Dance of the Gods Page 71

The knife from that had already been in her heart. The words only twisted it. “Aye, and you killed her for nothing. But now it could be me. Will Lilith have you back if you taste my blood tonight? You want it.” Deliberately she cut a shallow slice across her palm. “It’s so long since you fed.”

She watched his tongue flick out to lick his lips as she held up her hand so the blood would drip down her arm and onto the ground. “Come. Strike me down and feed.”

He yanked the sword free, and raising it, charged.

She didn’t block the first blow, but pivoted aside, kicked out to send him sprawling.

A good move, Blair decided. Add some humiliation to the fear and the hunger. He came up, rushed Moira with that eerie, preternatural speed some of them possessed. But she was ready for him. Maybe, Blair thought, she’d been ready all of her life.

Sword struck sword, and Blair could see that while he had more speed, more strength, Moira had the better form. Moira drove his sword up, aside, then plunged her own into his chest. She danced back, once more took her stance.

Showing the crowd, Blair knew, that while such a wound might be mortal in a human, it barely broke a vampire’s stride.

She ignored the screams, the shouts, even the sounds of panic and running feet and watched the combat on the field.

The vampire cupped a hand on his wound, brought the blood from it to his mouth. From behind her, Blair heard the sound of a body hitting the ground as someone fainted.

He came at her again, but this time he anticipated Moira’s move. His sword nicked her arm, and he cracked the back of his hand across her face. She stumbled back, blocking the next blow, but was driven back toward the second vampire.

Blair lifted her crossbow, prepared to break her word.

Instead, Moira dived down, rolled aside. She came up with her legs pistoning in a hard double kick that simply made Blair’s heart sing.

“Atta girl, atta girl. Now take him out. Stop fooling around.”

But it had gone beyond that, beyond merely showing the people what a vampire was capable of withstanding in battle. Moira brought her sword down to cleave a gash in its shoulder, and still she moved back rather than strike a killing blow.

“How long did she live?” Moira demanded. “How long did she suffer?” She continued to block, to drive even when the hand that gripped the hilt of her sword was slick with her own blood.

“Longer than you will, or the coward who sired you.”

He charged through her shock. She barely saw the move, would never know how she defended herself against it. There was pain, the sting as the sword grazed her side. There was her own scream as she swung her sword through the air, and took its head.

She went to her knees as much with the sudden tearing grief than from any wounds. She shook from it, and the roars of the crowd were like a distant ocean.

She gained her feet, turned to Blair. “Unlock the other.”

“No. That’s enough, Moira. It’s enough.”

“That’s for me to say.” She strode over, yanked the key from Blair’s belt. “It’s for me to do.”

All sound dropped away as she started across the field. Moira saw the sudden light, a kind of glee in the vampire’s eyes as she approached it. The hunger, and the pleasure of what was to come.

Then she saw the arrow whizz by, and strike its heart.

Moira whirled, the rage of betrayal ripping through her. But it wasn’t Blair who held the bow. It was Cian.

He tossed it down. “Enough,” was all he said before he walked away.

Chapter 17

M oira didn’t think, she didn’t wait. She didn’t take her place back in the royal box to speak to her people again. As she rushed away, she could hear Larkin’s voice lifted, strong and clear. He would stand in for her, and that would have to do.

She still carried her bloody sword as she sprinted after Cian.

“How dare you! How dare you interfere!”

He continued, reaching the courtyard now, moving across it. “I don’t take orders from you. I’m not one of your subjects, not one of your people.”

“You had no right.” She spun ahead of him to block him from entering the castle. And seeing his face, saw cold rage.

“I’m not concerned about rights.”

“Couldn’t you stand it? Watching me fight one of them, torment it, destroy it. You couldn’t stand by and see me beat down a second.”

“If you like.”

He didn’t push past her but changed direction to continue across the courtyard and through an archway.

“You will not turn from me.” This time when she rounded him, she laid the flat of her sword on his chest. Her rage wasn’t cold, but hot, bubbling through her like the wrath of gods. “You’re here because I wish it, because I permit it. You aren’t master here.”

“Didn’t take long, did it, for you to drape on the mantle. But understand this, princess, I’m here because I wish it, and your permission is less than nothing to the likes of me. Now either use that sword or lower it.”

She threw it aside so it clattered on the stones. “It was for me to do.”

“For you to die in front of a roaring crowd? You’re a bit small for the gladiator title.”

“I would—”

“Have given a hungry vampire his last meal,” Cian snapped. “You couldn’t have bested the second of them. Maybe, just maybe, you’d have stood a small chance against him if you were fresh and not wounded. But Blair chose the smaller of them to begin with because it was your best chance at proving your point. And so you did, be satisfied with that.”

“You think you know what I can do?”

He simply squeezed a hand to the cut on her side, releasing it when she went dead white and swayed back against the wall. “Yes. And so did he. He’d have known exactly where to come at you.” Cian lifted the bottom edge of her tunic, wiped the blood from his hand. “You wouldn’t have lasted above two minutes before you were as dead as the mother you’re so hell-bound to avenge.”

Her eyes went from fog to smoke. “Don’t speak of her.”

“Then stop using her.”

Her lips trembled once before she firmed them. “I would have beaten him because I had to.”

“Bollocks. You were done, and too proud, too stupid to admit it.”

“We can’t know, can we, because you ended it.”

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