Now she'd kill for the clothes and gear she'd ridiculed at the facility. When Dixon had outfitted her with an assault pack filled with a Multipurpose Portable Tool Kit, a high-powered flashlight, twelve pairs of socks, MREs, and a first aid kit, Carrow had been so smug. "Though I dig the tacticool chic, Dixon, I'm an immortal, remember? Unless that gauze can fix a beheading. Oh, and twelve pairs of socks? Wool ones for the enchantress? Now you're just being silly, human."

Carrow stared out into the night. Some blister care and wool socks would do her so right just now.

A lone witch torn from her coven. In pain. With no friend to buoy her.

Gritting her teeth, she decided that she'd simply have to buoy herself. She would keep fighting for her life - and for Ruby's.

Yet even as Carrow thought this, a small part of her asked, But how much more can I take?

Just before she finally slipped into a fitful sleep, her eyes flashed open. She'd suddenly remembered what the word cotha meant.

Earlier, the demon had told her ... to run.

Chapter 8

For hours, Malkom tore through the brush, relentlessly searching for his female after she'd disappeared right before his eyes.

He couldn't locate her, couldn't scent her, yet he sensed she was still on his mountain. Which meant she hadn't returned whence she came - the portal where immortals were disposed of.

Which begged the "uestion: Who in their right mind would ever willingly let a woman such as that go?


When he would chase misery and fight an army to possess her?

In the past, he'd had no use for a female, had been pleased not to have one as a liability to protect. But now the knowledge that a creature like her - finer than any he'd ever seen - belonged to him burned in his mind, changing everything.

She's mine. So I will keep her. At last, he would be master over another, would guide another's destiny and marry it with his own.

If he had any doubt they would be a match, he "uelled it, reminding himself that he was the strongest male in this plane; she was the most beautiful female.

She was his due.

He felt about her as he did about his territory. He'd use his strength to protect both.

But not if he couldn't find her. He spied the tracks of that troop of ghouls as they prowled for her still, as well as the deep prints of a deadly Gotoh. The wastelands swarmed with those vicious creatures, difficult even for Malkom to destroy.

Have to locate her....

In fact, there were countless lethal beasts that were native or had been dispatched here that had bred and populated the plane, making it a death trap, even for an immortal. Even for one with her power, if she wasn't wary.

He rubbed his chest, still astounded by the lightning-like force she'd unleashed. Her kick to his testicles hadn't been mildly delivered either.

What was she? Every being he'd ever heard of had been exiled into Oblivion from fabled planes - places of extraordinary rumors that could never be true.

She might be an elemental fey who controlled lightning and utilized cloaking spells. But her ears weren't pointed. She could be a sorceress or a witch. He doubted she was the latter. Malkom had always heard that witches were toothless hags with black hearts, pitiless mercenaries who sold hexes.

Besides, if she could wield those kinds of powers, why hadn't she struck down the demons who'd initially captured her?

He began to suspect she'd had no power then, had leeched it from him, from his release - like a succubus.

With her beauty, she could certainly be one of that kind. If she was a succubus, she would weaken again, unless another demon inhabitant provided her with "nourishment." There were dozens more of them just beyond his mountain territory, all fugitives like him.

Another male touching what's mine. The idea enraged him, and he ran even faster. Never would another know her perfect body.

And she was perfection. By the gods, she'd been blessed. Flashing green eyes. Buxom curves. Pale skin as soft as the priceless silk she wore. At the memory of her taste, he shuddered with pleasure.

Her blood had been like wine.

His wild search for her had almost taken his mind off his transgression this night. He'd drunk straight from a being. He was a vampire in body and spirit - because he could never go back. Malkom knew he could be satisfied only by drinking from her sweet skin every night.

Part of him blamed her for this fall, for making him lose control. After all, he'd never bitten another before her. Not even when the Viceroy willed it, trying to break him. The years of starvation, the torture.

In the end, Malkom's body had been naught but a husk.

He ruthlessly shoved those memories away, filling his mind with images of her. Yet then came the memory of those green eyes glinting with tears - or narrowed with disgust. Even if the female hadn't understood his words tonight, she'd understood his intent. But his mate had felt no answering frenzy for him.

Perhaps his dual nature had clouded her mind, dulling her inherent need for him. Mayhap she couldn't recognize in him the demon he used to be.

She'd fought him. In turn, he'd broken her bones. And now he hazily recalled that he hadn't merely pierced her neck.

Malkom had torn her skin.

He'd harmed the most precious thing he'd ever been given, a woman delivered unto him to safeguard.

Not to ravage.

Never could he have imagined that both his demon and vampire natures would rise to the fore. If he hadn't lost control and spent himself against her...

He understood why she'd run. Since she didn't recognize him as her mate, she believed him to be no different than the demons he'd saved her from. But Malkom wasn't like them.

Somehow he would have to convince her that as his mate, she was his chattel, and by claiming her he would merely be taking what already belonged to him.

But without speaking her language, he could never explain these things....

When the night began to wane, Malkom finally slowed. He gazed round him at the dust-blown wastelands, accepting that he might not find her before dawn.

So he decided he'd do whatever he could to ensure her safety.

To do what he did best.

When he scented the ghouls, he attacked with all the ferocity seething within him.

* * *

A growling sound woke Carrow the next morning. Her head jerked up -  has the vemon returned? - but the noise had faded.

Probably her empty stomach.

She rubbed her gritty eyes with the heels of her palms, but she could see little of the area around her. Though the winds had died down, the smoke was still suffocating.

Gods, she was in a bad way, even more exhausted than before. Throughout the night, she'd dozed intermittently in an unsettling slumber, rife with dreams about Ruby and the lives waiting for them back home. She'd been on edge - ghouls had wailed, the sounds chilling her. Then near dawn, they'd abruptly ... stopped.

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