Her foolish brother had been the same.
“I believe that my bluff is greater than your own,” she drawled. “Unless the rumors of clan loyalty are grossly exaggerated. Your…brother is upstairs with a stake to his heart. One call from me and Conde Cezar is dust.”
Anna’s face paled as she reached out a hand to touch the vampire. “Styx. Jagr.”
With a low growl the vampires lowered their swords, the king narrowing his gaze with a lethal hatred.
“What do you want?”
“What do I want?” Morgana laughed. “Everything, vampire. Everything that is owed to me.”
“The only thing owed to you is a slow, painful death, Morgana,” the vampire said coldly.
With a hiss, Morgana sent out her powers, throwing the vampire against the wall and pinning him there.
“It is Your Majesty to you,” she hissed, increasing the pressure until the large body was bowed and writhing in pain.
“Morgana, stop it,” Anna demanded, stepping between her and the vampire. The scent of figs spiced the air before Morgana was hit with a sharp, painful blast of heat. “I said…stop it,” Anna gritted.
Her own power momentarily faltered, allowing the vampire to swiftly return to his protective position at Anna’s side.
Morgana hid her unpleasant shock at the realization that the woman was capable of hurting her. Damn Arthur. Would her brother’s potent blood never die? It should have been thinned to the point of nonexistence by now, but there was no mistaking the ease with which she had disrupted Morgana’s own magic.
“Careful, Anna,” she snapped. “Another stunt like that and your lover will be waiting for you in hell.”
The woman tilted her chin, as if she didn’t realize that Morgana could kill her with one blow.
“You obviously kidnapped Cezar to bring me here. I’m here now. Why don’t you let Cezar and the others go?”
Morgana gave a sharp laugh. “Have I ever given you the least hint that I am stupid, Anna?” she mocked. “The vamps, as well as that werewolf and Shalott creeping around outside, stay to make sure you play nice.”
“And what does play nice mean?” she demanded. “That I just stand here and let you kill me?”
Morgana slowly smiled. “Actually…yes. That’s exactly what I mean.”
The dark vampire growled deep in his throat. “Anna, don’t even think about it. This is not what Cezar would want.”
Morgana reached out to stroke a finger down Anna’s soft cheek, her nail cutting a thin wound.
“Ah, but sweet Anna is willing to do anything, even sacrifice herself, to save her beloved, are you not?”
Anna jerked her head back, her hand lifting to wipe away the trail of blood.
“You know, Morgana, my grandfather warned me that you are an evil woman—I’m beginning to understand why he hated you so much.”
A sharp chill pierced Morgana’s heart. “What did you say?”
“Oh, didn’t I mention my little visit with your brother?” Anna demanded sweetly.
“Why? Because you killed him?”
Morgana lifted her hand to strike the bitch where she stood. She had to be lying. Arthur was dead. Dead and buried. But her hand froze as she caught the sound of stirring fairies behind her.
She had been very careful to cultivate the legend that Arthur had died in battle once she realized that she was incapable of tarnishing the people’s love for him. It was disgusting, the manner that they had worshipped the weak, stupid man.
To admit that she had been the cause of his death would cause nothing short of a mutiny.
She allowed her hand to continue forward, but rather than landing the lethal blow she longed to deliver, Morgana instead grasped Anna’s arm in a biting grip.
“We will finish this in private,” she rasped.
“Private?” The bitch had the nerve to meet her furious gaze without fear. “Do you have something to hide, Morgana? Don’t your sycophants know what you did to your own brother?”
Morgana tightened her grip until the bone threatened to shatter. “Shut up.”
The two vampires flowed forward, their swords lifted to strike. It was only Anna’s sharp shake of her head that halted them.
“No, Styx. This is between me and my aunt.” With an ease that should never have been possible, the honey-haired woman pulled from Morgana’s grasp and regarded her with a hard expression. “You want private? That’s fine with me.”
