A week ago, a demon teleporting into my room would’ve sent me running for the nearest weapon. Now, I barely looked up when the bedroom’s shadows suddenly formed into a tall, handsome man with midnight-brown eyes, closely cropped black curls, and skin the rich, dark brown of smoky quartz.
“Did you bring more blood?” I asked him.
Ashael slid a briefcase across the floor to me. I opened it, relieved to see several blood bags inside.
“Thank you.” I hoisted the nearest bag onto the IV pole beside me. This was the last ingredient I needed for my spell. Everything else was in place.
Then, I watched as a thin stream of crimson streaked down the IV line toward the unconscious vampire on the bed. Please, I thought, fighting to hold back tears. Please let this spell work!
Magic flared the instant the blood hit Ian’s veins as the spell activated. My nails dug into my palms. Please, please, please . . .
A choked sound escaped me when Ian’s half-shriveled arm began to change, transforming from a near-skeletal state into his normal, muscled limb. Very slowly, his body began to follow suit, losing the shocking gauntness he’d had for the past ten days to expand back to his healthy, brawny physique.
“Yes!” I shouted, so relieved my knees felt weak.
We’d finally defeated our worst enemy, but Dagon had had one last, evil trick in store for us. At first I thought everything was great. Dagon was dead, Ian had summoned me away from the vampire council, preventing them from executing me, and we were safe at Mencheres’s house in the Hamptons. Sure, Ian was badly injured from Dagon’s trap, but Ian was a vampire, and vampires healed from everything except decapitation or silver destroying their heart.
Or so I’d thought.
Turned out, there was one more injury that vampires couldn’t heal from: whatever dark magic Dagon had infused in his fucking trap. Ian had borne the worst of its effects since he’d been the one to break us out of it. Or my other nature had protected me from the trap’s lingering, deadly magic. Either way, I was fine, but Ian fell unconscious the same day that he rescued me.
He hadn’t woken up since, and he hadn’t healed from his horrific injuries no matter what spell I used to try to counter the lethal magic. Instead, Ian had only grown worse.
“It’s working.” My voice vibrated from the joy rocketing through me. “Thank all the gods, it’s working!”
I’d put all my knowledge, every last one of my magic-infused gems, all my power, and more than a few stolen artifacts into this latest spell. Those last ingredients had netted me some new enemies, but I didn’t care. Ian’s magic-ravaged body was finally, finally healing. Oh, I couldn’t wait until he opened his eyes again! I also couldn’t wait to hear his voice, to see his smile, listen to his laugh . . . wait. What was happening?
Ian’s body suddenly began to shrink back into itself.
“No!” I grabbed his arm, as if I could physically prevent him from degenerating again.
I felt as well as saw Ian’s formerly healed body reduce itself back to little more than tendon-covered bones. His pearlescent skin now also had a grayish undertone, and his thick auburn hair looked faded and brittle, like discarded straw. If anyone saw him, they’d think they were looking at a corpse.
“No!” I screamed, dropping Ian’s arm. If I held it any longer, I would break it from how frail it was.
And Ian wasn’t frail. He was the strongest, cleverest, bravest, sexiest, most stubborn man I’d ever met. He’d defeated every challenge anyone had thrown at him, every time. He’d even defeated death once, so he couldn’t end up destroyed by Dagon’s spell, after everything he’d overcome. He just couldn’t!
Ashael let out a deep sigh. “I am so sorry, my sister.”
Only then did I realize I was crying, the kind of deep, hiccupping sobs that no one wanted to cry, let alone with an audience. I couldn’t seem to stop, either. I, widely known as the vampire world’s coldest, most unfeeling Law Guardian, couldn’t even slow my heaving sobs.
I’d put everything I had into this spell, and it hadn’t been enough. Even from the grave, Dagon would win. He’d already made me watch Ian die once. Now, Dagon would force me to watch him die again, unless I somehow found another way to stop the magic that was inexorably killing him.
I would, I swore, swiping at my tears. I’d find another way, or I’d make another way.
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