"Great. We just need to lure them here - " He stopped when the bolt scraped. "Och, that was easy."
Emma grabbed the stake off the floor, stuffed it into the waistband of her pants, and covered it with her shirttail. She scrambled to her feet. She swayed, and Angus steadied her.
"As soon as the door opens, we leave." He led her around the screen.
Movement by the window snagged his attention. Moonlight gleamed off the barrels of two hunting rifles. The mortal men were reclining on the ground, their rifles poking through the window, aimed at Emma and him.
"Silver bullets," Katya's voice announced through the cracked door. "Back away from the girl, Angus, or we'll shoot her."
He realized she had the mortals under such deep mind control, she could see what they saw through the window. There was no way to fool her. He released Emma and stepped back.
"Give me any trouble, Angus, and we're shooting you with so much nightshade, it'll be a week before you can move. Of course, by then you'll have starved to death." Katya opened the door just wide enough to slip inside. She had her blowpipe ready. Angus considered zipping toward her at vampire speed and breaking her foul neck, but she was as fast as him. She'd drug him for sure, and then how would he protect Emma?
Alek came in, followed by two more Russian vampires with revolvers.
"Burien and Miroslav have an endless supply of silver bullets," Katya boasted. "You will accompany them up the stairs."
Alek grabbed Emma and pressed a knife to her neck. "And if you teleport away, I'll slit her throat."
"I'll behave." Angus gave Emma what he hoped was a reassuring look. "So have ye decided to let us go?"
Katya snorted. "Casimir is coming to take you and your mortal whore. I'm sure he has lovely plans for the two of you."
Alek dragged Emma toward the door. When he had her halfway up the stone steps, Burien motioned for Angus to follow.
"Slowly," Katya reminded him. "Or I'll shoot you with nightshade."
Angus went up the stairs. The two mortals had hunting rifles aimed at Emma. Alek had released Emma, but stood on one side of her with his sword drawn. Galina was on the other side, also with a sword. That made a total of seven bad guys, Angus counted, including the two mortals. And they were all armed. Still, if he could get close enough to Emma, he could teleport her away. He sauntered across the grassy courtyard, hoping they wouldn't notice.
"Stop, or she dies," Katya warned him.
He halted. Emma looked far too pale in the moonlight. He'd left her too damned weak.
And if things weren't bad enough, three figures shimmered in front of the stone manor house, then solidified. Angus's breath hitched. He hadn't seen Casimir since the Great Vampire War of 1710, but there was no mistaking that harsh face and those cruel eyes. The war might have left him weak and injured, but he appeared fully recovered. Or was he? His left arm seemed bent at an odd angle, and he was wearing one glove. His dark eyes scanned everyone, his face blank until he spotted Angus.
He lifted his chin and narrowed his eyes. "General MacKay."
Angus nodded once. His old enemy had two bodyguards. He recognized Jedrek Janow on Casimir's left, perhaps to protect Casimir's weak spot. That was how Casimir worked. He sacrificed others to keep himself alive. With a pang, Angus realized he might have done the same thing with Emma.
Katya stepped forward and bowed from the waist. "We are honored by your presence, my lord."
Casimir's cold gaze wandered to Katya. "You kept calling and pestering me until I agreed to come."
"I meant no disrespect." Katya bowed again. "I merely wished to give you these gifts as a token of my gratitude and allegiance."
"You were told to deliver the slayer to Jedrek, and yet you did not. Is that how you display your allegiance?"
Katya gripped her hands together. "I wanted to deliver her personally, so I could assure you of my loyalty. And I have a special gift for you - General MacKay. I also saved your servant Jedrek a trip to New York."
"Your kindness is overwhelming," Casimir muttered. "Tell me, how did you display your allegiance to Ivan Petrovsky?"
Angus knew she was in big trouble. If he could get these vampires busy killing each other, he might have a chance to get close to Emma and teleport her to safety. "Katya murdered Petrovsky," he yelled. "I saw it myself. She and Galina staked him through the heart when he was unarmed."
