"Just breathe, baby. I'm going to be right back!"
"Crow, p-please," she begged, sobbing as her little hand blindly grasped.
Forcing herself to her feet, Carrow wiped her eyes. "I'm coming back for you, I swear."
Ruby's hand went limp, and she fell silent.
"Ah, Ruby, no!" Carrow clutched her chest with fear, knowing she could do nothing to help her.
Can't reach her, only one way to help ... Her mind went blank and somehow she backed away, toward that storage room.
Carrow spun forward, running faster than she ever had, pumping her arms for speed as she maneuvered through the tunnel.
Amid the thousands of distracting scents, Malkom finally caught Carrow's, following it down a long corridor into a wood-paneled room. He heard movement in an adjoining chamber and crept inside.
The witch, just there.
She was yanking at the railing of a stairway, gritting her teeth as she used her entire body to pull.
He could have plucked it free with one hand. What did she want with that metal?
Silently, he stalked her. Closer ... His hands shot out, seizing her. "Did you think I would not find you?" His arms trapped her against him.
"No, no!" she screamed, thrashing.
"Shut up!" he roared. Losing control. Bloodlust, the battles, the moaning.
The mindless carnage...
"Malkom, you have to let me g-go!" She was hysterical, yelling at the top of her lungs, flailing until she was hurting her own body.
"You made a vow," he grated between breaths, "that you did not intend to keep." One of her br**sts pressed into his palm, her backside rubbing against his cock. Yank up her skirt and take her against the wall, take what is yours. "You are about to, witch."
"Y-you don't understand, b-back in the tunnel - "
"You are a liar!" He wrapped her hair around his fist. "Say nothing to me."
Revenge would be his at last. As he pressed her chest against the wall, he saw her pulse beating in her neck, already scented her blood. How? Doesn't matter. He bent her head to the side, shoving her collar up. The bloodlust ... cannot fight it.
With a groan, he sank his fangs into her flesh and drew deep. Connection. Mine. My woman. With each drop, power filled him, his injuries mending.
But the mad thumping of her heart made him even more frenzied. He bit her harder, sucking more forcefully.
Until he felt her sob.
He grew still. She was crying - he could feel her beneath his fangs. She'd proved that she didn't cry in the face of fear or even from pain. She'd been angry when Ronath had stabbed her with his spear. Yet the witch was weeping now.
Dumbfounded, he slowly released his bite, turning her to face him.
"L-let me go!" She shoved at his face, but her fingertips were ravaged and bleeding. From digging? "Ah, gods, you have to take me b-back to the tunnel!"
What was so important to her? He wouldn't allow her to have anything she wanted, would ruthlessly keep her from it. His vengeance was only beginning. He lifted her once more, looping his arm under her legs, clamping her against his chest.
Yet then she whispered, "P-please, Malkom," as she pressed her wet face against his chest. She raised her arms, clasping her hands behind his neck.
And he hated her for that, for seeming to want to be close to him, for reminding him of what he'd lost.
"Take me into that tunnel. Help me. ..."
He'd go to destroy whatever she wanted so badly. To kill it, as she'd killed everything he'd dreamed of.
When he charged into the blackness, she let out a relieved sob. "Thank you, thank you," she murmured over and over.
You will not thank me for long, witch. He journeyed deep, until he came upon a barrier of rocks. He scented blood covering the outer edges of several. Carrow's blood.
From behind the stones reached a child's tiny hand, one resembling his own female's - soft, pale, clawless. Limp.
He was so shocked that when Carrow thrashed again, he released her.
She dove for that hand, clutching it in her own, crying over it. "Ruby, hold on, baby!"
Ruby. He remembered the dreams. Think of Ruby.
In an instant, he understood. These mortals had held her offspring captive, forcing her to do their bidding. Carrow had tried to explain to him about her baby, had cried as she'd betrayed him.
But she'd had no choice.
The bitter hatred he'd been struggling with began to lift.
'Tis not the end.
She turned to him with tears streaming down her face. "Malkom, please help us."
She will turn to me, and I will take her troubles away....
The demon loomed over her, seething, his muscles standing out with strain. Moments ago, he'd looked on the edge of madness, like a true fallen vampire. Now his brows drew together.
"She's just a little girl, not even eight years old," Carrow whispered. "I can't get her free. I need you to save her."
His onyx eyes flickered.
"Please, Malkom. Please."
At that, he attacked the rocks as though they were an enemy. He dug down, clawing until his fingers bled, too.
Another "uake rocked the tunnel. "Hurry, demon!"
Soon he'd busted away a gap in the barrier, large enough for Carrow to ease Ruby through. Unconscious? She laid her ear to Ruby's chest, then to her mouth. Her breaths and heartbeat were normal! She checked her head for knots or blood, found neither. "Ah, gods, she's just fainted. She'll be okay."
Carrow gazed up at Malkom like the hero he was, with all the gratitude she felt. "Y-you understand now, don't you?"
He gave a nod.
With her free hand, she cupped the back of his neck, tugging him down to give him a teary kiss. Against his lips, she said, "I'm so sorry."
When he pulled back, his gaze bored into hers, the message clear.
We'll be finishing what we started.
And she wasn't broken up about that.
Another explosion rocked the facility. He assessed the ceiling. "Not safe in here." Before she could blink, he'd snagged her sword from the ground, stabbing it into the sheath at her waist. "We have to get out."
Clasping Ruby to her chest, she said, "I follow you."
He wrapped his arm around her shoulders, then hurried them out of the tunnel.
Back out in the labyrinthine facility, Carrow searched for Lanthe and Regin everywhere, calling for them, yet hearing no reply. She also kept an eye out for Ember - and Fegley's hand.
But the chaos had gotten worse. Ember's flames soared. Mortal scientists were screaming, creatures feeding on them, ghouls infecting them in large numbers. Soldiers attacked Malkom - a seeming army of them - but he slew them all, protecting Carrow and Ruby.