Bound in death, p.20
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       Bound In Death, p.20

         Part #5 of Bound series by Lauren DeStefano
 
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Page 20

 

  Her chest ached.

  “Lorcan’s witch made me a potion. See, he’d let her keep living because she didn’t know exactly where you were imprisoned. He got her to create a special brew. Said that it would connect me to you. ” His eyes squeezed shut. “I drank it, like a fool, and I got that deeper connection. I could hear you in my head. Crystal fucking clear. You were crying, screaming. Helpless. And those were your real cries. Your body might have frozen, but you were conscious of every moment that passed. ” He ran a hand over his face. “You were aware and always screaming in your mind. In my mind. I could hear you, twenty-four, seven, but I couldn’t find you. I couldn’t free you. ”

  “The potion was poison,” Alerac said quietly.

  “Son of a bitch,” Finn murmured, sounding shaken. “That’s twisted. ”

  “That’s Lorcan,” Ryan said as his eyes opened. “He gets off on playing his games. ”

  Zoe rocked back onto her heels. “I’m surprised you didn’t go crazy. ”

  “I did. ”

  Jane shivered. “I-I’m sorry. ” The thought of him suffering, with her, for all that time. . .

  “I sent you messages with my mind back then,” Ryan said, voice soft. Shoulders slumped. “Just like I did when I told you to meet me by the stream. ”

  Alerac tensed.

  “Over and over, while you were imprisoned, I’d tell you that everything was going to be all right. That you would be safe. That I’d find you. ” He swallowed. “But the cries never stopped, and I figured you couldn’t hear me. ”

  Jane could only shake her head. She’d sure heard him clearly enough when he told her to meet him at the stream. Maybe she had heard him for all of those other years, too.

  Maybe she hadn’t.

  “Maybe I needed to be closer, in order for you to hear me. ” Ryan’s hands were fisted. “I tried a lot over the last six months. ” He rolled his shoulders. “You didn’t seem to hear me then, either. You didn’t seem to hear me until I came to this wolf compound. ”

  I’d had Alerac’s blood by then. She frowned. She’d started to get stronger after taking Alerac’s blood. Had that made her able to finally connect with her brother’s link?

  “Doesn’t matter. ” Now Ryan was circling around Heath. “None of that matters now. I took the poison, and there’s no going back. ”

  “Why would Lorcan want you dead?” Zoe asked. “You were in his clan!”

  “He thought I might one day fight him for power over the clan. ” A grim smile. “He was right. Though there wasn’t exactly much left of our clan. ” His attention shifted to Alerac. “Not after your wolves tore through our keep. ”

  “What does the poison do?” Zoe edged toward him. “Does it hurt?”

  “Every damn minute,” Ryan said grimly. “It’s like fire in my veins. ”

  Jane swiped away a tear. When had that fallen?

  “How long do you have?” Finn wanted to know.

  “Now that I’ve located Keira—Jane,” he corrected almost absently, “probably only a day or two more. ” But he didn’t seem to care. Why not? He should care. He was talking about his death too casually. “The potion linked me to her. The witch said it would burn brightest when I found what I sought. ”

  He’d sought her.

  “He’s going to burn alive,” Heath whispered. His gaze swept over them all. “Burn from the inside out. Lorcan thinks he’ll die within the next twenty-four hours. But there’s a cure. ”

  “He’s lying. ” Ryan whirled away from the human.

  Jane stepped into her brother’s path. “Drink from him and see. ” He might be ready to give up and die, but she wasn’t ready to let him go.

  A faint furrow appeared between Ryan’s brows.

  “Drink from him. What do we have to lose? Just…see. There could be a chance for you. ” He’d suffered for so long. Didn’t he deserve a chance?

  “Why not?” His teeth flashed. “I could go for a bite. ” He turned back toward Heath. “I’m not going to be gentle. ”

  That was the only warning Heath had. Ryan grabbed for the man, twisted his head to the side, and shoved his fangs into Heath’s throat.

  Jane’s own throat burned. Liam had done that to her. He’d wrenched her head to the side—

  “Jane. ”

  Alerac. His voice. His hand on her arm.

