Bound in death, p.23
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       Bound In Death, p.23

         Part #5 of Bound series by Lauren DeStefano
 
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Page 23

 

  Preparing to kill the closest thing that he had to a brother.

  “I shouldn’t have let him go alone. ” He’d been so determined. She’d been—

  Lost. Desperate. Because she’d wanted to find a way to sever her tie to Lorcan. She still needed to find a way to be free, but…

  Another howl sounded. That howl was harder. Wilder.

  Not Alerac’s. She knew his cry. Could recognize it on an instinctive level.

  “Liam is luring Alerac to him,” Zoe murmured.

  Yes, he was.

  And she was supposed to wait there? Just wait and see who survived this battle?

  No.

  She spun back to face the witch. “How did Lorcan convince you to stay with him? To help him for all this time?”

  Mina’s lips trembled. “I had no one else. He killed my parents when I was a child. He took my blood, over and over again. He kept me weak. So weak. ”

  She was weak right then. Too thin. Too frail. Trembling as she stood there.

  “I’m sorry,” Ryan said.

  The witch blinked.

  “But I’m going to need your blood, too. ” In an instant, he was at the witch’s side. He’d grabbed her hand and lifted her wrist to his mouth. “I don’t have time to find out if you’re lying or not. I need to know how to live, and I need to know how to keep my sister alive. ”

  He sank his fangs into her wrist.

  ***

  The wolf stalked carefully over the stream. Jane’s blood had covered the rocks in this stream. She’d been attacked, right here, when she should have been safe on his land.

  Rage twisted within Alerac.

  Liam’s scent was stronger here, leading him deeper into the woods.

  After your attack on Finn, you knew I’d be the one to hunt you.

  Liam was sure leaving him a clear path to follow.

  Liam had never challenged him for alpha status. He’d always stood at Alerac’s side.

  Until now.

  Now the challenge was undeniable.

  Alerac’s head lowered over the water. He eased away from the stream. Liam’s scent went back to the north. Higher up the mountain.

  His head lifted. Alerac looked behind him. He could just see the roof of his home.

  A wolf howled from the woods.

  A battle waited.

  ***

  Mina gasped when Ryan’s teeth sank into her skin. Zoe surged forward.

  But Ryan was already drinking. Mina’s eyes had gone wide and glassy, and she stood stock-still, as if caught in a nightmare.

  If Lorcan had been feeding on her for years, this probably was a nightmare for her.

  “Stop, Ryan,” Jane demanded.

  He didn’t.

  So she made him. “Stop!” Jane shoved him away.

  He swiped the blood away from his mouth and frowned at her.

  “Do you just drink from everyone?” Zoe snapped. “Control yourself!”

  Jane touched Mina’s shoulder. “That’s not the way. ”

  “Are you kidding me?” Ryan’s voice was shocked. “She’s his witch. She’s not going to help us! We have to make her reveal what she knows. ”

  Mina’s stare was still lost. No, blank.

  “It’s okay,” Jane said softly as she tried to reassure the other woman.

  “The hell it is,” Ryan fired right back. “I’m dying, and you’re somehow blood linked to a sadistic SOB who won’t stop until he sees your werewolf cold in the ground. How is that ‘okay’ in any way?”

  Mina’s lashes lowered. “I’m sorry that I made your werewolf hurt. ”

  She’d said that before. No, she’d mouthed the words as she attacked Alerac. “What did you do to him?”

  “Squeezed his heart, cut it, with my magic. ”

  Ryan whistled. “Using black magic. But else would Lorcan’s witch use?”

  Mina shook her head. “I wasn’t always like this. ” Then her eyes were on Jane. “I don’t think I was, but I can’t really be sure. ”

  Jane swallowed. “We’re not going to hurt you. ”

  Mina risked a glance at Ryan.

  “He just wants to live,” Jane told her, trying to make Mina understand. “Is that so wrong?”

  “I-I told him how…the only cure I know. ”

  Biting a caged beast. One that he’d in turn destroy.

  Mina shook her head as her eyes flickered toward Zoe. “It’s not like you can even shift, anyway. Why not let the beast go in order to save him?”

  Zoe’s lips parted in shock.

