But she seemed to have lost sight of him altogether, focusing in another direction.

With each minute that passed, they traveled deeper into a decaying labyrinth of abandoned warehouses and stacks of railcars.

Finally she was slowing. She stumbled in a puddle, then tripped on the corner of a shipping pallet.

He stopped tracing and began running toward her. He was close enough to hear her heart drumming, her gasping breaths.

The Valkyrie his brother had encountered had known no fear of vampires. Maybe in the last five years they'd learned they had reason to flee from one. The thought made him pursue her with even more excitement. His vampire instincts rushed to the fore. The thrill of the chase overwhelmed him, and Murdoch played with her, letting her lope until she tired.

Just as he decided to end this, he turned a corner after her, running into a four-way crossing.

There was no sign of her.

Only silence.

Danii crouched on the second floor of a storm-ravaged warehouse, struggling to catch her breath and shuddering from heat.

She still couldn't believe the Icere were here. She'd thought she was safe living in such a warm climate, believing they'd never look for her this close to the equator.

Like the Icere, Danii didn't sweat. Unlike them, she could go into thermal shock if she grew overheated. But she was more accustomed to the temperature here than they were. And she knew every twist and turn of these downtown streets. As long as she didn't catch a fire arrow, she could handle the Icere.

The vampire was another matter entirely. When she'd seen him tracing after her, she'd gaped in disbelief that yet another pursuer had joined the chase.

A clear-eyed vampire, a true Forbearer.

Though hidden, she could still see him from this vantage. With a narrowed gaze, he turned in circles below, determining her direction.

Any superficial and misguided attraction she'd felt for him was drowned out by annoyance. If this male would just move on, the Icere likely wouldn't find her here.

Otherwise, he was going to get her killed.

The assassins would separate to trap her, driving her with the threat of those poisoned arrows. They wouldn't lob their notorious ice grenades at her - they'd lose valuable cold and she'd simply take the impact with a smile on her face as she soaked the chill into herself.

But those arrows...

Tipped with a poison that ravaged through an ice being's veins like liquid fire.

I would know. This wasn't the first time a faraway Icere king had dispatched killers after Danii, the rightful Icere queen...

Instead of leaving, the vampire called out in a deep voice, "I know you're here." His words were thickly accented. Russian? Perhaps Estonian. "You're a Valkyrie, are you not?" He stilled, listening for her. "If so, you'll want to know that my brother just captured Myst the Coveted."

Myst. Danii loved all her half sisters equally, but she owed Myst.

Wait... a Forbearer's brother had taken her? There was one Forbearer - an Estonian - who wanted Myst above all others: Nikolai Wroth, the Overlord. He'd done Myst wrong, but then she had definitely retaliated.

And the Overlord had brothers.

Danii had to find out what had happened to her sister. If Nikolai alone had her, then Myst probably wouldn't be in danger, since she was his Bride. But if Nikolai had surrendered her to the Forbearer king...

I have to know. Danii could trap the male below in a cocoon of crushing ice, then question him, but how much more cold - and time - could she stand to lose?

"Why do you cower?" Anger blazed off him. "A true Valkyrie would face me."

True Valkyrie? His taunt struck home, like a jab at an exposed nerve. She wanted nothing more than to be like her half sisters. To enjoy all the things they took for granted. Broken doll... She rose unsteadily, crossed to a gap in the wall, then stepped out.

At once, his gaze locked on her, following her down. His lips parted, revealing barely visible fangs, but he made no move to close the thirty or so feet between them.

Had she truly thought the gray of his eyes was normal? Recognition seemed to flare in them. Recognition? But how? She'd never seen him before - she'd definitely have remembered.

His gaze was focused... predatory. Then his irises turned black. Black in a vampire meant intense emotion. Yet his earlier fury seemed to be fading.

As they stared at each other, all other sounds - the eerie thrum of barges churning the river, the distant screech of streetcars - were drowned out.

"My brother warned me that your kind are vicious." His voice went even lower as he frowned. "I cannot see you as so."

"Where is my sister, vampire?"

"I can take you to her, Valkyrie."

I'll bet. Yes, the male before her was a Forbearer, which meant that he was clueless among the Lore.

He'd have no idea how dangerous Danii in particular could be.

CHAPTER 3

A living, breathing valkyrie stood before him. And she was so stunningly beautiful...

Murdoch's view of her front had proved far more rewarding than he'd imagined.

He shook himself. Was she one of those who'd shot Nikolai? Had she been there to laugh at the idea of his brother's agony?

For some reason, he couldn't imagine her like that. He knew she was an enemy - one among an army of females who sought the annihilation of all vampires - and Nikolai had just warned him not to underestimate them. But this one looked even more fragile than Myst.

Though her features and lithe body were perfection, her blond locks were tangled around her pointed ears, and dust smudged her cheeks. Her face was feverishly red, and she was subtly swaying on her feet. She looked sad and miserable.

And spooked.

Chasing a female who feared him sat ill. Nikolai had sworn they were taunting, sadistic warriors. Yet this creature had hidden from him - after fleeing as if her life depended on it.

"Listen, Valkyrie, I don't want to hurt you. I just have some questions for you to answer."

She raised her hand, but lifted no weapon. Instead, she flattened her palm just below her lips as if to blow a kiss good-bye. The breath that left her mouth looked like a cloud of frost, surging forward, surrounding him.

Ice flash-froze around his boots. He couldn't move his legs. Couldn't break free. "What the hell is this?" Her breath continued to surround him, ice growing up past his knees, climbing to his thighs.

Then she coughed, bending over and rocking on her feet. The buildup stopped, leaving him fettered by this bizarre binding.

He strained against the ice, which seemed stronger than any he'd ever known, but he was unable to break free or trace from it. "Take - this - away."

She stalked closer. "Who has Myst now? Nikolai or the Forbearer king?"




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