Lothaire Read online

Page 43

Page 43


  Then he frowned. She was acting as if hed never praised her. He must have. Surely.

  But he couldnt quite put his finger on an instance.

  As someone who knew the importance of protecting ones ego, he was aghast at himself. That will be changing. Much will. . . .

  "Lothaire, I dont suppose you had a chance to mark Balery out of the book when you fetched it from the safe?"

  "What do you think?" he asked, in all seriousness.

  "I think you . . . did. "

  "Wrong. "

  Her face fell. "Oh. "

  "Yet I did manage to cross out a fey oracle named Hag. "

  "I knew you would!" She gave him that mind-scrambling smile of hers.

  "It was meant as a gesture to you. Nothing more. "

  "Doesnt matter why, just that you did. " But then her smile faltered. "Explain to me what happened earlier, with you and my . . . soul. "

  "Eventually, I will tell you all"-how I was blinded by prejudice and the thirst for vengeance-"but we have no time now. " He held up his finger, brandishing the ring. "We must complete this one last step for you, and then plan for our future. "

  Lothaire would have to amend his strategy. With Saroya gone, the Horde would not fall under his thrall-but then, hed spared a wish when freed of his vows. Spared Elizabeth. . . .

  Now, plots and schemes began to unfold with a shocking clarity. His tasks, in order of importance: make Elizabeth undying, devise a way to trick Horde into submission, find and conquer Daci.

  So I can kill Serghei.

  He could still have his eternal mate, two thrones, and his revenge. All was yet well. . . .

  But when Lothaire took Elizabeth in his arms, he frowned to find her trembling. "Youre safe now, love. I restored the boundary. And youll be tucked away at Hags when Dorada and her Wendigos return. I intend for you never to see another one of those beasts as long as you live. " He curled his finger under her chin. "And, Elizabeth, youre going to live for a very, very long time. "

  "I dont want this, Lothaire. "

  Inhaling for patience, he said, "To steal the ring from Dorada, I defeated cults and beasts of legend; to reclaim it once more, I survived the Orders prison, decimating armies. Ive sacrificed my book. I did all these things for you! Cant you understand the gift youre about to receive?"

  "I have a hard time viewing it as one. You told me Ill never be able to see my family again. Ill never be able to return to my old life. In the sun, hunting, hiking. Eating big family meals with loved ones. "

  Lothaire was growing angered . . . jealous once more. "You need to forget about those other mortals. They are in your past. I am your future. "

  "You cant just abandon your family!"

  "Of course you can. I have. "

  "Yours are all dead!"

  "Are they?" He raised his brows. "Elizabeth, remember what I told you-mortals and vampires dont mix. "

  "You and I did. "

  "If you knew how many times I came close to losing control . . . Besides, the gods rain down punishment on immortals who reveal themselves needlessly to humans. I didnt make this law, but even we must abide by it. Now, dont ruin this night for me, Bride. "

  "Make love to me first, Leo. One last time as a human. "

  "Youll delay this no longer. "

  "Youre not listenin to me! Just give me time. Im not sayin I wont agree to it, but just give me time to come to terms with this. An hour ago, you were gonna snuff out my soul! Its too much to get my mind around. "

  Tears slipped down her cheeks, and he didnt like the sight of them at all. They made him feel unsettled-like a failure. My Bride should never have cause to shed tears.

  He tenderly brushed them away. "You vowed that you would let me make decisions for you for three weeks. My times not yet up. "

  "Please. I am beggin you not to do this to me. Lets just talk about this. "

  He paused. But even if he were the type of male who discussed decisions with his female, they didnt have time for it. She wont be safe-not until shes turned.

  "Lothaire, if you care for me at all, you wont do this. "

  He clenched her upper arms. "That is the absolute worst thing you could have said. Its because I care for you that I must do this. "

  "You cant use that ring on me! You said yourself that you dont know what it will do. "

  "The first wish is the most accurate. So far, Ive been granted none, so Ill start fresh with it. "

  "Do you understand how vague that sounds? This is my life! I read in the Book of Lore that the catalyst for transformation is death. "

  "Were not doing this in the customary way. Look at me, Elizabeth. Listen to my words: I have no doubt whatsoever that this will work exactly as I plan-or I would not risk you. " When she began to shake harder, he said, "Do you think I havent gone over my wish repeatedly, checking each iteration with Hags foresight? In things like this, I am wise. "

  "You cant convince me of this!"

  "Then you must trust me to know best, Elizabeth. The difficult part was in getting the ring, then devising the wish took skill, but the process will be effortless. In the blink of an eye, you will become a vampire, as if Id sired you myself. "

  "You said people usually get turned because theyre about to die. Im not. Im healthy. Im young-"

  "My enemies will target you. Even without the blood debts, I will still have foes seeking to harm me through my Bride. You are my most glaring vulnerability. "

  "Glaring vulnerability," she repeated softly.

  Speaking to her as if she were a child, he said, "Think, love-if you could trace, you could have vanished in the face of those Wendigos. How can I bring you into my world if you dont have the strength to defend yourself or the ability to slip away from a threat in an instant?"

  "Then I dont want to be in your violent, messed-up world! How about that? I wouldnt have to trace from Wendigos because I wouldnt see them in my apartment!"

  He drew back his head. "You wouldnt accept this gift in order to be with me? Youre in love with me-you would do anything I ask. "

  Women in love made sacrifices. That was simply what they did.

  Hed watched the world over the span of his life, and for the great majority of it, women had yielded to the men they desired. Surely the last fifty years had been an anomaly. . . .

  "Youre askin too much! If you use that ring, I will hate you. "

  "Youll get over it. Just as you have everything else. "

  Her brows drew together, her gaze stark. "I wont get past this, Lothaire. "

  "As Dorada said, Ill risk it. "

  Hes really gonna do this! Panicked, Ellie whirled around, bolting from the room once more.

  Behind her, she heard Lothaires irritated sigh. Then he called out, "Prepare, Elizabeth. "

  As she dashed down the hall, she heard him saying something else, but couldnt make out the words-

  Suddenly, a fire raged inside her. Clutching her chest, she slowed-yet she was still speeding through the apartment. She felt fangs growing in her mouth.

  No, no, no!

  He appeared in front of her, catching her against him. "Its done, Elizabeth. You are like me now. See how easy that was?"

  She buried her face in her hands as dizziness hit her. Everything was too loud; her body felt light as air.

  The scents . . . was that his blood she smelled? Against her ear, his heart sounded like the drum of a watchtower clock.

  He peeled her hands away. She noted with horror that her nails were dark-and more like claws.

  "No, let me see you, love. Your irises are black-lovely beyond words. But you must calm yourself. Everythings all right now, youre safe with me. "

  "I-Im a vampire?" Open mind, open mind.

  While she stood dumbly, he held her hands, pressing one of his fingertips against her claw, seeming delighted with its sharpness.

  "And look at your little fangs. " His voice went hoarse. "Ah, Lizvetta, I could come just lookin