Home > Catalyst (Vampire Apocalypse #2)(15)

Catalyst (Vampire Apocalypse #2)(15)
Author: H.M. Ward

The maid nodded, "Yes, Your Majesty. The rooms have ample supplies. Instructions have been left with the males about how to proceed if the females protest. It was made clear how to procreate with an unwilling female, without bruising or wounding her. Penalties for bruises, abrasions, and other wounds were also posted." As the vampire spoke, she clasped her hands tightly in front of her. Her slender body was stiff, rigid with fear. The smile finally fell off her face.

"And the females that remain, were they given instructions as well?"

"Yes, Your Majesty. They were told to comply. Failure to do so will result in binding. Women who inflict injuries upon themselves to get out of the Pairing will not be sent to the infirmary. They will be denied medical attention until they cooperate. The women were all informed."

Sophia's lips pulled back into a snake-like smile, revealing pearly white eye-teeth. They ached for blood. This made her very happy. It'd been centuries since her fangs worked properly. Since she began drinking Kahli's blood, Sophia could feel them coming back to life. It was like part of Sophia awakened and she didn't intend on losing it. "News of the wild girl or William?"

The servant lowered her gaze and shook her head. "Nothing yet, but they are hurrying, Queen Sophia." Glancing up, she added quickly, "The new Trackers vowed to find her before nightfall. She will be safely in your court by twilight. They assured me of this and made it clear that I was to tell you, they will not return until the girl is in hand."

Sophia breathed in deeply, letting the words rang in her ears. The movement filled her bodice, pressing her chest firmly against the low neckline of her gown. The jewels at her throat rose slightly until she exhaled. Sophia stared straight ahead, her spine perfectly straight. The Trackers would find Kahli and then she'd never let the girl out of her sight. As for William, she had plans for him.

"Very good," Sophia finally said. The servant looked up when silence filled the room. The Queen's eyes narrowed on the girl's face. "After the Pairing, we will keep the fertile females. The rest will be handed over to the Trackers on my word. Separate them from each other, but do not tell them a thing. Do you understand?" The girl nodded. "Good. We will keep the strongest here to sustain the palace staff and the Regent. The rest are to be given to each Section that pledged loyalty when I deem it is time." Sophia paused, her lips pressed together into a thin line before she spoke again, "And, Chastity..."

The servant looked shocked that the Queen knew her name. "Yes, your Majesty?"

"If we do not survive the night, if I am assassinated by my foolish husband," Sophia spoke calmly as her lips twisted into a thin smile, "I want you and your staff to slaughter every last human in the palace. All of them, do you understand? No one survives."

Chastity nodded, "It will be done as you wish, my Queen."

Sophia smiled.

Chapter 19

Will heard the blast, but was so taken with Kahli that the change didn't register. He thought the burning runes under his skin were from her touch. Too late, he realized the true reason for the runes burning - Reggie was near.

When the rock exploded, Will tried to shield Kahli, but they were torn apart from the blast. She was launched toward the opening. Before she was out of reach, Will shoved Kahli past the falling ceiling. Then, he was blasted backwards across the room. Will watched Kahli fall. The ceiling above them cracked open and debris rained down. Large sheets of ice and rock fell swiftly, crashing into the floor with a deafening CRACK. The table where they'd been sitting was flattened. The metal chair legs snapped like toothpicks and went flying across the room like shrapnel. The final blast sent down more of the ceiling, trapping Will under a massive stone of jagged concrete. Frozen earth continued to cave in from above, burying Will alive.

Then it fell silent. His heart raced, echoing in his ears. The boulder pinned him to the floor. Before he had a chance to call out to her, Kahli screamed. Will's heart felt like it would explode as it banged into his ribs. Holding his hands to the rock, Will tried to squirm out from beneath the stone. Kahli's blood made him stronger, otherwise he wouldn't have had a chance. Pressing his hands against the side of the massive piece of concrete, Will pushed. It rocked slightly. Will worked frantically, trying to get to Kahli before they were gone, before she was taken by Reggie.

After what happened, he doubted the Regent would allow Kahli to live. Will rocked the stone until he moved it just enough to pull free. Will stood swiftly, his hands floating up to his sides. Snowflakes floated through the air, pure white, until they slipped lazily into the shadows. Before he could take a step, the ground beneath Will pitched sharply. He blinked, trying to stop the sensation from overwhelming him. When he looked down at his leg, it was covered in blood. Blinking again, Will held his hands to his head, pressing against his temples and closing his eyes, but it didn't help. The room spun wildly and brought him to his knees. Will roared as he fell, trying to fight what was happening to him. The crack to his head, the wound on his leg, they both crippled him when Kahli needed him the most. Falling to his hands, Will looked up in time to see Kahli pulled over the ledge, screaming. Reggie restrained her and dragged Kahli away. Before Will could blink again, the world faded to black.


When Will awoke, he heard something familiar. Warm breath washed across his face, followed by a rank scent that could only mean one thing. Wolves. Will's eyes shot open to see a white wolf hovering over him. The animal's black lips were pulled back into a snarl, but she didn't attack. Will moved slowly, pulling his body away from the animal.

