She heard breaking glass as the vampires came in from the roof and landed above them in the warehouse. There was only two way in or out of the Circle chambers; the elevator and a back door leading to stairs that went up to the street. The back door was protected by Pierce at all times. A circle of protection, just like the one Aden used at the mansion in Virginia, was lined around that door with a white powder and Pierce’s blood. It kept out ill will and violence, which meant that the vampires would not be coming in that way.
“Only so many of them can fit in the elevator,” Raven said as they all positioned themselves to stand in front of its doors.
“They can come down the shaft and threw the top,” Rylan said. “But they can only come in one at a time that way.”
They all heard the movement and the swoosh of opening doors. All eyes rose to the dial that indicated the progress of the elevator. It was a single story below ground, and a small metal arm pointed from one end of an arch, traveling downward, toward them. As the arm met the halfway mark Bronte drew her gun. She could see from the corner of her eye as Pierce, Nolan and Lucas did the same. On the other side of her she heard the sound of the safety coming off her mother’s gun, then Aden’s. Her father and Rylan drew their short swords and the tension filled the room just before the power did. Bronte turned her head to see Cyrus standing unarmed. His expression was unhappy, not fearful, but thoughtful.
“What is it Cyrus?” She asked. His eye moved down to capture hers and she had her answer before he spoke. These were his people and they were all going to be killed.
There was a loud sound above that brought Rohan and Rylan’s eyes searching as though they could see through the ceiling above them. The immortals had arrived and the battle had begun.
The nose of the metal arm continued to move, alerting them to the nearness of the vampires. Bronte felt them as her eyes remained on Cyrus. There were six of them inside and three on the top of the elevator. She could feel the ones above, there had to be over twenty of them up there battling the immortals. In sudden surprise she felt one die, she felt his power diminish then there was nothing. She had never seen the vampire, did not know if it was evil or uninformed, but its death washed her heart in grief.
“Cyrus,” she whispered to him, afraid to alert the others, “We can’t let them be killed.”
“If they try to kill you Bronte,” he said, “I will kill them. All of them.”
“They don’t know any better,” she pleaded as her gun dropped and her eyes glanced to the elevator. The needle dropped into place as she moved in front of Cyrus.
“Bronte, get back,” he father told her, but she did not hear him. She heard the cries of the vampires above.
“You must tell them Cyrus,” she said as she searched his face. “Let them know you are their king.”
His eyes pierced hers and she could see the struggle there. He wanted to be able to save them, but not at the cost of putting her in danger. Bronte did not want to be the reason they died. Seth did this, and letting those men die was another way to torture her, and Cyrus.
“We can do this,” she said as her hand fell to his arm and she pushed the power of calm into him.
His eyes reflected the feeling she sent, then awe as he looked down to where her hand rested gently on his arm. He pulled her to him and began to back away from the elevator doors. No one said anything or looked at them. It appeared as though Cyrus was pulling Bronte out of harms way, but he stopped just behind the other kings and let go of her.
He let his jacket fall from his body to pool at his feet. Bronte watched him tear the white linen shirt away and the tiny buttons bounced across the floor. His hand came up to remove her denim jacket and pulled her t-shirt from where it was tucked neatly in her pants.
She felt his hands move beneath her shirt caress her shoulders. The marks grew warm instantly at his touch. The power surged through her and into him as she placed her hands on his naked back. The heat and power was incredible and her cry was captured as his mouth covered hers.
She heard the elevator doors come open and felt Cyrus’ power expand. His mouth pulled away as his red eyes looked beyond her.
“Stop!” He yelled to all.
She turned her head in the direction of the elevator. The vampires stood there unmoving, not looking at those standing with weapons in front of them, but behind them to their king.
Rohan looked behind him to Cyrus then back at the frozen vampires.
“Come to me,” Cyrus told them and they walked in single file from the elevator, past the warriors and to the place they had been called to. There was noise coming from the elevator as the three coming in one at a time came to join the others. “Rylan, your dirk please,” Cyrus asked.
Rylan looked to Rohan who nodded. The King of Seers withdrew his dirk as he approached. It was placed in Cyrus’ outstretched hand and Rylan watched as Cyrus brought his other hand around and cut it deeply. The blood moved in slow motion to fill the long slash, then spilled over to fall to the carpet.
