When silence fell over the crowd, Carrow glanced up from her grappling - powers bound - catfight with Sabine. Immortals were backing away from her in a wave.
That's right, I'm bringing the rain! "Rydstrom, damn you, just trace me to the island!"
"Rydstrom, stay out of this," Sabine snapped, taking a cheap shot to Carrow's kidney. Even with her exceptional powers bound, Sabine was still a fierce scrapper. But Carrow was fighting for the man she loved.
Another tag to Carrow's kidney. "Bitch," she hissed, driving her elbow into Sabine's torso. Lucky break - Carrow had nailed her solar plexus!
Sabine gasped, robbed of breath. Carrow took the opportunity to dive for her sword and spring up behind her, placing it at her neck. "The blood of a Wendigo coats this sword."
Rydstrom's lips parted, his eyes sharply turning black. "Just ... just calm yourself, witch." He held up his hands as he eased closer. "Think about what you're doing. You'd sacrifice our alliance?"
"Don't you people get it? I'll sacrifice anything!" Carrow cried. "Rydstrom, what wouldn't you do for this woman right now?"
"There is nothing," he rasped, "nothing I wouldn't do to get her back. I will trace you."
In a weird tone, Mari said, "So this Malkom guy - is he really big?"
"He's Malkom Slaine, my husband. And it won't matter how big he is if I don't get to that goddamned island in time to save him from a horde of Wendigos!"
Without warning, Carrow felt a jolt of unfettered joy, just as she heard a male say, " 'Husband'?"
Over her shoulder, Carrow glared. "Yeah, that's what I - " It was Malkom, directly behind her, emerging from the shadows. As he stepped into the light, her heart went to her throat. "How did you ... who brought you?"
"I brought myself, witch," he said, his voice hoarse.
Carrow was about to run to him, then she remembered the bristling sorceress she had at sword point. "I'm sorry for this, Sabine. But he's my male, and you'd do the same for Rydstrom." Carrow released her, tossing the sword away. "Truce. Or I won't help you find your sister."
Sabine whirled around, her lips thinned. "I demand a rematch with our powers."
"Are you kidding?" Carrow scoffed. "You'd annihilate me."
The only thing greater than Sabine's powers was her vanity. She smoothed her red hair, clearly mollified. At length, she said, "Truce."
With that, Carrow ran for Malkom, and he met her, opening his arms to her, clutching her tightly.
Holding his face, she rained kisses on his forehead, his cheeks, his lips. "Did you get scratched or bitten? Because I'll keep you locked up until I can find a cure - "
"I am unscathed. I traced away from them."
"How? How did you find me here?"
"I figured out how to trace and followed your memories. I told you I'd come for you. And for Ruby." He surveyed the room. "Where is the little one?"
"She's right upstairs, waiting for me to bring you back," Carrow said dryly. "You have just arrived at a meeting with my allies. Wherein I was politely asking them to return me to the island."
"You ... you called me husband. In front of all." His blue eyes darkened.
Oh, how badly this demon wanted to believe in her. "Because you are. And you always will be." She stood on her toes, cupping his face. "I was out of my mind, Malkom. Out of my ever-living mind to get back to you."
Another wave of that joy hit her. "I will not doubt you again, ara."
"I won't give you reason to. But I warn you - I'm not letting you out of my sight from now on." When the corners of his lips curled at that, she said, "I love you." Then she showed him how much, pressing her mouth to his for a desperate, breathless kiss.
Yet then he tensed, drawing her away. Like a shot, he tossed her behind him.
A vampire had appeared. Nikolai Wroth - one of Conrad Wroth's brothers and husband to Myst the Coveted.
Without warning, Malkom attacked, gunning for Nikolai.
"Malkom, wait!" But he'd already lunged for the unsuspecting vamp, tackling him to the ground with a force and speed few had ever witnessed.
Garreth MacRieve said, "Bluidy hell, what is he?"
Rydstrom said one word: "Vemon."
"Here?" Garreth bellowed. "And near my woman!" He charged for Malkom. Rydstrom was right behind him.
"No, he's with me!" Carrow cried. "Stop!"
With his fangs and claws bared menacingly, Malkom fought them all, holding them off.
But Nikolai had only just gotten his bearings to begin whaling on Malkom. Rydstrom, a rage demon, hadn't gone fully enraged yet. When Malkom clocked Garreth in the face, the Lykae muttered a stunned "Goddamn?" then sprang back into the fray, morphing to his werewolf state.
Three different species, ganging up on her man. "Let - him - go!" No response. "He won't hurt any of you."
Malkom chose that moment to raise his brows in disbelief. Won't I? Then he slashed out with his claws. Gods, he was strong. Murmurs sounded, incredulous whispers.
Lucia the Huntress said, "Witch, do you not understand what he is?" The Valkyrie drew her bow on him. "I've faced his kind before. And barely escaped with my life."
Sabine said, "Even if I wanted to break this up, my powers are bound. Do let boys be boys."
Myst had drawn a sword, striding forward to end this.
Carrow turned to a wide-eyed Mariketa. "He's my husband, Glitch. Please help me."
"You're sure about a ... a vemon?"
"Never been more sure."
Mari nodded. "But we have got to catch up tonight, 'kay?" With a wave of her hand, she flung the four males in opposite directions, pitching them into the walls.
Mouthing "thank you" over her shoulder, Carrow hurried to where Malkom was already on his feet for more. "Malkom, wait! I told you these are my allies."
"You ally with vampires."
"The red-eyed one from earlier was sent to save me," she said. "You just ambushed his brother, Nikolai."
