“So we hunt him together.”
“No.” His voice went flat. “He has over three hundred mortals at his command.”
“Everyone on the plane,” she said, nodding. She saw him frown. “He brought over his own zombie army from Europe. The dead guy we found at the bistro was one he used up.”
“How used up?”
“He got angry after he lost control of one of them for a few seconds. The longer they’ve been with him, the more damage he does to their minds and their bodies. But when he’s angry, I think it burns them up faster.”
“The loss of control angers him.” Lucan sat down on the edge of his desk. “We have to break his hold over the mortals. Somehow.”
“There is only one Kyn who can do that,” Burke said weakly from the doorway. “Jamys Durand.” He doubled over, and Sam went to grab him. As she helped him straighten, he looked at Lucan. “My lord, my life is yours. I am so ashamed. I tried, but I could not stop her. I could not get her out of my head.”
Burke nodded. “The one who did this is a woman. Very old, and very powerful. One of the first Kyn ever to walk the night. One of the worst, after she went mad in the seventeenth century.”
“Who the devil do you mean?”Lucan demanded.
“The Bloody Countess,” his tresora said. “Erzsébet Báthory.”
“I thought she was dead,” Lucan said. “Richard had her walled up and starved to death in her own torture chamber four hundred years past.”
Sam frowned. Rafael told her that the high lord had done the same thing to his own murderous wife. “Is that the only punishment Richard doles out?”
Burke and Lucan glanced at her and answered in unison. “No.”
“She must have escaped, my lord. Only she had the talent to control the bodies and minds of mortals.” Burke made a disgusted sound. “That is how she takes them, by the incarnatio.”
“Embodiment, for want of a better translation,” Lucan said. “A very few of the old Kyn could move between bodies, and possess that of another. It was a talent common to them, and known as the incarnatio.”
“How old is she?”
“No one knows, my lady,” Burke said. “No one can remember a time when she did not walk the night. Some say it is what drove the countess to madness.”
“Hang on,” Sam said as she put together the web site she’d seen and the name Burke had mentioned. “Are you talking about Countess Elizabeth Bathory? That nut job who killed six hundred girls so she could take a bath in their blood?”
“Six hundred and twelve, actually,” Burke said. “And she did quite a bit more than simply bathe in it.” The tresora stiffened. “Please, my lord. Hit me.”
“I can feel her inside me.” He gritted his teeth. “She is trying to take control again. Hit me now!”
Lucan clipped Burke across the jaw, knocking him out. Sam gently lowered him to the floor before looking outside.
“The rest of them are waking up,” she told Lucan. “And they don’t look too friendly.”
Lucan bent down, put his shoulder to her belly, flipped her over it and ran.
No one answered any of the phone lines at Lucan’s stronghold, which made Jamys fear that the worst had already happened. After wiping the memory of the woman he had used to place the call, he broke out the rest of Chris’s windshield, cleaned the glass off the car and drove as fast as he dared to the club. Rafael intercepted him at the door, demanding to know where Chris, Lucan and Samantha were.
Jamys shoved the pages of notes he had written into the seneschal’s hands and pulled him toward the car. Rafael drew a dagger, but then he put it away and finished skimming the notes.
“You are certain she is in this place?”
Jamys nodded, pointed to himself and then to the south.
“You cannot go in alone.”
He drew on the strength of his dream as he took out his pen and wrote on the palm of his hand. I MUST.
“I will surround the building with our men,” Rafael said. “But I can only give you a few minutes. After that we must attack.”
A few minutes was all it would take for him to succeed or die trying. Jamys nodded again, and went back to the car.
Rafael leaned in to hand him an old, worn dagger. “I know you have your own weapons, but take this.” He pressed it between their palms. “It always brought me luck on the battlefield.”
Jamys wished he could speak his thanks. Instead he slid the blade into his forearm sheath and drove off toward the Sunset Sails.
Red lights glowed in every window of the old hotel, and the front entrance doors stood open, welcoming him. Jamys walked in and saw Luce standing in the deserted lobby.
“We have been waiting for you, dark one,” she said in the monster’s voice. She turned and walked down a hall.
Jamys followed, keeping his mind clear and his hand on his dagger as she led him into what must have once been a grand ballroom. There hundreds of mortals stood assembled like polite guests around the empty dance floor, where an enormous red cloud swirled like a small tornado around a darker, less distinct shape.
