Kane picked up speed. Though Tink was cradled in his arms, her head tucked securely in the hollow of his neck, her arms and legs flopped with the force of his motions. Finally he caught up to the carriage and jumped through the opening in the side.
Two females were seated inside; they gasped at his sudden appearance. Both women wore the same type of ruffled, lacy gown as Synda, taking up too much space, so he knew they were part of the upper class.
“Either watch over the girl while I take over the driving, or get out of the vehicle,” he said. “But you should know that if you harm her, I’ll kill you.”
The two leaned toward him, pressing against him. “You’re Lord Kane! I’ve been so desperate to meet you.”
“Say you’ll come to my party tonight,” the other pleaded.
They weren’t going to cooperate. Fine. He grabbed the female closest to him and “helped” her out of the vehicle. She rolled on the ground, screaming in shock and anger, dust flying all around her.
He turned to the other girl and reached.
She blew him a kiss and jumped.
Casting a final glance to Tink—nothing had changed; she was in the same condition—Kane swung out the door, holding on to the roof. He had to kick up his leg to crawl to the top of the vehicle, then slide down to the driver’s seat. The scent of animal and sweat immediately assaulted him.
The driver jolted, startled by his sudden presence, and tried to seize a weapon. Kane kicked him off the ledge and confiscated the reins. He whipped at the horses, and the carriage picked up speed. Once Tink was healed, he would leave this land, he thought. From the beginning, she’d been right. He couldn’t help her. If not for him, she wouldn’t be in this situation. He’d only made things worse for her.
In fact, he’d made things worse for everyone.
Once Disaster was taken care of, he would come back for her.
While he was gone, a man might come along and fall in love with her. A man worthy of her, good for her. That man would move heaven and earth to save her; he would do whatever she needed done. Wage war on her family. Yes. Romance her. Absolutely. Delight her, thrill her. Definitely. Sweep her away to another land, somewhere safe. The two would marry, and they would make love, have the children Tink was too afraid to have now, and she would be happy. Finally, blissfully happy.
Yes, one day.
And then I’ll kill the male for daring to take what’s mine.
The horses suddenly whinnied and stopped, raising their front legs and kicking in protest.
“Whoa, whoa,” Kane said. When they settled, he saw the blonde from the forest—Petra—standing in the road, her hands anchored on her hips.
“You shot me, and I assure you I’ll have my vengeance. But we’ll deal with that later,” she announced. “Right now, I want the girl.”
Get in line, female. “Too bad. She’s mine.”
Little golden flames exploded in her eyes. “Why don’t we bargain? You give her to me now. I’ll enslave her in the way of my people, and consider us even, then I’ll give her back in a few thousand years. How’s that?”
Kane would die first. “I hurt you once. Don’t make me do it again.”
She chuckled with genuine amusement. “I’d love to see you try, warrior. You won’t catch me by surprise a second time.”
Mine, Disaster said.
Kane snapped the reins, forcing the horses to plow ahead. The girl had to jump out of the way to avoid impact, but she waited until the very last second, grabbing onto the back wheel to be dragged along. Dust sprayed the air, probably choking her.
Silly girl. What did she think she would accomplish—
Tendrils of smoke wafted to his nose, and he coughed. Stiffening, he glanced back. The Phoenix had fallen away from the carriage, but she’d left one of the wheels engulfed by flames. That. Quickly. He grabbed the dagger hidden in his boot and cut the horses loose. As the carriage teetered to one side, Kane scrambled toward the doorway…teetered more wildly…and fell through the center door as the entire vehicle slammed into the ground.
Impact was brutal, but he managed to wrap his arms around Tink and absorb most of the shock. And when the carriage finally settled, smoke forming an impenetrable cloud, he realized Tink had gone quiet. Too quiet.
Extreme heat licked at him as he pressed two fingers into the pulse at her neck. A faint thump, thump greeted him, and he could have wailed with relief. Coughing, he lifted her and draped her limp body through the door frame. He pulled himself out, gaze scanning as he hefted her over his shoulder. Through the thickening smoke he saw the Phoenix racing toward them, her body a living flame, fully engulfed, just like the wheel—no, the whole bottom half of the carriage now—and crackling with menace.
He expected to see her fellow warriors, but there were none. He made a split-second decision.
He had to kill her, if only for a little while. As with all Phoenix, she would die and her body would burn to ash. But there was a very real possibility she would rise again, more powerful than before.
Whatever. Kane threw the blade still clutched in his hand, and it soared toward her, flipping end over end. She jumped up and to the side, attempting to move out of harm’s way, but the dagger he’d taken from the Fae king possessed an ability she hadn’t anticipated, switching course and following her, amazing him. As high as she was, the blade found a home in her belly, rather than her spinal cord.
She grunted, hit the ground without any grace.
He tossed a second dagger, but didn’t stick around to make sure it succeeded where the first one had failed. He hopped to the ground, ran off the road and into the forest with Tink bouncing on his shoulder. He tried to be gentle, but gentle wasn’t possible. Thick trees surrounded him, but he pushed through the leaves and limbs, determined and angry and already planning his next move.
“I’ll take care of the Phoenix,” he vowed to Tink. While he might not be able to do much for her before he left Séduire, he could do that.
He found tracks created by the palace guard, the imprint of their boots giving them away. They’d clearly stopped and checked out all the singed places where the Phoenix had burned a bush or a plant or a patch of grass. But what he didn’t see were imprints of more than one Phoenix. Only the girl.
Could she be on her own? Simply making it seem like others were with her?
That…made sense, he realized. She had to think an army of Phoenix would intimidate the Fae, make them more likely to give up Tink to save their land from war.