Lothaire Read online

Page 49


Page 49

 

  But the cocooning mist did protect the Daci from invasion and plague. Plus, with every excursion, they were basically all out spying, which he wholeheartedly endorsed. . . .

  His impetuous cousin Viktor said, "I understand that you observed our soldiers sparring. What did you think of them?" He was a general, and justifiably proud of his battalions.

  The army was honed, disciplined, and masterful with swords. In fact, the Daci were obsessed with all medieval arms-maces, throwing daggers, whips, battle-axes.

  As soon as a Dacian wielded a weapon, a coldblooded single-

  mindedness suffused him. Already ruled by logic, he became even more focused, able to predict his opponents moves.

  Much as I do.

  "The soldiers were a shade too worried about martial honor," Lothaire answered. All that skill and might-and yet they waged no wars but among themselves? "Not to worry, Viktor. Ill see to that. In any case, they will serve me well enough in my war against the Horde. Unless youre concerned about the defense of my hidden kingdom. "

  Viktor tensed, clenching his fists beneath the table. Blooded or no, he had a brash, querulous nature that ensured he was a loner among the reserved and logical Daci.

  And Lothaires fair "niece"?

  Though Kosmina was twenty, shed been sheltered by the overprotective male royals to a damaging degree.

  Apparently, Lothaires naked male body had been the first shed ever seen.

  Pity, Mina, that youll forever find all others lacking in comparison to Uncle Lothaire.

  Yet though she was so ignorant of sex and sin as to be childlike, Kosmina was a killing machine, a mistress at arms with blazing reflexes.

  Half simpering schoolgirl, half lethal assassin.

  Lothaire had noticed that her ears were pointed, compliments of some fey ancestor-whod also gifted her with that uncanny speed. He asked her now, "And what is your function? Or do you exist only to be coddled?"

  Face hot, she stuttered, "I-I . . . "

  Lothaire talked over her, saying, "I understand you have never ventured outside of Dacia, wouldnt know an automobile if it hit you in the face, which it might-if youre not, say, familiar with fucking cars. "

  Her eyes went wide.

  He should send her forth from Dacia, dispatching her to investigate a particularly rambunctious covey of nymphs in Louisiana. "Kosmina, you are distantly related to a female called Ivana the Bold. Act like it. "

  Covering her mouth with her hand, she traced away.

  Lastly, he turned to his cousin Trehan, an assassin in charge of an elite band of killers. He was the most dignified of all the cousins, the most "Dacian" of them, and so the least amusing to spy on. He often stared off into nothing, doubtless thinking about whatever Bride had blooded him, then left him.

  Lothaire steepled his fingers. "Ah, Trehan, only a female could make you look like that. "

  "You would know," he replied icily.

  While Mirceo was out glutting himself in every murky corner of Dacia, Trehan always traced back to his apartments alone, spending his lusts into his own hand, often multiple times in a night-while Lothaire rolled his eyes in disgust.

  Yet dont I do the same?

  Not for long; Lothaire had decided that after this meeting, he would reacquaint himself with other females.

  He was an all-powerful king, and hed definitely read interest as hed walked the cobblestone streets of his realm. Evidently, his subjects still enjoyed pretty on the outside.

  Yes, an all-powerful monarch was about to commence his hunt for a bevy of concubines. So where was the happiness?

  Lost.

  He now knew what he was missing, because hed felt it briefly-even before hed had his crown.

  Lothaire had concluded that each being had a unique key to his or her happiness. Mine was Elizabeth. Because of her actions, shed robbed Lothaire of his key.

  His fangs sharpened. Hed killed others for less. If youre not with me, youre against me. . . . His instinct was to punish, his mind seizing on revenge.

  "My liege?" Stelian said, brows raised. "What revenge are we contemplating this eve?"

  Have I spoken aloud? "Well resume this at a later date," Lothaire bit out, then traced to his suite, pacing from one side of his bedroom to the other.

  All hed wanted was to suffer no more betrayals. He hadnt even desired Elizabeths love, not particularly. But he had believed that her loyalty would follow it.

  Why had he been unable to win her?

  In the past, any female hed bedded would follow him around for years. But not his Bride, the one hed wanted above all others.

  She didnt want me back. And I cant understand why.

  As he tried to solve the puzzle that was Elizabeth, his mind would race through their past interactions. I never told her how I felt. But for fucks sake, I tried to die for her. She knew me better than anyone; she was clever enough to figure out my feelings.

  Maybe I ought to have told her she was clever . . . ?

  He remembered deeming Saroya so arrogant that she would never suspect someone might not desire her. He remembered feeling as if there was a lesson inherent for him.

  I was so arrogant I never realized Elizabeth wouldnt desire me as I did her.

  Most nights he kept himself busy, but in the lulls he could feel her, could perceive her presence across their blood tie. Though hed tried to delve into her emotions, the distance was too great, and he could barely discern his own, let alone anothers.

  All he knew was that she felt no fear. So she must be safe.

  What am I going to do without her?

  When he managed to sleep, he reached for her again and again, aching for her with both his body and his soul.

  He despised her for that!

  His heart pained him as nothing had before, made him want to howl with misery. A sharp, stabbing agony flared with every beat.

  "Elizavetta!" he roared to the ceiling, clawing at his chest. He hated that his heart beat for her alone, that shed brought it to life. . . .

  Brought me to life.

  Like an animal chewing off its own trapped, rotting limb, Lothaire dug at his chest.

  Chapter 55

  Package!" someone cried from downstairs.

  From Ellies temporary room, she heard what sounded like a dozen Valkyries speeding down the stairs.

  -"Whos it for?"

  -"Gotta be me!"

  -"Shut up!"

  -"No, you shut up!"

  Ellie sighed, still marveling at how acquisitive her Valkyrie jailers were. Shed seen them stealing clothes in complex heists, sword-fighting over jewelry, pouncing on each other to wrest away new weapons.

  Now that shed learned how to trace, Ellie considered teleporting down there and scooping them all, but she didnt have the energy. Her appetite had deserted her. Not to crave food-or blood? But compared to the rich flavor of Lothaires dark, dark blood, the bagged stuff was nauseating.

  Itd been over three weeks since shed been brought to Val Hall, and still she waited for him to come rescue her.

  In that time, Ellie had forgiven Lothaire for turning her into a vampire. Though she occasionally felt like a circus freak-with her eyes growing black and her fangs sharpening for seemingly no good reason-being a vampire wasnt too bad.

  On occasion, she even liked being this strong. Such as when pummeling mouthy Valkyries.

  Ellie had forgiven him for a lot of the things hed done, once shed realized that what Lothaire said and what he did didnt always mesh.

  Though hed mocked her for being a lowly mortal, he had tried to burn himself to death in order to save her life-and shed been mortal at the time.

  Their last day together, hed behaved like a tyrant, ridiculing her; yet in the hours before, hed made love to her as if he cherished her.

  When hed said they werent equals, that didnt necessarily mean he thought she was stupid or worthless. Hed told her, "Bullshitting Dorada? I couldnt be pro