  Then Mina was staring back at Jane. “If I tell you what you need to know, will you let me go?”

  “Yes,” Jane said at once.

  Even as Ryan bellowed, “No!”

  Mina nodded. “It’s easy, really. ” But her smile was sad. “If you want to sever the link with Lorcan, you just have to die. ”

  Ryan swore.

  “The link he created with you endures until death. Your blood. Your vow. There is no way to break it. ” Sadness whispered in Mina’s words. “You will be linked to him, you will share his pain as you share his life. Until death,” she said again, voice even softer.

  This information was not helping.

  “Shonna wrote about the bond. It was the last notation in her book. ” Mina’s smile was sad. “A witch’s spell book is supposed to be sacred. ”

  “Why did Lorcan keep her book around?” Jane was surprised that Lorcan hadn’t destroyed the spell book when he’d killed Shonna.

  “Because he wanted to make sure those spells lasted. If any of that magic started to weaken, he just made sure the new witch—”

  Yeah, currently Mina was that new witch.

  “—did her best to reinforce the magic. ” Mina exhaled on a long sigh. “I’m telling you the truth here. If you want your wolf to be free, if you want Lorcan to die, then you must die. ”

  That solution sucked.

  “Now I get to go. ” Mina hurried for the door.

  Ryan blocked her path.

  “I don’t know any more than that!” Mina said, voice high and scared and angry. “Please! Let me go!”

  “No. ” He shook his head. “You won’t—”

  Zoe curled her fingers around his arm, stopping his angry words. “Did you see the scars on her neck?” Zoe’s words were quiet. “The scars that go up her arms? That probably cover her entire body?”

  Jane had seen the scars. Bite marks. They’d pushed compassion through her. “Let her go,” Jane said, her voice as soft as Zoe’s. “She’s told us all that she can. ” Jane believed that.

  Zoe nodded. It seemed the werewolf believed Mina, too.

  But still Ryan hesitated. His gaze had softened, but he wasn’t moving. “We need to know where Lorcan went. ”

  “You don’t have to go find him. ” Mina’s smile was bitter. “He’ll be back here, the moment he thinks you’re at your weakest. ”

  “Sounds like him,” Ryan muttered. Then he stepped aside.

  Mina’s shoulders slumped. “Thank you. ”

  She skirted out of the room. Jane followed her. She wanted to make sure the wolves below knew that the witch was clear.

  Only…

  There were no wolves below. There should have been. They should have been guarding the house.

  Where are they?

  Mina was running down the stairs.

  Jane just jumped right over the bannister and hit the bottom floor, her knees barely buckling. The enhanced power that she’d gotten after taking Alerac’s blood was sure a nice bonus.

  Finn’s body was gone. So was Heath’s.

  Jane tilted her head. She’d been distracted upstairs and hadn’t noticed the silence. So complete. Too complete.

  Mina yanked open the house’s front door.

  Some of Alerac’s packmates should have been out th
ere, protecting that door.

  The men were on the ground, not moving.

  “Wh-what’s happening?” Mina’s voice shook as she turned to glance back at Jane.

  “Get away from the door!” Jane screamed as she lunged for the witch.

  But it was too late. Because even as Jane rushed toward Mina, she saw Liam appear behind the witch. His claws drove right into Mina’s back.

  “No!” Jane screamed.

  Mina’s eyes were on hers. Shocked. Pain-filled. Terrified.

  Those eyes were on Jane, and the life was slowly bleeding away from them, even as Mina’s blood soaked her clothing once more.

  Then Liam tossed Mina aside, as if she were of no more consequence than garbage. To him, she probably was. He didn’t know anything about Mina or her pain, and he didn’t care.

  Liam filled the doorway.

  Footsteps thundered from overhead. Ryan. Zoe. Rushing down in response to Jane’s scream.

  “I knew he’d leave you…leave you waiting for me. ” Liam leapt toward her.

  She didn’t back away from him. Her own claws ripped free, and she attacked him. They collided in a tangle of limbs and claws.

  “Get away from her!” Ryan’s yell.

  Liam wasn’t getting away from her. She raked her claws over his stomach. This man—he thought to hurt her Alerac? Thought to destroy the pack? “You were his friend!”

