Lothaire Read online

Page 48


Page 48

 

  Not that Ellie relished being a prisoner, but until she could figure out all her new powers, being in a protected, sunless environment wasnt all that bad.

  Every hour here she was learning more about the Lore, and the girls were good company. Never kicking my ass much more than I kick theirs.

  One of the first things shed learned? Fighting was kind of fun when you never stayed hurt from it for long.

  "I dont mind it here at all, really. " In a way, she was grateful to be in Val Hall. Because for whatever reason, Lothaire hadnt come to get her.

  Deep down, Ellie knew she had nowhere else to go. That knowledge was terrifying.

  "Theyre teaching me all about vampires"-myself-"while I wait to see if Lothaire will come ransom me. "

  Nix had been a lifesaver, hooking Ellie up with the same tracing tutor whod taught Thad-though Ellie wasnt allowed to see or communicate with the boy himself. Thad was too loyal to Lothaire, and the Valkyries feared hed divvy information about her to their enemy.

  The tutor, a halfling vampire/Valkyrie named Emmaline MacRieve, was utterly lovely, with bone structure to die for, petite fangs, pointed ears, and long golden locks. Shed been genuinely encouraging when Ellie had started to trace. Well, to waver. Though Ellie hadnt quite gotten the hang of it, she practiced every day.

  But she could tell Emmaline was keeping her distance, and something about the halfling kept tugging at Ellies memory, making her wary as well.

  Emmaline had probably had some kind of bad personal experience with Lothaire. It seemed like everyone in the Lore had a story to tell about that vampire.

  "If he ransoms you?" Mama demanded. "I thought you said hes protective of you. Why wouldnt he?"

  "We kinda had a falling out. But Im confident hell come round. " Please come round, Lothaire!

  "What is he like?" Mama asked, lighting a cigarette. "That blood-drinker?"

  "Hes tall, handsome, rich as the day is long. " And quite the celebrity.

  In the mortal world, Lothaire wouldve been a heartthrob actor-whod merely committed an average of a couple of murders a day, for millennia.

  As "the Bride of Lothaire," shed gained some notoriety as well, among Loreans curious about the death-row mortal whod somehow survived the turning to vampire. When no other female on record had.

  "Hes also a powerful king among his kind," Ellie said. "Famous in his circles. " Infamous for his underhanded ruthlessness.

  Yes, Ellie had heard all about his misdeeds, knew everyone in the Lore considered him a diabolical fiend. But in the end, shed decided that while he might be a fiend, he was still her guy.

  She sighed again. Was he hers? She wondered that every minute of the day. Would he never come to collect her?

  In her mind, what it boiled down to was that they had a lot of work to do on their relationship; now that she wasnt roidal with new vampire rage, she was ready to dig in.

  As long as he comes and gets me, Ill kick his ass into shape, but well work it

  out.

  Either it was taking him a long time to heal-or hed decided not to come for her.

  Surely an immortal of his advanced age would be mature enough to discuss their differences.

  "What happens if he dont come, Ellie?"

  Good question. "Ill figure something-"

  "Yo, whys this door locked?" Regin yelled from the hall. "Who the hell is Vampirellie talking to?"

  "Mama, I gotta run! But Ill send money when I can. "

  The door came splintering down, revealing Regin, glowing like phosphorescence. "You dont even know how dead you are, leech. "

  "Love you, Mama, love everyone, talk soon!" She hung up the phone. By accidentally crushing it-

  Regin launched herself at Ellie.

  Ellie braced for impact, closing her eyes as dizziness overwhelmed her. Waiting . . .

  Then came a crash at the TV console. Regin hollered, "Imma be fucking you up!"

  When Ellie opened her eyes, she was across the room and Regin had just collided headfirst with the TV.

  I traced? Finally! That dizziness-when had she felt it before?

  In the fight with Lothaire! Had I traced even then? No wonder shed reached him with that sword swing.

  How she wished she could explain that to him!

  For now, she had a pissed-off Valkyrie to deal with. But Regin could never catch her now that she could vanish! "Whats the matter, lightning bug? Forget how to change the channel? Ha-ha-ha, Valkyrie, you cant catch me," Ellie taunted in a singsong voice. "Hillbilly on the run, on the ruh-hun!"

  When Regin vaulted the sofa, Ellie traced once more, but Regin anticipated her reappearance and barreled her to the floor.

  "Ow!"

  Then Regin proceeded to show her true colors, making Ellie punch her own face. "Why are you hitting yourself? Huh? Vampire, stop hitting yourself. "

  "Vampire?" Nix questioned from the doorway, her hair wild, her gaze unfocused. That rabid bat of hers perched on her shoulder, heatedly flapping its wings, as crazed as its owner. "In Val Hall?" Her amber eyes grew silver, the colors swirling. A weird electricity began to crackle in the air.

  Every one of Ellies heightened immortal senses screamed DANGER. Surely not from Nix?

  Leaving the bat behind, the soothsayer attacked, backhanding Regin, sending her across the room.

  Before Ellie could react, Nix had her knees shoved into Ellies shoulders, pinning her with freakish strength. Hair straggling over her wan face, Nix murmured, "Helen paid with a broken heart. Furie paid. Emmaline-"

  "Nix! Its me, Ellie! What are you doing?"

  The soothsayer canted her head like an animal. "You dont know where Furie is . . . ?" Lightning blasted outside, thunder quaking the house.

  "Nixie, easy!" Regin clambered over, yanking on her sister. "We were just fucking about. " But even Regin was no match for Nixs power.

  Finally, Nix allowed Regin to heave her away, both of them landing tangled on the floor. The soothsayer blinked in bewilderment. "What has happened?"

  Ellie cried, "Youre askin me?" Then regretted her tone when Nix suddenly looked exhausted, sickly even.

  Her bat waddled toward her, hopping on her arm, seeming to soothe her.

  "What the fuck, Nix? Youre a regular shit show these days!" Regin disentangled herself from her sister, shooing the bat away. "You went all Ride of the Valkyries on Vampirellie. "

  Nix frowned at something unseen to Ellie, then sighed sadly. "And I fear between the two of us, Im doing the better. . . . "

  Chapter 54

  King Lothaire, the mad king.

  He rather liked the moniker, heard it often said in the sentence: "What has the mad king done now?"

  Not because hed lost his sanity, but because of his behavior-rarely sleeping, wandering the streets at all hours, plotting to send his new subjects into war with the Horde at the earliest opportunity.

  This twilight, Lothaire was holding court. He sat upon his gilded throne, decorated with gold-dipped skulls. His design. If hed had a queen, her throne would have been similar. Of course, her skulls would be daintier.

  But he had no queen.

  The royal cousins who acted as his council knew to gauge his sanity, opening the court on nights when Lothaire seemed more lucid and composed.

  For the last three weeks, those kinds of nights had been surprisingly frequent.

  He and Elizabeth had exchanged blood, which meant he had an unbreakable tie with her mind. Unlike the one with Chase, the link to his Bride was keeping Lothaire relatively sane.

  A blessing-because he refused to let anyone believe he suffered due to his "regicidal Bride. "

  Lothaire was not to be an object of pity. How many times had he made fun of heartbroken males? How many times had he sneered to them, "Aww, did we masturbate through the tears last night?"

  As fate would have it, the tie to Elizabeth meant he could survive without her. He no longer needed her; luckily, he no lon