  She blinked. When had he moved so close to her?

  “It’s okay,” he told her. His voice was strong and certain. She glanced away from Alerac and back to her brother.

  Ryan had freed Heath. “Fuck me. ” There was shock in his voice. Ryan swiped a hand over his lips, wiping away the blood. “There is a cure. ”

  Relief made her a little dizzy. There was a cure, and it looked like they had about twenty-four hours to find it.

  ***

  “They’ll come for the cure,” Lorcan said as he glanced over his shoulder. His witch stood there, pressing her back into the corner. For a being so powerful, she was also incredibly weak.

  Breakable.

  The marks on her neck were just starting to heal.

  It was so hard to find good witches these days.

  “They’ll come, and I’ll kill them. ” Simple. He’d deliberately let Heath learn of the cure. Every move that he’d made had been deliberate.

  If Heath hadn’t been killed on sight at the werewolf compound, then either Ryan or Keira would drink from the human. They would look into his memories.

  That was the way of the vampire.

  When they took his blood, they’d learn of the cure. They’d learn of Lorcan’s hiding spot in the mountains.

  They’d plan an attack.

  Alerac would follow his bread crumbs so perfectly. So foolishly.

  You destroyed my clan. Now it’s my turn to destroy your pack.

  Everything was falling into place. Every fucking thing.

  He crooked his finger toward the witch.

  When she flinched, he smiled. “Come now, my dear, it’s almost time for you to do your part. ”

  She had a role to play, just as he did. Only once his lovely witch had done his bidding, then he’d kill her.

  She was incredibly weak, and he despised weakness. It would soon be time for a new model.

  ***

  “He’s waiting on the other side of the mountain, in a blue house just past the bridge. ” Ryan’s voice was flat. “I saw the house in the human’s mind. Lorcan is there. ”

  “It’s a trap. ” Alerac knew this. They all had to know this. “We aren’t trading Jane. ” That plan was pure shit.

  Jane stood near the fireplace. No fire burned. She stared at the empty hearth. “I don’t understand. If he wanted me dead, if he wanted me at all, why didn’t he come for me himself when I was free? Why wait six months? Why start the attacks now?”

  Alerac wanted to know the answers to those questions, too. At first, he’d thought that he’d gotten lucky. That he’d found Jane first.

  Lucky hadn’t been in the equation.

  Lorcan was playing them.

  “Lorcan is a tricky bastard. He’s always manipulating, playing his games. ” Ryan was close to Jane’s side. “I don’t know why—”

  “There wasn’t anything special in her blood,” Heath muttered.

  Alerac frowned at him. “A vampire’s blood, by its very nature, is fucking special. ” It had certainly healed the human.

  But Heath shook his head. He was sweating, but no longer bleeding. Fear oozed from the man’s pores. Probably because he realized that he wouldn’t be living much longer. Not much longer at all. “Liam had me comparing her blood to other vamps. He was—he was looking for something in her blood. Some kind of power that wasn’t there. He kept saying that it should be there. ”

  Liam knew that Alerac had grown stronger after taking Jane’s blood. That he’d transformed into something that was b
oth werewolf and vampire.

  Liam had taken the blood of other vampires so that his life could be extended. So that he could fight at Alerac’s side. But he’d never gotten the power boost that Alerac had received. Never transformed into a hybrid creature.

  Only Alerac had done that—with the aid of Jane’s blood.

  “I think Liam and Lorcan both want to know how you changed me. ” Alerac made sure that his voice carried easily across the room. “Hell, maybe Lorcan even held back on making contact with you because he wanted me to find you first. He probably even wanted us to mate, so that he could see the changes. ” Was that why the guy hadn’t directly come at them yet? He was waiting, watching?

  Her breath whispered out. “Changes?”

  “The sun isn’t hurting you anymore. You aren’t weak, and you should be weak during the day. ”

  Her lashes lowered.

