“And I told you,” I began, slowly pulling the pole out of my chest, “that I’d kill you.” With the pole finally out of my body, my skin instantly knitted together. Eloise blanched. “And I will.”
How could I not relish the utter shock on Eloise’s face just then? I slung the huge pole aside. “Go help the squad, Jared. This bitch is mine.”
Jared sighed at Eloise, shaking his head sadly. “You really should have known better.” He then smiled at me. I could sense his amusement. “Have fun, baby.”
Oh I bloody would. This waste of skin and fangs had had this coming since the evening she arrived. Jared kissed my temple, and then he was gone…and I was so, so happy because I could finally do what I’d been fantasising about doing for weeks. “Just think. If you had a better aim, someone would be laying a bunch of roses over my ashes right about now.” Using the energy clinging to me, I conjured my energy whip and lashed it tauntingly at Eloise.
She jerked back, gulping. “You’re going to attack someone who’s unarmed?”
Her eyes bulged. “But that’s not fair!”
“Fair? You want to talk about fair?” I lashed the whip at her legs, slicing the skin. “It wasn’t fair when you tried to kill me – particularly since you slyly attacked me from behind. It wasn’t fair when you spent weeks trying to make my life hell. It wasn’t fair when you repeatedly flirted with Jared, my mate. And it really, really, really wasn’t fair when you betrayed the entire Hollow and almost caused the death of everyone in it.”
I slashed the whip along her chest, making her cry out. “Look at the destruction around you, Eloise. If you hadn’t betrayed us by telling Covington where the tunnels were, he couldn’t have invaded the place like this. And all these people wouldn’t be dead. So am I going to kill you? Yes. Yes, I am. And I’m going to enjoy it.” I lashed the whip again, curling it around her body and pinning her arms to her sides. That usual smug glint was absent now. “You weren’t fair to us, so tell me why I should be fair to you?”
To my total shock and horror, the whip suddenly split – yes, split – and Eloise dropped to the ground. When the portion of the whip that was wrapped around her body faded away, she quickly scrambled to her feet. That was when I saw Dana in my peripheral vision coming towards us, holding a large energy axe. I was betting that she had been aiming for me, not the whip.
“Impressive,” said Dana. That squeaky voice was annoying as shit. “The whip, I mean. I’ve never been able to conjure one of those. This is more my thing anyway.” She waved the axe around. Smug once more, Eloise laughed in delight, though the sound was shaky.
“Two against one?” How typical of them to take advantage of the fact that I was on my own. “Fine, if that’s how you want it. Novo.” A red Dexter hissed as he left his tattoo form, and was now curled around my leg. Eloise and Dana stiffened. “I figure this evens out the playing field a little.” I gently coaxed him to the ground. He stayed there with most of his body raised from the floor, ready to strike. He hissed at Eloise, making her gulp. Oh she knew just how badly he wanted to take a bite out of her. He’d had her in his sights for a while.
I spoke to Eloise. “So, basically, this is what will happen: if you try to attack me while I deal with dear little Dana here, Dexter will deal with you. If you try to run, he’ll be on you before you can even retreat one step. That’s why snakes of this breed are called ‘Strikers’. So be a good girl and wait there nicely, and then you’ll have your turn.”
Dana snorted. “You don’t need to run, Eloise. I can handle her.”
“Now that you’re hyped up on hybrid energy, you mean? It doesn’t work like that. Your system’s not made to take it because you’re a Pagori, not a hybrid. That’s why your hands are shaking and you’re looking a little unsteady. I’d imagine you’ve got a killer headache as well.”
The pain etched into the lines of her forehead told me that I was right. “It doesn’t matter, freak. What matters is that you die. And now the end is near.”
“And so I face the final curtain,” I sang, daring her with my eyes to act.
Snarling, she charged toward me at vampire speed and swung the axe at my neck. She was fast and sharp, I’d give her that. But I’d pre-empted her. I slammed up my shield, watching in satisfaction as she collided into it and then bounced backwards, hitting the ground hard. I pursed my lips. “Not bad.”
I was kind of curious as to what she could do, about how in control of her gift she was. Feeders were extremely rare, so I hadn’t met many. Had the circumstances been different, we could have swapped notes. But considering that I was sure her high-pitched voice was capable of making my ears bleed, I doubted that we’d have spoken for long whatever the circumstances.
Hissing, she jumped to her feet. “Drop the shield. Or are you too scared to fight me?”
I chuckled. “Anyone who knows me would tell you that even if I was scared, I’d still challenge you – no one gets away with hurting my mate. You’re going to suffer. And I’m going to enjoy making you suffer.”
“Then let’s play. We both know our power level is even right now. This will be all about who has the best techniques.” She remoulded her axe into a spear and aimed it at my shield.
To my surprise, the spear actually pierced it enough to make the shield shrink like a balloon. I could have reinforced the shield, but I instead let it fade away. “Again, not bad.” Before she could attack again, I blew out a long breath of energy; an air blast powerful enough to send her crashing into the tree behind her.
Pagori speed had her in front of me in a blink, aiming a hard punch at my jaw. But having the Pagori speed that came with being a hybrid, I was just as fast. I caught her fist and yanked hard, dislocating her wrist. Then I grabbed her by the throat and slammed her onto the ground. Flat on her back, she inhaled sharply, and then went into a fit of coughing. I circled her body as she slowly gathered herself. Taking a moment to check on Eloise, I saw that she was frozen in place, wide-eyed. Dexter’s unblinking gaze was still locked on her.
Finally, Dana popped her wrist back into place and got to her feet. “You bitch!”
“Sorry, old habits die hard.”
“Kill her, Dana!” screeched Eloise. Ooh, bloodthirsty. Of course, she soon shut up when Dexter hissed at her again.