Embrace Me at Dawn

Page 44

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Lucan resented the hell out of Bram demanding that he follow along on this last minute jaunt. And he would happily tell his former friend to sod off…except he didn’t like the thought of Bram scheming without supervision. If Merlin’s prick of a grandson was going to let him in on whatever the hell he had brewing in his head, Lucan would follow.

Bram pulled an enchanted rock from his pocket, mumbled something, then threw it. With a satisfied nod, he made his way out of the dining room and away from the others. Lucan followed, feeling Bram’s assessing stare on him.

“I see you’re still angry with me.”

Lucan raised a brow at him. “Furious, actually.”

“And you’ll never believe that I sent Anka to Shock to keep her safe?”

“You could have sent her to me.”

“She wouldn’t have gone.”

“How do you know? You didn’t try that tactic,” Lucan argued.

“She was barely speaking to you at the time.” Bram pinned him with a glare.

“We would have worked through it. You simply wanted a spy. Admit it.”

“Gladly. Yes, I needed one. The only person I trust Shock with is Anka. He will always have her best interests at heart. I’m certain that’s of some benefit to him, though I’m still figuring out exactly what. But he will do anything to keep her safe. I gave you the opportunity to train her because I know you two belong together. I wish she’d had more time to learn to fight, but the mission is upon us now. And soon she will Bind to you, and you have a youngling on the way.” Bram smiled tightly. “You’re welcome.”

Anger poured through Lucan like fiery-hot lava. “Morganna did more to bring us back together than you did, you manipulative wanker!”

Bram opened his mouth, but before he could unload whatever piece of shit argument currently defiled his brain, a magical chime sounded. Light and tinkling, a bit old-fashioned.

“Ah, there she is.” Bram raced to the front door and admitted his doddering Aunt Millie.

She patted his cheek with a wrinkled hand. “Hello there, dear boy.” She smiled Lucan’s way. “And you, too. How is Anka?”

“Very much alive and pregnant,” Bram supplied.

Millie looked as if she wanted to ask who had done the deed, but couldn’t find a way to express the delicate question. Lucan saved her the trouble. “With my youngling.”

She smiled brightly. “So you are the mate of her heart. How lovely.”

Yes, he was. Supposedly. Then why hadn’t Anka spoken the Binding this afternoon when they’d been alone and he’d been deep inside her, exchanging love and energy?

“What can I do for you, my sweet nephew?” Millie asked. “Do you wish me to look at Anka?”

“I need a bit of binding magic.”

The little witch pursed her lips. “You know the restrictions.”

“We’ll have her consent,” Bram assured her.

“What the hell are you doing?” Lucan demanded. If this involved Anka, and Bram was once again taking matters into his own hands, Lucan swore to God he’d rip his former friend into tiny pieces.

“Something designed to help us with two problems at once.”

Lucan didn’t like Bram’s smile at all. “This better have nothing to do with Anka.”

“Absolutely nothing except to make her safer,” Bram assured. “You’ll fancy this.”

The other wizard guided Millie with a hand at the small of her back. Within a few steps, Lucan realized they were headed down to the dungeon. Bram waved open some of his magical protections, then sealed them again once they’d passed the barrier.

Nodding to some of the new guards he’d put in place since Zain’s last escape from this place, Bram approached the magical cell with its lone prisoner, Rhea.

Mathias’s favorite play toy and courtesan pouted, elbows propped on her pale knees as she sat on the wooden bench inside the cell. She wore black lingerie that couldn’t possibly be legal, even inside the bedroom. Sleek dark hair fell in waves past her shoulders. With her dark, slumberous eyes, so-red lips, and sinful body, Rhea looked like the devil’s mistress. Essentially, she was. She also looked damn near drained of energy, her magical signature fading and weak.

She stood at their approach. Her full breasts barely fit inside her peek-a-boo corset. Her knickers were nearly nonexistent above legs that went on forever. She was a beautiful witch, yet Lucan almost couldn’t bear the sight of her.

“What do you want?” she demanded.

“I’m here to make you a deal, Rhea.”

“I’ve no energy for that. The last surrogate you sent me gave me so little,” she whined, then looked Lucan’s way. “I’d hoped you brought me another in this one.” Lucan felt her stare dance all over him, undressing him, then she rolled her eyes. “He’s quite lovely, but mated. How does that help me?”

