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The cars that had lit the fighting area were getting out of Dodge.

And someone was standing over him.

That female . . . the one who had shouted at him. And even as he bled out, he took note of her.

Which was so much better than having his life flash before his eyes.

She was tall, and dressed simply, her jeans and thick sweatshirt out of place with the elaborate, revealing shit that the humans wore. Her hair was pulled back, so it was hard for him to tell what color it was, and her face was angular, the cheekbones high, the jaw strong, the hollows between the two suggesting she was hungry some portion of the time.

What the hell was she doing in a place like this?

As another car took off, its blue-bright headlights streamed over her and her wide, scared eyes.

“Go,” he told her. “Leave me.”

When she didn’t move and didn’t acknowledge his words, he wondered if he’d only spoken in his head—

Sahvage started to cough, but it was weak because there wasn’t a lot of air in his lungs. And goddamn, his mouth was full of copper.

The female looked around, and that was when he saw her ponytail. Dark hair, but with blond streaks. Then she was down on his level and her mouth was moving.

What the hell was she doing? She needed to take care of himself—

Herself. She needed to take care of herself.

Just as he was getting ready to stand up and push her over the side of the fucking parking garage, she straightened to her full height and took one last, long stare at him. She seemed pained. He wanted to tell her not to bother.

Even if they’d been intimates, he wasn’t worth that. And they were strangers.

Eventually, she disappeared into thin air, the space she had inhabited vacated, the last of the cars that had been used to light the fight, a boxy black SUV, squealing its tires and passing right through where she had been standing.

The thing nearly ran him over. He wished it had finished the job for him.

As the last of the lights faded, and the sounds of the humans became silence, and the temperature of the night grew colder and colder, Sahvage smiled in the pool of his own blood.

Finally, a female who did what he told her to when it really counted. As opposed to . . .

• • •

Old Country


“You cannae save me.”

As his charge, Rahvyn, spoke the words, Sahvage was struck with a terrible temper at the female who sat before him in the meadow grass. Verily, had his first cousin laid her open palm upon him, she could not have offended him more.

“What say you,” he growled deep within his chest. “I am your ghardian. ’Tis my honor and duty to ensure you—”

“Stop.” She placed her pale hand upon the rough leather of his sleeve. “I implore you. There is no more time.”

Determined not to let loose his tongue at her, he thus looked away from where they were sitting across from one another. In the midst of the quiet meadow just awakening unto spring’s warmth, beneath the splendor of a clear, starry night with a partial moon, it was unseemly to argue. It was ever unseemly to argue with Rahvyn. Yet his nature was what it was.

And she was alive because of that.

“Sahvage, you must let me go. It serves no betterment for you to fall before—”

“It serves ev’ry betterment! Have you no sense, female—”

“Let them have me,” she whispered. “You shall survive, thereafter. I promise.”

Sahvage fell silent. And could not return his gaze unto her. He stared forth whilst seeing naught, his blood seething, his urge to fight unserved with a target, for he could never hurt her. Not by deed. Not by word. Not even by thought.

He cursed. “I gave my vow unto my uncle, unto your sire, to protect you. You have already insulted my black daggers, now shall you move on to my honor?”

He glowered at the tree line and the distant cottage in which the two of them had lived ever since her side of the family had been left for dead by lessers. His sire and mahmen had already died off. Without Rahvyn, he had no other in his direct bloodline.

When she did not say aught, he had to look upon her once more. Her hair, as black as the wings of her namesake, curled outside of the hood she had drawn up upon her head, and her pale face gleamed in the moonlight. Her eyes, black and mysterious, refused to lift unto his own as she twisted her hands in her lap, and her preternatural concentration upon the nervous movements stiffened his spine.

“What have you foreseen?” he demanded.

In response, there was only a silence that braced his resolve even as it threatened to break his heart.

“Rahvyn, you must tell me.”

Her stare finally rose to meet his own. Tears, luminous and tragic, trembled on her lower lashes.

“It will be easier for us both if you leave. The now.”


“The time of my rebirth is nigh. The trial I must go through is prepared for me by destiny. To find my true power, there is no other way.”

He reached out and wiped the one tear that fell. “What madness do you speak.”

“The flesh must suffer so that the final barrier may burn away.”

A chill went through Sahvage. “No.”

Off in the distance, there came a clamor of hooves upon the packed dirt road that skirted the open field. Torches, held high and much agitated by the driven gaits of powerful horses, came ’round at a war-like speed.

It was a guard bearing Zxysis the Elder’s colors.

“No!” Sahvage jumped to his feet, outing his black daggers and facing the attack. “Save yourself—I shall hold them!”

The count of the males upon those steeds was a dozen. Perhaps more. And behind them? A horse-drawn cage of steel.

“Rahvyn,” he barked. “You must go!”

When she said nothing, he glanced over his shoulder—

Sahvage lost all track of thought. A glow had coalesced around his cousin, and as his eyes adjusted, he was confused, for he saw that stars had eschewed their placement above for an orbit about her as their sun. How was this possible—

No, not stars. They were fireflies. Except . . . ’twas the wrong season for them, was it not?

Sitting in their midst, in her black hooded cloak, her ashen face lifted unto the moonlight, she was a living virtue, purity vested within mortal confines.

“No . . .” Sahvage’s voice cracked. “Do not let them take you.”

“It is the only way.”

“You do not need power.”

“Thereafter I shall be responsible for myself, Sahvage, no longer a weight upon you that prevents you from serving your duty unto the species.”

Sahvage reached through the glow, grabbed hold of her arm, and dragged her up. “Leave! Now!”

Her eyes met his own. And she shook her head. “This is the way it must be—”

“No!” He checked on the horsemen who had cut off from the road and were barreling o’er the long grass, honing in on the light that gathered ’round her. “There is no more time—dematerialize!”

Rahvyn shook her head slowly, and as he closed his eyes, his chest burned.

“They will tear you asunder,” he choked out.

“I know. It is the way it must be, Cousin. Now, go, and allow me my destiny.”

“Rahvyn, blooded daughter of Rylan,” came the shout. “You are bound by Zxysis the Elder’s authority upon this land!”