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Lucia agreed. "I might run from a crashing plane - "

"Go... something's coming," Annika said. "Now..."

"We're safest here," Regin said, wriggling her toes and turning her attention back to her painting. "The inscription will keep anyone out."

The Valkyrie had bought protection from the House of Witches - their allies. The spell kept most nuisances out of Val Hall.

Regin quickly glanced up. "But, I, uh, I might not have renewed the inscription spell with the witches."

Lucia said, "I thought we were on auto-renewal. They charge our credit - "

"By Freya," Annika yelled, "I - mean - now!"

At that, Regin shot to her feet, lunging for her sword. Lucia was right behind her, scrambling for her bow. She'd just strapped on her quiver when the front door burst in.


As Garreth ran for Val Hall, he began to grow uneasy, his hackles rising. Though Lykae loved to run - they'd traded tearing across the Highland hills and crags for tearing through the swamps and bayous - he took no comfort from the exertion.

He sensed something wasn't right but couldn't pinpoint his disquiet. He frowned when his sat-phone rang in his jeans pocket, then slowed to answer. "What?"

Munro said, "Can you come back to the compound? There's some news... possibly."

"Have you told anyone about Lousha?"

"No, I have no'! Where are you?"

"On my way to Val Hall. Concerned about my mate."

"Aye, Garreth, you need to know. Vampires are here, crawling all over the city."

Bluidy hell. "Which faction? Horde or Forbearer?" While the Horde was the Lykae's oldest and most hated enemy, the Forbearers were relatively new players in the Accession game. They were rumored to forbear from taking the flesh, refusing to drink blood directly from others.

Some in the Lore considered them noble vampires - as much an oxymoron for Garreth as cuddly snakes.

"It's the Horde," Munro said. "Ivo and Lothaire, specifically."

Ivo was cowardly - Garreth had never considered him a threat. Lothaire, the Enemy of Old, was a different story altogether. "What the f**k are they doing here?"

"The Horde might be... hunting Valkyrie."

Lucia. This was what he'd sensed. Just as Garreth was about to hang up, Munro said, "Wait! There's something else - "

"No' now!" Garreth yelled as he sprinted, slamming the phone closed so hard, it lay crushed in his palm.

Hunting Valkyrie. Lucia was in danger from the Horde, a filthy species responsible for the deaths of Garreth's entire family. If he lost his mate to them as well...

Never. Already turning.

Only a dozen miles away. Letting the beast out of the cage. Never wanted her to see me like this...

An immense horned vampire filled the doorway of Val Hall, peering keenly at Regin and Lucia with eyes the color of blood.

"What is that, Annika?" Regin drew one of her swords. "A vampire turned demon?"

"Not possible," Lucia said. "That's supposed to be a true myth." Whatever it was, it had made Annika run like hell, and she was a notorious vampire killer.

"Has to be." Annika panted. "Never seen one so powerful."

"Is he one of Ivo's minions?"

"Yes. Saw him giving orders to this one. They're still searching for someone."

Lucia nocked her arrows just as two more vampires traced behind the demon.

"Just go," Annika hissed to them. "Both of you - "

Ivo the Cruel materialized then, appearing directly in their living room, his red eyes surveying the scene.

"Hello, Ivo," Annika said gravely.

"Valkyrie," he responded with a bored sigh.

When he sank onto their couch and carelessly kicked his boots up on their coffee table, Annika said, "You still have all the arrogance of a king. Though you aren't one." She shook her head. "Can never be one."

"Just a wittle wapdog," Regin said with a snort. "Demestriu's wittle bitch man - "

Annika rapped the back of Regin's head.

"What?" Regin stomped her foot. "What'd I say?"

"Enjoy your taunts, Valkyries - they'll be your last." Ivo turned to the demon vampire. "She isn't here."

"Who?" Annika demanded.

"The one I seek," he answered cryptically. Which Valkyrie had he been searching for all over the world?

Suddenly, Lucia spotted the faint outline of a figure wavering behind Ivo. Lothaire? He'd traced into the room, lurking in the shadows, as sinister as she remembered, with his red-tinged irises and menacing face.

When Annika caught sight of him as well, the vampire put his finger to his lips. Why would he be hiding from Ivo, his cohort?

Ivo rubbed the back of his neck, clearly sensing a presence behind him. But when he whipped his head around, he saw nothing; Lothaire had already disappeared. Why wasn't the Enemy of Old standing shoulder to shoulder with Ivo, poised for a fight? Or shoulder to head - Lothaire was as big as the demon, and both towered over Ivo.

Seeming to dismiss his apprehension, Ivo ordered his minion, "Kill these three."

At once, the demon vampire teleported behind Annika with mind-boggling speed. The other two vampires traced for Regin and Lucia before Lucia could get a shot off. Regin traded sword strikes with one, while Lucia kicked the other in the chest, sending him back so she could take a shot. But he traced forward too quickly. Lightning flashed with increasing furor.

Out of the corner of her eye, Lucia spied Annika getting in some good hits on the demon vampire. As he yelled, spraying blood, Annika kicked him between his legs so hard he crashed into the ceiling.

But when he landed, he grabbed her neck and hurled her across the entire great room into the fireplace forty feet away. Annika hit headfirst, with so much force that the first layer of bricks turned to dust from the impact.

"Ah, gods! Annika!"

Just as another layer of bricks dropped onto her limp body, Regin scrambled from the vampire she'd been fighting to guard their fallen sister. Lucia dashed to Regin's side, finally garnering enough room for a shot.

"Lucia, the big one," Regin said between breaths. "As many arrows as you can. I'll pry his head off."

She added two arrows to the pair she'd already nocked, pulling the bowstring so tight, intending a kill shot. She released her volley...

The demon's muscles went rigid. He brushed three arrows aside like they were gnats. He caught the fourth.

Incomprehension. She'd... missed? No! How? Ivo's laughter echoed as the pain assailed her. She dropped to the floor from the sudden onslaught.

Tags: Kresley Cole Immortals After Dark Vampires