“Drink and stand aside,” Cyrus instructed the men. One at a time the nine men came to taste the blood of their king. They drank and stood to one side of Cyrus to allow the others to join them. When the last man finished Cyrus put the wound to his mouth, let his mouth fill with blood, and licked the wound to close it. His lips fell to Bronte’s the blood spilled into her mouth. As she swallowed the potent liquid desire filled her senses. Her fangs lengthened in response and heated power filled her to make her body warm.
The movement upstairs told them that this was not over. The battle continued to rage above. Seth was there, calling to Cyrus with every death.
“Seth call me,” Cyrus said. He let Bronte go so that he could move toward the elevator. The vampires followed, Aden followed him.
“It could be a trap,” Raven said, watching then fill the elevator as fear filled her heart.
“It is a trap,” Cyrus said just before the doors closed, leaving Bronte rushing toward him. “And Seth is in it.”
The doors closed leaving Bronte beating on them. She turned to her father, frantic and fearful.
“How do we get to him?” she yelled.
“We wait for the elevator, or we take the stairs,” Pierce offered.
She looked to Pierce, then to the door that would take her to chamber of the Circle. She was running. She didn’t recall moving, only thinking of being at the stairs, but she stood there opening the door. Lucas was behind her. She could feel the others follow her, but she had no time to consider them. She came out onto the darkened street at the back of the building. The sounds within were quiet, which propelled her even more. She came around the side and saw the long black limousine parked out front. As she reached the front of the warehouse she saw the immortals standing around the inside, no longer fighting.
She stepped inside noting the nine vampires that had taken Cyrus’ blood stood around him. The immortals stood as a circle outside a circle. There were other vampires, fifteen or so that stood near Seth. Those men looked confused, almost insane as they looked from one king to the other.
She heard Rylan’s radio behind her. Someone sounded panicked as he relayed information to Rylan.
“I don’t know what you guys are doing,” the voice sounded breathless, “but, it’s driving these vampires crazy. I don’t know how long we can contain them.”
The tear in power caused the vampires to become confused. Bronte had just enough time to wonder if it affected all vampires everywhere before Cyrus spoke.
“I have made the challenge for the seat Seth,” he called out. “Move into the circle here and fight me to the death.”
Bronte had not been prepared for his words and her gasp brought Seth’s eyes upon her.
“Don’t you look at her,” Cyrus’ voice was venom and hate.
Seth flicked his eyes from Cyrus to Bronte and back. “I will taste her before this night is over,” he taunted.
“Over my dead body,” the resounding voice of Rohan caused the immortals to stand straight. He moved up from behind Bronte to stop and stand beside her. The power from his body filled the other immortals and they all brought their swords before them.
“You are immortal Rohan,” Cyrus spoke as though the Immortal King were a fool.
“Then you understand?” Rohan asked as his eyes turned to quicksilver and Bronte’s followed suit.
“You cannot harm me Rohan,” Seth told him. “The Circle will not allow it.”
Rohan smiled at the man, but it was heated and knowing. “Dylan.” The name filled the air and Bronte noticed Dylan for the first time.
Dylan stepped forward and turned his sword elegantly for flare.
“You cannot use your men as weapons against me,” Seth accused. He seemed unsure as he looked to the deadly warrior.
“I have said nothing to Dylan,” Rohan answered. “Dylan will do as he will, as he so often does.” He looked to Dylan, then to Seth. “Dylan, have I asked you to do harm to Seth?”
“No sire,” Dylan answered respectfully.
“What will you do if Seth attempts to touch Bronte?” Rohan asked.
“I will kill him sire,” he answered.
“Of your own free will?” Rohan asked pointedly.
“And with great pleasure sire,” Dylan answered.
Rohan said nothing more. Seth looked at the other immortals surrounding him. His hatred became tangible as it fell to Bronte’s acute senses. It was sour and hot, bitter and strong.
“Travis,” Seth called out. The only eight foot tall vampire in the group stepped forward. “Where is your brother?”
“Dead over there,” Travis pointed to a corner of the large room. “Killed by an immortal.”
Seth looked to Rohan in triumph. He could call upon the vampires as easily as Rohan could call the immortals. He looked to Travis and his eyes fell to the rest of those who still followed him. “Kill them,” he said. His eyes fell back to Bronte, “Kill them all and bring me the girl.”
The heat brought on by so much power began to grow cold. Bronte felt the change immediately, but it was subtle as it expanded. She tried to identify the power, but it was cloaked. Her eyes fell to Seth and Cyrus as everything went insane.
