Dance of the Gods Page 85

“How can I?”

“If it were Hoyt, I’d say the same. But why don’t you lie down with her, get a little rest yourself?”

“I might jostle her in sleep. I don’t want to hurt her.”

“You won’t hurt her.” Glenna moved to the windows, drawing the drapes. “I don’t want the sun to wake either of you. If you need me, come for me, or send for me. But I think she’ll rest easy enough for a few hours now.”

She put a hand on Larkin’s shoulder, then leaned down to kiss his cheek. “Lie down beside her for a while, and do the same.”

When he did, Blair stirred and turned, just a little, just enough so that her body curled toward his. As gently as he could, he took her hand. “She’ll pay for what she did to you. I swear to you, she’ll pay.”

Listening to her low, steady breathing, he closed his eyes. And finally slept.

I n another room a fire blazed, and the drapes were drawn tight against the glass. Against the dawn.

Lora’s wild wails echoed through the room. She thrashed as Lilith, once again, slathered a pale green balm over the burns and the boils that covered Lora’s face, her neck, even her br**sts.

“There, there, don’t. Don’t, my darling, my sweet, sweet girl. Don’t fight me. This will help.”

“It burns! It burns!”

“I know.” Tears gathered in Lilith’s throat, in her eyes, as she coated the vicious burns on Lora’s neck. “Oh, my poor baby, I know. Here now, there now. Drink a little of this.”

“I don’t want it!” Lora turned her head away, clamping her eyes and mouth tightly shut.

“But you must.” Though it scored her heart to cause Lora more pain, Lilith took a firm grip on the back of Lora’s neck to force some of the liquid down. “Just a bit more, just a bit. Good, that’s good, my own darling.”

“She hurt me. Lilith, she hurt me.”

“Hush, hush now. We’ll fix it.”

“She scarred me.” Fresh tears spilled over the balm as Lora once again turned her face away. “I’m ugly and scarred. How can you even look at me after what she did to my face?”

“You’re only more beautiful to me now. More precious to me.” She laid her lips, gently, gently, on Lora’s. Lilith had allowed no one else to tend Lora but herself. No one, she vowed, would touch that burned skin but herself. “You’re my sweetest girl. My bravest.”

“I had to hide in the dirt!”

“Ssh. It means nothing. You came back to me.” Lilith took Lora’s hand, turning it palm up to press kisses there. “I have you back.”

The door opened, and Davey came in. He carried a crystal goblet on a silver tray, his lips pressed hard in concentration. “I didn’t spill any. Not one drop.”

“Such a big boy.” Lilith took the goblet, ran her other hand down his hair.

Once again, Lora turned her face away. “He shouldn’t see me like this.”

“No. He should know what they’re capable of, these mortals. Come, Davey, come sit with our Lora. Gently now, don’t jostle her.”

He climbed carefully onto the bed. “Does it hurt very bad?”

Lora nodded. “Very bad.”

“I wish it didn’t. I can bring you a toy.”

In spite of the pain, Lora smiled. “Perhaps later.”

“I brought you blood. It’s still warm. I didn’t sneak any,” he added, stroking her hand as he’d seen Lilith do. “Mama said you need it all, so you can be strong and well again.”

“That’s right. Here now.” Lilith held the goblet to Lora’s lips. “Drink it, but slowly.”

The blood calmed her, and the drug Lilith had given her earlier helped fog the worst of the pain. “It helps.” She laid back, shut her eyes. “But I feel so weak. I thought, oh, Lilith, I thought at first I’d been blinded. It burned my eyes so. She tricked me. How could I have been so stupid?”

“You mustn’t blame yourself. No, I won’t have it.”

“You should be furious with me.”

“How could I be, at such a time? We’ve centuries together, my love, the good and the bad. Can I say you were foolish? Of course, but I might have done the same. What good is the kill without the flourish?” She lowered the bodice of her robes to reveal the pentagram scar between her breast. “Don’t I carry this because I toyed too long with a mortal once?”

“Hoyt.” Lora spat out the name. “You battled a sorcerer. There was no magic in that bitch who scarred me.”

“When Mama kills the sorcerer, I can lap up his blood like a puppy does milk.”

Lilith laughed, ruffled Davey’s hair. “That’s my boy. And don’t be sure that demon hunter is without magic.” She reached for Davey, setting him on her lap. “I don’t believe she could have hurt you so without it.”

“She was hurt, at least. Perhaps mortally.”

“There, you see, always a bright side.” Lilith kissed Davey. “It’s Midir who must do better. Didn’t night slip through his fingers? Didn’t the white magic defeat his?”

Lilith had to take a moment to calm herself over the outrage of her wizard’s incompetence. “I’d be rid of him if we had another nearly as powerful. But I promise you this, I swear this to you. They will pay. You’ll bathe in her blood come Samhain, my darling girl. We’ll all drink, long and deep. And when I rule, you’ll be by my side.”

Comforted, Lora reached out. “Will you stay awhile longer? Will you stay while I sleep?”

“Of course. We’re family, after all.”

B lair woke in stages. Her mind stirred first, circling slowly around where she was, what had happened. Her head began to ache in a low, steady drumming, then her eyes throbbed with it. She became aware of other pain—shoulder, ribs, belly, legs. As she lay quiet, taking stock, she realized there wasn’t a spot on her that didn’t hurt.

But it was manageable rather than the breath stealing pain that had flattened her. The aftertaste of the potion Glenna had poured down her coated her throat. Not horribly unpleasant, she decided. Just sort of smoky and thick, so that she wished for a gallon or two of water to clear it away.

Cautiously, she let her eyes open. Candlelight, firelight. So it was still shy of dawn, she decided. Good. She felt reasonably good, all in all.

Prev Next