Scrambling back to her feet, Anna ignored the blood flowing down her body and swiftly ducked as Clara threw another punch.
“Damn you,” Anna muttered.
“You are the one who will be damned if you don’t get on your knees and do exactly as I say.”
Wrenching the knife from her gut, Anna gritted her teeth as a strange buzzing rushed through her body.
“Are you mental?” she rasped, forcing herself to concentrate on remaining upright. Damn, the blood still flowed from her deep wound, defying her usual ability to heal herself.
“No, I’m very, very clever,” Clara warned. “That knife was hexed, and unless you allow me to remove the curse you will die.”
She didn’t know anything about hexed knives or curses, but she did know if she allowed this woman to gain the upper hand she would soon be Morgana’s plaything.
She’d rather die in this barn than allow that to happen.
Sensing another attack, Anna threw out her hand, as much to shove the woman away as to harm her. Her powers, however, had other ideas. As her palm connected with Clara’s arm the woman shrieked and the stench of burning flesh filled the barn.
Anna grimaced, but there was no time to feel guilt as Clara hit her with an unseen force that felt like a sledgehammer to her chest. She grunted in pain, fairly certain that the damn fairy had just broken her rib. Another blow hit her forehead and more blood began to flow.
She struck out, blinded by the blood and only managing to skim the woman’s cheek as the fairy jerked backward.
“Stop this or you’ll die,” the woman hissed. “Only I can break the curse.”
“I’ll risk it,” Anna managed to mutter before being launched backward by an unseen strike to her chest.
“Allow me to bind you and I promise I won’t hurt you anymore.”
Anna pushed herself upright. “You’ll just hand me over for Morgana to kill.”
“If you’re the Destined One then you’ll kill her,” Clara taunted, her powerful fist connecting with Anna’s chin.
Dammit, she was being pummeled like a punching bag. If she didn’t start fighting back she’d soon be dead.
Ignoring the pain that flared through her body, Anna forced herself to focus on the heat that swirled around her. She wasn’t certain she could control the wind enough to keep it from knocking the barn down on top of them. If Levet still lived she couldn’t risk hurting him even more.
Besides, her smoldering fury demanded something more than a breeze.
A red haze shimmered before her eyes, her mind so consumed with the power she was building that she barely noticed the blows that Clara continued to strike against her. Not even when Clara launched forward and scratched her nails down her neck.
“Stop, you bitch,” Clara hissed.
“This will stop…now.” Grasping the fairy’s arms in a tight grip, Anna allowed the pent-up heat to charge the air around them.
At first she could feel nothing but the prickling of her own skin and Clara’s frantic attempt to free herself. The heat almost seemed to be waiting for some direction.
Or maybe some mystical, magical word that she didn’t have a clue about.
Wouldn’t that just be perfect?
Panic began to rise, but before it could fully take on a full-throttle status, the glint of the emerald, which she now had pressed to Clara’s arm, caught her attention.
With a strange, hypnotic pulse that light began to fill the barn with an eerie green glow. Clara gasped, her gaze shifting to the gem that would make any fairy green with envy.
It wasn’t envy, however, that twisted her beautiful features. Instead it was a stark, disbelieving fear.
Her plea might have swayed Anna. She didn’t possess a vicious enough heart to enjoy inflicting pain on others. But the choice of stopping was taken out of her hands as the emerald flared and without warning a fierce explosion rocked the barn.
Anna felt herself being launched backward, a searing pain racing through her blood. Then, with a crack that resounded through her brain, her head hit the far wall and she fell heavily to the dirt floor.
“Anna…Anna.” A tiny hand touched her hair and Anna managed to lift her heavy lashes enough to find Levet’s face swimming before her dazed eyes.
“Oui. Do not move.”
Move? God. The last thing in the world she intended to do was force her weary, aching body to so much as twitch.
“Did we win?”
A smile touched the truly ugly face, even as her consciousness began to fade.
The ridiculous word was the last thing she heard as a welcome void reached up to swallow her.
The Hummer was a perfect choice to race over the rough back roads of Illinois. It was spacious enough to hold four vampires, a Shalott demon, and a werewolf, and sturdy enough to survive Viper’s zealous attempts to cross the state in a new record time. Cezar, however, chafed at being confined.
He wanted to be running through the dark, using his skills to track the woman who called to him even when she wasn’t near.
Unfortunately, Styx had been right when he pointed out that his strength would only last so long. And that when he did find Anna it would be quicker to rush her back to the safety of Chicago in a car rather than having to carry her.
Wisely left undisturbed in the backseat of the Hummer, Cezar growled as Viper slowed to a crawl, allowing Darcy and Shay an opportunity to take deep breaths of air. Cezar logically understood that his friends were just trying to help, but his logic wasn’t in control at the moment.
Every futile delay was like having a silver stake thrust through him.
Grinding his teeth in an effort to hold back his frustration, Cezar suddenly stiffened. There was no scent, no sound, no tangible sign that Anna was near.
But he knew.
He knew with absolute certainty.
“Stop,” he growled, shoving open the back door. “Stop the car.”
“What is it, Cezar?” Styx demanded.
“I feel her. I feel Anna.” A shudder shook his body. “She’s been hurt.”
“Cezar…dammit.” Dante reached to halt him, but Cezar was already throwing himself out of the moving vehicle and flowing through the darkness with blinding speed.
They would be able to follow his trail, but he couldn’t wait for them. Not when his every instinct was screaming that Anna was slipping away from him.
The recently plowed ground was no impediment as he streaked through the night, the faint scent of apples only spurring him onward.
A fairy had passed this way.
Leaping over the sagging fence, Cezar headed toward the distant barn. As he neared, the smell of apples became mixed with the scent of Anna’s blood. A cold fury washed through him.
Whoever had dared to harm Anna was about to die.
Not bothering to try to hide his rapid approach, Cezar threw out his powers to blast open the rotting door and charged into the shadows of the barn.
“Anna,” he bellowed, nearly drowning in the cold terror that filled his body.
“We’re in here,” Levet called from a distant corner.
In a blink of an eye, he was kneeling at Anna’s side, his hand gently stroking her battered face.
“Dios. Anna.” With a rapid inspection he realized that she was gravely injured. The deep wounds on her face and neck were losing far too much blood. And a rib had been shattered, puncturing her lung. Why wasn’t she healing? “What happened to her?” he rasped.
“There was a fairy.” Levet shuddered. “She looked just like Sybil and she stabbed Anna with a hexed knife.”
Cezar hissed, his fangs elongated and ready to kill. “Where did she go?”
Levet gave another shudder and glanced around the barn. “Everywhere. She…exploded. I really think we should get Anna out of here before she wakes up. She’s not going to like what she did with that beautiful bauble.”
With a frown, Cezar noted the emerald clutched in Anna’s bloody fingers.
“Where did it come from?”
“Would you believe a dream?”
“A…” Cezar gave a shake of his head. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered but the sight of Anna’s battered and nearly broken body. He leaned down to press his lips to her forehead. “Never mind.”
“You can fuss over her later, Cezar,” Levet said, his voice high and edged with fear. “Right now we need to get out of here.”
“She’s too weak to move.” Cezar closed his eyes and battled the rising panic. “We’re losing her.”
Levet sharply snapped his wings, his tail twitching. “Do something. Give her your blood. That should break the curse.”
Cezar hissed, his lethal glare making the gargoyle wisely stumble backwards.
Damn the annoying gargoyle. He, better than anyone, knew that his blood would save Anna. But sharing his blood with this woman wasn’t without complications.
Complications that would bind him to her for all time.
“It’s not so simple,” he muttered.