Oh, hell, no, the woman had not just offered to make Lucas into what—a freaking zombie?
“Don’t look so shocked, child. Wouldn’t be the first time, wouldn’t be the last.” Her gaze trekked to the window on the right. “Sometimes folks can’t let go.” A hint of sadness colored the words.
“I don’t want him dead. I want you to save him.”
Marie’s stare turned back to her. “What will you give?”
Dammit. Time was running out. For Lucas? “Everything.”
A small nod and some of the lines smoothed from Marie’s forehead. The woman almost looked . . . satisfied. “Good. But it won’t take all that.”
Sarah didn’t believe her.
“I’ll have Maxime bring in your man.”
Sarah leapt to her feet. “And you’ll really be able to save him? He’s got silver in his blood. The bullets fragmented and—”
“Already know that.” The thin shawl slipped down her shoulders another few inches. “If your man didn’t have such a strong spirit, Death would already have him.” Those cloudy eyes closed. “Felt his spirit long ago, when he came after my Maya. Knew he was coming, long before he set foot on my land.”
Maya. The name clicked. Maya Black was a vampire in LA. Powerful, kick-ass, and rumored to be mated to an equally powerful shifter.
“Strong spirit,” the mambo whispered again. “Spirit wants you, charmer. He’s not making this easy.”
No, Lucas wouldn’t.
Marie’s eyes opened and fixed unerringly on her. “If Death takes him, you want me to bring him back?”
Her breath caught in her throat, almost choking her. “How bad you want him to stay with you?” Marie pressed, blind eyes watching too closely.
“I don’t—” Back from the dead? This was too beyond her experience. You can’t do that. That was her instinctual response. No, that was the way she’d been raised to think. But the truth was . . . vampires bit their prey, demons played with fire, and she controlled wolves. “I just want him to live,” she whispered.
“Maybe he will.” Marie rose, her long hair fluttering around her. “Maybe he won’t.” Her smile was gone. “Either way, I’ll be collecting what’s owed to me.”
A chill slipped down Sarah’s spine. “Save him.”
Marie’s head inclined. “But there’s no saving everyone. No matter how you fight, Death will still be there.” The candles flickered. Marie’s hands fisted. “When the time comes, tell her to let go.”
What? “Um, tell who?”
But Marie just smiled her small, tight smile.
The candles flickered again, a wild, desperate dance, and the shadows in the room lengthened as Marie began to chant.
“This is a bad idea,” Dane said, his shoulders brushing Piers’s as they faced off against the men and women blocking the entrance to Marie Dusean’s house.
“It’s the only idea I had,” Piers growled back at him.
Their claws were out. Claws and teeth were the only weapons they had. Normally, that would be enough, but with Marie—
If half the stories floating around about her were true, claws and teeth wouldn’t even scratch her skin.
Dane threw a glance over his shoulder. Lucas barely seemed to breathe. The stench of silver burned Dane’s nose. Dammit, this was not the way the alpha should have been taken out. Not for—
His breath hissed out. “He shouldn’t have made the trade.”
“Wasn’t him,” Piers said, not looking his way. Piers had locked his gaze on the big Haitian with the seen-the-devil eyes. “Sarah went for the trade.”
Grunts reached his ears. Frantic, wild. Muffled. He turned his head and caught the golden gaze glaring at him. Her. Hell. He couldn’t just leave her bound and gagged. Not forever.
When hell had come calling at that coyote slaughterhouse, he’d grabbed the woman. Human. As far as he could figure, anyway. He’d heard the screams of the coyotes, smelled the blood, and knew that a war had broken out. He’d tossed the blonde over his shoulder and held tight as he fought his way out of that nightmare. He’d gotten away, mostly in one piece.
And he’d taken her with him.
He’d thought they might get information from her. Thought they might be able to use her.
Her head twisted toward the line of men and women in white, and she mumbled something behind the gag.
Hell. He leaned into the van and yanked out her gag.
