“Memorizing your scent for the hunt.”
She whimpered. “I didn’t mean for your guys to get hurt. I just wanted her dead.”
My eyebrow quirked. “Why?”
Realizing she’d slipped, she clamped her mouth shut and shook her head.
“Okay, why don’t you tell me how? You didn’t follow me to the park. I would have smelled you. How’d you know where to tell him to look for me?”
She smiled then, some of her bravado returning. “The owl. You were so stupid you didn’t even know he’s been spying on you for the Caste for weeks.”
I gritted my teeth together. “Adam told me Stryx was a spy for Lilith.”
“An old wives’ tale. Stryx has worked for the Caste for centuries.”
“That f**king owl. I always thought he was creepy.”
“I wouldn’t have had to use him at all if you’d died that first night like you were supposed to.”
I frowned at her. “What are you talking about?”
“The cleansing potion.”
My mouth fell open. Memory of the cleansing ceremony flashed in my head. Now I remembered how it had been Damara who handed Rhea the potion. “What did you put in it?”
“Apple juice and strychnine.”
I smiled evilly at her. “Nice try, you little bitch. I’m immune to the forbidden fruit.” Without the apple to remove my immortality the poison hadn’t killed me, but that certainly explained my violent reaction to the brew.
As Damara’s eyes widened, Slade gasped beside me. “You are?”
I looked at him. “Later.”
He nodded, but I could tell he was dying to ask more about it.
“Okay, Damara,” I said. “I’m growing bored here. I suggest you start giving me some useful answers before I let the vampire here go to town on you. What do you think, Slade? Have you ever fed from a mage?”
He pursed his lips, thinking about it. “I’ll admit I’ve been curious. She’s young, too. I bet her blood tastes like cotton candy.”
Damara’s eyes went hard. “You killed my mom.”
I frowned. Rhea had told me Damara’s mother had died at the Dominae’s vineyard, but I hadn’t killed any mages. “No, I didn’t. Clovis Trakiya killed those mages.”
“Because you led him there. Without you, my mother might still be alive.”
Memory of dozens of mages hooked up to life support while their blood was slowly drained from their bodies intruded. No doubt about it, the Dominae had no plans to release those mages. Once their bodies stopped producing blood, their bodies would have been discarded like yesterday’s newspapers.
I laughed humorlessly. “Don’t fool yourself, little girl. If Clovis hadn’t killed them, the Dominae would have. I went to the vineyard to save your mother and the other mages, not kill them.”
She frowned. “You were working for Clovis.”
I shook my head. “I was sent to kill Clovis. I was only pretending to work for him. When I found out about the Dominae’s blood-farm operation, I tried to save the mages. The truth is Clovis screwed all of us over. He said he wanted to save the mages, but he killed them to frame the Dominae.”
Her face fell. “But they told me—”
The tears fell then. Her shoulders slumped, making her look like a pitiful child. My conscience kicked in. Obviously, the Caste had manipulated her, but that didn’t let her off the hook for trying to kill me or my demon.
I kneeled next to her. “Look, I know you’re angry. You wanted revenge for losing your mom. Believe me, I understand wanting to punish someone for the pain. But I didn’t kill your mom. Tell me why the Caste is after me, and I’ll make sure they pay.”
She sniffed and shook her head. “You can’t stop them.”
“Let me try.”
“What does it matter?”
“Because I need to know who I’m up against.”
She shook her head sadly. “It’s already too late. They told me if I didn’t deliver you to them by eleven-thirty, they would attack the mages at midnight.”
“What?” I raised my voice. “Why are they going to attack the mages?”
“It’s too late!”
I shook her shoulders. “We have forty-five minutes to warn Maisie and the council. It’s not too late. Tell me, Damara! Help me save them.”
She became hysterical, sobbing and shaking. I smacked her face. “Tell me!”
“They’ll do anything to make sure the war happens.”
“Because they want Lilith to return.”
The room went absolutely still in the aftermath of that bomb. Goose bumps broke out on my skin, and my stomach felt like I’d swallowed cement. “What?”
“The Praescarium Lilitu prophesied that if one of the dark races ever wipes out another, Lilith will return. The Caste knows about Maisie’s prophecy that you’re going to unite all the dark races, so they need you out of the equation. When you killed the faery, we thought everything would be fine. No one would listen to you anymore. But when the queen withdrew her support, the council voted against going to war.”
A million questions rushed to the tip of my tongue. But at that point, all I needed to know was what was going to happen in forty-five minutes at the Crossroads. “So they’re going to attack the mages? How will that force a war?”
Damara’s face went hard. “You don’t get it, do you? The Caste itself isn’t attacking the mages. The Dominae are.”
My veins froze. “What?” I whispered.
Damara’s voice filled with acid. “If I’d known when I joined that the Dominae were so involved, I never would have agreed to help them. But by the time I found out, it was too late. I begged them not to attack the council.” Her voice cracked. “That’s when they said they’d give me one more chance. But since I failed to deliver you to them, they’re going to wipe them out.” A sob racked her body, but I was beyond sympathy.
“How’d they convince the Dominae to attack?”
“Easy. One of those bitches is a member of the Caste.”
“Which one?” I demanded, my voice as icy as my blood.
Adrenaline kicked into overdrive. I turned to Slade. “I need your car.”
He shook his head. “If you think I’m letting you go in there by yourself, you’re crazy.”