Lothaire Read online

Page 3

Page 3


  Her latest possession? Elizabeth Peirce, a nineteen-year-old girl, as lovely as she was poor.

  When the deacon met the dismembered corpse of one of his brethren, he gave a panicked cry, glancing away from her. In a flash, Saroya leapt upon him, swinging the cleaver, plunging the metal into his thick neck.

  Blood sprayed as she yanked the blade free for another hit. Then another. Then a last.

  She swiped the back of her arm over her spattered face as her demeanor turned contemplative. Mortals believed themselves so special and elevated, but decapitating one sounded exactly like a fishmonger beheading a fat catch.

  Finished with the last of the five deacons, Saroya turned to the only survivor left in the trailer: Ruth, Elizabeths mother. She huddled in a corner, mumbling prayers as she brandished a fire poker.

  "I have vanquished your daughters spirit, woman. She will never return," Saroya lied, knowing that Elizabeth would soon find a way to rise from unconsciousness to the fore, regaining control of her body.

  Of all the mortals Saroya had possessed, Elizabeth was the prettiest, the youngest-and the strongest. Saroya had difficulty rising to take control unless the girl was asleep or weakened in some way.

  A first. Saroya gave a sigh. Elizabeth should consider it an honor to be the form to Saroyas essence, the flesh and blood temple housing her godly vampiric spirit.

  Saroya peered down at her stolen body. Instead, shed had to fight Elizabeth for possession, was still fighting her.

  No matter. After centuries of being shuffled into stooped, elderly men or horse-faced women, shed found her ideal fit in Elizabeth. In the end, Saroya would defeat her. She had wisdom from times past and present, hallowed gifts-and an ally.

  Lothaire the Enemy of Old.

  He was a notoriously evil vampire, millennia in age, and the son of a king. A year ago, his oracle had directed him to her. Though Saroya and Lothaire had spent only one night together in the nearby woods, hed pledged himself to save her from her wretched existence.

  He might not have the ability to return Saroya to her goddess state. But somehow he would extinguish Elizabeths soul from her body, then transform Saroya into an immortal vampire-circumventing the curse.

  Saroya knew Lothaire would be hunting ceaselessly for answers.

  Because Im his Bride.

  She gazed past Elizabeths mother out a small window, finding the wintry landscape empty. Had she hoped that a massacre like this might have brought Lothaire to her?

  How much longer am I to wait for him in this godsforsaken wasteland? With no word?

  Hed talked of the legion of adversaries out to destroy him, of

  ancient vendettas: "If a vampire can be measured by the caliber of his foes, goddess, then consider me fearsome. If by the number? Then Ive no equal. "

  Perhaps his enemies had prevailed?

  No longer would she remain here. The Peirce family had begun chaining Elizabeth to the bed at night, preventing Saroya from killing, the only thing she lived for.

  Reminded of her treatment, she turned to the mother. "Yes, your

  daughter is mine forever. And after Ive slain you, Ill eviscerate your young son, then sweep through your family like a disease. " She raised the cleaver above her, took a step forward-

  Suddenly, black spots dotted her vision. Dizziness?

  No, no! Elizabeth was rising to consciousness with all the finesse of a freight train. Every single time, she surfaced like a drowning woman held underwater, overwhelming Saroya.

  The little bitch might reclaim control of her body, but, as usual, shed wake to a fresh nightmare. "Enjoy, Elizabeth. . . . "

  Her legs buckled, her back meeting the carpet. Blackness.

  Heartbeat heartbeat heartbeat heartbeat-

  Ellie Peirce woke to a mad drumming in her ears. She lay on the floor of her familys trailer, eyes squeezed shut, her body coated with something warm and sticky.

  No words were spoken around her. The only sounds were the living rooms crackling fire, her shallow breaths, and the howling dogs outside. She had no memory of how shed come to be like this, no idea of how long shed blacked out.

  "Mama, did it work?" she whispered as she peeked open her eyes. Maybe the deacons had been successful?

  Please, God, let the exorcism have worked . . . my last hope.

  Her eyes adjusting to the dim, firelit room, she raised her head to peer down at her body. Her worn jeans, T-shirt, and secondhand boots were sopping wet.

  With blood. She swallowed. Not my own.

  Oh, God. Her fingers were curled around the hilt of a dripping cleaver. I told them not to unchain me until my uncle and cousins got here!

  But Reverend Slocumb and his fellow members of their churchs "emergency ministry" had smugly thought they could handle her-

  Movement drew her gaze up. A fire poker?

  Clenched in her mothers hands.

  "Wait!" Ellie flung herself to her side just as the poker came slamming down on the floor where her head had been. Blood splashed from the carpet like a stepped-in puddle.

  "You foul thing, begone!" Mama shrieked, raising the iron again. "You got my girl, but you wont have my boy!"

  "Just wait!" Ellie scrambled to her feet, dropping the cleaver. "Its me!" She raised her hands, palms outward.

  Mama didnt lower the poker. Her long auburn hair was loose, tangled all around her unlined face. She used one shoulder to shove tendrils from her eyes. "Thats what you said afore you started snarlin that demon language and slashin about!" Her mascara ran down her cheeks, her peach lipstick smeared across her chin. "Afore you killed all them deacons!"

  "Killed?" Ellie whirled around, dumbfounded by the grisly sight.

  Five hacked-up bodies lay strewn across the living room.

  These men had been lured all the way out here by her mothers imploring letters and by evidence of Ellies possession: recordings of her speaking dead languages she had no way of knowing and photographs of messages in blood that she had no memory of writing.

  Apparently, Ellie had once written in Sumerian, Surrender to me.

  Now Slocumbs head lay apart from his other remains. His eyes were glassy in death, his tongue lolling between parted lips. One arm was missing from his corpse. She dimly realized it must be the one under the dining room table. The one lying beside the hank of scalp and a pile of severed fingers.

  Ellie covered her mouth, fighting not to retch. The five had vowed to exorcise the demon. Instead, itd butchered them all. "Th-this was done by . . . me?"

  "As if you dont know, demon!" Mama wagged her poker at Ellie. "Play your games with somebody else. "

  Ellie scratched at her chest, her skin seeming to crawl from the being within. Hate it so much, hate it, hate it, HATE it. Though she never knew its thoughts, right now she could nearly feel it gloating.

  Sirens sounded in the distance, setting the dogs outside to baying even louder. "Oh, God, Mama, you didnt call that good-for-nothing sheriff?" Ellie and her family were mountain folk through and through. Any Law was suspect.

  At that, her mother dropped the poker. "You really are Ellie. The demon told me you wasnt coming back this time! Told me youd never return to us. "

  No wonder Mama had attacked.

  "Its me," Ellie said over her shoulder as she hastened to the window, her boots squishing across the carpet. She pulled aside the cigarette-stained curtains to gaze out into the night.

  Down the snowy mountainside, the sheriffs blue lights glared, his car snaking up the winding road. Another cruiser sped behind it.

  "I had to call them, Ellie! Had to stop the demon. And then the nine-one-one dispatcher heard the deacons just a-screamin. . . . "

  What should I do . . . what can I do? Nineteen was too young to go to jail! Ellie would rather die, had already considered suicide if the exorcism didnt work.

  Because these five ministers werent the demons first victims.

  Thered been at least