Home > Catalyst (Vampire Apocalypse #2)(8)

Catalyst (Vampire Apocalypse #2)(8)
Author: H.M. Ward

Kahli didn't move. Her green gaze locked with his, her jaw tightening as she clenched it shut. "You cheated?" Her voice was too calm. It made his heart race faster. Stepping toward him, her emerald eyes locked with his. Kahli's open hand connected with the side of his face in a satisfying slap. The sound bounced off the walls. Will didn't flinch when her hand connected. There was something in his eyes that made her hold back before ripping his head off. Arms tense at her sides, Kahli was so mad she could barely form a sentence, "That's not cheating. That's being a vampire, Will." She searched his face wanting to find something that wasn't there. Breathing hard, she glared at him, "This is what bothers me about you. You said you wouldn't use my real name and then you did. You must have made me forget, because I sure don't remember. And then - " the pitch of her voice continually rose until it entered squeaky territory, "you tell me! How could you do that and tell me!"

"You needed to know," Will said flatly, opening his hands like he was being reasonable.

Kahli laughed like a crazy person. "I needed to know, so you told me. Of course. That makes sense. Why else would you tell me?"

"Kahli - " Will tried to speak over her, his voice reassuring, but she didn't feel reassured.

"So, how many times did you use my name? How many times did you compel me to do something I didn't want to do?" Kahli pushed back from the table and stood. She turned her back to him and closed her eyes.

"Kahli, I did it when I had no other choice. The first night you were there, when you stabbed me, you were going to get yourself killed. I couldn't allow it. I'm sorry. One promise superseded another, and I had to. And as for the other time, compelling you not to die was different."

Kahli looked over her shoulder at him. There was a softness to his features that was usually hidden, an insecurity in his eyes that swallowed her whole. Kahli wanted to believe him. His actions kept her alive. She was in over her head that night and she knew if he hadn't subdued her, that the Queen would have destroyed her. That night she didn't care if she died. The idea of living amongst vampires was deplorable. Kahli couldn't fathom it. But her time with Cassie and Will had turned into something else. That existence wasn't what she thought it would be. She had friends now.

Kahli was no longer alone.

Will expected her to do something drastic, like bite off his head, verbally or literally - it was hard to tell with her - but Kahli seemed to deflate. The longer she stood there thinking, the more the tension flowed out of her body. Eventually her eyes met his again, the anger gone.

When she didn't speak, he said, "I'm sorry I did that to you. I shouldn't have used your name."

"Compelling me not to die seemed like it was a good plan, especially since I wouldn't listen." Kahli's arms folded over her chest, her anger fading. "It made sense then, but it doesn't anymore. Tell me what I need to know. Don't expect me to blindly follow you, because I can't. And, now, if you say my name again for any reason, whatever relationship we have is over."

Instead of asking the obvious, Will caught on the thread Kahli never wanted to acknowledge. "What is our relationship, exactly?"

A chill sprang from her stomach. Kahli stepped back, as Will tilted his head and looked up at her. "I'm seriously asking you. Based on everything you said, and everything that's happened, I have no clue where we stand. You have no reason to believe anything I say, and yet - you're still here."

He was right. Her actions made no sense. "Our relationship doesn't matter," Kahli finally said. Kahli watched him, his blue eyes locked with hers.

His voice brushed against her mind, whispering to her. It matters to me. Kahli wondered if he knew that she heard him. She pressed her lips together and looked away.

"I mean," she offered, correcting herself, "what we call it doesn't matter."

"How many rules are you willing to break?" The pitch of his voice, the intensity of his gaze made her heart lurch. Kahli could feel her body being pulled to his like a magnet. She took a step back, but Will took a step closer.

"As many as it takes to win." She stepped back again. The room was large and sparsely furnished. Will advanced every time he spoke and Kahli retreated in response.

"You're all about winning," he grinned, stepping toward her.

"I'm all about surviving," she corrected, stepping away.

"What about living?" he asked, advancing again. "When does that matter?"

"Surviving is living," she said, and stepped back.

Will stepped toward her, "No, it's not. It means running, hiding. It means no friends, no home, no hope. Tomorrow's a promise you don't have."

"Oh, and you do?"

Will nodded. When Kahli's back hit the wall, Will reached for her. "As long as you're here, I do."

Kahli's heart felt like it was going explode. She knew Will could feel her panic mingling with the lust swimming through her veins. There was something about him, something that called to her and she couldn't ignore it - the way his eyes drank her in, the way his lips curved into a perfect grin when he saw her. If he was human, she would have wanted him. The again, if Will was human they wouldn't be in this mess. If Will was human, they'd both be dead.

Kahli took a steadying breath. "What do you want from me?" He was so close, Will's body nearly brushing against hers. They were a breath apart.

"There's a rule you need to be willing to break for our plan to work."

