Lothaire Read online

Page 13


Page 13

 

  "Regin also said your red eyes mean youre going crazy. "

  "Surely she phrased it more colorfully than that?" Regin was a loudmouthed attention whore who thought herself amusing.

  Thaddeus ran his hand over the back of his neck. "She said, Look at me, Im Lothaire, I am the walrus, koo-koo-ka-choo. Or something like that. She told me you were gonna be even loopier than Nix. Is that true?"

  Nix the Ever-Knowing, the Valkyrie oracle. His nemesis for millennia, shed thwarted more vampire schemes than all the other factions soothsayers combined.

  "Crazier than Nix? Impossible. " She was much worse off than Lothaire. He wondered if shed foreseen Saroya. The only good thing about Nix? She was so maddened that she often forgot her visions.

  But what if she had remembered? What if Nix conspired against him even now? White queen moving against black king on the chessboard . . .

  Thaddeus muttered, "Your eyes are changing by the second. Worse than Ive ever seen them. "

  Uneasy leaving my Bride alone. Mercenaries and assassins from all factions hunted him constantly. Whenever powerful Loreans owed him blood debts, they usually opted to send their best warriors for Lothaires head. "Occupational hazard. But the benefits are fantastic. "

  "What was that, Mr. Lothaire?"

  Yet now they would target Lothaires Bride. He reminded himself that technically Saroya couldnt be killed.

  But I want her in Elizabeths comely form. Thinking about her gray eyes, sexpot lips, and fantasy-worthy figure, he again determined it crucial to secure her body for Saroya.

  Not to mention her delectable blood. She tastes of wine and honey-just as his father had said. Lothaires fangs sharpened even now.

  "What about wine and honey?" Thaddeus asked. "Youre not making sense. "

  I spoke aloud? As if to dislodge the memories, Lothaire shook his head hard, inadvertently stepping back into the line of the wraiths.

  "Watch out!" Thaddeus cried.

  Before Lothaire could trace out of their path, theyd clawed at his face, leaving bloody furrows.

  "Are you all right, Mr. Lothaire?"

  Pain. Grasp at a thread of lucidity. Show no weakness, demonstrate no madness.

  When blood dripped to his lip, he darted his tongue for a taste. He detected a top note of Elizabeths blood mixed into his own, and it calmed him.

  The wraiths slowed, and their leader gazed at him with a spectral face.

  "I alone know how to destroy you," Lothaire grated. "Touch me again, Scourge, and I will demonstrate. "

  She shrieked; Lothaire smirked. "I knew you when you were pretty. "

  Her face flashed to her former visage, that of a beautiful Macedonian warrioress.

  In a contemplative tone, Lothaire asked, "Didnt I do you when you were pretty?"

  Another furious shriek, then she was swept away in the tide of their tempest.

  Lothaire shrugged. "Guess I did. " Onward to Chase.

  Thaddeus persistently followed. "What do you want with DC?"

  "Im going to reach inside his mind and read his thoughts. "

  "How?"

  Imploring the sky for patience, Lothaire bit out, "I drank blood from him, and then I later gifted him with my own. Weve a bridge between us forever. "

  "So thats what you meant when you warned Regin about unbreakable ties. "

  Partially.

  Thaddeus planted himself in front of Lothaire. "Why should I let you mind-meld or whatever with DC?"

  Lothaire gave a bitter laugh. "What can you do to stop me? Now step aside. " He almost added, "Or Ill kill your beloved adoptive mother and grandmother for your insolence," but the rana arose in his throat.

  Which meant that would be a lie. Why would I not murder two insignificant humans? Why would he feel even a scrap of allegiance to Thaddeus?

  Because there was one instance with the boy that affected me. A demonstration of loyalty . . .

  Thaddeus put his shoulders back. "I could raise the alarm. "

  And I could snatch your throat out before you took a breath to yell. But because of their past interactions, Lothaire would spare him this eve. "I plan to use Chases memories to find Commander Webb-the one who ordered our abductions and those tedious experiments. The one who could still hurt your family. "

  The one who holds the key to my entire future, in the shape of a ring.

  The young mans fangs lengthened. "I want to hunt him too. "

  "Why would you possibly think I need help carrying out a blood vendetta?"

  Dont I? Lothaire had yet to complete his age-old ones. He recalled Olya, that human female in Helvita, recalled how badly hed wanted to murder her. Shed been drained by Stefanovich long before Lothaire could get to her.

  He remembered the mortals brutalizing his mother. "Avenge me!" shed screamed.

  Only now was Lothaire on the cusp of retribution. To find Serghei at last . . .

  "Dont care if you need it, Mr. Lothaire. Im hankering for vengeance too. Besides, we are friends. And friends watch each others backs. Just like you and me did on the island. "

  In the heat of the escape, Lothaire might have saved the boy a few times, without receiving anything in return from Thaddeus, but only because it served Lothaires own ends.

  Hed also endangered Thaddeuss life repeatedly.

  Lothaire cut off further arguments with a curt: "Well discuss this later. " To make the statement true, Lothaire envisioned the extent of their "discussion. "

  Thaddeus would ask, "Can I go with you?"

  Lothaire would reply, "No. Now, fuck off. "

  "Im gonna hold you to that, Mr. Lothaire. Now what exactly are you looking for with your mind-meld thing?"

  Below the window of Chases room and out of the way of the wraiths, Lothaire answered, "He must have visited Webbs hideout. If I can access that memory, I can trace directly to it, as if Id been there myself. "

  "Then access it, and lets go kick ass!"

  "Step one is you shutting up. "

  Thaddeus nodded eagerly. "Right on. "

  Lothaire steadied his breathing, calming his heart as he listened for Chases own heartbeat. Once it began to grow loud in his ears, like a repetitive quake, Lothaire briefly closed his eyes-but he still could see. Straight into Chases afflicted mind.

  Lothaire found . . . blackness there. Blankness.

  No thoughts, no dreams. Is he in the grip of death?

  Gods, to have his own mind at rest like this? Might be worth dying. He delved deeper, but all was quiet.

  Thered be no thoughts of Webb anytime soon, and Lothaire couldnt scratch at all the scars in Chases mind to search for a specific memory. He might as well try to navigate his own. At least he knew where the black holes were, the quicksand traps and points of no return.

  He released his hold on Chase, exhaling with frustration. Nothing to show for his trespass, no new information.

  His claws bit into his palms. Chto za huy! Must have that ring! Kept from him though it was his.

  Thaddeus asked, "Did you find Webb? Anything to help our mission?"

  "Our mission? I didnt see anything to help my aims! You say nothing of this-of anything concerning me-to anyone. "

  "Why should I keep secrets from my other friends? Do you mean any of them harm?"

  Lothaire didnt have time to do any of them ill. "I dont. Not yet," he added to prevent the rana.

  After a hesitation, Thaddeus said, "Okay, Ill keep it close to the vest. But I need to know how I can get in touch with you. Whats your number?"

  Lothaire stared at him. "Number? Why do you want this?"

  Thaddeus rolled his eyes. "One more time. Because-were-friends. I plan to help you with Webb, and give you some backup against Dorada. They said shell be coming for you. "

  She is. When last Lothaire had seen her-mummified, hideous to gaze upon-shed been shrieking, "RIIIIINNNNNGGGGG," as she hunted him through the Orders prison, her Wendigo lackeys prowling beside her.