Authors: Rhiannon Frater
Stepping toward Santos, The Summoner raised her hands. “Kneel, Santos.” A ring flashed on one finger, and Santos flinched, a sharp pain filling him. The monsters made of flesh and bone shambled forward, their gigantic arms made of the intertwined limbs of the dead tipped with massive claws made of bone. The blood splattered across the room slithered like red snakes across the floor, wrapping around the girl’s body before sinking into her pale skin. As the bright red liquid vanished into the body of The Summoner, the death magic of the necromancer/vampire increased. Razor sharp slashes of power shredded through Santos. At first he thought it was an illusion, then he felt his cold vampire blood oozing from the many wounds covering his body.
“I said...kneel.” The smirk was gone. A cold, impassive face stared at him. The white glowing eyes compelled him to obey.
Shuddering, Santos locked his legs, refusing to fall to The Summoner’s power. “No.”
A corner of The Summoner’s lips twitched, a ghost of a smile appearing.
One of the monsters swung its long arm, its claws glistening wetly. Santos fell as his leg was torn from his body. Gritting his teeth, he refused to cry out or reveal his agony. Willing his wound to heal, he felt his powers waning. Silence filled the room. Lifting his head, he saw the vampires of his cabal were all shifting their healing bodies into kneeling positions. Gregorio was already prostrate before Etzli.
Striding over to Santos, The Summoner planted her small foot on his chest, shoving him onto his back. “You will kneel before me willingly.” Pressing down, she broke his sternum, driving it into his heart. “Do you understand me?” Applying more pressure, she cracked ribs.
Blood bubbling on his lips, Santos glowered up at The Summoner.
“Kill him,” Etzli said, her dark eyes hard as obsidian.
“No,” The Summoner intervened. “Chop his other leg off, drain his blood, and pack him away until he’s needed.” Tilting her head, her blonde hair stained red by the blood she had consumed, The Summoner said to the cabal, “You serve me now.”
“Yes, Master,” they answered in unison.
“Our time comes.” Leaning down, The Summoner gripped a handful of Santos’s hair and drew his face close to hers. “You will see my greatness. You were a babe playing the games of children. Soon you will see true power.”
Amaliya shoved the silver dagger into the sheath in her boot and reached for a second one tucked into the foam of the weapons locker Cian had hidden in the base of one of the guest beds in their penthouse.
“I’m carrying the obsidian blade and the silver-plated sword.” Cian squatted beside her, loading a clip with silver bullets for the pistols. He wore thin black gloves to protect his hands. “I’m going to put the silver stakes in the black bag, the white birch in the red. The silver will work on both vampires and weres. The white birch is for Etzli. It’s even stronger than silver.”
Amaliya was glutted on the blood of the residents of Cian’s apartment building. As soon as she had awakened, she had slipped in and out of the fancy apartments sipping from the throats of the inhabitants until she literally couldn’t drink anymore. Cian had taught her to drink without killing, but her anger and grief was so strong it had been a struggle not to drain her victims dry. Red-tinged tears streaked her face. She hated that she was crying, yet how could she not? Not only was she mourning, she was furious. Her grandmother had been incredibly important in her life and now she was gone. Wiping at her face, she struggled to steady her nerves.
“As soon as we reach Santos’s mansion, bring the dead up. Have them attack whatever moves. Santos keeps a lot of blood minions, so keep that in mind if you need more blood.” Cian’s accent was thick, deep, and dangerous. “Don’t hesitate to kill the minions if you need more bodies for zombies.”
“I’ll concentrate on Etzli.” Cian hesitated, then slapped a clip into one of the pistols. His hazel eyes met hers. “The Summoner is yours.”
“I’ll kill him,” Amaliya said in a tough voice. Her sweet little grandmother lay in a mortuary somewhere in Eastland County waiting to be prepared for burial in a few days. Innocente had only been dead less than twenty-four hours and already the void that she had left in Amaliya’s life was unbearable.
