A cry of pain escaped her. She couldn’t stop it, and she couldn’t keep herself from crying because now the images became even more vivid. The Lyccans whom Domenico had spent his entire life protecting had turned their backs on him so quickly it had to have hurt him.
They were looking down on him – Domenico Moretti, the proudest man she knew – simply because he chose to love her.
She had been wrong.
He wasn’t weak because of her.
He had chosen to be weak for her.
“I never wanted him to do this.” She couldn’t control her sobs and she cried harder when Alessandro pulled her in his arms.
“I know, Misty.”
“I don’t want him to be weak because of me.”
“And he isn’t.”
She looked up at Alessandro in distress. “How can you say that?” she cried out. “Look at what happened earlier in the meeting. That little worm would never have been able to speak if---”
“Listen to me, Misty.” Alessandro waited until his sister-in-law --- and that was always how he would think of her, whether Misty and Domenico were married or not --- raised her gaze to meet his. “He’s not weak because of you. He’s stronger.”
She started to shake her head.
“Misty, it’s true. That was what I thought before, too, but this is Domenico, remember? He never does things easy. Everything has to be complex and layered with mystery.”
She couldn’t stop herself smiling a little at that, knowing that what Alessandro said was true.
“This was his way of making up for what happened last year. He wants everyone to see his suffering – the same way they saw you suffer. But…none of what they say or do really affects him, Misty. And that’s because he draws strength from the fact that he loves you. He’s happy with every day that he’s able to prove that he loves you. Because he thinks…he thinks by punishing himself it’s the only way he can win you back.”
She didn’t stop crying after that.
“Did you enjoy your time with the family?” Domenico was the first one to speak after leaving the Moretti compound and he did so only when they had crossed the portal leading to the Midways.
Throughout dinner, Misty had appeared subdued, unable to meet his gaze. And when she did, she looked unbearably sad. It made his heart clench. Perhaps she thought he was weak, too? If she learned of how most Lyccans belittled him now, would she be disgusted? Would she understand why he had allowed such things to happen?
He wanted to ask her so many questions but somehow he couldn’t, the words stuck in his throat. Fear was an emotion that he hadn’t been acquainted with until Misty came to his life. Now, he feared so many things and most of it had to do with losing her.
Even now, he had feared hearing her reject him, which was why it took him so long to think about something safe to talk about with her.
She glanced up at him, as if surprised that he was talking to her. “I-I’m sorry,” she stammered. “I was thinking…I…what were you saying?”
Domenico’s fists clenched. What was she thinking? Was she thinking how best to completely free herself from him? Did she truly prefer Lysander Allard to him?
His face hardened. “Nothing.”
He was furious, Misty realized with a sinking heart. “Domenico---”
“Just tell me when I’m boring you. I can shut up if you tell me to.”
She let out a little cry of pain when she realized how he had misunderstood everything. “It’s not like that. I was really thinking about something.”
“That’s your best excuse?” Domenico didn’t bother keeping the disgust from his voice…or even the frustration and bitterness. Was there truly no hope for them? Was it really better for him to let Misty go?
And because he was concentrating too hard on Misty, it took Domenico a few seconds later than usual to realize that they were not alone. The Midways might be perennially silent these days, but it was a silence born of a past that was long gone. The silence was never stealthy, as if concealing danger like now.
“Wh---” Misty was suddenly thrust behind Domenico just before he shifted and took the bullet that was meant for her. “Domenico!” But already his body was pushing the bullet out, the wound healing. He snarled, and she whirled around just in time to see men half-crawling, half-running towards them until they formed a threatening circle around her and Domenico.
Their red eyes and fangs told Misty what they were, even though it was her first time to see their kind up close. She got a sick feeling inside her stomach just looking at them, a mixture of fear and disgust. They reeked of evil, and although she was scared she didn’t want to cower behind Domenico. Misty could feel him tensing as she forced her way back to his side. If he could contact her telepathically he would be shouting at her right now.
“Surprised to see us, Lyccan?” the vampire crooned. His features were sharp and cruelly beautiful, and Misty could see why some women would willingly become his victims. Or at least women who were as depraved as this vampire was.
“Did you think the Midways were for you alone?”
Misty could feel Domenico gathering his strength, preparing for an attack. His side touched her calves, his tail brushing against her skin several times, as if comforting her.
They were outnumbered. She had counted twelve vampires and there were just the two of us. Misty doubted that Faeries would suddenly appear to give them aid since their race tended not to leave the realm after dark.
“This world is no longer yours – just as your pack left you to rut until you die.” The vampire cackled. “Did you get that? Rut until you die?”
Was it a good thing or bad thing that vampires apparently had a lame sense of humor? And why was she even thinking about it when she was in a life-or-death situation? Misty felt the stirrings of panic inside her, and she swallowed, knowing enough of vampires to try to keep her fear in control because it was what they thrived in.
Concentrate, she told herself. This was what she had been training sixteen months for.
The vampire’s red eyes flashed as they landed on Misty. “Don’t worry, human. The Master does not want you dead.”
She lifted her chin. “That’s too bad since I want all of you dead.” And with the element of surprise in her side, she let loose the throwing stars she always had with her. Like all other weapons of Faeries, the throwing stars were forged of steel dipped in the blood of the race’s fallen heroes. They were the only ones that non-Faeries could heal and represented a gift of trust from the race. Milo had also said it could be her greatest weapon since she did not have the stamina or the killing instinct to really wield a Faerie sword.