She couldn't breathe, "Which rule?" Will couldn't mean what she thought. Her mind protested his proximity, but as Kahli breathed him in, her arms refused to push him away. She pressed her palms to the wall at her sides to keep from touching him. Everything she'd ever learned was eradicated and blasted away. Every lesson her mother drilled into her head, every prejudice she held against the vampires, against their kind vanished. For a moment, he was just Will and she was just Kahli.

His dark gaze pinned her in place. "You know which rule."

Chapter 10

The following sunrise, things at the palace went crazy. The new dusting of snow covered the events from the day before, but Cassie knew too much. She remembered the King entering her room and dragging her from her bed the night before. It had taken forever for her to drift off to sleep. Kahli hadn't returned and neither had her other roommates. Every single one of them went to the King's chambers and didn't come back.

Cole found his sister as early as possible, and beckoned her into the main sitting area. The white couches were empty. The drapes covering the windows were pulled back, revealing the early morning sunlight. It poured into the room giving the illusion that it wasn't freezing cold outside. At one time the world was a beautiful place. At one time there were seasons and trees and life. Now everything was a glittering tomb.

Her brother was dressed neatly, as usual. Cassie barely had time to pull on a pair of jeans and a sweater. She was always cold, always shivering. As they sat, she wrung her fingers, twisting them in her hands trying to get warm. Cole watched her, and when she didn't stop, he pulled out a pair of thin gloves from his pocket. He handed them to her. Cassie gratefully accepted them and slid the fabric over her hands. They were instantly warmer.

"Thank you," she said. "You always know what to do."

"I'm not so sure, this time, Cass." In hushed tones, Cole and Cassie whispered. Cole filled in the pieces of information that were missing from Cassie's mind. Eventually he said, "The Queen will want to speak to you, you know. She'll find out that the King went to your chamber, and she won't overlook the fact that every single one of the girls was one of your roommates. She'll think you know something."

Cassie nodded, fearing as much. Her curls bobbed forward, swinging into her face. She tucked them back and looked up at her brother. "I know. I'm the last one who saw anything."

He nodded, "And, you're the only proof that the King was consuming blood last night. I seriously doubt that he left a blood trail for them to follow. He's too smart to get caught. If I hadn't seen you - "

Cassie stared blankly ahead at the dark blue walls, only half listening. She blurted out the question lurking in the back of her mind, the one she was too afraid to ask, "Do you think they're dead?" Her voice caught on the word making her heart constrict.

Cole looked at his sister. Death was a part of life. Their kind dealt with it frequently. A simple paper cut could end their fragile existence. But, no one expected anything like this. Palace humans didn't get brutalized by the royalty. "I don't know."

Alice entered the room and passed in front of them. She wandered through the halls like she was lost. Cassie felt bad for the girl and called to her, "What's the matter, Alice?"

Alice stopped, surprised to hear her name and turned back. She walked over to them and stood in front of Cassie and Cole. Her normally pale skin was sullen and sickly looking. It reminded Cassie of a bleached sock. Alice usually had a little color in her cheeks, but it was gone. The girl looked like she was in shock. "They pushed up my Pairing." Alice's voice was barely there and devoid of emotion.

Cassie's jaw dropped. She leaned forward and took the girl's hand. "Alice, when is it?"

"Tonight." Before Cassie could ask her more about it, Alice turned and wandered off. The lost expression in her eyes was shock. Alice had been chosen to be bred for offspring.

Cassie and Cole looked at each other. For a long moment, neither of them spoke. Then, Cassie finally asked, "Who'd they pair her with?"

"I don't know," Cole replied. "I left before breakfast to come and find you. This is the first I've heard of it." Cole didn't like this. Something changed last night, something big enough to force up a premature Pairing.

"She's not ready for that. It'll kill her," Cassie said, leaning closer to Cole to make sure Alice couldn't hear. Alice was staggering down the hallway letting shock steer her feet. They could still see her from where they sat on the couch.

Cole nodded, "We need to find out what's going on. The Queen's entourage moved through the palace last night, so it was hard to sneak around. I was lucky to find you after the King questioned you, but I didn't really find anything else. Just that several vamps died, and that those moving around were looking for the missing girls. They were in our chambers, looking for Kahli and the other two, as if they were hiding."

Cassie stared blankly. She wished that was it, but her gut told her something very different. She gazed after Alice. "Do you think they bumped up other the Pairings? Do you think they would really risk one generation to breed the next?" Cassie's voice was small and frightened.

Cole knew he couldn't save her from the Pairing. It was something they all had to do eventually, but it was worse for the girls. Many of them didn't survive childbirth, despite the vast quantities of blood given to help alleviate the hemorrhaging that followed. The blood disorder was too far gone.

"I don't know," he finally said. "Whatever happened here last night has everyone on edge. It feels like a power shift is coming."

"What do you mean?"

Cole stared blankly. He didn't want to say it, but Cassie needed to know that they were in danger. "Remember when we were younger? Remember Deliverance Day?"

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