"Get them out!" I yelled.
"Isaiah- " began Elena, breaking out of his grip.
He shoved me to the floor and spun around, staring at his escaping victims. I gasped for breath now that his grip on my throat was gone and peered back at the door through the tangle of my hair. I was just in time to see Mason drag Eddie over the threshold, out into the safety of the light. Mia and Christian were already gone. I nearly wept in relief.
Isaiah turned back on me with all the fury of a storm, his eyes black and terrible as he loomed over me from his great height. His face, which had always been scary, became something almost beyond comprehension. "Monstrous" didn't even begin to cover it.
He jerked me up by my hair. I cried out at the pain, and he brought his head down so that our faces were pressed up to one another's.
"You want a bite, girl?" he demanded. "You want to be a blood whore? Well, we can arrange that. In every sense of the word. And it will not be sweet. And it will not be numbing. It will be painful- compulsion works both ways, you know, and I will make sure you believe you are suffering the worst pain of your life. And I will also make sure your death takes a very, very long time. You will scream. You will cry. You will beg me to end it all and let you die- "
"Isaiah," cried Elena in exasperation. "Just kill her already. If you'd done it sooner like I said, none of this would have happened."
He kept his grip on me but flicked his eyes toward her. "Do not interrupt me."
"You're being melodramatic," she continued. Yeah, she really was whiny. I never would have thought a Strigoi could do that. It was almost comical. "And wasteful."
"Do not talk back to me, either," he said.
"I'm hungry. I'm just saying you should- "
"Let her go, or I'll kill you."
We all turned at the new voice, a voice dark and angry. Mason stood in the doorway, framed in light, holding my dropped gun. Isaiah studied him for a few moments.
"Sure," Isaiah finally said. He sounded bored. "Try it."
Mason didn't hesitate. He fired and kept firing until he'd emptied the entire clip into Isaiah's chest. Each bullet made the Strigoi flinch a little, but otherwise, he kept standing and holding on to me. This was what it meant to be an old and powerful Strigoi, I realized. A bullet in the thigh hurt a young vampire like Elena. But for Isaiah? Getting shot in the chest multiple times was simply a nuisance.
Mason realized this too, and his features hardened as he threw down the gun.
"Get out!" I screamed. He was still in the sun, still safe.
But he didn't listen to me. He ran toward us, out of his protective light. I redoubled my struggles, hoping I'd pull Isaiah's attention away from Mason. I didn't. Isaiah shoved me into Elena before Mason was halfway to us. Swiftly, Isaiah blocked and seized hold of Mason, exactly as he'd done to me earlier.
Only, unlike with me, Isaiah didn't restrain Mason's arms. He didn't jerk Mason upright by the hair or make long, rambling threats about an agonizing death. Isaiah simply stopped the attack, grabbed Mason's head with both hands, and gave a quick twist. There was a sickening crack. Mason's eyes went wide. Then they went blank.
With an impatient sigh, Isaiah released his hold and tossed Mason's limp body over toward where Elena held me. It landed before us. My vision swam as nausea and dizziness wrapped around me.
"There," Isaiah said to Elena. "See if that'll tide you over. And save some for me."
HORROR AND SHOCK CONSUMED ME, so much so that I thought my soul would shrivel, that the world would end right then and there- because surely, surely it couldn't keep going on after this. No one could keep going on after this. I wanted to shriek my pain to the universe. I wanted to cry until I melted. I wanted to sink down beside Mason and die with him.
Elena released me, apparently deciding I posed no danger positioned as I was between her and Isaiah. She turned toward Mason's body.
And I stopped feeling. I simply acted.
"Don't. Touch. Him." I didn't recognize my own voice.
She rolled her eyes. "Good grief, you're annoying. I'm started to see Isaiah's point- you do need to suffer before dying." Turning away, she knelt down to the floor and flipped Mason over onto his back.
"Don't touch him!" I screamed. I shoved her with little effect. She shoved back, nearly knocking me over. It was all I could do to steady my feet and stay upright.
Isaiah looked on with amused interest; then his gaze fell to the floor. Lissa's chotki had fallen out of my coat pocket. He picked it up. Strigoi could touch holy objects- the stories about them fearing crosses weren't true. They just couldn't enter holy ground. He flipped the cross over and ran his fingers over the etched dragon.
"Ah, the Dragomirs," he mused. "I'd forgotten about them. Easy to. There's what, one? Two of them left? Barely worth remembering." Those horrible red eyes focused on me. "Do you know any of them? I'll have to see to them one of these days. It won't be very hard to- "
Suddenly, I heard an explosion. The aquarium burst apart as water shot out of it, shattering the glass. Pieces of it flew toward me, but I barely noticed. The water coalesced in the air, forming a lopsided sphere. It began to float. Toward Isaiah. I felt my jaw drop as I stared at it.
He watched it too, more puzzled than scared. At least until it wrapped around his face and started suffocating him.
Much like the bullets, suffocation wouldn't kill him. But it could cause him a hell of a lot of discomfort.
His hands flew to his face, desperately trying to "pry" the water away. It was no use. His fingers simply slipped through. Elena forgot about Mason and jumped to her feet.
"What is it?" she shrieked. She shook him in an equally useless effort to free him. "What's happening?"
Again, I didn't feel. I acted. My hand closed around a large piece of glass from the broken aquarium. It was jagged and sharp, cutting into my hand.
Sprinting forward, I plunged the shard into Isaiah's chest, aiming for the heart I'd worked so hard to find in practice. Isaiah emitted a strangled scream through the water and collapsed to the floor. His eyes rolled back in his head as he blacked out from the pain.
Elena stared, as shocked as I'd been when Isaiah had killed Mason. Isaiah wasn't dead, of course, but he was temporarily down for the count. Her face clearly showed she hadn't thought that was possible.
The smart thing at that point would have been to run toward the door and the sun's safety. Instead, I ran in the opposite direction, toward the fireplace. I grabbed one of the antique swords and turned back toward Elena. I didn't have far to go, because she'd recovered herself and was heading toward me.