Jadian didn't answer the question, just said, "I will leave you alive, but only because that was her will."

"Give her time to wake, so I can talk to her - "

"You believe you can convince her to stay with you? You attacked her. Look at her neck. Remember this sight. This is what you are to her - pain."

"No... no..."

"I'm taking her to where she can be content, vampire. Where she will be safe."

"Like her mother?"

"Her mother didn't have me to protect her." With a wave of the male's hand, the ice began to build up over Murdoch's torso, crushing him. Higher and higher, climbing up over his chin.

Powerless to do more than watch them leave, Murdoch had time for a last breath - and used it to bellow her name. But they were already gone.

Ice swallowed him, cutting off his air. Soon blackness followed. And in that time, he dreamed Daniela's memories, taken from her blood.

Unable to wake, his clenched fists frozen, Murdoch watched as a Roman senator took her from a cage so he could run his fingertips over her delicate skin, fascinated by how it burned.

Murdoch felt her pain, her revulsion.

How long she'd been trapped in that hell, he couldn't determine. But he experienced her relief when Myst - the female Murdoch had hated for so long - and two other sisters had come for her. Myst had saved her life and murdered the Roman.

Why had Daniela never told Murdoch about any of this? About being a captive? Rage consumed him for the long-dead Roman who'd tortured her.

And yet Murdoch had hurt her just as badly, if not worse. After all, she'd trusted him.

Daniela thinks of me as she does that monster.

And she should. The look in her eyes when I released her neck...

When the ice had melted enough to be broken and he regained consciousness, his driving need to go after her was extinguished.

Who the hell was he to take her away from her fate? From her own kind?

Her whole life had been made better, fixed. Part of him still wanted to believe that she'd been tricked, that she would need him to save her... but the disgust shown by Jadian had been real. And he could easily have killed Murdoch.

As much as it enraged him to recall how Jadian had kissed Daniela, Murdoch knew they looked right together.

She's gone.

For hours, he mindlessly roamed the too-quiet lodge, cursing bitterly, ignoring his brothers' calls. Even as Daniela's blood still thrummed in his veins, his chest felt empty, aching for her.

I've lost her. The look in her eyes...

Murdoch punched the wall. The pain briefly diverted his attention from the hollowness in his chest.

So this is love.

He'd lost the one woman he'd ever loved. No, not lost. He'd driven her away with his selfishness and neglect. With his broken vows and attack.

Now that he could think about the night with a clearer head, he remembered that she had been pulling away from Jadian. Because of me.

Murdoch had never understood Conrad's madness. Now he did. There were some things the mind was not made to handle, differing in each person.

I'm not made to live without Daniela.

The phone rang yet again. There'd been talk of an upcoming battle. Maybe that was exactly what Murdoch needed. To fight. To be a vampire. To kill and destroy and not think about how Daniela would be happier away from him.

He answered the phone.

"We go to war," Nikolai said.

Perfect.

CHAPTER 36

So this is Icergard, Danii thought as Jadian gave her the grand tour of the castle the next day. I'm definitely getting a Fortress of Solitude vibe.

When she'd awakened, sharp-eared Icere maids had smiled shyly as they laid out a gown of the softest silk Danii had ever imagined, along with Svana's crown.

A fire had burned in a hearth of ice - a blue fire that emanated cold.

Which was just cool.

Last night, it had been late here when Jadian had sneaked her into her new royal chambers. He'd thought it "politically unwise" for the Icere to see their new queen's face wet from tears, her body lifeless, with her neck bearing the unmistakable mark of a vampire.

"As in most factions of the Lore, vampires are feared and hated here," he'd explained.

Without wonder. She still couldn't believe that Murdoch had bitten her. "What did you do to him?" she'd asked.

"I left him in ice. I would have killed him, but you ordered me not to fight."

"And you follow my orders?"

"You're my queen," he'd said simply. "One who'll be crowned in three days, if that's acceptable to you."

"It is. But what are the Icere going to think of me?"

"They're going to love you as they did your mother... "

Now, as he showed her around, she tried to concentrate on what he was saying, but her mind was troubled over the events of the night. Murdoch's bite had been the worst pain she'd ever experienced, and yet she'd felt some kind of connection to him.

He'd taken her blood, lots of it. Would he dream her memories? At the idea, embarrassment suffused her. Would he know how lonely she'd been?

Gradually, her neck had healed, but she was still uneasy, fretful. Guilt weighed on her. She didn't believe she'd brought on the attack - or that she'd deserved it in any way. But she still felt complicity, because she hadn't repelled him.

She could have frozen Murdoch, could have blasted him with the fury of that blizzard. Instead, a fatalism had swept over her, as if she'd been waiting forever for his bite.

Myst had taken pleasure from it, as had Kaderin. It'd been a nightmare for Daniela -

"Do you regret coming here?" Jadian asked, rousing her from her thoughts. He was gazing straight ahead, his face impassive, but she could sense his tension.

"No, not at all."

"You are quiet."

"Uh, I'm just amazed by what I'm seeing." In truth, Castle Icergard was an engineering marvel. Built beneath an invisible dome of ice, the structure was bricked with baguette-cut diamonds - each half a foot long. The prisms at the ends of the diamonds glinted unrelentingly, like a Valkyrie's worst nightmare. Good thing I'm immune. "It's remarkable," she added.

"It's... home," Jadian said simply.

Inside the castle, elaborate designs were carved into all the walls, with smaller diamonds embedded throughout. Thin sheets of polished and etched ice comprised the windows. Chandeliers of ice hung from the great-hall ceiling, their lights that cold blue fire, shimmering like the aurora borealis dancing in the night sky.

The more Danii saw, the more she loved it here. Ice, ice, and would you like some ice with that ice? Here, plants grew from it. The people held it sacred, just as other cultures worshipped the sun or the earth as life-giving.




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