"Psst!" Emma hissed. "A moi!" She flinched when a wet, black nose suddenly nuzzled her hand. Okay, so she had the dog's attention. Now if she could just contact the owner. The dog pranced about excitedly. A white poodle with a pink bow on its puffy head.
"A moi! Aidez-nous," Emma whispered as loud as she dared.
The poodle barked, loud and shrill. The dog's owner shouted and yanked on its leash. They hurried away.
The door behind her slammed open.
She dropped onto the table and turned. Light spilled into the storeroom from the wine cellar, along with the smell of sausage and eggs. In the doorway, a bulky black shadow loomed.
"Brouchard said you would be trouble." Hubert entered the room. His accent was as thick as his neck and arms.
He charged, bellowing like a bull. Emma remained on the table. She landed a good kick to his chest, but it only slowed him down. He grabbed one of her ankles and yanked. She fell onto her rear, but used the momentum to roll back, then forward. She kicked Hubert hard in the gut. He stumbled back. She jumped to the floor, whipped the knife from her belt, and lunged forward. The knife slid in with horrifying ease. He cried out, then collapsed backward onto the floor.
Emma stood over him, the bloody knife in her hand, and her stomach churning. Shit. She was used to killing vampires. They didn't bleed like this. They simply turned to dust.
"Hang on. I'll get an ambulance." She'd find her way to Angus's security men on the Champs-Elys. But first there were four vampires in the next room who needed to be staked. Angus's knife would work just fine. She strode toward the door.
A board slammed into her face. She fell back onto her rear as lightning jolts of pain zigzagged across her face. Her eyes saw double for a second, then focused on one man standing in the doorway. He was small and thin.
"You made a fatal error, ch. I am Hubert. And I am prepared for the likes of you."
She scrambled to her feet, but he swung the board at her head once again. She collapsed to the side. Her head throbbed. The knife tumbled from her hand.
With a groan, she turned her head to see him. His figure wavered as pain shot through her.
He withdrew a syringe from his coat pocket. "I should kill you for what you did to my dear Rolfe." A stream of liquid squirted from the needle.
Emma willed her body to stand up and fight, but her brain was too battered to get the orders out. She felt the floor beside her. Her fingers touched the hilt of the knife.
"But my master wants you alive. So I will only make you sleep." He stepped toward her.
She struck at his shins with her feet, and he stumbled back.
"Bitch!" He leaped on top of her and stabbed the syringe into her neck. Instantly his face grew hazy.
He leaned forward, sneering at her. "You should not have made me angry. Now I will have to play with you while you sleep."
With a great surge of effort, she plunged the knife into his back.
He shrieked and twisted, trying to reach the knife. He fell beside her, his body contorting.
Her eyelids drooped. She almost welcomed the drugged sleep, for it numbed the throbbing pain.
Hubert grew still beside her. A sense of doom spread through her as the drug dragged her into oblivion. She'd failed Angus once again.
Angus awoke with the surge of energy that jolted his body every evening at sunset. With his first deep breath, he was accosted by the hideous smell of foul, congealed blood, which meant one thing: death. His heart constricted. No, not Emma!
He scrambled to his feet while his eyes adjusted to the dark room. His metal flask was on the floor. And there were three bodies. The devil take it, what had happened? He rushed to the first body. It was a huge man with a knife wound to the chest. He'd bled out on the cold stone floor. The smell of spoiled blood turned Angus's stomach.
He staggered to the next pair of bodies. A slim man lay dead with the sgian dubh in his back. The blood within him had congealed to a slimy goop, unfit for consumption. Beside him was Emma. Her heart was beating, slow and steady. Angus's relief was cut short by one look at her face. The bastards! Her face was a mass of bruises and lumps. Poor lass. She must have fought for her life while he'd rested nearby totally oblivious. He cursed his inability to protect her during the day.
He heard sounds from the wine cellar. The enemy was stirring. If only he had enough energy to grab Emma and teleport out, but he was too weak from hunger.
"Puir lass, I'm so sorry," he whispered, touching her face. The smell of her sweet blood triggered an instant response. Hunger flooded in. He grabbed his knife and stumbled back to his flask on the floor. He opened the top with shaking fingers. Pain lanced his gums where his fangs strained to surge out. A vampire's hunger was always worst when he first awoke.
He gulped down Blissky. Slowly his hunger was quenched. His fangs retreated and relaxed. God, how he hated being a slave to this hunger. It was why he always carried an extra supply of synthetic blood in his flask. As the last drop slid down his throat, he reveled in the renewed strength that coursed through his body. He was powerful once again. He would save Emma.
The door swung open. Brouchard sauntered in, carrying a candlestick. "Bonsoir, mes amis! Hubert, I want you to fetch us some tasty mortals for breakfast." He halted with a gasp. "Hubert! What are you doing, lying with zhat woman?"
Angus zoomed toward Brouchard and plunged his dagger into the chubby vampire's heart. Brouchard squealed, then turned to dust.
Uri and Alek ran in, both armed with swords. Angus was outnumbered, but he knew he'd be stronger. He'd already fed, and they had not. He dodged Alek's attack, then fended off Uri.
Katya entered, carrying her blowpipe. "You fools. There is only one way to subdue him." She lifted her pipe to her mouth.
At the last minute, Angus spun, grabbed Uri, and turned him to face the oncoming dart. Uri stiffened and fell, the dart embedded in his chest.
"Of course." Alek dashed toward Emma, his sword raised.
Katya lifted a hand to stop Alek. "I will spare her, Angus, if you surrender to me."
Angus hesitated. He needed to buy more time so he and Emma could escape. He released his knife. It clattered to the stone floor.
With a sneer, Katya kicked his knife aside. "I always knew you were a fool. You could have had me, but you chose that lowly... bug. I will enjoy watching you suffer."
