The darkness grew again. Maybe it was time to surrender. I was so very tired of hurting.

A commotion broke out among the rakshasas. They darted back and forth. Mart rose from his pillows and began barking orders. A group of rakshasas dashed through the arched door, brandishing bizarre weapons. My weak heart hammered faster.

It couldn't be.

More rakshasas ran and then I heard it, the low, rolling roar like distant thunder laced with rage.


I was hallucinating. He couldn't be there. I heard the pulse of propellers. We were still flying through the air.

The terrifying lion roar shook the vimana again, closer this time.

A wave of rakshasas flooded back into the chamber, bristling with weapons. A mangled body flew through one of the arched entrances. Livie sprinted to me and hid behind my cage.

The tide of monsters rallied and charged the entrance. They crashed against the doorway, struggled, and pulled back, bloodied. Curran burst into the chamber.

He wore the warrior form. Huge, gray fur stained with blood, he roared again, and the rakshasas shrank from the sound of his anger. He tore through them as if they were toy soldiers. Howls rang through the chamber as limbs were ripped, bones broken, and blood fountained in a pressurized spray.

He came for me. I couldn't believe it.

He came for me. Into a flying palace full of thousands of armed rakshasas in the middle of a magic jungle. Oh, you stupid, stupid idiot man. What was the God damn point of saving him only to watch him throw his life away?

Behind Curran an enormous beast charged into the room. Shaggy with dark fur, a huge muzzle gaping black, the beast roared and rammed the crowd. Giant paws swiped, crushing skulls. Mahon, the Bear of Atlanta.

A hellish creature thrust into the gap made by Mahon. She was corded with muscle, sandy brown and covered with spots. Her hands were armed with black claws. Fangs jutted out of her round jaws. She was grotesque and mind-numbingly terrifying. The beast howled and broke into an eerie hyena cackle. Every hair on the back of my neck stood on end.

Curran ripped his way to me. Cuts and wounds dotted his frame. He bled, but kept going, unstoppable in his fury and still roaring. His roar slapped your senses like a clap of thunder, shaking you to your very core. The rakshasas were too many. His only chance lay in panicking them into flight, but even panic wouldn't last long - sooner or later they would do the math and figure out that a couple hundred to three were pretty good odds, but as long as he kept blasting them with his roar and throwing them around, they couldn't think properly.

Mart thrust himself between my cage and Curran, his sword in his hands. The rest of the rakshasas pulled back, but Curran barely noticed. He lunged at Mart.

Blades flashed, impossibly fast. Mart spun out of the way and sliced deep into Curran's back.

The Beast Lord whipped about, oblivious to pain, and raked his claws across Mart, ripping his robes. Red blood swelled on Mart's golden skin. They collided. Swords struck, claws rent, teeth snapped. Mart sank his short blade into Curran's side. Curran growled in pain, wrenched free, dropped down, and swiped his leg under Mart, knocking him off his feet. Mart leapt straight up off the floor, both swords in his hands, and met Curran halfway. Dumb-ass move.

The Beast Lord hammered a punch into Mart's face. The rakshasa flew across the chamber, slid across the floor, and rolled to his feet. Curran chased him.

Mart spun like a dervish. His blades became a lethal whirlwind. Curran lunged into them, cuts blooming across his pelt, and grabbed at Mart. The rakshasa leapt straight up, soaring above the crowd.

Curran tensed. The monstrous muscles on his tree-trunk legs contracted like steel springs. He launched himself into the air. His claws caught Mart in midleap, hooking his leg. Mart struggled up, but Curran hung on, ripping chunks out of the rakshasa's flesh as he climbed up his body. The warped leonine mouth gaped and Curran bit Mart's side. They dropped like a stone and crashed to the floor a few feet from me. Mart slid free, slick with his own blood.

His gaze fastened on the Wolf Diamond, still sitting on its pedestal. He lunged for it. His bloodied fingers grasped the topaz. He backed away and bumped into my cage.

I thrust through the bars and stabbed Livie's knife into the base of his throat, between his left shoulder and the column of his neck. The puddle of my blood shivered, obedient to my will, and bit into his back with a hundred spikes.

The gem slipped out of his fingers.

I locked my arms on his neck, trying to choke him out, but I didn't have the strength.

Curran swept the Wolf Diamond off the floor, clamped his huge left hand onto Mart's shoulder, and smashed the topaz into Mart's face.

The rakshasa screamed.

Curran pounded him, hammering the gemstone into Mart again and again. Blood flew. The blows crushed Mart's perfection into bloody pulp. The sword fell from his fingers. Curran struck for the last time and ripped him from the cage, snapping my blood spikes, which dissipated into black dust. He twisted Mart's neck, snapping the spinal column, and shook the lifeless body at the crowd of rakshasas with a deafening roar.

They fled. They streamed out of the chamber through the arched doors, trampling one another in their hurry to get away.

Curran wrenched the cage bars apart.

"You suicidal moron," I rasped. "What are you doing here?"

"Repaying the favor," he snarled.

He pulled me out of the cage and saw the wound in my stomach. His half-form face jerked.

He pressed me against his chest. "Stay with me."

"Where would I . . . go, Your Majesty?" My head was spinning.

Behind us the taller of the nightmarish beasts swept the petrified Livie from behind the cage.

"It's all right," the monster told her, clamping her with one hand and holding the Wolf Diamond with the other. "Aunt B's got you."

At the opposite end of the chamber someone was fighting the current of fleeing rakshasas. A sword flashed and I recognized Hugh d'Ambray, with Nick at his heels. He saw us and shouted something.

"What is he doing here?" Curran growled.

"He's Roland's Warlord. He's here for me." He was here for the woman who had broken his master's blade.

"Tough luck. You're mine." Curran turned and ran, carrying me off. Hugh screamed, but the current of fleeing rakshasas pushed him out of the chamber.

I lay cradled in Curran's arms as he ran through the vimana. Others joined us, tall, furry shapes. I could no longer distinguish the different faces. I just rested in his arms, nearly blind, every jolt sending more pain stinging up my spine. Soft darkness tried to engulf me.

"Stay with me, baby."

"I will."

Tags: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Vampires
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