In disbelief, Morgana watched as her niece walked calmly across the room and entered the dingy kitchen, her head held high and her back stiff. With no option, Morgana was forced to follow behind her, her fury a potent force that filled the house with a rush of prickling heat.
Once away from prying eyes, Morgana reached out to jerk Anna around to face her, her anger overcoming any fear of the woman’s mysterious power.
“You worthless brat.” She gave Anna a sharp shake, sadistically pleased when she felt the woman shudder in pain. “Do not ever turn your back to me. I am your queen.”
Again Anna managed to wrestle from her grip, but not before Morgana had managed to leave a savage burn on her arm.
“You’re a homicidal maniac,” Anna hissed, lifting a hand to cover her ugly wound. “It’s no wonder that your brother refuses to rest in his grave until you’re dead.”
With a sudden gesture Morgana sent Anna slamming into the wall. She was done screwing around. She wanted this woman dead. And she wanted her dead now.
“You know nothing of my brother,” she mocked, her confidence returning as Anna swayed and leaned against the wall to keep her balance. Anna Randal might have the blood of ancients in her veins, but she was still a weak, easily shattered human. “This is nothing but a desperate trick to try to save your pathetic life.”
Stiffening her knees, Anna reached in her pocket. Morgana smiled as she calmly smoothed the gossamer of her gown. If the stupid creature thought she could reveal some hidden weapon and frighten a powerful queen, she was about to learn a painful lesson.
“Really, then where do you suppose I got this?” Anna demanded, holding out her hand to reveal the perfect emerald glimmering against her palm.
Expecting a hexed knife, or even one of those charmed amulets that witches loved to flash around, Morgana’s smug assurance cracked and shattered as she caught sight of the emerald that had once graced her brother’s golden crown.
No. No, it couldn’t be.
That gem had been buried with her brother, and despite her best efforts over the centuries to attempt to retrieve the powerful emerald, she had been continually blocked by Merlin’s last and most potent spell.
Damn the wizard to hell.
If he hadn’t managed to disappear Morgana would have dragged him to Avalon and devoted the centuries to teaching the bastard the true meaning of pain.
A tremor raced through her body as the energy of the jewel surged over her skin.
As if taking courage from the emerald, Anna tilted her chin and stepped away from the wall.
“My grandfather gave it to me. He seemed to think that it might help me destroy you.” She clenched her fingers around the stone. “What do you think? Shall, we give it a whirl?”
Morgana instinctively backed away. Until the spell was broken upon it, the emerald would respond only to her brother.
Or, obviously, to one of his blood.
“This is not…not possible.”
Anna’s lips twisted. “Over the past few days I’ve discovered that there are very few things that are impossible.”
“He’s dead,” Morgana said, as much to convince herself as the annoying pest standing before her. “I watched him die.”
“You betrayed him.”
Morgana’s lips curled at the accusation. Of course she had betrayed her brother. She was above the tedious morals that plagued the lesser beings. All that mattered was that she survived and that the world would bow before her.
“Arthur was a fool,” she sneered, thrusting aside her brief unease. With or without the emerald, she still held the upper hand. So long as the vampire was chained in the attic this woman would do nothing. Nothing but die. “With me at his side he possessed the power to rule the world. No one could have challenged us. No one would have dared.”
“Maybe he didn’t want to rule the world,” Anna countered.
Morgana laughed. Typical. There seemed to be some innate flaw in her brother’s blood. An inability to see past the mundane humanity to the glory that was their birthright.
Fate had intended them to be above mortals. Above demons. Above all.
And yet, Arthur insisted on playing the role of the benevolent ruler, always determined to see that his shining vision of justice prevailed.
So weak. So ripe to fall into the hands of his enemies.
She had done him a favor by putting an end to his pathetic dreams.
If she hadn’t, someone else would have.
“You rule or you follow or you die,” she said coldly. “There are no other choices.”