her voice constricted in her throat. What could she say to divert the Maltorim’s efforts? One false move would result in her death.
So it was with regret that her gaze met Ethan’s in the small field just north of the cemetery. He was standing with Lenore just several feet behind him, as though he were waiting, expecting this. Neither made any effort to escape or conceal themselves.
Lenore crossed her arms and slung her narrow gaze at Ophelia. “I should have known.”
“Lenore, I didn’t—”
Queen Callista laughed, the sound musical and at the same time tinny. “Oh, you’re quite all right, Ophelia. We’ll take care of them.”
That was the furthest thing from what Ophelia wanted. And what if they realized Lenore was her maker?
Lenore clicked her tongue and stepped up beside Ethan. “If she would betray us,” she said to the Queen, “what makes you think she won’t betray you?”
“Betray me?” The Queen giggled, but then her expression turned cold and her fangs snapped down. “It really is not worth betraying me. Just ask your friend, Robert.”
When Lenore didn’t respond, the Queen smirked, one side of her mouth curving up and her gaze shifting playfully to the side. “Oh, that’s right. Robert’s hardly in the position to answer any questions. I’m afraid he won’t be able to join you . . . ever again.”
Ophelia stepped forward to claim she hadn’t betrayed anyone, but Ethan’s warning gaze settled over her body and an understanding swept in. Lenore didn’t really think Ophelia betrayed them. Lenore would know that for a fact—Lenore would have felt all of this coming, such was the strength of a bond between maker and child. This had always been their alternate plan.
Callista and her men encircled Lenore and Ethan, but Ophelia stood back. She could not fight against them any more than she could fight with them. Before the Queen’s men could take another step, Lenore and Ethan had two of them disabled, pinned to the ground, stakes driven through their hearts. The soldiers decomposed, their essence crumbling in the light breeze and scattering between patches of dead grass.
As the remaining men lunged for Ethan and Lenore, Ophelia had the sudden urge to run. But she could not. There was nothing she could do now but stand there hopeless, praying to a God she no longer believed existed.
Lenore struck with amazing speed. The man attacking her stumbled back but did not lose his ground. Locking arms, each struggled for the upper hand, their weight shifting back and forth until finally Lenore tackled him to the ground. Meanwhile, Ethan did not fare so well. Ankou were not a strong match against the Cruor.
Callista sidled closer to Ophelia and whispered, “Does it not make for a show?”
Ophelia smiled uneasily. She could barely force herself to nod. She winced as the blow one of the men delivered to Ethan echoed with a resounding crack. His eye swelled and blood gushed from his mouth, and the man attacking him was prepared to finish with the kill.
Ophelia trembled, and her stomach clenched. Please, Lord, no. Not Ethan. To her left, Callista was nearly bouncing on her toes, her eyes wide and glazed in delight. She and Lady Karina would have made fast friends.
A silence fell beside them. The head of one of the men flew past Callista, draining the color from her face and drawing out a gasp. Lenore had killed her attacker.
Callista stumbled back as Lenore advanced. Her eyes had gone dark—not black, but surely dimmed, faded, as though cast in shadows. Callista trembled and turned her pouting yet demanding face toward Ophelia. The look—being that of a helpless child—threw Ophelia off her senses.
“Do something!” the Queen demanded. She called past Ophelia to the man, her voice wavering. “Get the girl! Get the girl!”
The man immediately complied, pouncing on Lenore before she could reach the Queen.
Before Lenore turned to fight, Ophelia
Lakshmi Bertram, Sandra Amrita McLanahan, Michel Odent