~ Kimber ~
Hilton Head, South Carolina, United States of America
What the hell was this realm?
What insanity had we plunged into by following King Belshazzar and Queen Gwynnore back through the gate? There were fires and explosions, hand cannons the likes of which I had never dreamed possible. Things flew through the air that weren’t birds or the work of trebuchets. And still above that chaos, things ripped through the sky that roared and screamed and rained down more fire and destruction.
Savion would have loved this chaos.
Me? Not so much.
Gwen had two hand cannons—guns—in her hands, and Bel had a much larger weapon. Something he called a rifle. He could drop an enemy at a hundred strides.
Dorian had a smirk on his face as we raced through the flames and destruction.
He loved this.
Me? Not so much.
Rilen and Roran had flanked me, and Aiko was behind me. Oddly enough, my twins seemed to know this place. Aiko, though, didn’t, and he was clearly unsure. It didn’t stop him from being determined to protect me.
Amidst the death was a permeating…stench. Well, the me of just a few weeks ago would have called it a stench. This new me, the impossible blend of vampire and druid, called it delicious.
The dead, the dying, the wounded surrounded us, and their scent filled me, called to me.
“Ilati, are you all right?” Rilen asked quietly. Perhaps not quietly, only just loud enough to hear over the cacophony around us.
I shook my head.
Aiko shook his head.
Comprehension slid over Rilen’s face. “Are you going to go berserker?”
“I…don’t think so.” I sniffed the air. “I can’t make that promise, though.”
Aiko licked his lips. “The temptation is distressingly strong. Why? I’ve never felt this around any druids or vampires.”
“Humans,” Roran said. “From what I remember, their blood is sweet and strong and able to sustain a vampire easily.”
Remember? I stared at him. “Remember?”
He coughed, and Rilen shook his head. “Story for another day, ilati. We have a war happening around us, and I think we should pay attention.”
“What war is this? What world is this?” I huddled down low with the twins and Aiko as King Belshazzar strolled up, licking his fingers again.
Dorian rolled his eyes. “Are you going to kill everyone?”
“If I feel like it, yes.”
“This is a war,” Gwen said. “And this is my world that we’re fighting over. So either pick up a gun and help or just shut up and hide.”
“No!” Bel snapped. “Kimber stays hidden. We’re not risking her neck. One or two members of your little harem can stay here with you and protect you.”
“I can protect—”
“No.” The statement brooked no argument. “We’ve risked our lives to bring you here, and I don’t even know why yet. So no. You keep your royal ass hidden.”
“No buts,” Gwen said and shoved a gun in my hand. “Just stay hidden and don’t get killed.”
Gwen was gone with Bel and Dorian. Rilen and Roran stayed, and Aiko certainly didn’t have a choice either. I looked at the gun I was holding and shook my head.
“Why are we here?” Aiko asked.
“They need me for something. I’m not completely sure.” I glanced after Dorian. “And clearly, neither are the king and queen.”
“Can we go back?”
Roran shook his head. “The portal is too far offshore. And the boat is gone.”
“Can we steal one?” I asked.
The three of them turned slowly and stared at me. I glanced between the shocked faces and shrugged. “What? It’s a fair question. There’re a lot of boats—”
A tremendous explosion echoed behind us, and we all ducked down, covering our heads. After the sound died down a bit, we all turned and found the dock behind us wholly consumed by fire.
“Well, that’s that,” Rilen said.
“This place is insane,” I grumbled.
“We’re in the middle of battle,” Roran reasoned.
A whistling sounded from above us, and I could see two black dots racing toward the ground nearby. “What are those?” I whispered.
Before any of them could answer, the black dot formed into a fat cylinder with a point at one end, drove right into the ground and exploded with such a force, the four of us were thrown backward. We were covered by the remains of the bomb, the ground around us, and any other objects that happened to be in the way.
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