“Staking didn’t work on The Summoner, so try decapitation.” Cian tucked the pistol into a holster on his belt.
“And if that doesn’t work?”
“We’ll figure it out,” Cian said with a wry smile.
Amaliya grabbed the collar of his shirt, dragged him close, and kissed him. His tongue and lips were flavored with fresh blood. He tasted like power. Releasing him, Amaliya experienced a surge of love so powerful it hurt. She loved him. He loved her. It was one of two truths she knew without a doubt. The other was that The Summoner needed to die.
“I fuckin’ love you,” Amaliya growled at him before rising and stalking out of the room. “Now let’s go kill that asshole.”
Cian grabbed the bags of weapons and followed her out into the main living area of the apartment.
The vampires were dressed alike in black jeans, t-shirts, and boots. They needed clothes that allowed them to move quickly and hopefully without detection until it was too late for The Summoner and his people.
After they had returned the previous night from Fenton, Texas, Amaliya had waited until their friends left for their own homes and their house guests - Cassandra, Cian’s dhamphir daughter and her girlfriend, Aimee, a witch - had gone upstairs, before informing Cian that she was going to kill The Summoner. The death of Innocente ate at her viciously, but the demise of Pete, her childhood friend who had died trying to save her, inspired a rage so powerful it made her tremble. The Summoner had murdered people who loved her and she was going to kill him. She had found a way to kill him once, and she would again.
Cian placed the bags in the front hall, then checked his jean pockets for his car keys. “We’ll take the back route into San Antonio. It’s longer, but there is less of a chance of one of Santos’ people spotting us before we hit the mansion.”
Amaliya nodded tersely. “Sounds good.”
A wisp of fear threaded through her raw fury, but she ignored it. Maybe it was a suicide run going after The Summoner, but she didn’t want to acknowledge that possibility. She hadn’t even discussed her plan with Cian when she had awakened. Cian had simply anticipated her desires and started preparations immediately.
“When are we leaving?” Cassandra asked, coming down the stairs from the second level of the apartment. Her girlfriend was right behind her. Both were dressed in black clothing and carried messenger bags. Cassandra’s chin length chestnut hair was pulled up into a fake Mohawk with rubber bands while Aimee’s was in a long braid wrapped around her head several times.
“You told them?” Amaliya asked Cian, narrowing her eyes.
Cian shook his head. “No, of course not.”
“It wasn’t too hard to figure out that you’d want to kill The Summoner as soon as possible,” Aimee said as she reached the main floor.
“And since he’s most likely with Etzli’s brother, it made sense to attack tonight before they can move,” Cassandra finished.
“We can use the help, Liya,” Cian said, lifting one shoulder.
“Fine, but let’s get going.” Amaliya had to admit she felt a little relief at the thought of the witch and dhamphir coming along.
The doorbell rang a few seconds later. Cian checked the security feed on his computer monitors. “It’s Jeff and Samantha with the others.”
“Was there a memo?” Sarcasm dripped from her words as Amaliya lifted her eyes to the heavens.
When the front door opened, Jeff, the leader of the local supernatural hunter group entered first. He was closely followed by the perky blonde phasmagus that was his girlfriend. Samantha grinned when she saw Amaliya’s glower and gave her a little wave. Eduardo, the hunky were-coyote, filed in before the rotund Benchley and his boyishly cute younger sister, Alexia.
“I’ve been trying to call you,” Jeff informed Cian.
“I have my phone off.” Cian folded his arms over his chest and surveyed the people dressed in dark clothes and carrying bulky bags most likely crammed with weapons.
“You weren’t going to go without us, were you?” Samantha narrowed her eyes and poked Cian in the chest with one finger.
“The thought did occur to me,” Cian confessed.
“Okay, the gang is all here. Let’s go!” Amaliya headed toward the door.
Benchley moved to cut her off, his round face grimacing. “Not so fast.”
“Out of my way, Bench.”
The man flinched under her glare, but the sexy coyote stepped in front of Benchley and put his hands on Amaliya’s shoulders. “Listen to the man.”
