Home > Lothaire (Immortals After Dark #12)(7)

Lothaire (Immortals After Dark #12)(7)
Author: Kresley Cole

Slaughtering five deacons in Appalachia? Ellie was done for.

“I won’t let you do this.” Mama jutted her chin.

“We both suspected it’d come to this.” The demon’s just killin’ me slow. “My mind’s made up.”

At that, Mama paled even more, knowing it was as good as done.

“And just think—if I kill this demon, I’ll go to heaven. Be with Daddy,” Ellie said, hoping that was where she’d end up. She held out her arms, and her mother sank against her, sobbing. “Now, stop actin’ like you don’t know this has to happen, like you haven’t known for months.”

“Ah, God, honey, I just . . .” More sobs. “Y-you want to say a prayer?”

Ellie stood on her toes and pressed a kiss to her mother’s smooth forehead. “No time. What if it comes back?” And already the deputies were surrounding the trailer, their boots crunching in the snow, while the pompous sheriff demanded that Mrs. Peirce open up for them this minute.

He knew better than to storm a household on this mountain.

With a steadying exhalation, Ellie turned toward her mother’s bedroom, forcing herself to look at the bodies. These men had had families. How many children were fatherless because of this demon?

Because I’ve been doggedly clinging to hope?

Ellie passed her own bedroom, shuddering at the sight of the chains at the ends of her bed, coiled like rattlesnakes.

Then she stared bitterly at the Middle State University pennants she’d tacked to her room’s vinyl walls just before all this had begun.

How excited she’d been about college! To afford the tuition and dorm, she’d worked at her uncle’s outfitter shop each day after school and as a guide during every holiday for years.

Ellie had been in classes just long enough to comprehend with wonder, Holy shit, I can . . . I can actually do this! Coursework had come surprisingly easy to her.

Then she’d started losing time, waking in strange places. They’d sent her packing back home before the semester was over.

She would’ve been the first one in the family to get a college degree.

When she reached the back bedroom, she spied her reflection in the mirrored closet door. Blood covered her—her long brown hair was wet with it. Her eyes were as flinty gray and hard as Peirce Mountain.

Her sodden T-shirt read: EPHRAIM’S OUTFITTERS: rafting, fishing, hunting supplies & guides.

What would Uncle Eph say about this?

She pictured his weathered face and earnest expression, so like her late father’s. You go on now and take care of your business, Ellie. Ain’t nobody gonna do it for you.

She slid the closet door open, reaching past her father’s old work gear—a mining helmet, locksmith tools, a handyman belt. Before he’d died in the mine, her adoring pa had never held fewer than three jobs at a time.

With a knot in her throat, she collected his favorite shotgun: a Remington double-barrel twelve-gauge. It was empty, no slugs to be found; Uncle Eph had long since come round and gathered up all the shells—just in case the demon got any ideas with the scattergun.

The familiar heft of the weapon was reassuring. Soon all this would be over forever. At the thought, she felt a strange sense of relief.

When she returned to the living room, Mama rushed forward. “Please, baby, couldn’t you just try prison?”

I’m doomed anyway. An injection later, or a bullet now.

Ellie would die on her terms—bleeding out in the snow, atop her beloved mountain.

“No, jail’s out of the question. Now you need to think about Josh. About the family.” Ellie forced a smile. “I love you, Mama. Tell Josh I loved him, too. You know I’ll be lookin’ down, watchin’ out for everyone.”

As her mother began to bawl, muttering jumbled words, Ellie pointed to the back room. “You go on in the back and stay in there! You hear? Don’t come out till they make you, no matter what happens. Promise me!” At last, Mama nodded. Ellie gave her a shove, and she dragged her feet away, softly closing her bedroom door behind her.

Before Ellie lost her nerve, she turned to the front door, Remington in hand. She began to reach for her hand-me-down coat, then made a fist instead. Fool. You won’t be cold long.

On the count of three. Ellie took several deep breaths, her thoughts racing. I’m just nineteen—too young.

One.

I got no choice. Soon, nothing’ll be left of me.

Two.

Imagine waking up to Mama and Josh, dead, their eyes glassy and sightless.

Never! With a shriek, she threw open the door, raising the gun.

“Shooter!” the sheriff yelled. Bullets went flying.

She felt none of them; a towering man had appeared out of thin air, standing between her and the officers.

With a furious growl, he shoved her to the ground, knocking the gun from her hands as he took the bullets in his back. She stared up in disbelief. His irises were . . . red. At least five shots hit him, but his monstrous gaze never wavered from her eyes.

—“Hold your fire!”

—“Where’d he come from?”

—“What the hell’s goin’ on?”

The man’s skin was like perfect marble, stark against the black shirt and trench coat he wore. His hair was pale blond, his features chiseled. And those eyes . . . otherworldly.

“Another demon!” She blindly rooted her hand through the snow, automatically reaching for the shotgun, but he stepped on her wrist.

When she gave a cry of pain, he pressed down harder, his lips drawing back to reveal . . . fangs. “You dare risk my female?” His voice was deep and accented, his tone filled with scorn. At his words, the baying dogs immediately fell silent.

“Wh-what are you talking about?”

“Your attempted blaze of glory, Elizabeth. And all because of a few murders?” He gave her a look of disgust, as if to say, Grow up.

The sheriff ordered, “Put your hands where I can see them!”

Instead, the pale-haired demon hunched down beside her, cupping her nape to snatch her closer. With his other hand, he tossed her gun away.

When another bullet plugged him in the back, he hissed over his shoulder, baring those fangs. “One—moment,” he snapped.

Ellie sneaked a glance at the cops; they looked too confounded to

react.

And behind them, Ephraim and some of her cousins had come running up the mountain, rifles in hand. They’d slowed in shock upon seeing the demon.

The male sneered, “Mortals,” then turned back to her. “Listen very carefully, Elizabeth. I am Lothaire the Enemy of Old, and you belong to

me. After considering my options, I’ve decided I will allow you to go

to jail this eve.”

“Y-you’ve got the wrong girl! I don’t know you—”

Talking over her, he said, “In your human prison, you’ll be hidden from my kind, which means you’ll be relatively safe while I continue my search. I will return for you in two years. Or so.” He gave her a harsh shake. “But if you try to harm yourself—and therefore my female—again, I will punish you beyond imagining. Do you understand me?”

“Your female? I’m not yours!”

“I wouldn’t have you.” He narrowed those red eyes. “The glorious being who lives within you, however . . .”

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