Cursed By Destiny Page 23

I think it would have worked if Taran hadn’t lit up the vamp at the gate like a Fourth of July Roman candle.

The vamp shrieked and swatted the blue and white flames burrowing through his back and engulfing his face. He exploded in a mountain of ash, coating the wood fencing surrounding the compound. If Taran had taken the offensive without us present, there must’ve been a reason for it.

“Attack!”

We ran full out. Werebears belonging to the Tribe leapt over the high wooden walls, easily clearing the barbed-wire fencing that wound along on top. They landed with a hard pound, indenting the moist forest floor and blocking our paths to the gate. I kicked my opponent in his temple and severed his head with my claws as he spun. I grabbed the one on top of Liz and yanked him into a headlock. She leapt to her feet and broke through his chest, ripping out his heart in one pull.

The heart finished beating in her hand. “Do you want a bite?” she offered.

Was she trying to make me sick? I ripped the arms off the bear that was trying to decapitate Maria. “Er, no, thanks.”

“Are you sure? He’s a sun bear. They’re considered a delicacy in—”

Rather than listening to what vamps considered yummy morsels, I raced to find my sisters. I ran into Emme first. She’d quickly freed a bunch of villagers from a large cage using her power. They huddled against one another, too terrified to move.

“Corran, corran. Escapen de aquí.” Emme’s small stature and soft features made her appear more friend than foe. The shaking villagers exchanged brief panicked glances before jetting out of the cell at her urging.

Anger fueled my onslaught and Emme’s. Once the villagers cleared the gate, she flung shards of firewood stacked in a corner and impaled the Tribesmen sprinting toward us. Those whose hearts she missed were quickly beheaded by me or by Misha’s vampires.

Taran was literally rolling in the mud with another witch. They screamed, slapped, and tore each other’s hair. They may have lacked a true fighter’s grace, yet the sparks from their clashing magic collided hard enough to charge the air. It was the ultimate catfight, one Bren would have paid to see, and one I couldn’t tolerate. I grabbed the witch by her neck and flung her away from Taran. Edith finished her off, but not before tasting the merchandise.

“Come on, Edith. We don’t have time for this.”

“Celia, it’s hotter than blazes out here. I’m thirsty.”

Taran’s screaming interrupted my reprimand. “Celia!”

More than twenty cages lined the wall. In one of them, a poor village girl had just given birth to a demon child. The thing had busted through her stomach and splattered her organs against the metal bars. I’d witnessed this too many times, but it didn’t make the moment any less horrifying. The newborn jumped through the cage toward Taran. I snatched him out of the air with my claws. His leathery wings slapped against my knuckles and his incensed screeches pained my sensitive ears. The warm slick blood slathering his reptilian body made him hard to hold. He bit into my wrist and licked my skin eagerly. I slammed him into the muddy ground and stomped on him. Bones snapped beneath my sneaker and yet the little bugger still wouldn’t die. Worst of all, he spoke in a dark psycho voice, “Celia Wird.”

I immediately cracked his head off like a Kewpie doll, not wanting to hear him say my name again. Maria approached me as his insides scurried away to dry beneath a rusted wheelbarrow filled with bones. “Hmm, you must have left quite an impression in hell if dey know you already.”

Perhaps she’d meant it as a compliment. I’d never been popular in high school, but knowing I was up for homecoming queen in Hades did nothing to lift my self-esteem.

More demons charged us. I turned my fear and trepidation inward and morphed them into anger and hate. My claws dug into chests to stab hearts, and punctured through eyes and into brains. If I let my human side think through my actions, I’d hurl from the brutality. So I called forth my beast to guide my hands. She could hunt, she could maim, she could protect, and she could push me forward. Her eyes replaced mine as I stalked through the mounds of slithering innards, ignoring the reeking scent of old blood, rotting flesh, and the mingling of defecation and sweat. Taran didn’t have a tigress to strengthen her and the gore became too much. She collapsed on her hands and knees, puking.

My tigress compelled me to the cages, to those we couldn’t allow to escape. The naked women inside cackled hysterically or drooped on their sides, staring expressionless ahead. All of them were pregnant. Some twitched with prebirth seizures.

My tigress drove me to kill them, knowing what slithered beneath their protruding bellies. My human side couldn’t, and wrestled to find a more merciful solution. I yanked Taran to her feet. Black strands of her hair stuck to her pale, sweat-soaked face.

“Taran, you have to draw up some magic-born sunlight.” Her lids peeled back and she wrenched herself loose from my grasp.

“Hell. No! It’s a pure light. It’ll kill the vamps and demons, but it will also toast these women like bread!”

I gave her a hard stare. “I know, Taran.”

“Goddamn it, Celia—I’m not killing innocents!”

“Taran, they’re only vessels for the creatures. They’re suffering. The only way to help them is to free their souls.” She seemed torn. “Do it, Taran.” More women fell to the filthy floor, seizing, their bellies vibrating from the demon children restless to get out. “Do it now!”

Emme stumbled to my side, her face the color of chalk. She wiped the perspiration from her eyes. “Wh-what about Misha’s family?”

“I’ll take care of them. Taran, go. Emme, you protect her.” The air charged and cracked around us as Taran drew from the magic surrounding the forest. I tore the head off a weremonkey trying to stumble to his feet and tossed it loudly against a steel drum used for fire. “SPF fifty!” I screamed.

At the sound of my oh so clever secret code words, Misha’s vamps abandoned their targets and scrambled for cover. Their adversaries paused. One lifted his fist in the air and screamed in victory. Boy, was he in for a letdown.

A sapphire and twirling white mist permeated into the cages and put the women to sleep just as Taran levitated in the air. Her irises blanched to clear and scorching heat built around her small figure. I shielded my eyes against the giant explosion of light that cut through the air like the snap of a whip.

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