She saw Seth charge Cyrus, but too many people surrounded them and she found it hard to follow their movements. She pulled the gun and began to fire at the vampires who approached her. The gun had special bullets and although she tried to wound them, she knew some would die.
The sounds of metal from swords and guns going off caused her mind to swim. She pushed her way through a throng of bodies trying to reach Cyrus. When someone grabbed her she turned and almost put a bullet in Dylan. He pulled her to the side, but she tried to fight him.
“I need to help him,” she said as Dylan swept the gun away from him.
“Then stay safe,” he answered. She watched his face turn up as a shadow fell across her back. She turned to find the eight foot tall vampire approaching them, his eyes intent on her.
Dylan moved with the quickness of his race and threw himself into the large vampire. They fell to the floor as Dylan took him down, driving his sword into the vampire’s chest.
Movement to her left brought her attention to a small figure in the darkness. She focused her keen eyesight there and her mouth went dry from fear. The long stringy hair, the molded gray and purple skin, the telltale signs of ghouls, of whisperers. The sound of whispered laughter floated to her. She could not move to her left without coming close to the ghoul, and Dylan had the vampire directly in front of her. She backed toward her right, back into the fray.
Her gun hung at her side unnoticed until she was pushed against the wall. The vampire holding her in place was one of Seth’s. Its breath smelled of blood and she knew it was high on the blood of one of the immortals. It knocked her gun from her hand as she brought it up to shoot the insane thing.
It turned her so that her face was smashed into the wall. It pressed itself into her back with the evidence of its excitement. She screamed, but the world spun as it hit her hard in the side of the head. She fell back into its arms as she tried to focus.
It moved so fast her neck was thrown against its chest. As it placed her in front of Seth her sight stopped blurring. Seth was ten feet away from Cyrus and he was covered in blood, his own blood. Cyrus had beaten him badly and as Seth realized his prize he grabbed her to use her as a shield.
Everything slowed as she looked into Cyrus’ surprised face. She felt the trickle of blood fall from a cut on her head where the vampire had thrown her into the wall. His expression changed from shock to anger, then fear. Seth pulled her hard against him, wrapping one arm around her middle to secure her there. The vampire who had delivered her produced a sword. It was that of an immortal and Bronte felt cold fear still her heart as Seth placed the tip between her breasts.
“No!” Cyrus’ scream filled the room, his power pouring out unchecked as he struggled against a fear he had never known before. His hands went out in front of him as though he could stop Seth that way.
The immortals outnumbered the vampires and soon only Seth and the vampire beside him were standing. Cyrus’ scream brought them all around to face him. The vampires who had taken Cyrus’ blood stood at six in number now. They turned as well and their faces became masks of rage, absorbed from the power Cyrus leaked into the room. They moved slowly toward Cyrus. The immortals stood perfectly still awaiting Rohan’s direction.
The King of Immortals said nothing as he took in the scene. So many dead surrounded him, but they had prevailed. He had lost track of Bronte and Raven during the fight, but he never saw this coming. His eyes were not able to leave Seth and Bronte. He had no idea where Raven was, or Cyrus. He began walking toward them, bringing Seth’s attention to him.
“Stop Rohan,” Seth warned. Rohan did not seem to hear as he continued to move forward. Seth brought the sword across Bronte’s chest, a shallow wound that bled freely down her white shirt. Her sharp intake of breath was the only testament to the pain.
She couldn’t think straight. The slice across her tender skin took all of her attention as she willed the pain and fear away. She knew her father had stopped then, and her eyes fell to Cyrus.
“How badly do you want her alive Cyrus?” Seth asked.
“What do you want Seth?” Cyrus felt frozen in place as he stood there helpless to save her. Her blood continued to pour from the wound and Seth had put the tip of the sword back over her heart.
“Place yourself on your knees before me, offer me your life and I will spare her,” Seth told him.
Bronte could hear only her own beating heart, her own breath. “Don’t do it Cyrus,” she whispered to him. “If he kills you I die anyway.”
Seth tightened his hold on her. “How very sweet,” he smiled to Cyrus as he licked a path along Bronte’s neck.
She felt like she would retch. His tongue was slick and wet across her skin. He pressed his fangs against her throat in threat to Cyrus.
“Tell me quickly Cyrus,” Seth said and Bronte could hear the insanity there in his voice. He was trying to compel Cyrus and she realized that Seth had no idea that Cyrus was once again recognized by the Circle. Her brain tried to process the significance in that, but Cyrus’ voice called her thought away.