“Are you crazy?” she whispered. “Do you know where we are?”
“He’s dying.” That was all that needed to be said. If they had to trade with the devil, so be it.
She gulped. “Marie won’t help you for free. There’s always a price.”
“Then we’ll pay it.”
“Even if she wants wolf pelts?”
His fingers brushed her delicate jaw. “He’s not dying.”
Her gaze seemed to bore into him. “You’re playing with some serious fire.”
“For a human, you are, too.”
He caught the flicker of her lashes. Ah . . .
“Bring the wolf.” The voice boomed into the night.
Dane spun back around. The big Haitian had stepped forward. “Marie will take him.”
He caught sight of Sarah’s hair then, blowing in the breeze. A breeze, shit—where had that come from?
Sarah ran toward him, her face stark white. “She’ll help us!”
“Piers, Dane, bring him in!”
Carefully, he and Piers lifted Lucas. The alpha’s head hung limply and his eyes never opened.
They’d taken four steps when he heard the crunch of gravel. Dane glanced back. The woman—still didn’t know her name—was outside of the van, and the ropes were at her feet.
“Don’t go in there!” She stared at the line of white with narrowed eyes. “Don’t trade with her—just let him go!”
She meant let him die.
She shook her head and backed away slowly. “You already have enough enemies after you. Do you really need more?”
“Get out of here, Karen,” Sarah said. “This call isn’t yours to make.”
What the hell? Sarah knew her?
Karen turned around and ran into the night.
Dane’s shoulders stiffened as they approached the house. Piers was heading in first, his hold on Lucas’s feet and—
Piers froze. No, not just froze. The guy seemed to slam into some kind of brick wall.
“He can’t enter.” The Haitian. He pushed Piers out of the way and grabbed Lucas’s feet. “Too much of the beast inside. Wanting to break free, is he?”
Piers growled. “I’m not letting you take—”
“You know you’re losing control.” A woman’s voice rang out, lifting and rolling like the man’s. “How long will it be . . .” A small woman appeared, skin dark, her eyes blue—blind. Marie Dusean. “Before you lose yourself?”
The breeze was back, stronger now.
Marie turned her stare onto Dane. “You like the pain too much now.” She shook her head. “You won’t make it inside either. Not with the demon on your back.”
What the hell?
“You’ll have a choice,” she whispered to him. “Go back to the shadows and the screams, Dane, or—”
Another man tried to shoulder him out of the way. His hold tightened on Lucas.
“He’s dying,” Sarah whispered, her hands wrapping around his. “Just let her take him.”
That blind stare of Marie’s was still on him. “Screams or sacrifice, Dane. Choose.”
He let Lucas go.
Marie’s men took Lucas inside. Sarah hurried after them. Fuck this, he was going, too. Dane barreled forward—
And seemed to slam into the same invisible wall that Piers had hit.
“Evil can’t cross my line,” Marie’s voice floated back to him.
Line? He looked up, down—and saw the line of red dust. And wait—had she said evil? Dane glanced at Piers. Since when in the hell were they evil?
Too much of the beast inside.
His fist slammed into nothing, but it sure as shit felt like he’d just punched a solid wall.
They lowered Lucas onto a table. Candles were placed at his feet, his head, and near his bound hands.
“Why are you tying him down?” Sarah asked.
“So he doesn’t kill us,” the Haitian—Maxime—said quietly.
“He can barely move.” Wasn’t moving, “Why would you need to—”
Marie threw a gray liquid onto Lucas. Her chants filled the room. The clouds left her eyes and the blue sharpened, too bright, glittering . . .
A howl tore from Lucas. He arched up, nearly ripping his binds apart. Silver began to leak from the deep wounds on his body.
“Hold him,” Maxime ordered.
Sarah jumped forward. Her hands pressed down on Lucas’s chest. His eyes opened, burning as brightly as Marie’s, and they locked on her. “Sarah . . .” The broken rasp of his voice.
