Home > Fused in Fire (Fire and Ice Trilogy #3)(13)

Fused in Fire (Fire and Ice Trilogy #3)(13)
Author: K.F. Breene

“So your plan is to go into the underworld without any knowledge at all?” Callie jammed her fists onto her hips. “At least in the Brink, you have other magical people who can help you. Shelter you.”

“And die for that privilege.” I laughed sardonically and shook my head. “No. I’m not going to ask people to do that, and I’m not going to hide. It’s time to face my fate. I’ll sneak in there, find the sect with dirt on me, and kill whoever knows. Then I’ll sneak back out. In all honesty, I’ve had worse plans in my life.”

“You’ve never had a plan worse than that, no.” Dizzy picked at his satchel. “In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a worse plan, and I’ve heard some really bad plans in my day.”

“What do you have to say about this, vampire?” Callie demanded, turning to a silent Darius, who was standing to the side.

“I think she will go regardless of your bullying,” he said softly, his eyes delving into mine. “And I will go with her.”

“You can get through the gates, but you won’t be able to go much farther,” Callie said. Her expression was imploring me now. “Let’s give this a few weeks and think about it, Reagan. Weigh all the options and figure out what we can do.”

I sighed and felt a weight settle on my heart. I knew what I had to do. I hated that it would hurt those I loved in the process.

But at least they would live, even if I did not.

“Okay.” I sank into the driver’s seat of my car. “Two weeks. But I need a few days on my own to let this settle before you start trying to convince me I’m ridiculous.”

“Come over to our house when you’re ready, Reagan,” Dizzy said. “I’ll cook you dinner and we can chat. We’ll figure this out, just you wait. Callie and I can be pretty resourceful when backed into a corner.”

“Okay,” I said.

Callie sagged in relief, and I felt more guilt in that moment than I had in years. The dual mages hurried to their car, thinking they had a promise from me.

I hoped I was around to beg forgiveness after this was all through.

Chapter Eight

“That was necessary,” Darius said as the dual mages drove away.

“Oh good. I’m taking ethics advice from someone who hoodwinks humans so he can feed off them.” I started my car and went to pull my door shut.

Darius was there before I could, catching it. “I would like to speak with you. My residence in the French Quarter?”

“That depends. What do you have to eat?” Since I knew Darius didn’t plan to stop me, I figured I might as well let him help where he could. Lord knew I needed someone smarter and savvier than me to help plan this trek into the belly of the beast.

“Anything you want. Shall I surprise you, like usual?”

When it came to food, I’d never received a bad surprise from him. “See you there in a while.”

He hesitated. “Do you plan to go straight there?”

“Wow. I didn’t peg you for the insecure type.” When he didn’t move, I grinned. “Yes, darling, I will go straight there. I promise I won’t heed the call of the bar and the challenge of catching that danged were-badger.”

“You were thinking about it,” he said, flashing me a smile.

I laughed and shut my door, because there was no denying it. I needed to take my mind off this awful situation for a while, regardless of whether that was a good idea. Food had a stronger pull, of course, and Darius put on the best spread in town.

“All this in under an hour, huh?” I stood in the doorway to his dining room, a large space with a huge table laden with a feast. All the chairs except for two had been removed from the room. This was due to the fact that I had once mentioned the twenty or so empty chairs weirded me out, and could I please eat in the kitchen? That had been just one of the many reasons I’d begged to eat in the kitchen, but it was the only one he’d latched on to. He didn’t seem to get that it was the unreal finery of the room that put me off.

“I knew I would be speaking with you tonight,” Darius said, holding out his hand to insinuate I should have a seat. “I also knew you would be hungry. I had this prepared in anticipation.”

“But how did you know I would come here?” I took off my dirty boots and left them on the rubber mat set out just for me. I slipped into the cozy slippers next to it, also there for me. I’d eaten at Darius’s a time or eight since I’d met him. He knew I was afraid to get the cream-colored…everything dirty.

“I didn’t. My staff was standing by, waiting for my order. I would’ve had the meal taken to wherever you were comfortable.”

“Crazy,” I said, sitting in my chair.

“Crazy amazing, I think you would say.” He grinned, and I blinked at him for a few seconds, because when we both let our guards down, I couldn’t shrug off how G-D handsome the guy was. A real panty melter.

I blew out a breath and stood with my plate. My lady bits were growling as loudly as my stomach. Waiting around for one of Darius’s staff to serve me was not in the cards.

“I will allow you to have your way, this time, as relates to the server.” Darius rose and moved to the door. It closed with a soft click.

“Aw, whadda guy.” I perused the options.

“But I will not allow you to fill your plate like a peasant.” He took the fine china from my hand. “Go sit down and be attended to like a lady should.”

“Ladies don’t do what they’re told. Callie says so. Of course, ladies aren’t fools, either.” I laughed and did as he said, because why not? If he wanted to wait on me, so be it.

He finished loading my plate with a bit of everything, obviously knowing I wasn’t picky when food was handed to me. He placed it in front of me with a small bow.

“Thank you,” I said.

He sat gracefully. “May I speak to you regarding our present situation while you eat, or would you rather wait until after?”

I glanced at my empty crystal wine glass. Then looked around for the wine bottle I hoped loitered just out of sight.

“Forgive me.” Darius stood smoothly and disappeared from the room. My mouth was full of mashed potatoes when he returned with a bottle of red. “Here you are.”

“No cognac for you?” I asked as he finished pouring my wine and sat.

His gaze was deep and open. “Not just now.” He paused for a moment, and a surprise wash of tingles raced across my skin. “You didn’t answer me earlier. Would you be open to speaking about our situation?”

“Sure.” It was hard to swallow. Something in that look, in his open regard and the depth of his gaze, made me want to run. It also made me want to melt into him while he carried me away.

“Yesterday I spent time with one of the oldest vampires I could easily track down.” He leaned back, his eyes taking on a keen edge. “She resides in the Realm like a hermit, mostly removed from the rest of my species, and only visits one or two other magical people when she needs to feed—which is not often, given her age.”

“Is she much older than you?”

“Yes. A great deal, from what I have heard.”

Darius was nearly a grand, a term I used because a thousand years old sounded too ancient to comprehend. So she must’ve been crazy old. Crazy, silly old. Too old to put numbers to, surely, which was why I didn’t ask for specifics.

“Why is she a hermit?” I speared a carrot.

“I did not ask.”

Not inquisitive, this vampire. “So what did you ask her?”

“How a vampire could travel into the heart of the Dark Kingdom.”

I slowed my chewing. He stared at me silently. Clearly he needed prodding to continue. “And did she have an answer? Inquiring minds, and all that.”

“Yes. As far as she was concerned, it was simple. Bond a demon.”

“Ew. I hope there are some nicer-looking ones than I’ve seen. Although, if you go after it in monster form, it will be tough to say who is grosser.”

“When we bond with another being, we impart some of our vampire traits and strengths to that being, like seeing in the dark, increased speed, things like that. From those we bond, we often get an increased sense of emotion and empathy. If we bond with a stronger species, it has been said that we can last in the sunlight a hair longer. Certainly we can withstand the glow a bit better. Higher-powered demons certainly count as a strong species, and therefore, we are apparently imparted some of their gifts, one of which is the ability to travel across the river.”

   
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