shape, and Tristan is about ready to kill anything or anyone that breathes the wrong way.”
“Okay,” I said and took in a deep breath.
“Cloak your aura. Any stir to the air causes your sire discomfort.”
“No,” she said quietly. “But she is somehow aware of everything around her. The slightest stir to the air or if something touches her; she lets out a whimper of pain.”
“I… I don’t know how to cloak myself.” She nodded as a cool sensation settled over me.
“I’ve got you covered,” she said and led me to the closed door I was headed for before she stopped me. She slowly opened it, and we stepped inside. I made a choked sound at the back of my throat as I got a look at Ari. A silver chain held down her ankles and wrists, but other than that, she was completely naked, and her entire body looked raw, angry, and red. The only one touching her was Freya—her pale hand gentle on Ari’s head where it looked like new hair was growing in. Mewling sounds came from Ari, and Freya’s eyes flashed with nothing but rage as she carefully stroked her fingers through the dark red strands of newly grown hair. “Where is Tristan?” Sarisa whispered, and I wanted to weep as Ari let out a moan.
“I forced him to go feed,” Freya said just as soft. “He will not do her any good if he lost control.”
“What about you?” Sarisa asked slowly.
“I will be fine,” she said as I pulled away from Sarisa. Both vampires watched me as I stopped beside the table and just stared down at my sire.
“Will she be okay?” I asked and blinked away tears.
“Yes,” Freya said and reached out. Taking my hand into her own cold one, she led me around the table and to a chair. “Sit, sweetheart.” I did as I was told, unable to take my eyes away from Ari.
“Do I want to know what happened?”
“No,” said Sarisa. “But I’ll leave that up to Ari or Tristan to tell you, if you still wish to know.”
I swallowed. “I don’t want to know,” I said softly. “Or not right at this moment.” My skin tingled, and my insides wept as my sire let out a long pained moan. Sarisa and I let out a gasp as Ari opened her eyes. Evelyn and Tristan appeared in the doorway, and they both froze as Ari’s growls filled the room. Blinking, they stepped into the room, the door closing behind them with a snap. Tristan crouched beside the table, and Ari half growl, half groan as he took her hand into his.
“Another check?” Sarisa asked. At his nod, she went over to the counter lining up one wall and picked up a small clear plastic cup.
“What are you going to do?” I asked suspiciously.
“Is that your protective instinct kicking in I hear?” she asked as she stopped beside Tristan. “I’m going to check the color of her blood, and then I’ll search inside her with my…” She paused and scowled.
“Glowing hand?” I offered helpfully. She grimaced but nodded. Freya carefully removed her hand from Ari’s hair and got to her feet. Come, Skyler, she said into my mind. I scowled up at her. Come, she repeated, and only a growl from Tristan got my ass out of that chair. Freya opened the door, and I followed her out into the hall. “Why can’t I be in there?” I complained as we turn left and walked to the elevator that was at the end of the hall.
“Because your sire wishes for you to leave. She does not want you to be a witness to her pain. You are in enough of your own already.”
I blinked. “But,” I spluttered as she gently but firmly ushered me into the elevator. I continued to splutter as the elevator all but shot us up to the main floor. When it opened, I swallowed a scream as an imp launched herself at us. Freya’s hand shot out and caught the imp around the throat. The imp let out a choked noise as those glowing green eyes went wide.
“You better have news for me,” Freya said softly, and the warning note in her voice had me shivering. The imp nodded, and her fluttering wings were all that kept her from hitting the floor as Freya released her. “Speak.”
“She is here,” the imp hissed. “Waiting just outside the ward.”
“Who is with her?”
“Two hunters and a protector.” Freya nodded, and I let out a gasp as everything went dark.
