“Are you one of the Ancients?” Liz asked, her tone fearless.
“Do you have a name?” Amber asked in a small voice.
The vision wafted her way. Her iridescent hand reached out and stroked Amber’s cheek. Amber sighed and leaned into her touch. “I am but one of the daughters of Calderon. You may call me Elise.”
“Why don’t you take her out?”
Myra sucked in a deep breath, cautious of Lizzy’s tone.
Elise turned toward Lizzy. “Ahh…Elizabeth. Our law is ancient, beyond what you can imagine. To go against it makes us no better than her.”
“If Grainna isn’t playing by the same rules, what does it matter?”
Elise smiled. “If we could aide you more we would. It is forbidden. Our vows are sacred, binding.”
Tara found her voice. “Tell us how to bring her down. Can she be killed?”
“In your time there are rumors of how immortals are defeated.”
“They’re staked or beheaded,” Simon said from the sidelines. “At least the vampires are.”
“But that would require the men to get close to her. How can they and survive?” Lora, who Myra knew had never questioned the Ancients before, did so now.
The daughter of Calderon didn’t seem in a hurry to answer. She waited.
Tara’s voice lifted. “What about fire?”
Elise hovered about the circle meeting the eyes of everyone there. “Tomorrow your battle will begin.
Do not be fooled by what you see.” Elise moved out of the circle and over to Simon. “Do not fear what you do not understand. You are chosen.” She turned back to the women.
“Will we survive? All of us?” It was the question desperately sought, but all were afraid to ask.
Except for Lizzy who Myra thought would question God himself.
“It isn’t for me to know or to tell if I did. Our race is dying, it is left to you for our survival. Use your gifts, all of them. Your greatest gift is not what you are born with, but what you give.”
The woman began to fade. “What is my gift?”
Lizzy asked the fading image. The candles reached a height of over a foot before the image disappeared altogether. Lizzy’s question went unanswered.
“What now?” Myra asked when no one spoke.
Tara placed her hand, palm up to Lora. “We tell the men what has happened.”
She laughed joyously behind him. Her arms circled his waist and held on tight. Her soft little body pressed up against his reminded him of her presence. He had slept with the devil, and if there was any piece of his soul intact before the act, it was gone now. He had chanted her spells, drank the blood of the dead, and experienced what Grainna called the gut wrenching change.
He felt the warmth of his body replaced with a calming cold, only heated by the memory of Grainna pressed next to him. Even the lithe little form with her legs straddling the horse, her core pressed up against him did nothing to entice. He could think only of giving Grainna the woman as a gift.
He no longer sought to deceive her. He no longer kept her out of his mind. He was possessed with the striking image of who Grainna would be once they sacrificed Margaret.
Michael slowed his horse.
“Are we almost there?” Margaret asked, eyes wide and searching the darkness for some sign of light.
“Soon.” He lifted his flask and handed it to her to drink. “Here.”
She tilted the tainted wine to her lips, handed it back to him. “Is there truly a priest who can marry us tonight?”
Steel smiled, pretended to drink, and pressed it back into her hands. She drank again. “Well?”
He watched her shake her head, the wine was having its desired effect.
“Tonight you will be mine.” He feathered a kiss over her lips. “Tonight you will be my wife.”
Her body trembled, her thighs pushed together.
And when she offered her lips to him again, he knew the drug worked. She would be panting and naked within the hour, and anything but virginal.
As orchestrated, the yard to the encampment was empty, except for a man in a robe. Steel had to keep Margaret from falling off the horse when he stopped.
“Is he the priest?”
“Yes,” he told her, knowing that even without the lie, she would be no problem in her current state.
The curse specified a willing virgin, so they left no stone unturned.
“Oh, good,” she giggled.
“Do you want to go inside, Sir?”
Steel waved his hand. “No need for that.” He looked down at Margaret. “The girl is anxious, marry us now.”
“Very well.” The voice behind the robe recited his practiced lines.
When the ‘I do’s’ and ‘I will’s’ had been repeated, Margaret threw herself up and into his arms, her body ground against his. The aphrodisiac he had given her was better than any pharmaceutical put out in his century.
Stumbling into the room, Margaret clung to him. He kissed her with open eyes as he glanced around the room. A shadow moved in the corner. He knew Grainna watched.
“I do this for you,” he said to the silhouette.
Margaret smiled thinking he spoke to her.
He busied his hands and mouth, enticing the virgin to open like a flower and accept all that he would do.
Grainna’s hands itched, her blood purred beneath the surface of her skin. The bed sat atop an altar, waiting only for the virgin blood to be shed upon it. Then and only then, would the blood mix and the spell she would chant bring her back to who she once was. Grainna whispered her chants in the darkness of the room.
A chill settled in, several candles were caught by a draft. Their light extinguished.
The woman Steel disrobed shivered. Grainna looked up, lifted her hands and had them glowing again. The fire blazed.
Steel wasted no time. He stripped Margaret of her dress, tearing his own clothes in his haste. He hovered, poised and ready. The virgin’s legs fell open. He whispered something in a foreign language, and the room instantly iced. Both women’s eyes grew wide, and when he plunged, one woman screamed out in pain, while the other screamed in ecstasy.
All the light in the room extinguished in a flash.
By the time the sisters tapped into Grainna’s mind, it was over. The girl, sprawled on the bed, lay dead. Steel bent over Grainna, his hand on her back. He spoke to her, but Myra couldn’t hear his words.
Steel kept looking around the room, obviously spooked by something.
“The curse is broken.” Amber’s shaky voice said what they all knew.