Выбрать главу

She wrapped her fingers around the handle without hesitation. It was warmed from the heat of Hugh's body, but she felt no great power in it. Strange that she should feel so little for a thing that caused so much pain.

The nosferatu's triumphant laugh echoed through the room. She took a step toward it, and Anthony's arms came around her waist and held her fast, while his mouth pressed to her ear.

His voice was tortured. "He will betray you the moment he has the sword," he said. "We will not have time to reach you. I cannot watch you die."

Her eyes on Robert, she said, "I have to believe it will come out right."

"If she becomes a Guardian, that would be a fine conclusion," Lilith called out, her voice mocking.

Anthony's arms tightened around her. "Though I would keep you with me forever, having you die in this way would not be worth it."

With gleaming eyes, the nosferatu let go of Robert's hand. She winced as the boy's knuckles banged sharply against the floor. "Give me the sword, and I will leave you all unharmed," he said. His stare penetrated, persuaded.

Emily felt the insidious twist of his mind in hers and closed herself off from his lies.

The sword grew heavy in her grasp. "Anthony, you cannot hold me here. I am not immortal, and we do not have forever. Robert and I must move on—I must go forward." Though her chest ached to say them, every word that came from her rang with truth.

"You do not have to sacrifice yourself in this way; I cannot allow it. We will fight it—"

Anthony's voice was cut off, and his arms were pulled from around her waist. She tore her gaze from the nosferatu to see Hugh's forearm wrapped around Anthony's neck, dragging him away. Anthony's eyes burned with rage, but he could not break the grip of the older Guardian.

Hugh's face was grim and full of regret. "We cannot interfere with her actions; we must respect her free will," he said.

"The nosferatu doesn't," Lilith observed dryly. The demon's red eyes were bright with amusement.

Emily turned back toward the nosferatu. She could not look at Anthony again; she did not want to see the anger nor the entreaty—nor the grief.

I have to believe it will come out right.

She held the sword in front of her, the tip pointed at the nosferatu as if in defense, though she knew with his speed he could easily deflect any blow.

A final look at Robert strengthened her, and the trembles of fear that had made the sword an iron weight ceased. She strode forward, never taking her eyes from the creature, making plans and calculations with each step. If she dove for Robert the moment he took the sword, perhaps she would gain enough time for the Guardians to protect her. If she dropped the sword, perhaps that would give her—and them—even more time.

Stopping when the tip of the sword was inches from the nosferatu, she said, "You may take it."

And then she did none of those things she planned, because the nosferatu looked past her shoulder and his eyes widened in surprise—and in that moment of distraction, she slid the blade forward and his stomach parted like water.

He screamed in rage. She nearly fell back with the force of it, but strong, familiar hands covered hers, twisting the sword and dragging it up through bone and muscle. The scream gurgled to silence as the blade bisected heart and lungs. The nosferatu stared at them, his mouth gaping open, fangs red with his own blood. When he collapsed to his knees, Anthony pulled the sword from his chest and severed the neck with one sharp blow.

Emily crumpled to the floor and pulled Robert into her arms. Her hands smoothed over him, and a sob broke from her lips when she found him uninjured, breathing as if in a deep sleep.

Through tears of relief, she glanced up at Anthony. He stood stiffly, and she recognized his protective stance. She followed his gaze and gasped in horror.

The bloody point of Lilith's sword protruded from Hugh's chest. The Guardian's face was pale, his lips drawn tight. He gripped the blade of the sword with both hands, as if to stop the demon from repeating the same motion that Anthony had used to kill the nosferatu.

With a growl, Lilith lifted her foot and booted him forward off her sword. He fell to his knees, clutching his hands against the stain spreading across the front of his robe. She looked at Anthony and eyed Michael's sword greedily. "He was inhibiting your free will, after all. And mine. I was itching for a good fight. Now, be a good pigeon and give me that little toy."

Anthony's smile was like ice. "No."

Her lower lip pushed out in an exaggerated pout. "But doesn't the little doctor want to heal his friend? How will you save Hugh and keep the sword, I wonder?"

"Like this," Anthony said, and Emily felt a pulse of power, similar to when Hugh had used his Gift on Lilith. She pulled Robert closer and grinned. "I've always learned quickly."

Lilith watched Hugh doubtfully and then sighed in disappointment when the Guardian rose to his feet. "Oh, well—my father would have just taken it from me anyway." Her sword vanished, and her gaze fell on the nosferatu. "Perhaps we should go make a vampire while the blood is still warm? I may as well wreak some permanent havoc while I'm here."

Chapter Eleven

There is almost always another choice.

— The (Amended) Doyen Scrolls

Emily tipped the fourth cup of the nosferatu's blood to Colin's lips, watching in awe as his body regained its previous weight with each drink, as his hair thickened and seemed to grow. His skin paled slightly and took on a subtle luster, like light on a freshly washed face.

"This is revolting," Lilith said as she squeezed the nosferatu's body with manic glee, catching the last bit of blood in a basin on the floor.

Emily agreed, but Colin hadn't had the strength to feed himself. She and Anthony had been feeding him alternate cups. He sat quietly next to her now, his hand on her thigh, his expression pensive.

"He's rather attractive, isn't he?" Lilith set the basin on the bed, watching as Colin slowly drained the last of the blood from the cup. "Though I do wish he had killed you when I locked you in here with him."

Emily choked on a laugh. Robert was sleeping soundly in his bed, her brother was going to live, and the nosferatu was dead. Nothing Lilith said or did now could pierce her happiness. "I wish I could say I'm sorry, but I'm not." She dipped the cup in the basin to refill it. "Where is Mrs. Kemble?"

Lilith made a disgusted noise. "At this moment, likely changing her grandchild's shit-filled nappy."

Emily smiled softly to herself. "And Aggie? The upstairs maid?"

"I had no idea who the hell you were speaking of, so I lied." Lilith shifted her gaze from Colin to Emily. "You should have been easier to manipulate, but aside from the nightmares, you resisted most of my suggestions. It's as if you are tainted with goodness. Both of you. I don't like it, and it makes me want to vomit," she said conversationally.

"You should leave," Anthony suggested, his voice hard with dislike.

"I should," Lilith agreed. "But then you would have to leave, and you don't really want that, do you?"

His gaze locked with Emily's. The soft glow of his blue eyes contained a wealth of emotion, and he didn't need to answer Lilith's question.

Emily's chest burned, but she was saved from tears as Colin jerked upright and blinked at them.

His eyes widened in horror when he saw Anthony.

"Good God, Ramsdell! Are you in your shirtsleeves? And what sadistic butcher cut your hair?"

Emily dissolved in laughter.

She found Anthony in her room, staring at her bed.

He attempted a smile when she slipped her arms around his waist, but she could see how half-hearted it was.