Time to end this.

30

My feet barely hit the ground before a Caste vampire lunged with fangs bared. Without slowing, I heaved a bolt of underworld magic his way. Heat licked my back as his body exploded.

Legs pumped faster. I dispatched a clump of Brotherhood humans. A flash of red between two crypts caught my attention. I started after Lavinia.

“Sabina!” Rhea’s shout made me stop short.

I turned to see the silver-haired mage cornered. She stood in front of Adam’s prone body, fending off attacks from three Caste mages. I ran up behind one of them and jerked his neck to the left. I didn’t stop to watch him fall as I went after the second. This one saw me coming and turned to blast me with a flaming orb. Again, the cone of power protected me. I stood fully and shot a cocky smile at the shocked mage.

Lifting my hands, I threw some magic of my own at him. He grunted as the spell hit him in the midsection. He ignited instantly. Screaming and flailing, he was burned alive.

The remaining mage turned tail and ran away. My bolt hit her in the back and threw her forward into a group of three Caste vampires. Their clothes caught fire, and the four bodies created a writhing funeral pyre.

Breathing heavily, I turned back to Rhea. Instead of looking relieved, her face was a mask of worry. “Where’s Maisie?” she demanded.

“Lavinia.” Her face hardened. She glanced down at Adam’s body before looking up with tears in her eyes. Before she could speak, I held up a hand. I couldn’t handle it now. “Get the hell out of here.”

She wrapped her arms around me for a quick, hard hug. “Goddess protect you.” Her voice lowered to a fierce whisper. “Now go kill that bitch.”

I pulled away and turned my back to her before emotion could get its claws in me. Running, I beelined for the crypts I’d seen Lavinia disappear between earlier. Spurring my legs faster, I burst out of the narrow aisle ready for action. Only instead of finding Lavinia, I discovered the males who’d been chanting inside. The vampire still held a knife against Maisie’s throat, but she appeared to be unconscious again. The book they’d been chanting from earlier lay on the edge of the slab. Their voices mingled with words I couldn’t translate.

I ran right toward them, tossing aside the vampire with the knife. A bolt of Chthonic magic slammed into his body, frying him on the spot. The other vamp left the mage and sprang at me. He slammed into me before I could shoot him with a spell. We rolled and tumbled across the grass, slashing at each other with fists and fangs. He landed on top, pinning my legs down. With one hand, I gripped his wrists to prevent the knife’s downward motion.

His gold Caste medallion batted around between us, hitting my face as we struggled. I freed a hand and grabbed the symbol, twisted. It broke free from his neck easily. Gripping it between my fingers, I jabbed at his eyes with one of the star’s points. His hand flew to the ruined eye as he screamed. I bucked my hips to unseat him. Rising above his writhing body, I lifted my hands and gathered the power, ready to slam him with a spell.

The attack came from behind. A soft swish of metal through the air. A grunt. The sharp sting of blade through skin. I lurched back, my shoulders pulling together and my head thrown back. Despite the tingling pain, instinct forced me to bend and duck away from the inevitable follow-up swing. I fell and rolled away just as the blade sliced the air again.

The faery steel worked quickly, its magic immobilizing the muscles on the left side of my back. With effort, I rose to face Lavinia. She raised the sword again, her eyes glittering with deadly intent. Grimacing against the spreading numbness, I crouched into my fighting stance.

The vampire on the ground had recovered enough to sit up. Lavinia looked at him from the corner of her eye. “Summon the Master. Quickly.”

The Caste mage resumed his monotone chanting. With each word, I felt the clock ticking down.

The vampire pulled himself from the ground and limped away to assist the mage. As he went, he grabbed the ceremonial knife from the grass. I started to lunge after him, but Lavinia slashed the blade through the air, capturing my full attention.

“You’re not going to ruin my plans this time, you little bitch.” She slashed and parried, pushing me away from my sister. “Once the Master arrives, he’ll make you regret ever being born.”

Behind Lavinia, Zen and PW appeared from between the crypts surrounding us. I was surprised the voodooienne allowed PW to come along. But when I saw the satchel strapped to the fae’s back, I realized Zen relied on her trusted assistant just as much as I relied on Giguhl. Plus, PW might be brittle after the attack, but she was still a faery. That meant she could easily take out human opponents. Hell, if properly armed and motivated, she could even take out vamps or mages. Especially with her hairtrigger temper and mad voodoo skills.

Hoping to distract Lavinia from their arrival, I said, “Doesn’t it bother you that you have to rely on someone more powerful to meet your goals?”

She smiled and flicked the blade. “You won’t be taunting me once Cain makes you his slave. Ironic, isn’t it, that the Chthonic magic the mages taught you will be the weapon he uses to destroy them?”

I stilled as pieces of the puzzle clicked together. All the chances Lavinia had to kill me. Her demanding my surrender instead of fighting in Jackson Square. The vague threats. The rites. Cain wanted me alive. Needed me alive so he could use my Chthonic magic for some nefarious purpose. “Well, that certainly changes things,” I said, half to myself. Lavinia frowned. I smiled. “You’re scared of Cain. And I bet he’d be pretty pissed if you killed me before he could use me.”

“I fear no one,” she said, but her eyes exposed the lie.

The voodoo practitioners worked quietly behind the vampire bent over Maisie. Zen sprinkled amber liquor all over the ground. PW lit a cigar and handed it to Zen. The sweet, smoky scent drifted toward me. My lips quirked as I realized what Zen wanted me to do. But first I had to keep Lavinia distracted until the time was right.

“Man, I never thought I’d see the day when the Alpha Domina lowered her neck in submission to a male.”

Instead of answering my taunt, she struck. I raised my left hand to fend off the attack. The blade sliced across the muscles above my wrist. Blood sprayed from the wound, dripping down my arm. I screamed as acidic pain ripped through my flesh. Fell back, my ass hitting the dirt.

As Lavinia advanced for another hit, the Caste mage shouted. “He’s coming!”

My grandmother paused, jerked her gaze over her shoulder. I looked past her and blinked. The air next to the vampire was shimmering.

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