Angus gritted his teeth. "I'm certain ye will. 'Tis in your nature to be cruel and vicious."
She scoffed. "There was a time when you said I was beautiful and full of potential."
He eyed her sadly. "I wanted ye to be good, Katya. I wanted ye to use yer powers for good. 'Tis no' too late."
"And you think she is good?" Katya glared at Emma on the floor. "That bitch is a murderer. She deserves to die. And if I give her to Casimir, he will spare my life." She gave Angus a seductive look. "You wouldn't want me to die, would you? We had such good times together."
"Ye're already dead to me."
She took in a hissing breath and pulled a dart from her pocket. "I will make you pay, Angus MacKay. You will wish you were never born." She jammed the dart into his chest.
He crumpled to the ground. His body refused to move. Despair seeped into his bones. He'd bought Emma some more time, but now he was unable to defend her.
Alek and Katya took turns going out to feed. Then Katya removed his sporran. He closed his eyes so he wouldn't have to see her triumphant smirk. Alek hauled him out of the cellar and dumped him in the alley. Angus cursed silently. Here he was, alone and free to go, but he couldn't move. Soon Alek returned, carrying Emma. He set her down and frisked her.
"A cell phone." Alek removed the phone from Emma's pocket and handed it to Katya.
"Ironic, don't you think?" She punched a button on his phone. "I can use your whore's phone to take you to your doom." She leaned down to grab his arm. "Galina? We're coming."
Katya vanished, taking Angus with her. He felt a floating sensation, then a hard floor beneath him. He opened his eyes to look around. They were in an old stone building, sparsely furnished. Alek appeared next to him, carrying Emma.
"How do you like my place?" a red-haired female asked.
Angus recognized her from the last vampire ball. She'd been there with Ivan Petrovsky. This had to be Galina, the former harem girl who had helped Katya murder Ivan so they could be co-masters of the Russian coven.
"It's perfect." Katya looked around. "Do you have the room ready for our guests?"
Galina laughed. "Oh yes. They're going to love it!" She waved at a bulky blond man. "Burien, will you and Miroslav carry our guest?"
The two male vampires hefted Angus up and followed Galina outside.
Angus looked around the best he could. The night sky was clear, the stars bright. It was later in the night here than in Paris, so they had traveled east. They might be in eastern Russia since Katya came from there. He recalled reading a report on Galina. She'd come from the Ukraine, so that was another possibility.
They were definitely in the countryside. The nearby hills were forested. An old stone wall encircled the property. A wooden barn nearby was falling down. He spotted Alek, carrying Emma.
They proceeded down some stone steps. A storm cellar? A root cellar? He heard a heavy door creak open.
"Put her on the cot there," Galina ordered.
He heard bedsprings squeak. He was dumped on the floor.
"There's one light," Galina said. With a small click, the room was lit by a lone lightbulb dangling from the ceiling.
Angus blinked. The whole room seemed to shimmer with sparkly lights.
"The plates on the ceiling are pure silver," Galina boasted. "And the walls, window, and door are covered with silver necklaces. It's almost like the old chain mail that knights wore."
"As long as it keeps them from escaping." Alek prowled around the room, examining the walls.
"Oh, it works," Galina assured them. "I had Miroslav try teleporting through the walls, and he couldn't. He bounced right off and ended up with severe burns. And Burien tried to send telepathic messages to me, but nothing could come through."
"Excellent." Katya sounded pleased. "Now all we need to do is locate Casimir and offer him our little gifts."
They filed from the room and slammed the door shut. A bolt slid across. Angus closed his eyes. As soon as the nightshade wore off, he would see to their escape. But a room lined with silver would be difficult. Thank God Emma was mortal. Silver wouldn't burn her. Nor would it stop her from using her psychic abilities.
An hour or so passed, then he heard movement on the cot.
He cleared his throat. "Emma?" That sounded better.
"God, my head hurts." The cot creaked. "Are you all right?"
"Oh, bummer." The cot squeaked again. "Shit, they took the phone." Footsteps came toward him. She knelt beside him.
He saw her face splotched with purple and black bruises. "Bugger."
She touched her face and winced. "Lovely, huh?"
"Ye're always lovely. But I feel badly that ye were fighting for yer life, and I wasna able to help you."
"I feel badly for getting us into this mess." She looked him over. "They took your sporran." She gave him a sly look. "I mean your purse."
"Any idea where we are?"
"I'm guessing either western Russia or the Ukraine. I canna teleport or send psychic messages through the silver."
"Silver?" She glanced around, then up at the ceiling. "Good heavens, it's everywhere."
"I wish I could touch you," he whispered. "It grieves me to see ye in pain."
Her gaze lowered back to his face. With a small smile, she touched his cheek. "What happened while I was knocked out?"
"Uri and Alek attacked. Katya missed with her blowpipe and hit Uri."
Emma grinned, then winced at the pain. "Ouch. I guess the royal bitch managed to hit you eventually."
Emma gave him a worried look. "I get the feeling there's something personal between you and her."
Angus closed his eyes briefly. "It was a mistake. And a long time ago."
"She hates you now."
"She hates you, too."
Emma smiled. "Well, I did kill six of her men."
"'Tis more than that. She... suspects that I care very deeply about you."
Emma's smile faded. "She could be wrong."
Emma's eyes glistened with tears as she touched his face. "I'm so sorry. They would have never captured us if I'd stayed put like you asked."
"But they would have kept killing every night until we came. The showdown was inevitable."
She leaned closer. "I'll get us out of here. Somehow."
"We'll do it together."
She searched his eyes, and he thought his heart would break. Her gaze lowered to his mouth. She touched her lips against his, then sat up.