As Jamys stepped onto the floor, Luce went ahead of him and walked into the cloud, which tightened around her as it forced its way into her open mouth. Her chest swelled out as more and more of the cloud funneled into her, until it disappeared down her throat and she closed her lips to smile at him.
Behind her, the body of a thin, red-haired female lay stretched over the top of a large trunk. She stared up at the ceiling, her fist still curled around the knife she’d thrust into her heart.
“Never mind her. She was too far gone to last more than a few hours.” Luce nudged the body off the top of the trunk and sat down in its place. “Welcome to my new home. I have been expecting you.”
Jamys took his hand from the hilt of his blade and walked slowly to her, stopping a foot away to drop to his knees.
“Do you come to beg for mercy?” she asked, coming to stand over him. “Or do you wish me to give you back that noisy mortal I took from you? I have not finished playing with her yet. In fact, I have tried to get into her for almost a day now, and still, she resists me. I think I will designate her to serve as my chief form. This female” –she gestured at herself— “is too enamored of men.”
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Chris being dragged toward the dance floor, but kept his head down and put his hand over his mouth in a plaintive gesture.
“Yes, I forgot, you are a mute. Have I ever told you how attractive I find that in a man?” Luce snapped her fingers. “Bring her to him.”
The mortals holding Chris forced her across the floor and down on her knees beside him. As soon as they released her, Jamys took hold of her hand. She turned her head to stare at him, and then looked up at Luce.
“Lord Durand wishes to give you his oath,” Chris said, her voice quivering over each word. She swallowed and shook her head. “He say that he will serve you faithfully.” To Jamys she said, “How can you be such a traitor? You know what she is – what she does to humans – what she wants to do to me.”
“What I shall do.” Luce giggled. “I must say, I find this offer quite intriguing, seeing as Lord Durand came here to kill me.”
Jamys tightened his grip on Chris’s hand.
“Lord Durand knows you have the power of incarnatio, and cannot be slain through your servants,” Chris replied. Tears streaked down her face. “But mortals can only protect you so much. You have no Kyn servant to watch your back and keep you safe from the likes of Lord Lucan. Lord Durand offers to serve as your seneschal.”
“I do not believe it.” Luce clamped her hand over Chris’s face, holding her mouth open, and releasing a small tendril of red mist from her own lips. The girl moaned as the mist entered her mouth, and then just as abruptly withdrew. “You speak the truth.” Luce frowned at Jamys. “You would give me your oath and your life.”
Luce snapped out her arm. “Give me a sword.” When one was placed in her hand, she brought it over Jamys’s head as if she meant to decapitate him. Then, with a flash of copper, she touched the blade to one of his shoulders and then the other.
“Speak the oath,” she said.
Through Chris Jamys gave her his oath of service, pledging to serve her for the remainder of his life. Chris fell to the floor by the time she finished, panting with the strain of serving as his conduit. She only looked at Jamys when he wrapped his hand around her ankle and gave her his final command.
Luce held out her hand and helped Jamys to his feet. “I have never had a seneschal,” she whispered in delight. “We will have so much fun together.”
Glass splintered, and Jamys looked over Luce’s shoulder to see webs of cracks spreading out over the ballroom’s windows.
“Your first task is at hand, seneschal,” Luce told him. “It seems Lord Lucan has escaped my children at his club, and comes here to murder me. You will kill him.”
Jamys took position in front of Luce and scanned the room. The mortals parted, and the suzerain appeared. He was not armed, but he had removed his gloves, and there was death in his glittering silver eyes.
“Get out of my way, boy,” Lucan said as he strode onto the floor, heading for Luce.
Now was the only moment he had left, Jamys knew, and he cast down the sword Luce had given to him, turning to cradle her face between his hands.
The three words he uttered were barely whispers, but she heard them. “Send her out.”
Luce shrieked, tearing away from him and falling back over the trunk. The red cloud erupted from her like boiling steam, rising to hang above them in the air.
All around Jamys, the possessed mortals began making ugly, angry sounds as they crowded in on him. He ignored their anger as he went to the next human nearest to him, put his hands on the boy’s shoulders, and repeated the command. Someone clawed at Jamys’s back, but the boy coughed, forcing the red mist out of his lungs. Jamys moved to the next mortal, and the next, and each time he commanded them with his talent, their bodies purged the red mist.READ MORE >>