Katya shot him a venomous look, then turned to Casimir. "MacKay is a traitor to our kind. He was helping the mortal woman slay my men."
Casimir glanced at Emma with a dismissive look. "A mere cockroach, easily disposed." His gaze returned to Angus. "But to have the general who defeated my last army - I shall savor his death."
"Then remember that I am the one who delivered him to you," Katya insisted. "I am your faithful servant."
Angus tilted his head. Was that an owl hooting in the woods? It sounded like the signal Ian and Robby liked to employ. "Ye canna trust her, Casimir. She betrayed ye once. She'll do it again."
Casimir lifted a hand, and Alek froze. "Are you giving orders, Katya, without my permission?"
She winced. "Forgive me. MacKay's lies make me forget myself."
"Lies?" Casimir's dark eyes shifted to Angus. "As much as I detest his kind, I have to admit they are disgustingly honest."
A blur of motion caught Angus's eye. A dozen people were standing on the three-foot-high stone wall that encircled the courtyard. Relief swept through him as he recognized his friends and employees - Ian, Robby, Jack from Venice, Mikhail from Moscow, Austin and Darcy Erickson, Jean-Luc Echarpe from Paris with two from his coven, and Zoltan Czakvar, the coven master of Eastern Europe, with two from his coven. Austin and Darcy had revolvers. The ten Vamps drew their swords.
Jean-Luc swished his foil through the air. "Let us settle this now, Casimir."
Casimir paled. He glared at Katya. "You traitor! You led me into a trap."
Casimir zoomed toward her and grasped her by the throat. "I will remember this betrayal."
Jedrek dashed forward and whispered in Casimir's ear. Casimir released Katya and stepped back.
She fell to the ground. "I didn't betray you. I swear I didn't."
Angus's friends jumped from the stone wall and slowly advanced.
Casimir eased behind his bodyguards and glared at the Russian vampires. "You will die tonight. You deserve to die." He and his bodyguards shimmered.
"Nay!" Angus ran toward Casimir just as the evil vampire vanished. "Damn!" He'd wanted to kill Casimir tonight. A sword swiped close to Angus's ear, and he jumped back. Alek was trying to kill him. "A sword!"
Angus leaped to the side and caught the sword Ian tossed him. Ian whipped his dagger from his sock and ducked when Burien took a swing at him. Robby jumped in to engage Burien and protect Ian.
Angus parried with Alek, drove him back, then skewered him through the heart. He watched with satisfaction as Alek turned to dust. No longer would the bastard stick a knife to Emma's throat.
Angus swiveled, looking for Emma. Jean-Luc was fighting Miroslav. Jack was taking his time with Galina, no doubt uncomfortable with the thought of killing a woman. But where the hell was Emma? Burien cried out as Robby stabbed him through the heart. The two mortals dropped their rifles and ran for the woods. Zoltan and his men chased after them. Galina screamed. Jack must have gotten over his hesitation.
Angus froze when he spotted Emma. Katya was dragging her toward the barn. Emma struggled, but was too weak to escape. He zoomed toward them, but Katya saw him coming and vanished, taking Emma with her.
"Nay!" Angus halted where they'd disappeared. There was no telling where they'd teleported to. And Emma was too damned weak to fight. It was all his fault. Guilt slammed into him, doubling him over.
Robby lay a hand on his shoulder. "We'll find them."
The Vamps blurred as they all zoomed around the property and into the woods, hunting for Emma. Minutes ticked by but felt like hours. Robby and Ian ran from the barn, declaring it clear. Seconds later, Jean-Luc and his two coven members emerged from the manor house, yelling that it was clear. The others had fanned out into the woods.
Angus jumped onto the stone wall and listened carefully. He turned north. Was that a scream? A woman's scream.
"This way!" He dashed into the woods. His companions spread out behind him.
"Emma!" Angus heard no response. God, he hoped he wasn't too late. If Katya kept teleporting, she could be far away.
He charged into a small clearing and skidded to a halt. His heart stuttered.
Ian stopped behind him. "She's still alive."