"Easy," he said in soothing tones. "Easy, girl."

The wolf stared at him with amber eyes, its head cocking to the side slightly. Will's pulse roared in his ears. Slowly, he pushed away from the mouth filled with fangs. Will watched the wolf, wondering if Kahli felt the same way about his fangs. His stomach sank when he thought of her. He was supposed to protect Kahli, keep her safe. Will cursed, and pushed up slowly. His leg and head had healed on their own, but the blood must have attracted the wolf.

Glancing at the remains of the safe house, Will saw the silver foil packets scattered across the ground. One packet was right next to his foot. He bent slowly, reaching for it. The wolf's hackles raised, her fur blowing in the wind. Will didn't have time to deal with this, and he had no weapon to kill the animal. Like all wolves, this one was hungry. Will's fingers brushed against the packet. He tore it open and tossed it to the wolf. Her jaws snapped at the foil as it fell in front of her. Growling from deep within her throat, the wolf looked at Will like she was ready to jump on his chest and rip open his throat, but the scent of the packet distracted her. The beast blinked like it was confused, and then lowered her head, sniffing the packet. Will didn't move. He waited until her nose was inside the foil, her long pink tongue licking out the contents with vigor. The wolf didn't notice him slip away.

Chapter 20

"What are you going to wear?" someone asked Alice, but the girl just stared into space. Giggles broke out around her. Alice stood and walked away. Before Cassie could go after her, Brianna asked her the same thing, "What about you, Cassie? What are you going to wear tonight?"

They'd been talking about it when she walked into the room. Cassie sat on one of the couches acting like she was excited about the idea of Pairing up with one of the guys. There had been only one other time she had to be so deceitful and that was on Deliverance Day.

Smiling, Cassie shrugged, "Oh, I don't know. What do you think I should wear?"

Brianna lit up, and bounded over to Cassie. "There is this lace dress in the wardrobe. I tried to take it once for a dinner party, but Miriam said it was only to be worn during the Pairing."

Cassie nodded, bobbing her head like it was a good idea, "That sounds pretty." She glanced out the window, but the other girls' giggles pulled her attention back to the room.

"It's not pretty, Cassie. It's sexy. The dress covers you, neck to ankles, but what makes it sexy is the key." Brianna was smiling so hard. Cassie wondered how she could be excited about something that would kill her. Pairings led to babies, and childbirth wasn't something that was survivable. Not for them. Not for Brianna, who bruised so easily. Cassie didn't understand the girl's excitement. Wanting to get called for a Pairing was a death wish. The other girls giggled. "Wait here," Brianna said, patting Cassie's knee. "I'll go get it. Miriam already pulled it out."

While Brianna grabbed the gown out of her room, Cassie smiled at the others. "Exciting, isn't it?"

They all nodded, but it didn't seem like any of them were as happy about the Pairing as Brianna. Cassie felt bad for them. Even if Cole managed to get her out, the others would be left behind. Brianna came back into the room with a length of black lace draped over her arm. Grinning, she held it up for Cassie to see.

The gown was Cassie's size, and Brianna was right, it wouldn't have worked for a regular dinner. As Brianna held the gown up, everyone could see why. The light shined through the lace. There was nothing under it, no lining to conceal anything. Brianna grinned devilishly and handed the dress to Cassie. "See, I told you it was sexy. It'll make you feel pretty, and Brent will be able to see all of you straight through it."

The girls began to giggle and squeal. Cassie tried to keep her plastic smile on her face. She held the dress in her hands and looked down at it. The lace was beautiful and delicate, and completely see-through. Her stomach turned to acid as she held it, thinking of what would happen to her if Cole didn't find a way out.

"Someone go grab, Alice." Brianna said, irritated. "We need to talk about the best ways to do this. It's supposed to be fun."

"I'll get her," Cassie offered, as she stood and walked away, leaving the dress behind. Wandering into the hallway, Cassie looked up and down the corridor, but Alice wasn't in sight. Cassie picked a direction, her stomach twisting into tight knots. Before she realized it, Cassie had her arms folded tightly across her chest and was scowling at no one. Stopping in front of a window, she looked outside. The world was white. The wind was whipping the dry snow into the air, blinding the guards below to anything not directly in front of them, but they still paced the perimeter, looking, watching, and waiting.

"Cassie," Cole said, walking up next to her.

Cassie didn't look at him. Instead, her gaze remained on the guard below, "There are more than there were earlier."

"I know," Cole said softly. He took her by the elbow and turned Cassie toward him.

When she looked at him, Cassie saw so many things, but the most glaring was hope. The emotion danced in his eyes, making it difficult to look at him. How Cole could have hope now was beyond her. "This isn't the same as before, you know. There were a handful of vamps we had to get past that day. It's not the same this time."

"No," Cole said somberly, "it's not. There's more at risk, too. Cassie, I'd planned to do this if you were selected for the Purging. I had it all worked out, but I didn't plan for this." He pressed his lips together and stepped toward the large window. Looking out to the grounds below, he said, "It's worse than last time. You're right. But that means it's even more important to leave."

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