  “Maybe Lorcan wanted you to spend time with me because he wanted—” Alerac broke off. He wanted us to mate. To fuck. To bond. “When you came from your imprisonment, you weren’t linked to me. ” Those words were so hard to utter, but they were true. He’d been tied to her, body and soul, for two centuries.

  She’d shared no such tie with him.

  So Lorcan had tried to reset the bond.

  In order to see the power in her blood? “We’re Lorcan’s experiment,” Alerac said. “And he wants us—both of us—so he can figure out how to get the same power for himself. ”

  Alerac’s attraction to Jane had been undeniable, too consuming, and it was being used against him now.

  “I don’t have much time left,” Ryan said, voice grim. “But I’m going to make the most of that time. I’ll do my best to take him out. ”

  Alerac shook his head. “You’ve tried before. That didn’t work—”

  “I couldn’t kill him for the same reason you couldn’t—he knew where Jane was! If he’d died, we might never have seen her again. ” His gaze cut to Jane. “When the screams stopped, I thought for sure you were dead. ”

  Pain flashed in her eyes.

  Ryan backed toward the door. “You aren’t trading for me. You aren’t trading yourself for anyone, ever again. ” He pointed toward Alerac. “Keep her safe, wolf. If you don’t, I’ll come back and haunt your ass. ”

  Then he yanked open the door, and the fool ran right out in the sunlight.

  “Ryan!” Jane tried to go after him. Not happening. Alerac wrapped his forearm around her stomach and pulled her back against him. “Dammit, let me go!”

  No.

  “Zoe!” He trusted her. As I trusted Liam. His back teeth ground together. “Follow him and make sure he doesn’t get himself killed. ”

  Zoe was already running through the door.

  “Finn. ”

  Finn jerked to attention.

  “Has anyone found Liam’s tracks?” The guy was good at covering himself. He should be good. Alerac had taught him well.

  Finn shook his head. “It’s like he just vanished. ”

  But he hadn’t. Liam would be turning up again. Like Lorcan, he was after the power that could come from Jane.

  And like Lorcan, he wasn’t getting her.

  Two enemies after me. Time to even up the odds a bit.

  “Make sure the human doesn’t leave,” he ordered Finn.

  Jane turned in his grasp. “You’re going after Lorcan. ”

  Yes. Ryan would be his distraction. While Lorcan and his lackeys were fighting Ryan, Alerac would engage his own attack. “I’ll take men with me. The bastard won’t live to see another sunset. ”

  Alerac couldn’t wait to rip him apart.

  “If you go, then I go. ” Jane was adamant.

  Alerac opened his mouth to argue.

  “If I took your punishment, then don’t you think you owe this to me?” Her words vibrated with intensity. “Two hundred years. I won’t stand on the sidelines anymore. I won’t keep hiding. I can’t. ”

  Alerac closed his mouth because he had no words.

  “Your pack backs us, my brother fights, you fight. ” Her shoulders straightened. “I fight, too. ”

  He didn’t want her anywhere near Lorcan.

  “I won’t be shut out. I’ve lost my past, but I’m not losing my future. ”

  “You will!” This came from Heath. “He’ll kill you, Jane! Don’t do this! He’s going to—”

  “Gag him,” Jane snapped to Finn.

  A grin curling his lips, Finn moved to obey. Soon all Heath could do was grunt.

  “I’m a vampire. And, thanks to you, I’m also more. ” She held Alerac’s gaze. “Let’s see just how much power we have together. Let’s see if we can make Lorcan fear us this time. ”

  This wasn’t the scared woman who’d run from him when he first saw her in Wylee’s bar. It wasn’t even the delicate vampire princess who’d first stolen into his heart on a long ago night in Ireland.

  This woman…determination burned in her eyes. Fury hardened her muscles.

  She was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.

  Alerac nodded. “We will make him fear. ”

  And beg.

  And…die.

  ***

  Liam watched them leave. Alerac took most of his men with him. He took Jane.

  The alpha made sure to keep her right at his side.

  The storm had helped Liam. It had covered his scent. Hid his tracks.

  He’d learned a few other ways to hide his scent over the years, even from someone with senses as powerful as Alerac’s.
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