Barely. Angus knelt beside Emma. His heart twisted at the sight of her torn neck. Damn that Katya. She'd almost drained Emma dry.
A large amount of dust covered Emma. Her stake lay in her limp hand. She'd managed to use it while Katya was feeding. The slayer had killed one last vampire. Angus thanked God he had made her a stake. But he'd also made her weak.
"Oh, Emma." He pulled off his T-shirt and pressed it against her bleeding neck. His eyes welled with tears.
Tree branches and bushes rustled as more people rushed into the clearing.
"How is she?" Austin demanded.
Darcy gasped. "Oh my God. Are we too late?"
Robby squatted beside Angus. "I'm so sorry."
Angus gritted his teeth. "She's no' dead yet. We can give her a transfusion." He looked at Ian and Robby. "Doona ye have some bottles of blood in yer sporrans?"
Robby looked at him sadly. "We doona have the equipment for a transfusion."
"Then we'll teleport her," Angus said. "Roman can fix her."
Jean-Luc knelt on the other side of Emma. "It's still daylight in New York. There's only one way to save her, Angus, and you know what that is."
"Nay!" Angus blinked back tears. "I canna transform her. She couldna stomach being a vampire. They killed her parents."
"But she can be changed back," Darcy suggested. "I'm living proof of that."
Angus blinked. Of course! He'd been too panicked to realize there was another option. Did Emma still have the scrap of stained cloth? If not, he could leave her his T-shirt. It was soaked with her mortal blood.
"She's going fast," Jean-Luc warned him. "If she bleeds out, it will be too late to transform her."
Angus rubbed his brow. What choice did he have? And Roman could change her back. "This is all my fault. She's going to hate me."
Angus looked up. "I trapped ye in the body of a fifteen-year-old for all eternity."
Angus took a deep breath, then unwrapped the shirt from Emma's neck. He'd have to drain the last drop of blood from her. It had to be done by a vampire in order for her to slip into a vampire coma. Then he'd have to feed her his own blood. If she accepted it and drank, she'd become one of the Undead. If she rejected his blood, she would die.
"Can I borrow a sgian dubh?" He'd have to slice his arm to feed her.
Angus glanced at all his friends. "Could ye leave us alone?"
Emma remembered pain and darkness. Fear and terror. Katya's fangs ripping into her neck. A last cry for survival and the desperate use of her stake. More darkness. Murmuring voices. More fangs. How could Katya be back? Hadn't she killed that bitch? More darkness as Emma slipped deeper into a black pit.
Then a strange dream. Her mouth tasted of blood. She choked on the metallic bitterness.
More blood drizzled into her mouth. She was drowning in blood. Katya was killing her. She turned her head and coughed.
"Emma," the voice pleaded. "Drink it, please."
Angus? She opened her mouth to speak, but the words wouldn't come. She couldn't even open her eyes.
More blood poured into her mouth. She swallowed, and a comforting warmth spread through her body. She swallowed again, and it tasted sweet. What a silly dream. This couldn't be blood. It tasted too good. She drank and drank.
"That's it, sweetheart. Ye're doing fine."
Angus was happy with her. Angus loved her. Emma smiled. Angus was with her, and Katya was gone. This time when the darkness descended, she wasn't afraid.
With a jolt, Emma woke up. Her heart pounded in her chest so loud, she could hear it. A moment of panic seized her. She must be having a heart attack. She felt so strange, and she didn't know where she was.
Emma saw Austin standing by an open door. He had found her? Then she and Angus must have been rescued.
"I just popped it into the microwave," a woman's voice yelled from a distance.
Emma sat up. Black dots swirled around her head.
"Easy." Austin stepped toward her with a worried expression.
"I - I guess I'm still weak." Emma blinked and focused on Austin. He seemed sharper than usual. She could see the stubble on his chin and every individual strand of hair on his head. And his heart was beating so loud. How could she hear that? How could she hear her own heart? She pressed a hand to her chest and noticed she was wearing flannel pajamas. "How did I get these?"