The bite before christma.., p.16
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       The Bite Before Christmas, p.16

         Part #15.50 of Argeneau series by Lynsay Sands


  Ian's brows shot up. I repeated my statement more slowly, regretting this course of action but agreeing that it was necessary.

  "We need to cut something off Denise and use her bones to make a weapon against Wraith. "

  "Oh, I heard you the first time. " Ian's mouth twisted as he looked at Denise. "I was just pondering how much your husband will beat my arse when he's back to himself and hears about this. "

  "Believe me, I won't tell him if you won't," she replied with a touch of grim humor. Then her tone hardened. "But this changes things. We'll carve two knives, and you'll take one while I'll take the other, because I'm going back to Spade. "

  "You can't. If Wraith finds out you're like him, he'll kill you on the spot!" I snapped.

  "Better if we find a way to lure the others away from him first and then attack him," Ian said, backing me up.

  Denise let out a snort. "You guys are forgetting what happened when I killed the demon who branded me. It made everything he'd done to me permanent. If we kill Wraith without undoing his spell first, we risk everyone staying exactly as they are for the rest of their lives. "

  The truth of that rolled over me like an avalanche. I'd thought it would be hard getting Wraith away from the equivalent of five bespelled vampire bodyguards so we could stab his eyes out, but what we'd need to do instead made that seem easy.

  I let out a groan. "We have to find the demon that branded him, and hope to God he wants his power back. "

  Ian snorted. "Poor analogy, Reaper. "

  Whatever. I'd hope to hell if that would improve our odds, but the fact remained that only the demon could remove the effects of the brands. Without those, Wraith would be a regular vampire. And if he'd been hiding from that demon, he'd soon be a dead vampire. Even if the demon did the unimaginable and let him live, I wouldn't.

  "I can't chase after the demon; I killed one," Denise continued. "I'm betting their kind is pretty intolerant of that. But you two can, and in the meantime, I'll keep an eye on Wraith. If he tries to hurt anyone, I'll have that knife, but I'll only use it as a last resort. "

  I hated this plan. It left everyone I loved at the mercy of a man who'd used a demonic spell to steal their free will for reasons unknown, but they couldn't be altruistic reasons. It would be a race to see who was successful first: Wraith in implementing his end game, or me and Ian in finding the demon who branded him with the power to cast such a spell, among other abilities. I shuddered, but Denise was right. If Bones-the real Bones!-were here now, he'd tell me he would rather be dead than mentally enslaved for the rest of his life. Knowing the others as I did, they'd say the same, too.

  Winner really would take all in this race.

  "Then it's settled," Ian said. "On to the next task at hand. "

  His gaze slid over Denise with cool calculation, and though she stayed ramrod-straight, I flinched. I knew he was deciding which part of her to slice off.

  "Your lower leg will do," he said, as casual as discussing which cut of steak he'd prefer for dinner. "The bone's long enough that we should be able to fashion two blades, and thick enough that it shouldn't splinter while we're carving them. Femur would be better, but then you'd bleed like a cut snake. "

  "Your concern for the carpet is touching," Denise muttered.

  He flashed her a genial smile. "I'm not fretting over the carpet. We're doing this in the tub, but the more blood you lose, the longer it'll take you to grow that back. "

  He had a point. Lop off anything on a vampire except their head, and it would grow back in two minutes flat. Denise's regenerative abilities were less rapid, but in their own way, more impressive. She looked human, but now she was in every way the same as the demon who'd branded her, right down to her bones. Denise actually could survive being beheaded. Cockroaches had nothing on her.

  She let out a long sigh. "Let's get this over with. "

  Denise started toward the bathroom, but Ian's voice stopped her. "I'm not cutting into you until you're under my sway, so you won't feel it. Think I'm a sadist?"

  "Yes," she said, the word "duh" implied in her tone.

  He laughed. "You have me there, poppet, but I have certain standards when it comes to women. I don't hurt them unless they enjoy it, and you won't enjoy this. "

  Denise crossed her arms. "Look, Ian, I appreciate the semi-concern, and no offense intended, but I doubt you have enough juice to put me under-"

  She stopped talking when his gaze changed from turquoise to sizzling emerald. Power flashed over me, fast as a snapping whip and strong enough to sting like one. I blinked. Either Ian had been doing some supernatural workouts lately, or he'd held back on showing me the true scope of his power before. By the time he'd crossed the room to Denise, her eyes were wide and staring into nothing, all without Ian even needing to speak.

  "We'll see how much you question my juices when you wake up with a freshly regenerated leg," he muttered, picking her up and slinging her over his shoulder. "Come along. I'm not doing this alone. Besides, Denise isn't the only one getting some work done now. You are, too. "

  "Me?" I asked as I followed him into the bathroom.

  Ian set Denise in the tub and then looked up at me, smiling wolfishly as he pulled out a silver knife.

  "Your not-quite-dead, vampire-who-eats-vampires status may have kept Wraith's spell from working on you thus far, but we're taking no chances. I'm carving a warding tattoo on you, and setting it with silver-infused ink, so brace yourself. This will hurt. "
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