Lothaire Read online

Page 19


Page 19

 

  "And what of my confusion, my lack of focus?"

  "Your Bride can calm your mind as well as anything I can concoct for you. "

  "What should I do? Bring Saroya with me as I fight to reclaim my ring?" She wont rise anyway, his mind whispered.

  No, tonight she would. She must. Would it be enough to soothe his mind?

  In any case, he would still seek a potion. "I cant expose her to the Lore. My enemies would annihilate her. "

  "Then return to her proximity as much as possible. Talk to her. Touch her. "

  "Its inconvenient. Just brew something for me. "

  "Theres a remedy, but Ill need five ash vines to make it. The vines arent usually found on this plane. Ill have to roll to locate some. "

  "Do it. "

  She pulled that wad of black cloth from her belt, unfolding it onto the counter, loosing dozens of small bones of various shapes. She scooped them up and rolled them like dice, then studied their placement, focusing her foresight. "Theres a pack of wolverine shifters in the forests of Moldova. They use the vines to heal their mortal slaves after vigorous sex. "

  "How do I find the packs den?"

  She hesitantly rolled her bones again. "Its somewhere within a days travel of Rioras temple. "

  Riora the goddess of impossibility. "I know the location. " Thered be roughly six hours left before dawn in Moldova. He would trace outward from the temple, mile by mile, while checking back for Saroyas rising every hour. "I go directly. I want the potion base ready for my return. "

  "There will be dozens of males," Hag said. "Cant you use a blood debt for an extra sword or two? Only a madman would storm a shifter den alone. "

  He raised a brow. And your point is?

  Chapter 19

  The shore.

  Ellie was staring at it, her hands and cheek pressed against the invisible boundary.

  She was so close she could smell the salt air, could hear the waves, but she could touch nothing.

  The boundary extended only to Hags covered porch, as Lothaire had obviously known. Ellies forehead still throbbed.

  The scene before her was so different from her beloved mountains, the view here open and startlingly endless-

  Her shoulders tensed when Lothaire traced beside her. She dropped her hands, furious with herself that hed caught her staring longingly at the ocean. "You let me get this close but wont let me touch the sand, the water?"

  "Its just like with the jewels. " His words dripped with amusement. "Youll be happy simply to have seen this. "

  She quietly said, "I hate you more than hell. "

  "I know. Comfort yourself with the knowledge that youll only have to deal with me for mere days more. With Hags new potion, I could dream of the ring tonight. Why, you could be dead tomorrow!"

  "I plan to come back and haunt you. "

  "Then youd have to get in line. For now, Ill return here in a few hours or never. "

  "I know what Im hoping for. "

  After he disappeared with a muttered oath, Ellie turned over idea after idea for escape. But she just didnt know enough about this world to navigate her current situation.

  She remained at that boundary until daylight vanished over the ocean in a riot of purples and oranges. Sights like this could make a girl want to not already be dead.

  With a heavy heart, she went inside, taking a stool at Hags counter.

  The fey was working on some potion, looking frazzled. Perspiration beaded above her top lip, loose curls dangling over her flushed face. Even the tips of her pointed ears were pinkened. And still Hag was gorgeous with her soulful brown eyes and dainty features.

  Two out of two of the immortals Ellie had met were supernaturally beautiful. Which begged the question-how had this one earned her name?

  Hag collected what appeared to be hardened blue eggs, then began to grind them with a pestle and mortar. When her apron gaped, Ellie froze. The fey had a cell phone clipped to her belt.

  She decided to win Hag over, perhaps talking her into one phone call. With that thought in mind, Ellie returned to the chest-o-meals and ordered, "Two Coca-Colas on ice. "

  Two glasses of iced Coke appeared. For someone who loved food as much as Ellie, this chest was like the holy ark.

  Ellie carried the drinks back to the counter, setting one in front of the oracle. "You dont look like a hag to me. "

  "And Id so hoped not to disappoint you. "

  "So whats your real name?"

  Silence.

  Ellies gaze fell on an old book lying near the pestle. "Is that a spell book?" She picked it up, running her fingers over the cover. "Never felt such soft leather. "

  "Made from a human devoted to skin care. "

  Ellie dropped it with a shudder. "Can you really see into the future?"

  "Yes. "

  "Can I open a window?"

  "No. "

  "Your ears are pointy. "

  "And your eyes work. "

  "I could do that grinding for you," Ellie offered. "Why dont you put me to work?"

  "I believe Lothaires orders were to sit down, shut up, and touch nothing. I suggest you obey them, Elizabeth. "

  Her condescending attitude rankled. "Im not a child. "

  "To us, you might as well be. "

  "What if I knocked you out and stole your phone?"

  The fey rolled her eyes. "Try it, mortal. "

  Planning to. "Count yourself warned, Hag. "

  "Even if you could somehow wrangle it from me, I have it code-locked. "

  Dang it, back to sympathy. In a more conciliatory tone, she said, "You can call me Ellie, if you want to. "

  "I dont want to. " Hag ran the back of a blue-stained hand over a glossy brown curl. "Look. If this is the part where you try to befriend me in order to get me to help you, save your breath. I serve Lothaires interests only. "

  "And Saroyas? You dont care that a psycho killers about to be loosed into the world?"

  "If that is Lothaires wish, then its mine as well. "

  "You fear him that much?"

  "I owe Lothaire my life. Regardless, youd be crazy not to fear the Enemy of Old. "

  "Are you two involved?"

  "Of course not. He has a Bride he remains faithful to. "

  "But Saroya and Lothaire arent intimate. " At least, I dont think they are. . . .

  "Im not discussing this with you-"

  Lothaire appeared in the room, making Ellie jump in her seat. Since shed seen him last, hed donned a long trench coat, tailor-fitted over his wide shoulders. He was out of breath, with streaks of dirt along one cheek and mud splashed up his legs. "Has Saroya attempted to rise?"

  "Shes not in right now," Ellie said tartly. "Can I take a message?"

  "You vowed to me that youd allow her to rise!"

  "Saroyas not even trying. " Wheres the fire, vampire? Hed been away from the goddess for years. Now he just had to see her?

  "What did you say?"

  "Not-a-twitch. "

  Lothaire launched his fist into the wall, then disappeared.

  Hag sighed over the hole, then got back to work.

  "Is he always so . . . intense?" Even when Ellie and Lothaire had shared a somewhat normal conversation last night, hed been thrumming with something.

  "You are stupid to taunt him. If he loses control, you will die-badly. "

  Note to self: find out her definition of badly. "What would it take to get you to help me? All I need is one call. "

  "Nothing you have. Now, shut up. "

  Two minutes later: "You got a bathroom?"

  "Thinking to escape?"

  "Thinking to pee, actually. "

  Hag waved her toward a side hallway. "Do not open the windows or shutters anywhere in this house. "

  "Fine. " In the bathroom, Ellie closed the door behind her, pacing. "What am I going to do?" she murmured. "What to do . . . what to do . . . ?"

  "Come with me," a whispering voice answered.

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