His body was a blur of black as he caught Aoibhe in his arms. The archers began to shoot at both of them, arrows flying from two directions.
William seemed to avoid the arrows easily, twisting and turning even as he landed, cradling Aoibhe to his chest. Her brown eyes were wide, her mouth open, and she was gasping, as if for oxygen.
“Stop,” Raven croaked, leaning heavily on her cane.
The attention of the hunters turned momentarily to her.
She limped from where she’d been leaning against the door to the center of the alley.
“A feeder,” one of the hunters pronounced. He sounded American. “Look at her neck.”
Raven ignored the scorn in the hunter’s voice. “Stop. She’s hurt.”
The hunter grinned. “That’s the point, you stupid bitch.”
A roar could be heard from the crowd, and scattered laughter, as if the situation were funny.
Raven found no amusement in the scene. She searched the eyes of their attackers, hoping to find some sign of humanity. But the only sign she could find was in William, who bent over Aoibhe’s body, his face a mask of anguish.
While keeping careful watch on the hunters, who were still maintaining a cautious but aggressive distance, William sat Aoibhe up. He began digging into the wound in her back with his hand, black blood already staining her bright blue dress.
“They didn’t attack you.” Raven tried to reason with the men. “You don’t need to kill them.”
“She’s crazy.” A man armed with a crucifix and what looked like a small bottle of water pointed toward her.
“Of course she’s crazy!” another exploded. “They go crazy when they fuck them. They probably had her together and fed from her.”
The command came from Raven’s left. A tall man, brandishing a garrote, jerked his chin at her. His eyes were hard, flat; his expression cool and detached. “We can’t have witnesses.”
“Raven, on the ground. Now!” William’s voice came to her in Italian.
As if in slow motion, she saw him pull the arrow from Aoibhe’s body and watched as her head lolled back, eyes wide and unfocused, body limp.
The archers took aim at Raven, just as William placed Aoibhe on the ground. He straightened from his crouch, holding the arrow in his right hand, Aoibhe’s blood covering his fingers.
“I’m already a witness!” Raven shouted. “You’re a death squad. You came here to kill beings who haven’t done anything to you just so you can sell their blood.”
“Shoot her,” the leader repeated. “Before the neighbors hear.”
Raven held her arms out, lifting her voice in Italian. “Look at me. I’m defenseless. You’re going to kill a defenseless woman in cold blood.”
She ignored William’s command, taking no thought for her safety, arms held wide.
She could think only about protecting William and the body of the vampyre who had just died in his arms.
“You’re all murderers!” she shouted.
Something moved in her periphery.
William threw himself to her left, plucking an arrow out of the air, inches from her body. With a flick of his wrist and an overhand motion, he hurled the arrow back at the archer, where it caught him in the chest.
The archer fell to the ground, dead.
Spinning to the other side of Raven, William took the arrow he’d pulled from Aoibhe’s body and flung it at one of the other archer’s chests.
The crossbow fell from the archer’s hand, clattering on the ground. He crashed down beside it.
William pushed Raven toward the door.
She tumbled, scraping hands and knees as she landed on all fours.
At that moment, the dog broke free from his leash and began running toward them.
William whirled around.
The dog growled and snapped, lunging to bite William’s leg.
He quickly grabbed the animal by its muzzle, slamming its mouth shut. Without effort, he lifted the dog and tossed it to the far end of the alley, where it crashed into a hunter, knocking him over.
The dog came to its feet, whimpering, and dragged its tail as it ran from the alley.
“Kill him,” the leader ordered, pointing at William.
Three men ran forward, throwing what looked like water and holding out crosses.
William cursed as the liquid caught him in the face, stopping him in his tracks.
He shut his eyes, lifting a hand in the direction of the crosses, as if to shield himself from them.
Raven saw pain on his features. His face bloomed a bright red, as if it had been burned. She wondered if the hunters had thrown acid on his face.
“Stop!” she screamed. “Stop it!”
The hunters inched forward. The leader was among them, holding the garrote.
William’s eyes were still closed as he groped with his hands blindly.
The leader threw the garrote at William’s head.
The vampyre brushed the water from his face with his shirtsleeve, his eyes opening.
He batted the garrote aside and leapt forward, grabbing the leader by the shirt. He knocked the hunter’s head against another. Both men dropped to the ground, eyes suddenly closed.
Raven couldn’t tell if they were dead.
William sprang forward, avoiding the crosses and empty containers of water held toward him, repeating his attack on two other men.
At the sight of a vampyre who would not be deterred by holy water or relics, three of the hunters hopped on motorcycles and took off.
William walked toward the remaining one slowly.
The hunter took what looked like salt and threw it on the ground around his feet, making a small circle.
He stared in horror as William, undeterred by the salt, placed a hand on either side of the hunter’s face and, with a sickening sound, broke his neck.
William tossed the body aside with contempt.
He surveyed the scene calmly, wiping his reddened face again with his shirtsleeve. Bodies were strewn across the alley, blood pooling on the ground.
His eyes moved to Aoibhe, who was lying motionless.
He cursed in Old English.
William’s gaze flickered to where the motorcyclists had been, then back to Raven, who was cringing by the door.
“You tried to save me.” His voice was filled with wonder. “You risked your life, tempting them to shoot you.”
She felt her eyes welling up. “I couldn’t watch them kill you.”
His expression grew furious. “Never do that again. My death is the least of your worries. Do you understand?”