  “I was his fucking shadow,” Liam snarled right back. “No more. ”

  “You’re right. ” That booming voice was Alerac’s. And he was—he was standing right behind Liam. “No more. ”

  Liam whirled to confront him. But even as he turned, shoving Jane to the side, Alerac was attacking. Alerac’s claws sank into Liam’s chest.

  “You’re not the only one who knows how to disguise his scent,” Alerac told him as he sank his claws even deeper in Liam’s chest.

  Liam cried out.

  But Alerac wasn’t showing mercy. Alerac was taking Liam’s heart. Just as Liam had taken Finn’s heart. Part of Jane wanted to look away from the horrible sight, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t move at all.

  Ryan pushed into her back. Zoe gasped.

  “You were like a brother to me,” Alerac told Liam, voice thundering. “Why? Why betray me?”

  Liam shoved his hand, no, his claws—right over Alerac’s chest.

  “No!” Now Jane was moving. Because she was desperate. She grabbed Liam, but couldn’t pull him away from Alerac. The werewolf was too strong. If she couldn’t get him to break free, then both werewolves might die.

  Not happening.

  Jane sank her teeth into Liam’s neck. Liam jerked his hand back as he tried to attack her.

  And images, dozens of them, immediately swam through her mind.

  Liam. Vampires. Fangs and claws and blood.

  Voices that wouldn’t stop shouting in his head. Dark desires that could never be satisfied. Desires that just grew worse as the blood flowed. Urges to hurt, to kill, to destroy.

  It’s not me anymore. I can’t stop. Help me. Help me!

  Jane wrenched her mouth away from Liam. Alerac yanked his hand back at the same instant.

  And Liam fell. He slammed face-first into the floor.

  She swiped her hand over her mouth, trying desperately to banish his taste and those terrible, twisted memories. She’d seen Liam hurting so many people. Humans and vampires and werewolves.

  He’d hid his darkness for so many years.

  No longer.

  His heart was gone. His body was still. Liam was dead. Killed by his alpha’s hand.

  Jane looked up at Alerac. He stood there, bleeding, chest heaving, staring at her with the eyes of an enraged beast.

  Part of her was afraid of him. He’d taken the heart straight from Liam’s chest.

  Alerac stepped toward her.

  Her own heart raced faster.

  His nostrils twitched.

  He smells my fear. Oh, crap. “Alerac—”

  But he’d whirled away from her. He stalked outside. Other werewolves were there. When had they gathered?

  “It’s done. ” His voice was flat. “The traitor is dead. ”

  Ryan’s fingers brushed down her arm. “Are you okay?”

  She was. She just needed to talk with Alerac. To make him understand how she felt. “I need Alerac. ” Jane stepped toward him.

  But the visions from Liam’s head—those images of blood and pain and torture, flooded through her once more. She tried to stop them, but it was as if a dam had broken. The images wouldn’t stop. They slammed through her, over and over again.

  Was this what it was like for him? She could feel her sanity draining away.

  She tried to call out to Alerac again, but couldn’t.

  Jane didn’t hit the floor when she fell.

  Her brother was there to catch her.

  But there was nothing to stop the bloody visions that filled her mind.

  Chapter Eleven

  She thought he was a monster.

  Fitting, considering that was exactly what Alerac was.

  I killed Liam. Alerac had done what was necessary. Liam had been a menace, turning on his own kind, attacking Jane.

  And when I killed him, I could have sworn I saw relief flash in his eyes.

  “Jane?”

  He frowned at the note of concern he heard in Ryan’s voice. Alerac glanced back and saw Jane being cradled in her brother’s arms.

  Jane’s eyes were closed, her long lashes dark against her pale cheeks.

  “I think she fainted,” Ryan muttered. He shook her gently. “Jane?”

  “Vampires faint?” Zoe asked. “Here I thought blood-suckers were tougher than that. ” But a thread of concern had entered her voice, too.

  Fear uncurled within Alerac. Fear, when he’d forced that emotion away for so long. But Jane seemed to be unlocking all of his emotions. The good and the bad. Helpless, he went back to her.
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