Lothaire Read online
"Romantic? It was to mark the end of our relationship. Keep her at Val Hall forever, if you like. "
"Oh, no. Shes gone. Whereabouts unknown. "
His gut tightened. The cloaking tattoo around her ankle had faded with her transformation. Would Elizabeth be safe outside of the wraiths guard?
Who was he kidding? She was a vicious female-a vampire whod taken him down!
"Ellie did mention something about seeing the world. "
He wanted to tell Nix, "I couldnt care less," but his throat burned on the lie. "You do know that theres a bounty on her head?"
"The one Kristoff posted?"
"Kristoff?" he bit out. The Gravewalker will be receiving a visit from me-
"Hes on walkabout currently. Hell be back at Oblak in a few weeks. If I remember, Ill be sure to let him know youll be calling on him. "
"Do whatever you like," he snapped.
"Fear not, very few Loreans would target Ellie. After what Ive told everyone she did to you? Plus, they know better than to use her as leverage-since you seem not to want her. "
Dont I? He still reached for her in his bed, only to find himself clasping nothing. Upon every wakening, he roared with frustration, shaken anew that she wasnt with him.
"You can keep up the façade, Lothaire, pretending how wonderful it is without her. But we both know you miss her. "
"Perhaps I simply miss a female-any female. I wager Ill be the one vampire who will forsake his Bride and enjoy others. "
Starting today, he would. His plan to install concubines had been delayed by his regenerating heart. Then hed lost enthusiasm for the idea because his new heart hurt worse than the other. But no more delays.
Nix examined her claws, as if his statement was the height of absurdity. "Do you know how many times Ive heard that?"
He traced in front of her, slowly backing her toward the wall. "Ah, flower, would you like me to demonstrate how quickly Ive forgotten her?" he asked, voice dripping with innuendo.
In a breathless whisper, she said, "Yes. Kiss me, Lothaire. "
He quirked a brow. Could any male turn her down? Nix was stunning-and apparently willing. He brushed her tangled hair back from her face.
I always knew she wanted me. What female wouldnt?
Elizabeth. Because Im ugly on the inside.
Ignoring thoughts about his Bride-and his contentious past with Nix-he leaned in closer . . . closer. He grinned as he imagined Elizabeth finding out about other females in his life, discovering that he was bedding scores of them without a thought devoted to her.
Not a thought. Ill kiss Nix-and it will be better than with Lizvetta.
Better than the night hed first claimed his Bride, helping her take him inside her body? Better than the night hed turned her? When shed kneaded his flesh with her little claws as shed fed from him?
The way his heart had beat in time with hers . . . the way she always ran circles around him . . . the way her chin would jut stubbornly, her gray eyes fierce . . .
Just before he reached Nixs lips, he froze.
Better with the Valkyrie? Fool, it cant be better.
Rage erupted. "Ahhh!" he bellowed. "Its her! That bitch has ruined me!"
He punched the wall beside Nixs head; she yawned.
"You knew this would happen! You knew wed never kiss. Yet you said I defied foresight. "
"Doesnt take a soothsayer to see how much you ache for her, Lothaire. Shes your missing puzzle piece. Youll never be complete without her, no matter how many ethereally gorgeous Valkyries you bed. "
Elizabeth is my happiness, he thought again. "I could hate her for what she did to me. "
"Because of one unsuccessful beheading?" She tapped her claw to her chin. "Wow. I never thought you were such a pussy. Im rethinking our friendship. "
He bared his fangs once more. "Its not about my neck! She betrayed me. " Shed feigned affection for him. For him. "Ive had enough betrayal in my life. From my father, my uncle, from you. "
"Dont play coy, Valkyrie. I know of your treachery. You warned Stefanovich of my impending attempt on his life. He listened well. "
She shrugged nonchalantly. "I did tell him-but only after I explained to you that I intended to do exactly that. I repeatedly told you to be patient, to trust me, but you wouldnt listen. You set out anyway. "
"You were my oldest friend! I never thought you would truly contact him. "
"I acted for your greater good, to turn your fate in a different direction, before tragedy struck. "
"Tragedy?" He turned to pound his fist on his desk and it shattered into splinters, papers flying. "What could possibly have been worse than what occurred? I suffered six centuries of hell because of you! Do you know what it was like in that grave, to have insects boring inside my own living corpse, picking at my flesh? No idea when it would end . . . the blood tree growing within. " He lurched on his feet, memories threatening to overwhelm him. "It . . . fed. I prayed for death. Anything to make the pain end!"
"If Stefanovich hadnt caught you, then you wouldnt have your Bride. "
Inhale for calm. Exhale. Draw from the tie with Elizabeth. "What are you fucking talking about?"
"Have you never wondered why I would betray"-Nix made air quotes-"you?"
"Because we are natural enemies. Instinctively you despise what I am. It was only a matter of time. "
She perched on the studys window seat. "If you hadnt been caught by Stefanovich, you would have died in the Horde invasion of Draiksulia. "
"There was no Horde invasion of the fey plane. "
She snapped her fingers. "Exactly. You, as well as all our Valkyrie allies, were spared. From just a whisper in your fathers ear. "
His lips parted.
"And had you perished then, you never would have made contact with Saroya-who would have killed even more while in Elizabeths body, leaving no time for an attempted exorcism. " Nixs vacant golden eyes shimmered. "I saw your Brides alternate future as clear as day. One fall morning, Elizabeth did the laundry for her mother, folding clothes off the line. Then she took her fathers Remington and walked into the woods alone. She tucked the barrels under her chin. Blood, brain, and bone splattered over leaves. "
"I saw it all. Still think me a betrayer?"
I wouldnt have Elizabeth if not for Nixs actions. He didnt have her anyway! Then his eyes narrowed. "Why did you leave me so long in the grave? You were there the night Fyodor released me-I saw you in the woods. "
"My foresight doesnt work with you. I was only able to find you by reading Helens fate. You know what she became to you. "
"Yes. " My aunt. "An embarrassment. "
"Speak ill of my dead sister again, Lothaire, and Ill take my crazy somewhere else. "
"Somewhere outside of Dacia?" He waved his arm. "If you could find this kingdom all along, you might have told me how! I spent centuries searching. As you well knew!"
"You werent ready to find it yet. Would you rather have warred with them or become their king by invitation? All it took was patience, which is what I told you again and again. But you never listened to me. You broke the trust between us-not me. "
"Even after all the antagonism between us, I came to you for help just weeks ago. You turned your back on me and sent Dorada straight to my home! Dont you dare deny it. "
"I was hoping Dora would find your addy okay. MapQuest is sometimes hokey. "
His fists clenched tight, his shoulder muscles knotting with tension.
"You wanted Elizabeth, and you needed Saroya gone-without breaking your vows. "
Nix had sent Dorada to help him?
"My plan was brilliant. "
"And risky. " If Elizabeth hadnt thought on her feet . . . Wed both be dead.
"Great risk leads to great reward, does it not?" Then Nix chuckled. "I do enjoy telling Loreans, Be advised that your blood debt is now being serviced by La Dorada, effective immedia