Home > Catalyst (Vampire Apocalypse #2)(12)

Catalyst (Vampire Apocalypse #2)(12)
Author: H.M. Ward

Will grabbed Kahli's arm and screamed, "Go! We have to go! Now!" Another blast shook the floor and chunks of concrete fell from the ceiling.

Will shoved her toward the door just as part of the wall caved in. Rock slid down and dust formed a powder cloud that filled the room. Kahli gasped for air, glancing back over her shoulder. "Will!" she screamed, trying to see him.

Before she could go back, the side of the hill collapsed. A massive opening appeared. Earth and sunlight poured in like rain. Kahli was momentarily blinded. Holding her hand to her face, she tried to block the sun to see what was happening. As everything settled, she could see someone standing there, right at the rim of the hole. He was a slim black shadow against a blinding array of light. Kahli's eyes couldn't adjust to the light fast enough. Before she knew what was happening, there was a flash, and suddenly a handcuff wrapped around her wrist. It was connected to a chain. The man above yanked the chain hard. Kahli fell forward, one arm was nearly ripped out of its socket, as she was pulled from the blown-apart safe house.

"Better hold on, dear," Reggie shouted down to her, as he hoisted Kahli up. A pleased grin covered his face, as the girl reached the top. Kahli yelled and kicked, but she mostly just tried to keep her arm attached to her body. When she reached the top, Kahli clung to the ground trying to ignore the screaming pain in her arm. Tears filled her eyes. The pain wouldn't stop. He dislocated her shoulder pulling her out like that. Kahli tried to slam her shoulder into the ice to pop it back in place, but Reggie lifted her like a lost object and turned her back and forth examining her in the sun.

He tutted and shook his head, "Someone has been very naughty. Was it young William or someone more royal?"

Kahli screamed, kicking at him wildly. The pain in her shoulder made her vision fade at the edges. "Put me down!"

Reggie laughed in her face and handed her to Thomas. Then, the graceful vampire turned and called down to Will. "Thanks for keeping her for me. She looks pretty good, with the exception of that ghastly scar. You've been a naughty boy, William. I'll settle up with you another time," he lowered his voice and said dryly to Thomas, "assuming he's still alive down there."

Chapter 15

"Cassie," Cole ran up behind her, no longer trying to hide that he was different than the rest. Cassie turned quickly, a look of relief on her face. She was in the sitting room inside of the maiden's chambers. He wasn't supposed to be there, but no one was where they were supposed to be. It was enough that Cassie noticed and started looking for other things that were amiss. She found plenty.

Hurrying to her brother, Cassie said, "You're right. Nothing's the way it's supposed to be."

"I see that. Our guards are gone too." Cole glanced about to make sure they were alone.

"I know where they went," Cassie licked her lips and looked around nervously. Even though there was no one to throw Cole out, she still felt vulnerable out in the open, like they'd be caught at any moment.

As if he could read her mind, Cole put a hand on her shoulder, "They have eyes and ears everywhere. This is as good a place to talk as any. Where are the guards?"

"It looks like most of them are with the Queen. When I was in there, her guard was tripled in size. They surrounded her like a wall. She was more, uhm," Cassie's eyes flicked up trying to choose the right word.

"Crazy than usual?"

Cassie nodded, "Yeah. Pretty much. It wasn't like she expected me to attack her or anything, but she gave the distinct impression that she thought her little lap dogs were chewing her face off." Moving to one of the massive windows, Cassie peered outside. The ground sparkled, glinting white in the sunlight. She sighed deeply, pushing her hair out of her eyes. "She asked about Will out of all people. Will, Cole!"

Cole frowned and looked over her shoulder. There was movement outside, which was unusual. Guards appeared at new posts outlining the property. "Sophia seems to think the threat is outside these walls."

Cassie watched the guards on the grounds below. Annoyed, she uttered, "Then she must be concerned about someone else, because Will's no threat. If anything, he went after Kahli to help her." Cassie couldn't hold the smile on her lips anymore. She turned to her brother and asked, "Do you think Kahli's still alive? I couldn't bear it if she weren't. I owe her my life. I wish there was something I could do to help her." As she spoke, Cassie wrapped her arms around her middle. Her gaze landed nowhere, she saw nothing as she spoke. It was the distant gaze of someone who'd experienced loss and didn't want to go through it again.

"Maybe we can," Cole said, ignoring her pleas that Will was innocent. There was something about Will that he didn't like, and it wasn't the fact that the guy had free-reign over the palace. It wasn't that he moved amongst the girls in all states of undress either, although that angered him when he learned it early on from Cassie. There was something else. Something was wrong with Will. Cole could feel it in his gut. Will was the Queen's pet, her personal toy, and anything he had to say - anything Will did - was not in their best interest. Why would it be? He was a vampire for godsakes.

Cassie glanced up at him. "What are you thinking?"

"I'm not sure yet," he glanced back at her. "Anything else happen with the Queen?"

"No," she answered, shaking her head. "She asked about Kahli, the King, and Will. She wanted to know where Will was. Apparently, going missing right now automatically damns you in her eyes." Cassie paused for a moment and then added, "If you hadn't told me what the King did, I would have had a huge gap in my memory. She would have gone nuts, well, crazier than usual."

