I glared at him. “I don’t know. I can’t pretend to know you that well anymore. For instance, you never used to insist on conducting personal business in front of your men. Is that one of the ways you get your kicks these days?”

I could see the moment the nerve under his golden eye started to tick. “Don’t flatter yourself that this is personal,” he spoke menacingly, each word threatening me to contradict him.

I swallowed, and took a deep breath. His gaze stayed mercilessly on my face. I just wasn’t sure how to get through to this new Dom. “I’ll answer any question you ask, if we can do this in private.”

His cold gaze ran down my body insinuatingly. “Answers. Is that all you’re offering?”

Man, I wanted to punch him. It took me a minute to stifle the urge. “Aren’t answers what you want? Is there something else that you’re asking for?”

He took exception to the wording. “I ask for nothing.” His voice raised only slightly, but a chill ran down my spine at his obvious rage. The other druids bowed their heads low as they felt the punch of his power.

I spread my hands in defeat. “Fine. You want nothing. This isn’t personal. If you couldn’t care less about any of this, why are you here?”

His right hand shot out, gripping my neck lightly. His hands were large enough, his fingers long enough, that he could span a great deal of it with just the one hand. “You tread too carelessly here, Jillian,” he rasped. “Don’t presume to know me after all these years. You far overestimate my care for your welfare.” It occurred to me suddenly what he was doing. Was this all just a matter of his pride? I supposed that the only way to find out was to test him. Fuck his pride.

I pressed my neck harder into his hand. “Are you rescinding your protection of me, then? Am I fair game now, to all of the druids that hate me? Just say the word and they’ll have me taken care of within a month. A year maybe, if I run fast enough. Is that what you came here to tell me?” I threw my trump card at the bastard with no expression on my face.

He shut his eyes tightly, and I knew I’d won. He turned his rage-filled eyes on the men who’d stood silently and watched our tableau. “I do not rescind protection. If anyone touches her, I’ll make them pay, and pay dearly. Leave us!” His voice built into a roar at the end.

When we were alone, he moved his snarling face against mine, until we were nose to nose. “I met with the dragons this morning, as I can see you’ve guessed. They’ve proposed to ally with us, to lend their support to our numbers. They would be a formidable weapon to add to our army. They had only a few, peculiar requests. If those requests aren’t met, they’ve sworn to go actively rogue.”

A knot formed in my throat, despair trying to choke me. “What were the requests?” I asked, though I had a good idea already. My mind began to work furiously. If he took me into custody, I had to find a way to warn Lynn. She could still get away.

He pushed away from me, beginning to pace. “Both requests are deal-breakers for them. We must agree categorically, or find ourselves at odds with their wishes. We adjourned the meeting long enough for me to deliberate with the council. I give them my answer first thing in the morning.”

“What were the requests?” I asked again.

“The first is that we help them retrieve two of their own. Apparently two of their daughters left the clan a long time ago. One was a prisoner, the other a runaway who helped her escape. Both brought grave dishonor to the dragons. They have been named heretic, an apparently grave charge to the draak. They are to face the justice of their people. They will show no mercy.”

My body was shaking, but I was proud my voice came out steady. “What was the other request?”

“The other request was not so unexpected. As you know very well, the dragonslayers have long been on our rosters. They have, for the most part, been abiding by our laws for centuries. The draak request that they be named rogue and given into the dragon’s custody. Understandably, there’s some animosity between those two enemies.”

It shed a whole new light on Dom’s interest in Christian’s involvement in our skirmish at the fair. It could be named a rogue act, and help to justify the changing of alliances.

I was silent for awhile, eyes clenched tightly shut. Me and Christian were caught. But Lynn still had a chance to get cleanly away. I needed to get to a phone. “So that’s why you came here? To take us both into custody?” I tried to keep the fear out of my voice.

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

The Element of Fire

 He was suddenly back in my face, angrier than ever. “Is that the only logical conclusion to you?” His wolf eye had succumbed to the beastcall, but his blue eye was shining with emotion, and his gravelly voice was all human. All pain. “No, actually, that is far from the reason I came here. I came here to tell you that I know what you are now, and that I didn’t have to learn this way. I’m going to refuse their offer tomorrow. We would never turn on our allies. And we hardly make a habit of handing over innocent women to the grisly justice of any clan. There was never a time that the druids would have considered accepting such a treaty. Not fifty years ago. Not even seven. I came here because I wanted you to know that. You killed anything we had when you betrayed me, and broke your oath. There’s no going back from that. But I wanted you to know that you-“ he swallowed hard, visibly trying to calm himself, “you were an idiot if you thought I wouldn’t have protected you.”

I laid my hand on his shoulder, but he wrenched away, pacing. The relief I’d felt just a second before, when I’d realized he wasn’t here to take us, left as quickly as it had come. Now I felt fresh a pain that should have been more dulled by the years.

“It wasn’t just that, Dom, and we both know it. You were assumed heir to one of the Arch positions, and your people hated me. The demons of my past were just one thing in a very long list of reasons why it never could have worked. Your people mate with humans, or other druids. I’m neither. You wanted Arch. You lived for it, more than anything. You’ve been preparing for it since you were a child. Your uncle would never have held elections while I was around. And your people never would have elected you to Arch with a mysterious Other as consort. And you refused to take it through combat.” Who was I trying to convince? I wondered. Him, or myself? I didn’t like the answer, so I made my mind ignore the question.


Tags: R.K. Lilley Heretic Daughters Vampires
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