As I watched them work, I realized that I was sitting on the ground, my knees clutched to my chest pathetically. No one came near me. Tears ran silently down my cheeks, and I felt utterly defeated. Having your best friend try to chop your head off will do that, I guess.

As the full extent of Dom’s wounds became clear, my numb mind began to work. This hadn’t been the clean ambush we’d been planning on. The necros had been fully prepared for battle. They had known Dom was coming, and made their best effort to kill him. They had clearly been warned.

Cam’s mind was apparently on the same track. “They were expecting us,” he was telling Dom. Dom merely nodded, his face a mask.

“Someone planned your assassination tonight. Half of their force came after you.” Cam’s voice was grim.

Dom smiled slowly. It was chilling. “That was no assassination. Let them come for me. All the better.”

As the team of healers continued to work, a tiger plowed through them, knocking several of the white-clad druids over in it’s haste.

The tiger shifted in a heartbeat into the naked form of Siobhan. Apparently she had recovered quickly enough for the battle. She hugged Dom tightly, unmindful of both his injuries, and the now scattered healers. “Thank the gods you’re alrig-,” she stopped as Dom pushed her away.

“Let the healers do their work, Siobhan,” Dom growled at her, not even bothering to look in her direction. “The battlefield is no place for that kind of behavior. For god’s sake, show a little restraint.”

She was visibly distraught at his put-down. I didn’t even self-examine myself for sympathy. I knew I had none where she was concerned.

“What will you do with him?” I asked Dom. I was dismayed at my still tear-filled voice.

He turned his cold gaze to me. “Any regrets yet about the company you’ve preferred for all these years?”

I shook my head at him as more tears slipped down my cheeks. He just watched me for a moment, stone-faced. Finally, he relented. “The geas will be hard for his body to accept. It’s nature goes against his most powerful instincts. We’ll keep him safely in custody until he acclimates.”

“Thank you,” I told him softly, closing my eyes.

“Don’t thank me for sparing him. It just makes me want to change my mind,” he growled.

“Well, well, well,” a hated voice purred at me. I’d known it was only a matter of time. The bitch had never been able to shut her mouth for long. “How the high and mighty have fallen. Was that fight too much for our poor little Jillian?” Siobhan asked, a snicker in her voice.

“Someone please put a muzzle on that bitch,” was my diplomatic reply. I didn’t even bother opening my tired eyes. There was a lot I couldn’t predict about Dom anymore, but I knew he wouldn’t let her near me.

“Nice hair.” I could hear the smirk in her voice. Goddammit, I thought. My hair seemed particularly partial to lavender lately. It would have been my last choice, so of course that’s what I got stuck with. Typical.

I opened my eyes, curling my lip at her. “Just shut it before I find out if you’re flame-retardant.”

“I wouldn’t say that too loud around here if I were you, Jillian. You’re not exactly surrounded by friends. Oh yeah, and didn’t your best friend just try to take your head? Imagine what the rest of us would like to do.”

I raised rage-filled eyes to her. It was a simple thing to turn the rage I felt for circumstances beyond my control onto someone I already despised. “Keep talking, Bitch. I’m quickly forgetting why it’s a bad idea for me to take your head.” My voice was filled with menace.

“Please try it.” Her voice had gone beast. “I’ll hang your head on my wall like a f**king trophy!”

I was taken aback for a moment by her reference to the druids long buried habit of head-hunting. Usually it was a topic they refused to talk about, along with several of the less than peaceful aspects of their history. Apparently Siobhan wouldn’t mind bringing at least one of those practices back.

“That’s enough, Siobhan. Go help with cleanup,” Dom ordered.

“Jillian, could you come with me real quick?” Caleb’s voice called out from the dark. He stepped closer, and I wondered how long he’d been waiting, unseen, to speak. I supposed it couldn’t have been long since he was slightly out of breath.

“Where’s Lynn?” I asked, immediately noticing that he was alone.

“Um, she’s ok,” he answered, but something in his voice bothered me. He seemed way too ruffled, a characteristic that was usually anathema to Caleb. “Just a little tied up at the moment. Everything ok with you?”

I nodded, wiping at my wet cheeks. Caleb was the last person I wanted to see me crying. “Christian tried to chop my head off a few minutes ago, but I’m dealing with it.”

He wasn’t amused. His eyes swung to Dom, narrowing. “You kill him, Druid?” he asked softly.

Dom just bared his teeth, not bothering to answer.

“How’d he find out?” Caleb’s gaze swung back to me.

“It was my fault. I started to shift in the fight. I couldn’t control it. I didn’t complete the shift, but it was enough.”

His eyes widened. “I have to say, I’d have paid to see that. Next time we have one of these things, I might have to roll with you.”

I curled my lip at him.

“So, um, could you come with me? I could use your help with something.”

I stood, brushing off my tattered clothes as though they were still intact enough to even bother with. I nodded at him to lead the way as I started walking.

“Wait,” Dom ordered from behind me. I looked back. “When you’ve finished there, I need to ask you some questions. Sloan here will go with you to help you find your way back.”

At his words, a tall woman stepped out of the shadows. Apparently I was off my game tonight, with both her and Caleb approaching me, undetected. I knew Sloan well, she was one of the few druids I’d been friendly with back in the day. Our relationship had never been close, but we’d understood each other. She was a tall, lithely muscular woman, a fighter through and through, and I’d always felt a sort of kinship with her. She was no-nonsense, but always fair, and I’d long respected that.

Her long, straight, pitch-black hair was braided back tonight, so the expression on her even, eurasian features was hard to miss. She looked at me with loathing now, and I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Tags: R.K. Lilley Heretic Daughters Vampires