Will he help me? Emotions warred on the vampire's face. Danii saw them with her vision flickering.
The poison was taking hold, leaching away her precious reserves of cold.
So hot... felt like she was cooking from the inside.
When she'd faced him earlier, he'd been filled with anger. Now his brows had drawn together at the sight of her injuries.
He grated, "Mercy?" Then something seemed to... snap. His fists clenched, and he bared his sharpened fangs. His body appeared to get even bigger. "I'm going to give you their heads, female."
Why would he? And how?
The vampire didn't understand how deadly these Icere were. They were expert bowmen, their fey speed unmatched in the Lore. And there were too many of them. At least eight stood between the vampire and her. They were already building ice grenades in their palms.
With an unholy roar, the vampire charged, half tracing, half sprinting. Five of the Icere rushed to intercept him, lobbing grenades with lethal speed. But he dodged each volley, and the ice the warriors had just surrendered exploded all around him in the alley.
Like some living thing, a freezing glaze crawled over the battered brick walls, skittering all the way up to the fire escapes, coating the street.
The vampire clashed with the wall of Icere, battling his way to her, slashing through the warriors with a startling brutality. When he snatched one's jugular and blood arced out like a fountain in the night, her Iceren captor began to drag her away by her hair.
The poison had weakened her, but she still fought him. Her claws sank into his arm and tore, rending skin and bone, all but severing it.
He yelled in pain and dropped her hair to take his knife in his good hand, shoving it against her neck. The blade's heat seared her skin, and a scream erupted from her chest.
In answer, a savage bellow sounded; she and her captor looked up just in time to see the vampire flying at him.
One second the knife was at her throat. In the next, the vampire had wrenched the Iceren's head free.
The others took up their bows and charged him as one, the sound of their bowstrings louder than their footfalls. The impact of the arrows slammed the vampire against a glazed wall, shattering the ice.
He roared with fury, his arms twisting back to pull the arrows free. Just as he tore all but one of them from his body, the Icere were upon him.
She could see him grappling again and again to get to her, yet they kept hold of him, preventing him from tracing.
Danii tried to crawl away from the skirmish, but the arrows jutting from her chest made movement impossible, and the poison was too strong. If she didn't get them out soon...
Thermal shock. A nightmare way to die. She was about to be executed, and for no reason. She didn't want her crown, only wanted to be left in peace -
Her would-be savior stumbled. From the ice coating the street? No, he seemed to be fighting some inner possession.
What's wrong with him? I can't think...
One Iceren punched the end of the remaining arrow until it pierced through the vampire's torso. He tore it from himself, but another's sword slashed his leg. Blood poured from his wounds.
There're too many of them.
As if he read her thoughts, the vampire caught her gaze. A last look for both of them?
"Touch their skin," she cried.
Though clearly confused by her words, he grasped one around the neck under the male's collar. The Iceren bellowed in pain.
The vampire's lips curled at the sound. Baring his wicked fangs, he laid his palm on another's face. A hand-shaped brand pressed into the Iceren's skin.
Seeming fresh to the fray, the vampire grew even stronger - and more vicious, appearing intent on making it hurt as he dispatched them.
Soon scattered limbs littered the alley at gruesome angles. He easily separated heads from savaged necks, yelling as if with pleasure as the blood flowed.
Yet he never bit them. She saw he truly did forbear, and still he was somehow defeating them, sustaining injuries he didn't seem to feel, wound after wound that barely slowed him.
As he faced off against the last one standing, she wondered how much of the blood covering him was his own.
But one of the Iceren the vampire had felled wasn't dead. He'd clamped his neck, stemming the rush of blood. Unseen behind the vampire, he struggled to his feet and silently collected his sword.
At her warning, he twisted around. The one he'd been fighting tackled him in a wrestler's grip from behind, holding him for the one with the sword.
Oh, no, no... She'd be damned if she'd let this warrior vampire die.
A weapon, she needed a weapon. Her gaze fell to her chest, to the six arrows riddling it.
Was she strong enough to do this?
She gritted her teeth and fisted one of the bloody arrow shafts. Choking back a scream, she wrested it from her body.
The pain made her vision waver, her muscles going limp. No! Fight!
Holding the feathered end, she threw it like a knife. It skewered the swordsman's neck.
The last thing she saw was the vampire snapping his head back to smash the face of the one holding him, breaking free to snatch up a sword.
When she forced her lids open once more, he was staggering toward her, his fangs still bared, his eyes black amid the blood covering his face. He'd savaged them and now was stalking closer to her.
Yet she was unafraid. He'd told her he was going to give her their heads.
And he had.
Dropping to his knees beside her, he reached for her wrist. She shrank from him, but not quickly enough to prevent contact. When she cried out, he jerked his hand away, gaping at the burn mark he'd left on her skin.
"No... can't be." His tone was rough, almost snarling. "You're like them? But you're a Valkyrie!"
She blinked up at him. "Part... ice fey."
In that growl of a voice, he repeated, "You're like them." The big male was so unsure, so confounded by her nature. "I'll burn you?"
She nodded weakly.
"Is there no way I can touch you?"
"Who can tend to you, then? Do you live in New Orleans? With other Valkyrie?"
"They'll kill you." If the vampire brought her to her coven, her sisters would behead him on sight and ask questions later.
Besides, she didn't have that kind of time.
If this vampire didn't save her...
I'm going to shatter like ice.