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"Hurry! She'll return any moment, and she'll have others with her. Perhaps the entire army."

Zane watched as Nola tried and failed to jerk the head of his chains from the iron pole they were attached to, a pole that was anchored deep in the earth. As before, her fingers merely passed through the object.

His shock had yet to diminish. Nola was here; Nola thought to help him. After her announcement, his captor had stormed out of the tent with every intention of speaking to the Amazon queen. Nola wanted him for her own.

Earlier when she'd apologized to him, it had not been remorse thickening her voice. It had been desire. Then she'd climbed on top of him without hesitation, had moaned when he'd arched into her. He hadn't been able to feel her, but oh, just the thought of doing so was enough for him.

"How do you propose to fight her?" he demanded. "You cannot hurt her, and she cannot hurt you."

"I didn't want to fight her. I wanted time. And why are you just lying there?" She peered down at him, hands on her hips, dark hair streaming wildly around her delicate face. There was the soldier he knew. "Fight free!"

"You will come with me? If I escape?"

"If I can, yes. I want that more than anything," she added in a whisper.

Again, there was no hesitation. There was even a flicker of hope in her magnificent eyes. She truly did not hate him.

What had brought about this change in her? Doesn't matter right now. Everything he'd craved these many months of his captivity - Nola, freedom, a chance to be together - was now being offered to him. No longer did he feel cursed. Never had he been so blessed.

He couldn't feel her? So what. Being with her was more important.

He was suddenly fueled with a fervor he had never experienced before, not even when he'd been whoring for the demon queen, desperate to save Cassandra. He wanted this. Would have this. Just as...soon as...he broke...free. For what seemed an eternity, he pulled hard at his wrists and ankles, straining so forcefully his bones eventually gave way.

Out came both his ankles; out came both his wrists. The pain of it nearly bowled him over as he sat up, then stood to trembling legs. He didn't care. He was free at last.

"I hear them," Nola gasped. "Come on." She made to grab him, but her hand misted through his body. "Damn this!"

There was no sensation, no chill, but the knowledge that she had tried to touch him caused him to shiver rather than shudder. From the very first, it had been that way. Others he ran from. Others he abhorred. Her, he only yearned for more of. Why?

"This way." She raced to the far end of the tent. "Raise the flap."

He lumbered to her, stumbling constantly, and did as commanded. All the while, his battered body screamed in agony, black winking over his vision, stomach threatening to heave. Vampires were fast healers, but he'd been without blood too long, the few sips he'd had earlier already used up.

Outside, light poured from the crystal dome surrounding all of Atlantis, heating and stinging his now-sensitive skin and making his eyes water. This kind of reaction had only happened once before. On that cursed island of the gods. The reminder of his time there infuriated him and that fury gave him strength. Tent after tent dotted the surrounding land. Amazons were scattered throughout. Some were bent over a fire and hammering at weapons; some were hanging animal hides.

"Walk behind me," Nola said, "as if you are my slave."

She moved forward, head held high. Behind him, he could hear a murmur of voices inside his captor's tent. Amelia had returned, and she had indeed brought an army with her. Zane kicked into motion. Thankfully, no one paid them any heed - until a horn blasted. The Amazons around him straightened, a few even reaching for weapons.

"Run," Nola shouted, picking up speed. "Run."

No longer content to remain behind her, he matched her pace. A forest loomed a few yards ahead, thick trees promising cover.

"Nola!" someone shouted. "Stop!"

 

"Vampire," his captor screamed. "Not another step. I will punish you."

Zane tripped over a rock. He lurched forward, his broken ankles unable to support him. When he hit the ground, he hit hard and lost every bit of oxygen in his lungs. Grimacing, he lumbered back up. Started running again.

All the while, Nola encouraged him. "You can do it. I know you can. That's the way. Just a little farther." But when they reached the trees, she stopped and screeched. "No! No, no, no."

He, too, stopped and faced her. He tried to grab her, but as always before, encountered only air. "Come. Now."

"I can't. It's like a wall is blocking me." Frantic, she tossed a glance over her shoulder at the scowling Amazon warrioresses bearing down on them. "Go. Please. Just go."

He remained in place, the screams in his head no longer for his bodily pain. He couldn't leave this woman behind. But he couldn't stay here, broken as he was. He was no good to either of them. Damn the gods to Hades!

"Will they attempt to punish you?" he asked.

"They can't hurt me. They might be able to see me, but I'm untouchable, remember?" She smiled, but it didn't quite reach her eyes. "Now go, before they take you. They will not be as gentle with you this time."

"Nola..."

"Zane. Go. Please. Save yourself. You are not meant to be any woman's slave."

A muscle ticked below his eye. "I will come back for you. Soon as I'm healed, I will come back." As he spoke, he walked backward. Only when she was blocked from his view did he spin and run.

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