Amaliya shrugged off Eduardo’s hands. “Fine. What’s up? Time is a’ wasting.”
“I was checking the local emergency channels in both Austin and San Antonio to make sure we don’t run into any issues,” Benchley said, holding up his phone.
“Then we heard something you’re not going to like.” Jeff joined the cluster of people in the front hall. “There’s no point going to San Antonio.”
“I’m still going. You’re not going to stop me,” Amaliya declared, pushing past Benchley and Eduardo.
“Santos’ mansion burned to the ground today. It also burned a lot of the surrounding woods and one neighboring house. It’s smoldering right now. The San Antonio fire departments were fighting it all day.”
Jeff’s words cut through her and sent her mind spinning. Slamming her hand against the heavy metal door, she growled with frustration. “What?”
In the main room she could hear Cian tapping away at his computer.
“It’s all burned up,” Alexia said, wincing.
“Cian has it on the computer!” Samantha called out.
Amaliya stalked down the entry hall and into living room. Cian was at his computer watching a video from the local TV station. Lightly stroking his chin with his fingers, his hazel eyes flicked toward Amaliya when she leaned over him.
“No!” Amaliya hissed. “No!”
“They probably left last night,” Cian said.
“Maybe they’re dead in the fire,” Benchley said hopefully.
Aimee and Cassandra joined the group of people crowding around to watch the news report on the fire.
“It’s not unusual for vampires to burn their abandoned havens,” Cassandra remarked. “It makes it harder to find out where they’ve gone.”
“Nothing left for a tracking spell,” Aimee muttered.
“Maybe they’re dead. In the fire.” Benchley tapped Cian on the shoulder. “Right? Maybe it was an accident and they all burned? Right?”
Cian shook his head. “No. No. This is what Cassandra surmised. The Summoner and his people abandoned it last night and had someone burn it down during the daylight hours.”
“I’m sorry, Amaliya,” Samantha said, patting her on the shoulder.
“Fuck this shit!” Amaliya shouted, storming away from the looks of sympathy and pity. She launched herself out onto the balcony, her fingers closing around the rail. The scream that erupted out of her was torn away by the hot night wind. Grabbing fistfuls of her hair, she buckled over, weeping. When Cian took her in his arms, she sank against him.
“I’m sorry, Liya.”
“I want him dead,” she sobbed. “I want that fucker dead!”
“I know. I know.” Cian kissed her brow and held her firmly against his body.
“It’s not fuckin’ fair that he killed her. It’s not fuckin’ fair! She was trying to save Bianca!”
“Innocente was a very good person,” Cian agreed.
“I want to fuckin’ rip his fuckin’ head off!”
“And you will.”
Clinging to Cian as her rage dissolved into despair, Amaliya shuddered. It was as if her body couldn’t fully contain the strong emotions roaring through her.
“Liya, Jeff is going to research the rings that The Summoner wanted so desperately. Once we find out what The Summoner is planning, we’ll find him and stop him. You’ll take his head. You will avenge Innocente and Pete. I know it.”
Lifting her head, she stared out over the Austin skyline toward the south. “Do you think he’s still in San Antonio?”
“I have a feeling he picked that city for a reason. So, yes, I do think he’s still there.” Cian pressed his lips against her forehead, his hands rubbing her back to soothe her.
In all her life, only Cian could calm her when she felt like this. Only he felt like a safe harbor from her dark emotions. When she was at her weakest, he always made her feel strong.
strong,” Cian whispered against her cheek. “You’re amazing. You will get your revenge. I swear it.”
Nodding, she wiped her tears away with irritation. “I will.”
“But we need to go now. Not to San Antonio, but my secondary haven. The Summoner is in hiding and we should be, too.”
“It’s all falling apart,” Amaliya moaned. She had tried so hard to adapt to her new life and just when she was finally settling into it The Summoner had once again wrecked it.
“No, no. Not falling apart, Liya. Just changing.”