Lothaire Read online
"Cease. Speaking. "
Nix nodded approvingly. "Now youre starting to get it, vampire . . . " She trailed off, shooting to her feet, her eyes swirling silver. "Lothaire, somethings wrong. "
Hed also felt a heavy sense of dread. His connection to Elizabeth was clearer now, more so than it had ever been. "What do you see, Nix?"
Gaze gone wild, she murmured, "Ellie spinning in blind circles, blood pouring from her mouth. Go to the mountain, Lothaire, follow the screams!"
Elizabeth!" Lothaire found her on her knees in a sunlit field, covered in coal dust, holding her hands over her bleeding ears. He was half-tracing, but still the light burned him.
"L-Lothaire?" Tears tracked down her cheeks, more blood spilling from her mouth. She was frail, obviously hadnt been drinking enough, and was newly injured.
Battered mortals lay on the ground all around them.
"Im here, tell me whats happened. "
She shook her head in confusion. She couldnt hear, could barely speak. "Help . . . me. . . . "
He clasped her in his arms, tracing her back to her home.
"No!" she shrieked, thrashing against him. "Back. Go back!"
Lothaire steadied his breathing, struggling to match his heartbeat to Elizabeths frantic racing. As her heartbeat began to grow loud in his ears, Lothaire briefly closed his eyes-seeing into her mind, speaking directly into her thoughts.
"Shh, shh, love. Calm yourself. "
"Take me back! My kin are dying!"
"I will fix this! Show me whats happened. "
"I have to get back!"
"I will save any who live. You know I can do anything. Trust me?"
Her lips trembled. Another pair of tears streaked down her face. "Can I?"
"You alone can trust me. " Words in Russian slipped out from his lips: I will fight any battle for you, crush any adversity. Because you are mine, beautiful girl. I love you so madly that the past before you feels sane. . . .
"Depend on me. You must, for your family. "
At length, she nodded, and he wanted to bellow with satisfaction.
"Then drink. " He bit his wrist, shoving the gash against her lips. "Heal. " When she resisted, he yelled into her mind, "Now, Elizabeth!"
She jerked, eyes going wide, then she pressed her lips against his wrist. When she softly sucked, pleasure rippled through him, but he ordered himself to focus, reminding himself that his Endgame was at stake.
As she drew strength from him, beginning to mend, he said, "Let me see what happened. Show me. "
Suddenly, he saw pandemonium.
An explosion in a mine, dozens of men trapped . . . Elizabeth trying to trace her relatives out as rocks continued to fall . . . She could only take one at a time, quickly weakening . . . Another explosion burst her eardrums . . . A support beam swung down, striking her torso, damaging something internally.
"If more rocks fall, Lothaire, if it catches fire . . . "
"Where should I trace to? Imagine exactly that location. " She did. "Let me see your relatives faces. "
Images of one after another arose. Twelve men left. Lothaire memorized them.
"Remain here, Elizabeth. Do not leave this place. I will save any who live. "
He traced away, but as their immediate bridge broke, he thought he heard her say, "Make it back to me. "
Two little tasks: find key mortals, get back to Elizabeth.
Inside. Total blackness. The gloom engulfed him, the kind of darkness found only underground. Even he strained to see down here.
The dust stung his eyes and filled his lungs, as if they were compacting with dirt.
He froze in comprehension. He could be buried alive down here.
The earth grinding over me . . .
With violent shudders, he struggled to breathe. A cold sweat beaded his skin.
Hed told Nix that hed go back to the grave for Elizabeth. Here I fucking am.
No, focus! Two little tasks. Elizabeth would want him once he saved her family. I could take her home with me, this very day.
He clenched the first boulder in his way, heaved it to the side. Then another. Yelling with effort, he began clearing his way through the tunnel.
All the while, the ceiling bowed precariously above him, support beams cracking under their burden.
As silt rained over him, he shuddered anew. Focus!
At last, he spotted lights from the miners helmets. Most of the men were unconscious, but all had heartbeats. With the dust obscuring their faces, he couldnt discern Elizabeths relatives from the others.
Which meant hed have to save all of them, and sort later.
The ones still conscious recoiled from him.
-"Who the hell are you?"
-"Your . . . eyes!"
-"What are you?"
He grabbed the mens collars, tracing six at a time, dumping them in that scorching field and quickly scanning their faces to tally the Peirces.
But he still hadnt found the relative Elizabeth secretly loved the most-her uncle Ephraim. Lothaire traced deeper, deeper, straining to see.
Just when he spotted the man a short distance away, Lothaire heard another ominous quake.
He snatched up her uncle and traced him, tossing him into the field before returning. One man was still unaccounted for, a cousin.
Lothaire had saved his Brides favorite mortal; now he was to risk being buried down here for some random cousin? He was tempted to trace away, calling this finished. Shed told him to make it back, hadnt she? He was ready to get back to the business of them.
But she trusted him, trusted him to save any who lived. Loyalty must go both ways. Though if he demonstrated it in this shadowy hell, then so help him gods, he had better receive it from her-
He scented the spark too late. . . .
Lothaire had come to her. Had he come for her?
Ellie was healing with every second, his blood like rich, warm rocket fuel compared to the animals blood shed been forcing down.
Her hearing was already back, her internal injury mending.
She was no longer petrified for her family-because Lothaire could do anything. If he said he would save all who lived, then thats what he would do.
Funny, Ellie-you didnt mind his high-handedness in this.
But immortal or not, if the coal dust ignited down there, he could . . . die. Beset with anxiety-for him-she paced/traced, biting her lip.
She couldnt lose him again. Her eyes began to tear up, blood pooling. What was taking him so long? She shivered, remembering the falling rocks, the coal in her lungs-
She gasped. "Oh, dear God. " Hed dreamed of being buried in the earth, trapped. Shed tried to sooth his agonizing nightmares.
And yet I sent him into a mine collapse. With a cry, she traced to the triage field.
So many had already been saved. Hasty head count. Every single one of her relatives, some of them badly injured, was accounted for. So why hadnt Lothaire returned?
Then she noticed that one of her third cousins was helping the others, but he had no dust on him. He hadnt been in the mine earlier-yet shed shown him to Lothaire as one of the missing.
Lothaire is searching for someone hell never find.
Filled with dread, she traced inside the mine, immediately dropping to her front as flames shot over her. There hadnt been fire before! Oh, God, oh, God. She yanked her shirt over her mouth to keep the flammable dust out of her lungs.
If Lothaire had breathed too much of it . . .
Crawling through the blinding drifts of smoke, she scrambled to reach him, struggling to sense him as she navigated the arteries of the mountain. Hed said they had unbreakable ties.
Marshal your wits, Ellie!
Once she settled down and concentrated, she seemed instinctively
to know where to go, which way around boulders, and her c