He nodded in agreement, "What did the King's chambers look like? Did she fight?" By she, he meant Kahli. Cole couldn't picture her going quietly, but this wasn't normal. The King wasn't supposed to take girls into his room, and he certainly wasn't given an open tap on virgin blood.

Cassie grimaced remembering the fresh stains on the floor, the way the blood had seeped into the carpet and turned brown. "It looks like she fought back. Things were broken, turned over. There was so much blood. I think he must have killed Missy and Gene before Kahli got there. No one has seen them or found their bodies. It's not like them to go missing this long. Even on the day of the Purging, they were up with the rest of us. If they were here this morning, they'd be chattering with the rest of the girls about the Pairings."

Cole shifted his weight and pushed his fingers through his hair. "About that - "

"What about it? I didn't even want to hear. They're just going to be gossiping about poor Alice." Cassie breathed and pulled her arms tighter around her waist. "I feel bad for her. I wish there was something that - "

Cole wanted to break it to her gently, but she kept talking. Cassie was always talking. He sucked in some air, placed his hand on her shoulder, and blurted it out, "Everyone has been Paired, including us."

Cassie stepped back with a horrified expression on her face, "Us! They paired us? That's disgusting!" Although Cole wasn't a blood brother, he felt like one. She couldn't hide how she felt about it. Her jaw hung open, as acid churned in her stomach, threatening to spew up her throat.

Cole sighed. Cassie was so Cassie. "No," he explained patiently, "they didn't pair us together." Cassie visibly deflated, looking relieved, but she shouldn't. "Cassie, listen to me." When she glanced up and met his eye, he continued, "They've Paired everyone. I don't know what they're doing, why the vamps changed things, but the Pairing is tonight. You and I have both been matched with someone."

Cassie's face paled. She swallowed hard and was silent for once. After a moment, Cassie pressed her eyes closed. She looked like she was going to vomit. Cole couldn't take it anymore. He pulled her close to him and hugged her. He kissed the top of her head like an overprotective brother, and pulled her away, holding her shoulders tightly in his hands. Looking into her eyes, he spoke confidently, "This won't happen to you. Do you understand? I want you to go along with it and act like you're okay with it - make sure they aren't concerned about you - and I'll figure out a way to make sure you're safe."

There were tears in her eyes. Cassie wanted to believe him, but she couldn't. "The vamps watch, Cole. They make sure it gets done." Her voice was rising slowly, becoming more squeaky as she spoke. "If I fight back, if I don't let him, they'll tie me up." Her big eyes were glassy. "This can't be happening. It can't be." She shoved her hands through her curls, pulling her hair as she spoke. "The Pairing will kill half us for sure. Why would they do this?"

Cole kept his hands on her shoulders. As reassuringly as he knew how, he said, "I don't know, but I've never thought we'd stay here once one of us was Paired."

"What do you mean?" Confused, she said, "It's not like we can just leave." Her voice was so low, so quiet that he could barely hear it.

"That's exactly what I mean." Cassie's eyes widened, but Cole cut her off, giving her instructions. "Don't do anything to draw attention to yourself today. They aren't watching you as closely, not when it comes to strength and flight risk. I'll get us out before it happens. I promise."

Cassie felt sick, but all she could do was nod. Cole had done things, things that flooded her dreams at night and if he wasn't hell-bent on protecting her, she'd be terrified of him. Cassie cleared her throat and looked up at him, "What about you? They paired you too?"

Cole nodded, his shoulders stiffening as he did it. Cassie didn't miss the cue. Whoever they'd paired him with made him uncomfortable. She wondered who it was, if he actually had feelings for someone - feelings that she didn't know about.

After a moment, Cole cleared his throat and said, "It doesn't matter what the vamps did, if we were Paired or not." He laughed callously, adding, "And they won't be doing it again after tonight. I promise you that." Looking down at Cassie, he said too calmly, "I'll get you before the Pairing takes place. Don't let Brent touch you." Cassie visibly recoiled at the name. She avoided Brent at all cost. The way he looked at her made her uneasy, and if there weren't vamps around who'd break his neck if he laid a finger on Cassie, she wouldn't have been able to sleep at night. Brent scared her. Cole shook her from her thoughts, gently gripping her shoulders and pulling her back to the present, "I'll personally kill him if he does, Queen's protection or not. The only person who matters to me here is you, and I won't leave you behind."

Chapter 16

The King's guard left right after they questioned Cassie. They took off into the night, trying to track down the girl - Kahli. Anger flooded through the King's body. He hadn't gotten enough of her blood to completely restore his former abilities. Most of the precious liquid had spilled on the floor, and failed to go down his throat. Thinking about it, he could still feel the burn of her blood. The potency was familiar, reminding him of the last time he had this opportunity. It had slipped away before he could do anything. Resolve flooded his veins. Not again. This might be his last chance. There was no room for mistakes, not this time. There were no more wild humans. Kahli was the last and he intended to possess her.

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