“Let her go and I will kneel before you,” Cyrus told him.
“No Cyrus, I know your tricks,” Seth said. “Kneel before me now, no bargaining.”
Cyrus began to walk toward them and Bronte felt the panic rise in her. She wanted someone to stop this madness. She moved her eyes trying to find her mother or Aden. She saw them behind Rohan. There wasn’t a good shot, a safe shot, so they waited for a chance. Her attention to them brought Seth’s.
“Drop your weapons all of you,” he said.
The sound of metal hitting the concrete floor of the warehouse echoed around them. Seth had his back to one wall with no one on one side and his last vampire on the other. Bronte’s heart sank as she watched her mother and Aden set down their weapons.
Cyrus had kneeled in front of them and the vampire beside Seth walked to him with cuffs to ensure his arms would be held in place behind him. Cyrus made no move to stop the vampire and as they clicked in place Bronte felt her heart fill and tears flowed down her cheeks.
“Cyrus please don’t,” she begged, but knew it would do no good. It had gone too far.
“Tell me,” he said and it took her a moment to understand his request. His eyes caressed her face.
She swallowed hard and could not look away from him. “I love you,” she said.
She felt herself being passed to the vampire beside Seth, but her eyes never wavered.
“I love you,” he said.
She felt the heat of her markings respond to his words, to the fear and to her helplessness. They grew hot as she watched Seth take a stance in front of Cyrus with the sword before him. Her power felt something that was purely a part of her new vampire self; rage and vengeance beyond her ability to control. As she watched the sword come back and Seth move it swift and hard into Cyrus’ heart she rolled out her power. The vampire holding her cried out from the burns on his chest. Her t-shirt was discolored as the heat from her markings turned black and burned the material. She shoved her power into the vampire holding her away from Cyrus and as she turned she saw that he was bleeding from his eyes. She pushed the power harder and he stepped away from her. It was enough room for a sword to find its way to the vampire’s throat and the creature grabbed at its throat as it began to bleed. Rohan moved closer and buried his sword into the vampire’s heart and the thing was dead.
Bronte turned back as she moved toward Cyrus. She could see Seth’s back and that Cyrus still kneeled at his feet. Blood began to pour profusely onto the ground. As she came up to them a hand grabbed her and pulled her back. Rohan pulled her into his chest, but she could see both vampires clearly now.
Her shock was surpassed only by Seth’s. The sword was buried in Cyrus’ chest, straight into his heart, a death blow. But Cyrus did not bleed. Bronte’s eyes moved from the sword at Cyrus’ chest to the blood at Seth’s. Seth wavered as his blood spilled and he fell to his knees in front of Cyrus. The two men looked into each other’s eyes at the same level now and Seth’ surprise was still evident, but Cyrus looked calm, even with the sword running through his heart.
“If you’re going to play the game Seth,” Cyrus said, “learn the rules.”
Seth tried to speak, but nothing would come. He clutched at his bleeding chest as though he could stop the bleeding, but nothing helped.
“Kings can’t kill kings,” Cyrus smiled slowly as he watched the confused Seth dieing. “The Circle won’t allow it.” Cyrus cocked his head to one side as though studying Seth, waiting for the man to fall. When Seth fell back he was dead. It was over.
Someone walked up from behind her and she watched Aden move forward and remove the sword. As Aden released Cyrus from cuffs at his wrists Bronte watched the wound from the sword heal instantly.
Her father released her and she ran to him. He stood in time to catch her in his arms. He pulled her close as she began to kiss him. He felt her body shudder as she cried.
“It’s all right,” he whispered to her as she placed her head to his chest. He kissed the top of her head. “Everything is okay now.”
Cyrus felt the power of the Circle claim him. He was the Vampire King. He felt the shift as balance returned to his people. His power went out to them and they knew him.
He had won. Seth was dead, killed by his own hand, killed because he had no respect for his position and what responsibilities it held. He had wanted only power and pleasure, and not learning the rules had cost him his life. Not believing Cyrus was his equal had cost him his life.
Bronte clung to him and he felt her power run over his body as she inspected him. They would stay here in DC for a short time and then leave for England. He would have the Virginia mansion rebuilt. He would do as he had wanted and give her everything.
She moved to look up at him. Her hand caressed his face and he was all that she could see.
“Tell me,” she whispered to him.
He kissed her lips softly and looked into her gray eyes. “I love you.”