Lothaire Read online

Page 34

Page 34


  And now Ellie couldnt snap out of it, couldnt speak. Hed sat her upright in a chair, but she couldnt move from it.

  "Vampire, I warned you of this!" Hag cried as she tucked blankets around Ellies shoulders. "Mortals can break. "

  "Then mend her!"

  "How could I possibly know how to treat a mortal for shock? Shes catatonic!"

  "I dont give a fuck, you heal her!"

  "Why would you take her to Helvita? What did you expect? Youre lucky she didnt die from the elements. "

  "I sleep-traced. Must have grabbed her. "

  No, I grabbed you. Like an idiot.

  "It doesnt matter, Hag!" Every word booming louder, Lothaire snapped, "Now, stop being a silly bitch and fix her!"

  "I didnt think you cared about her mind, only her body. Correct? Saroya will be unharmed by this, vampire. So you can relax. "

  Good point. Why did Lothaire care at all?

  "Silence! Let me think!" In a vague tone, Lothaire muttered, "I remember someone who went through this. Must recall who. Goddamn it, who was it?"

  Both of them began pacing, talking at the same time:

  -"He wants me to fix a human being! Should I reach for the whiskey? Or perhaps a Band-Aid?"

  -"It was a male. He suffered this very thing! Who the hell was it?"

  Then Lothaire said, "I remember!" and disappeared.

  Hag sounded like shed begun rifling through some spell book. "Elizabeth, the vampire will be killing mad over this. As he is unlikely to punish himself, you must wake!"

  Must I? Ellie didnt think she wanted to live in a world like the Lore. Where a father would bury his son alive for centuries. Where monsters dwelled. The forked tongue that slithered across my cheek . . .

  At the memory, her thoughts grew quiet once more. For how long she didnt know.

  Suddenly Hag snapped, "Who is he, Lothaire? Is this some kind of a joke?"

  Another male was here?

  A deep voice said, "Names Thaddeus Brayden, maam. But you can call me Thad. "

  Lothaire had snagged the boy straight out of the front yard of Val Hall, saying, "Need your help to fix Lizvetta. "

  The Valkyries had shrieked, "You cant take him! Leave him be, vampire!"

  To which Lothaire had eloquently responded, "Go fuck yourselves!"

  "Can you please explain whats happening?" Thaddeus asked Hag now. "Mr. Lothaire isnt making a lot of sense. And, uh, whose blood is all over him?"

  When the fey glanced at Lothaire, he nodded, trusting the boy. To an extent.

  Hag said, "This girl is new to the Lore and has just been amidst a Lore swordfight. Lothaire won, but she saw Pravus creatures. "

  Realization dawned on Thaddeuss face. "Gotcha. Thats all it took for me to clock out. "

  And Thaddeus was a Lorean, even if he hadnt known he was at the time. Elizabeth was a mortal. Shes so weak. Weak!

  What if he never saw her stubborn gaze again? Felt her passion? You were going to end her anyway, his mind whispered. She might be my Bride, but she cannot be my queen.

  Struggling to control his tone, Lothaire said, "Then what did it take for you to clock in, Thaddeus?"

  "A few weeks, and the care of a nice Valkyrie and a fey. "

  "Weeks!" To Hag, Lothaire said, "Its back to you, Venefican. "

  She peered down at her spell book as if willing it for an answer.

  "Uh, just a suggestion, Mr. Lothaire," Thaddeus began, "but shouldnt you be, like, holding Lizvetta or something?"

  If I took her in my arms, Id squeeze her so desperately, too hard.

  "Wait!" Hag cried. "The ash vines help mortals as well. I could clear her mind with the potion Id intended for you. "

  "Excellent idea, Hag. Only one problem-there were no fucking vines to be found!"

  "There is one other source. I hadnt bothered to mention it because its so impossible-"

  "Tell me!"

  "Nereus. " She said no more.

  The sea god. "He owes me a blood debt. " But fearing Lothaires arrival-no doubt assuming Ill come for his firstborn-Nereus had recruited guards to protect his lair, some of the most ruthless immortals ever to live. "Hag, get started on the potion once more. "

  "But how will you get past his sentries to collect your debt?"

  "I likely wont. " And with that, Lothaire traced to the edge of a mountainous, perpetually storm-tossed coast to confront a god.

  Chapter 37

  Where has Lothaire gone? Ellie wondered.

  Was he in danger? She didnt know why she should give a damn. Apart from her catatonia, nothing had changed between them. Right?

  That young man bent down in front of Ellie, then gently moved her head until she was facing him. But she still couldnt focus her eyes.

  "So youre Lothaires Bride. I knew hed let me meet you! No matter what gruff front he put on. "

  Im not his Bride, just a peasant pet he uses to get off with until he can kill me. At least, thats what shed thought just hours ago as shed cried in his arms.

  But considering Lothaires reaction earlier . . . ?

  Now she didnt know.

  "Lizvetta, is it?" the newcomer asked with a southern drawl. Not a mountain accent, but definitely from the South.

  Hag said, "She prefers to be called Ellie. "

  "And you? I just cant call someone as pretty as you . . . Hag. Maybe you have a middle name?"

  Ellie thought he was grinning when he said that.

  "Lothaire wouldnt like you calling me-"

  "You just let me worry about him. "

  "Very well. My names Balery. "

  Shell tell him but not me?

  "Nice to meet you, Balery. "

  "And what might you be, Thaddeus? You look mortal. "

  "Thanks. But Im actually a vampire and phantom halfling. "

  Hag-Balery-sucked in a breath. Why?

  "Yeah, I get that a lot. " Again Ellie heard amusement in his tone. "Since Im wicked powerful and rare and all. " Then to Ellie, he said, "My names Thad. Im a friend of Mr. Lothaires. And Im going to help you through this. "

  Was this guy for real? His deep voice was filled with kindness, but if he was friends with Lothaire and part vampire, wouldnt that make him evil?

  "Mr. Lothaire came and got me because I was human a little while ago. Or at least, I thought I was. And I went catatonic when I saw some of the creatures you met up with today. Creepy stuff, huh. "

  The things I saw . . .

  Thad took her hands in his. They were big and rough, warming her own. "But youre safe now. No one will hurt you. Were gonna protect you. "

  Safe. Protected. How Ellie had longed for someone to tell her exactly that! At any time in the last five years.

  But still she couldnt seem to focus her gaze, not even to see what he looked like.

  "When I was out of it," he continued, "this really nice Valkyrie named Regin the Radiant and a dark fey called Natalya took me under their wings. "

  Regin the Radiant, the one Lothaire stalked? Oh, boy.

  I hate this world.

  "Every day the ladies talked to me, about normal stuff mostly. And after a while, I felt comfortable enough to peek my head up. " He gave her hands a light squeeze. "So thats what Im gonna do with you. Talk. Cause I got nowhere else Id rather be. Im hiding out from my adoptive mom. Shes the greatest, but she thinks Im in high school-and still

  human-but Im done with mortal school. So every day from eight to three, I gotta get lost. I hang with the Valkyries mostly, but not one of them plays football. They just like to get high with the witches, play video games, and shriek at stuff. "

  This is better than the Book of Lore. . . .

  "Hey, if you surface, Ill tell you stories about Mr. Lothaire. About how he saved my life again and again. "

  Had Hag briefly stopped stirring her potion at that?

  "So what should I talk about now?" Thad mused. Ellie heard him snap his fingers as he said, "Oh, I know. . . . "