“You’re okay,” she told him, talking quickly, babbling.
“She’s getting the silver out, you’re going to be fine, you’re—”
He sagged back against the table. His eyes still stared up at her, but he—he was gone.
He didn’t move.
Sarah’s gaze flew up. Marie had her hands in the air, her chants came now, fast, but low. “What’s happening?” Sarah demanded.
Marie kept chanting.
“Dammit!” Sarah tore her hands away from Lucas.
The binds snapped, and he surged off the table.
“Hold him!” Maxime yelled.
She turned back to him, but Lucas was already changing. The snap and crunch of bones filled her ears. His body convulsed, twisting, heaving, as fur burst over his skin.
“Reach for the beast,” Marie said. “Control him.”
Sarah took a breath and tried to find a psychic link with his wolf. Lucas?
Pain hit her, tearing apart her insides, ripping, burning . . .
Sarah fell to the floor.
“Hold him,” Marie murmured. “Hold the spirits close, don’t let them go.”
Spirits. The pain had tears leaking from her eyes. Shifters had two souls, two spirits inside of them. Man and beast. She could feel them both right then. The savage pain of the beast. The fury of the man. Both buffeting her.
Lucas, stay with me.
A small cloud appeared before her mouth, as if she were cold, and suddenly Sarah was shuddering because the temperature in the room seemed to have dropped about fifty degrees.
“Hold him tighter,” Marie’s voice rose. “Don’t let go!”
Did she mean hold him psychically? Hold him physically? Sarah forced herself to move, to crawl back to the table. The psychic link had broken because the wolf was gone and only the man remained. She grabbed his arm. Ice cold.
Sarah tried to find his mind, but with the wolf gone, she couldn’t connect with him.
“Will you bind to him?” Marie’s whisper floated to her.
Sarah glanced up. Maxime was at her side. “What does that mean?”
“If you want him to live, you bind.” Marie grabbed her left hand. Stretched it out and turned her wrist up. “Do you bind?”
If it meant Lucas lived, then . . . “Y-yes.”
Maxime yanked out a knife and slashed her exposed flesh. Sarah didn’t even have enough breath to scream right then.
“He lives . . . that’s what you want?”
Why the hell was Marie asking that? Wasn’t it obvious? “Yes!”
“You live, he lives . . .”
Marie’s fingers smeared the blood over Sarah’s arm. Then the mambo lifted her blood-stained fingers into the air and seemed to paint letters. “He dies . . .”
The bright blue of Marie’s eyes began to fade. “Then you die.”
All of the candles sputtered out. The darkness swept over her, and the last sound Sarah heard was the growl of a wolf.
The figures in white slowly filed out of the dark house. Marie led the line, her hair a veil around her face. Dane tensed when he saw her. He could almost feel the power crackling in the air around her.
“Did he make it?” Piers voiced his obvious fear.
Marie stopped and spared him a glance. “Death wanted him.”
Fuck. Lucas had pulled his ass right out of hell before and he’d let the alpha . . .
“But your wolf fought back.” Her eyes looked right through them. “Had to bind the souls. Life and death will follow, but for now . . . they live.”
They? The wolf and the man?
Marie shook her head. “He has a weakness. One that could destroy him. Sometimes . . .” She waved her hand in the air, and the big Haitian at her back stumbled, then seemed to topple onto the porch. “We just delay Death. We don’t stop him.”
The Haitian was on the ground now. Not moving. Eyes wide open.
“What the hell did you do to him?” Dane asked, voice tight.
The delicate woman that he’d seen before hit the ground next. Her braided hair spread behind her like a halo.
Shit. It looked like the mambo was killing her own people. Dane’s claws burst through his skin.
“Easy, wolf.” Marie’s head lowered as she stared at the man. Then the woman. “They did their service to me, so I was keeping my end of the deal.” Her hand hovered over the Haitian. “I didn’t raise them, but I am setting them free.”