He smirks, nudging Maxim’s shoulder with his foot. Then he shrugs, rolling his head on his neck, and I see he’s toying with me. “Fine. Consider it done. If you fulfill your promise, I will fulfill mine. But you better not dawdle, Seleme. You have two minutes to complete the mating. Gives new meaning to the word ‘quickie,’ doesn’t it?” His laugh turns my stomach.
Alberto urges me forward again, his hand on my back, but before I can smack him away again, he grabs me around my waist, throwing me over his shoulder as though I’m a feather, and I feel his strength as he locks an arm around my legs, my torso hanging down his back.
My hair hangs in my face as he carries me toward the door. The last thing I see is the sorrow in my father’s eyes, the horror in my mother’s, the fury in Anna’s, but the only thought I have is: Thank God Maxim does not have to watch what’s happening because I know it would kill him.
“Better hurry,” Michael says as Alberto steps through the doorway into the bare room.
As he does, there’s a flutter down low in my belly. The walls begin to glow. Everything is glowing. No, it’s not them, it’s me. It’s inside my eyes.
I’m changing. I can feel it.
Something is growing inside me, it’s pulsing.
I didn’t know what to expect, but it’s happening. I only have a few minutes left, and from the urgency in Alberto’s steps, he must feel it, too.
I take one last look at Maxim, lying on the floor, and try to push away all the thoughts of what could have been. He’ll never look at me the same way again, but an eternity with the memory of what we had, as brief and fleeting as it was, will sustain me through it all.
It has to.
As long as it saves the people I love.
Don’t let any of them know that you’re conscious.
I felt it as that vampire gripped my throat, some sort of layer between his fingers and my flesh. It held him away as he tried to strangle me, and the voice in my head, the voice of the vampire they all call Anna, told me to pretend.
So that’s what I did.
Now what? I ask silently.
You’ve got one shot, human; don’t waste it. Your friend is about to come through that door, and when he does, you’re going to go for your knife. Put it through Michael’s heart if you can, but through any part of his flesh if not.
I laugh bitterly inside my head. I don’t think a knife is going to do much except annoy him, but sure, whatever, I don’t want to live without Seleme anyway.
It will. Pure silver is a cleansing agent. Pure-blood vampires are repelled by it. It will hurt the Messinas more than it does most vampires. Be ready. In a few seconds, all our lives will be hanging in the balance.
One shot, of course it comes down to that. A single roll of the dice. My life may very well end tonight, but without Seleme, it’s over already, so what the hell?
I feel the weight of my knife in the side of my boot.
My muscles tense as I gather all my energy for one surge of power. I’ll do as Anna says, but after that, I need to get to her. I have to stop what’s about to happen. I will die trying to protect her. I will not go silently.
As they start into the bedroom, Alberto stops, turning to his father.
“She’s pregnant.” He drops Seleme unceremoniously to the floor. “She’s pregnant, Jesus Christ, I can feel it.” He shakes his hands, his face twisted in revulsion.
“What? It’s not possible.” Seleme’s father’s voice is first, then Michael speaks revelation dawning on his face.
“She’s been with the human. She’s carrying his baby. She cannot honor the agreement. You will all die for this.”
A hush falls, and in the silence, I hear the door handle click. There’s a whoosh of fresh air, and I know this is the only chance we’ll have. I squint, opening my eyes only slightly to see what’s happening. Everyone turns to the sound, and it’s like it’s all moving in slow motion.
On a roar, I heave and launch myself up off the floor, turning toward Michael. His eyes go wide, but my knife is already in my hand. I hear his scream, see his attempt to deflect me.
Just as his hand comes up, from the side a black flash comes flying through the open door.
A wild sound, an animal, and I see Maltese flying through the air landing on Michael’s head, his claws bared, mouth open and he grabs onto his face like that creature in Alien, giving me the few seconds I need.
I’m a man possessed, and I plunge the blade deep into Michael’s throat while he tries to tear Maltese from him. His last motion is to throw the animal to the ground, but his eyes are wide as I watch his mouth fall open, his body collapsing.