"A leech risked his life to save yours?"
"Yes. He's a staunch ally."
"And the rest?"
Carrow surveyed the other immortals, as though seeing them through his eyes. Mari and Bowen, both staring at Carrow and the vemon. Lucia and her winded husband Garreth. The bleeding Wroth brother, spoiling for another round, held back by Myst. Rydstrom, Sabine, and so many more.
Carrow shrugged. "I'd fight alongside all of them."
He exhaled. "Very well." Standing stiffly, he faced his opponents. "Then I ... apologize. I do not seek to war with my wife's allies."
Carrow knew how hard that had been for him to apologize, especially to a vampire. Luckily, the three appeared to ... not want to murder him in that instant.
Making light of his attack, she said, "Everybody here brawls all the time. You'll fit right in."
"If we're not to kill the vemon," Rydstrom said, "then you should alert us in advance."
Carrow gazed up at Malkom, grinning like a fool. "I had no idea he'd show."
"Okay, so everybody's cool?" Mari asked around. "Then can we please find out what happened on the island - while I work on your really-hard-to-get-off collar?"
"Are you okay?" Carrow asked Malkom. "Do you need to rest?"
He gave a sharp shake of his head, pulling his shoulders back.
So Carrow related everything that had occurred within the facility, from their capture and imprisonment to their escape via La Dorada.
Had Lucia and Garreth shared a worried glance at the mention of the "ueen of Evil?
Once Carrow had finished, Lucia asked, "Did you see Regin?"
"She's there, and I believe she's gotten free."
Lucia sagged against Garreth. Then she said, "What do you mean, you believe? Why weren't you two together?"
"I didn't have a lot of say about, oh, anything. My power was nil." She flicked her collar, saying, "I'm not wearing this for flair. Look, Lucia, I know you're worried. But Regin was alive." Carrow thought back. "She did want you to know that Aidan was there. She said that I was to curse him. He hurt her. Repeatedly."
"Aidan? Dear gods."
Sabine said, "And what about my sister?"
Carrow said, "A Vrekener named Thronos took her."
"What?" The house appeared to rock again. "Thronos? Then Lanthe's definitely still on that cursed island. I will turn the Vrekener's mind inside out, show him nightmares he can never recover from." She added in an absent mutter, "Just as I did his father."
Rydstrom told Sabine, "Cwena, the witch will scry for Lanthe - "
"And what about Uilleam?" Garreth demanded. Turning to Bowen, he said, "He's your cousin, too. Get your wife to scry for him first."
Lucia said, "I've been around the world looking for Regin for weeks. Mariketa should locate her first."
A chorus of other voices rang out, immortals who wanted their loved ones found.
When Mari put her hands over her ears, Carrow cab-whistled for silence. "She can't scry for everyone's exact locations. It'd take her weeks. And even you guys can't afford that kind of overtime." She turned to Mari. "But you could get a ballpark for dozens, right?"
"I could tell you who is on that island. But not precisely where."
Carrow continued, "And even if she could locate one or two, anybody who goes to retrieve them will be in danger from the moment they set foot there. The Pravus immortals all have their powers. None of the Vertas do. La Dorada might still be skulking around for all we know. Plus, the humans will surely return to take back their facility."
"So you're calling for a war," Garreth said, looking like he was hot on the idea.
"And where is Nix?" Lucia asked. "Shouldn't we get her foresight before planning anything?"
Carrow shook her head. "There's a chance that I saw her on the island. I can't be sure, but I think it was her."
Garreth demanded of the crowd, "Then who will storm this place with the Lykae?"
Carrow smiled, setting them up for the kill. "And how are you going to get there, wolf? The island has some kind of mystical cloak over it."
"Nix told me no one can see it by boat or plane," Mari said.
Sabine flicked her claw-tipped hand at Malkom. "This ... being can return us. I'll pay him his weight in gold."
Malkom stepped forward. "I will go, relaying people there. And I do not want your gold."
Under her breath, Carrow said, "Um, demon, we're mercenaries here." She s"uired him to the side of the room. "If you want to join the family business, you gotta make them pay, okay?"
In a low tone, he said, " 'Tis the only way to get them to accept me."
And Carrow knew how he longed to be accepted. "I think you'll be surprised, big guy. But for now, let's concentrate on feathering our nest, then work on the acceptance, all right?"
When he grudgingly agreed, Carrow turned to the others and raised her voice. "Mari will scry tonight, Malkom will prepare for mass teleporting, and I'll draw up schematics of the island. We'll try to contact Conrad and see if he has any intel we can use. Then we'll come up with a battle plan and leave at dawn."
Mari added, "Anybody who wants on that island, I have some paperwork and payment options."
Carrow nodded. "Tomorrow morning, we go to war."
Malkom tensed beside her. "We?" he growled, tracing her outside.
She blinked up at him. She'd thought he was going to be unstoppable before he could trace. "Malkom, if you go, then I do, too. Remember the I'm never letting you out of my sight part from earlier?" He opened his mouth to argue, but she said, "If you're happy, then I'll be strong enough to watch over you as well as you do me." As soon as things calmed down, she'd explain that she'd learned to empower herself, that between his happiness and her own, she'd be one formidable Wicca. "So I'll just have to make you ecstatic."
"Witch, you already have." He drew her close, resting his chin on her head. "When I heard what you said in there, in front of everyone?"
"I would die for you, Malkom. Can you trust that? Can you believe in me again?"
Against her hair, he murmured, "Right now, I can do anything."