Cezar greedily drank in the sense of Anna, a surge of anger racing through him as he felt the pain she tried to conceal.
“You’ve been injured.”
His teeth snapped together in frustration, but unable to do anything to help ease her wounds, he reminded himself of the danger of wasting even a moment.
“You’re with Morgana?”
“You must not allow her to suspect that I am conscious. Can you listen to me without revealing my presence to Morgana?”
“I’ll try.” Her courage wavered before she pulled it back around her like a well-worn cloak. “She said that she had you chained with a stake to your heart.”
“Troy decided he didn’t particularly care for the thought of being Morgana’s whipping boy for the next few centuries,” he assured her. “He’s placed his bet on the fact that we can bring an end to her.”
“Yeah, that’s the same bet I placed.”
His heart squeezed. Dios. He would find the means to save her. There was no other option.
“Just hold on, Anna, I’m on my way.”
An astonishing blast of power rocked Cezar back on his heels as Anna reacted to his words.
“No, Cezar, get everyone out of here,” she demanded. “I can deal with Morgana, but not if I’m worried about someone getting hurt.”
He growled deep in his throat as he braced himself against her surge of energy. For all her raw power, he had had years to hone his skills.
“Don’t even waste your time, Anna. None of us are leaving.”
“Stall Morgana for as long as you can.” He overrode her protest. “I’ll be there.”
Damn the pig-headed, unreasonable, insufferable…demon.
Anna fiercely attempted to reach out with her thoughts, but once again Cezar was capable of blocking her efforts.
When this was all said and done she intended to discover a means to break through that barrier. Her mate would learn a lesson in tossing her out in the midst of an argument.
Well, always assuming she lived that long.
A prospect that wasn’t looking all that good as Morgana suddenly stepped forward and slapped her across the face.
“Don’t you dare ignore me, you nasty rodent,” she seethed, her fury a tangible force in the small kitchen. “When I’m about to kill someone I expect their full attention.”
As the flare of pain rocked through her, Anna realized that she had missed most of the tantrum her aunt had been throwing. Obviously the queen knew enough of vampires to realize that holding Cezar wasn’t quite the bargaining chip that she had hoped for. After all, if Anna died, the vampire would quickly follow her to the grave.
Trying to shake off the pain, Anna squared her shoulders and faced her furious relative with a grim determination. Dammit, time was running out.
Despite the pain and debilitating weakness that she could sense was plaguing Cezar, Anna didn’t doubt for a minute that he was already rushing to the rescue like the Lone-freaking-Ranger. She had to end this before he got himself killed.
“Forgive me if I’m not nearly as impressed as you think I should be, but to be honest, after meeting my grandfather, I’ve come to realize that you’re nothing more than a vain, pathetic wannabe.” She forced a smile to her bruised lips. “Arthur was a true king. A man worthy to claim the title.”
Morgana’s hand lifted, but this time she didn’t strike Anna. Instead her fingers circled Anna’s neck and lifted her off the ground.
“If you are hoping to provoke me into making your death swift and painless, you’re even more stupid than I thought,” she mocked. “I intend to relish your screams of agony, sweet Anna. I intend to bathe in your blood and crush your heart in my bare hand.”
“Lovely,” Anna muttered, knowing she would be far more terrified if she hadn’t been distracted by the sense of Cezar moving steadily closer. “Is this the part where I’m supposed to beg for mercy?”
The emerald eyes flashed with an inhuman fury as Morgana’s fingers tightened on her throat.
“Oh, you will beg, Anna Randal,” Morgana hissed, her fingers digging into Anna’s throat with an agonizing force. “Before I am through with you…” The threatening words came to an abrupt halt as the overhead light in the kitchen flickered and then exploded with enough force to send a shower of glass slivers raining through the room. Both women froze for a heartbeat, then releasing her hold on Anna, Morgana spun on her heels to glare toward the empty doorway. “The vampire. He’s been released.”
Dragging in a ragged breath, Anna battled the wave of darkness that threatened to consume her. She knew that she had to strike while Morgana was distracted. Before Cezar charged to his death.
Knowing that, however, and actually accomplishing the brave feat were two very different things.
Choking on blood and barely able to breathe, Anna clutched the emerald in her hand and closed her eyes as she attempted to call on the powers she had for so long considered a curse.
In this moment she didn’t care if she was a freak. She didn’t care if she couldn’t control her powers and she brought the entire house down on their heads. After all, there was no one here who wouldn’t survive.
All she cared about was distracting the woman before she could hurt Cezar.
She felt the familiar prickle race through her blood, the energy stirring her hair and heating her skin.
Unfortunately, Morgana wasn’t a queen for nothing. The very moment that Anna began to focus her power the woman turned back and grabbed Anna’s arm to shake her with a violent fury.
“Oh no you don’t,” she hissed. “Nothing is going to stop me from putting an end to you.”
Her free hand lifted and she pointed toward the center of the room. Anna frowned as she watched a strange shimmer begin to glow in the darkness.
Anna’s heart clenched with fear as the shimmer grew larger and a strange mist filled the center.
Holy crap. Was that a portal?
Oh, this wasn’t good.
Not good at all.
“What are you doing?” she stupidly demanded.
Keeping her grim hold on Anna’s arm, Morgana began dragging her toward the waiting mist.
“I’m taking you home, my sweet.”
Waiting until the house was plunged into darkness, Cezar descended the stairs with one long leap. Landing at the bottom he was forced to crouch low as a hail of arrows flew over his head.
Why didn’t they just get the hell out of the way so he could get to Anna?
“Styx,” he bellowed, his gaze searching out the large vampire who already had his sword loose and was cutting a swath of carnage through the gathered fey. At his side Jagr was providing his own share to the death toll, his fluid motions a beautiful dance of death.
“Go to her, amigo,” Styx growled. “We can handle a few fairies.”
Cezar smiled wryly as he bolted toward the kitchen door. The fairies that hadn’t been sliced in two were already fleeing in mindless panic. He was more in danger of being flattened in the stampede than shot.
Ignoring Troy, who ran at his side, Cezar reached the door and prepared to launch himself at Morgana.
Only there was no Morgana to launch himself at.
And no Anna.
Hissing in disbelief, he reached out with his mind, a stark fear piercing his heart as he found nothing but a yawning emptiness.
He stumbled to a halt, his gaze desperately searching the empty room even as logic told him that she was gone. Truly gone.
“Anna,” he breathed, sinking to his knees as he reached out to touch the scorch marks that marred the linoleum floor.
“A portal,” Troy muttered in disgust. “Morgana has taken her.”
With a movement too swift to follow, Cezar had Troy pinned to the wall, his fangs close enough to rip out the imp’s throat.
“Take me to her,” he growled.
Troy had to swallow twice before he could find his voice. “I don’t have that power.”
“Cezar, no.” Without warning Darcy was at his side, her hand lightly touching his arm. “He can lead us to her.”
Troy winced beneath Cezar’s painful grip, his eyes wide with fear. “Actually, I…can’t.”
Cezar hissed, his fingers tightening. “Can’t or won’t?”
“Can’t,” the imp managed to choke out. “She’s returned to Avalon. No one can locate the Isle of Mists.”
A red haze briefly clouded Cezar’s eyes at the thought of Anna alone and helpless in the hands of Morgana. Dios. His mate might possess the power of the ancients, but she had no control. And even worse, her heart was far too tender. She would never be a cold-blooded killer, and if she hesitated even a moment…
Easily sensing that he was descending into a rage that could lead to a massacre of every fey creature in the state of Illinois and beyond, Darcy squeezed his arm with a painful grip.