We appeared fifty feet or so from the blue transparent wall that was the ward. The imp let out a squeal as she launched herself at me, stopping just out of my personal space. Snarls reached my ears, and the unmistakable scent of sulfur hit me. Freya’s eyes turned solid white, and the imp hissed, grabbing the front of my shirt before I could take an instinctive step back. “Enough!” Freya screamed, and I couldn’t breathe as the weight of her aura settled around me. The fighting several yards to my left stopped, as if frozen in time. Liana’s eyes widened as she saw Freya. “Shit,” Jadianne breathed. “Rozalia—”
“I should not,” Rozalia growled, interrupting her. “Freya will not allow her to be harm.” Jadianne raised her hands as Freya let out a low, warning growl. Trynnadon came up to us; stopping out of Freya’s grabbing range. The three still standing demons watched us curiously. Or rather, they were watching Freya, as if she amused them. They all stood at around four feet tall, with scaly green skin, bald with spikes running down the back of their heads, pointed ears, dark slanted red eyes, yellow claws, and a mouthful of sharp jagged teeth. The fourth demon was on the ground, twitching.
“Is this all of them?” Freya growled.
“It is,” Trynnadon said and eyed her warily.
“Very well,” she whispered and walked over to one of the still standing demons. “You will do nicely,” she continued, and we watched as her hands shot out and grabbed the one in the middle. The other two went for the attack, but leapt back screeching and hissing as a wall of blue flame rose high into the sky, blocking our view from her and the demon she was choking. “Make another move towards me or mine,” she hissed, and I shuddered. “We will find out just… how flammable you all are.” The fire died, and the scent of Freya’s blood hung heavy and thick in the air as the demon clawed her arms open. She moved to the downed demon, ignoring the pain as she unsheathed a transparent-like blade and drove it into the demon’s chest. He imploded a split second later, nothing more than ash in the wind. “As for you,” she growled to the one she was holding. She snapped both of his wrists, drawing a pained screech from him. “I am running low on demon blood so…” Rozalia finally released me, and she scuttled to Freya’s side, a huge flask appearing in her hands. The air suddenly stirred, and my hands flew to cover my ears as Jailyn appeared behind Liana. The shadows around her writhed and screamed with fury as a couple of them detached themselves from the necromancer and rushed at the two demons that tried to help their friend Freya was about to kill. The two souls wrapped themselves around the two demons and dragged them kicking and screaming to Jailyn.
“I do not appreciate it,” Jailyn said, her hypnotic voice ringing in the sudden silence that followed. “When you sons of bitches turn my headache,” she growled. “Into a full-blown migraine.” One of the demons let out a bloodcurdling scream, and I winced, hunching into myself against the pain in my head. “I do not appreciate it, when my former diligent student is angered to the point that her beast is clawing at her brain. I do not appreciate seeing her bleed.” The last word was said in a guttural tone as the second demon joined the screaming contest. By this point, I was ready to run for my life. The problem was… I couldn’t move. Their screams grew louder and louder, and tears blurred my vision as Freya staggered back a step, clutching her head. Hell, everyone was. The screams finally died off to be replaced with gurgling sounds, and if I lived to be a million years old, I did not want to know what was happening to them right at this second. “You have gone too far,” Jailyn said softly, and I pray to whoever was listening that she never used that tone of voice with me. It was full of promises of death, and at the moment, I enjoyed living. “You all have played on my last ounce of sanity I have left. No one touches my family,” she continued in a whisper that caused every hair on my body to stand on end. “No one,” she hissed as the earth began to tremble. I suddenly found the ground rushing up to meet me, and I groaned as Trynnadon’s hand shot out, catching me before said ground could connect with my face. The demons let out another scream, and I watched in horror as they began to… melt? When Jailyn was done with them a minute later, they were nothing more than a spec on the pavement. I… was going to have nightmares for a century. The necromancer cleared her throat and looked around. “So,” she said cheerfully. “How are we all on this fine, fine afternoon?” She went over to Freya and helped her up. “You,” she snapped to the remaining demon who stared at her in terror. “I want you to take this knife,” she continued quietly. “And open up your throat.” Rozalia tucked her wings closer to herself and stepped up beside the demon, putting the flask in front of him. “Do it,” Jailyn whispered. “Or I will make you.” When the demon still didn’t move, Freya stepped up to his other side and let out a low growl.
“Here,” she said, almost purring. “Allow me to do the honor.” The blade flashed, before slicing open the demon’s neck. “Not to worry,” she whispered in the demon’s ear. “Unlike your friends, you will survive,” she said and began to chant.