“You won’t need energy for this, dear. All you have to do is say yes. My aunt will take care of the rest.”

Rhea looked at them both with suspicion. “I don’t have to agree to anything.”

“You don’t,” Bram agreed. “Unless you’d like to be free.”

She jumped to attention, then narrowed her eyes. “What’s the trick?”

“I want to tie your fate to Mathias’s. It will be very nearly like you’re mated.”

Her lips parted. Her eyes brightened, and Lucan could see that the idea of being mated to Mathias appealed to Rhea. Sick woman.

“What do you mean?” she asked suspiciously.

“Well…” Bram wandered closer to her cell and brushed his knuckles up her arm. “If we tie your life force to his, then at the end of tonight’s meeting with Mathias, if he follows the rules and colors inside the lines, you’ll be teleported immediately to wherever he is. You’ll be free.”

“What about your magic? Won’t it keep me here?”

“I’ve given you my word and my consent that you’ll be released under these circumstances. It will be part of the magic in your binding.”

Rhea bit her lip. Lucan could see she very much liked that idea. “What’s in it for you?”

“You’re his reason to behave. I happen to know that he misses you a great deal. I think he will be a good boy this evening if we give him proper incentive. That’s you.”

“If he cooperates tonight, I’m free? No tricks?”

“Precisely. What do you say, dear? I’ll be a bit sad to see you go. I’ve so enjoyed our chats.”

She narrowed her eyes. “I’ve told you nothing useful.”

“But you’ve been adorably stubborn. I see why Mathias is so taken with you.”

She smiled at the thought. Then, as if realizing that she was giving too much away, she wiped the expression from her face. “If he doesn’t cooperate?”

“Then you’re no worse for the wear. You simply remain here. Your choice.” Bram shrugged as if it was of no consequence.

But Lucan sensed the tension in the other wizard’s frame. He definitely had something in mind.

Bram sent her a flirty smile. “I almost hope he’s a prat. More time for us together.”

Rhea rolled her eyes. “Shut it, wanker. I hate it here, and you know that. You’re mated.”

“Doesn’t mean I’m dead when I see a pretty witch.” He winked. “What do you say? The potential to go with Mathias or stay here with me?”

She hesitated, clearly working through everything he’d said in her head. Finally, she nodded. “I’ll take any chance to get out of here and be with Mathias again. What do I need to do?”

“Have anything of Mathias’s with you?”


“It will be much simpler to bind your fates.”

She gave him a suspicious glare. “Are you performing the spell?”

“No. My sweet, little aunt will. She’s full of heart magic.”

Mille stepped forward. “It’s all right, dear. You won’t feel anything, and everything Bram has told you is true. If your fates are bound, then as soon as Mathias upholds his part of the bargain, you’ll be transported from here and returned to his side. It’s much easier to perform the spell if you have something of your beloved’s.”

“I keep a small vial of Mathias’s blood ’round my neck.” Rhea gently tugged on a silver chain.

“Lovely.” Bram’s aunt was trying not to grimace at the macabre jewelry. “I’ll need you to hand it to me willingly, then we’re set.”

Rhea scrambled to do as she was bid, handing the little vial, chain and all, to Millie.

The older witch tried not to flinch as she took it. “Whatever you offered of your beloved’s, I’ll need the same of you.” When Rhea looked confused, Millie supplied, “Blood, dear.”

“I’ll help,” Bram grabbed her wrist, then dragged a finger across her palm, cutting her a bit deeper than necessary with his magic.

Rhea hissed. Blood pooled in the sensitive center of her hand, then ran between her fingers. Millie opened the vial and poured a bit of Mathias’s blood over hers, murmuring a few words over Rhea’s palm. As Lucan watched, mesmerized, a small blip of light was his only clue that the spell had taken effect. Wizards were notoriously bad with heart magic. The tiny bit he’d tried…disaster. Bull in a china shop. Millie might be small and worth little on a battlefield, but right now, she was a goddess.

“It’s done.” The little witch smiled, then waved her hand over Rhea’s to stop the bleeding.

“Thanks much, Aunt Millie.”

“Think nothing of it, dear.” She patted Bram’s cheek, then turned to leave the dungeon.

Lucan followed with Bram right beside him. The moment they left the dungeon and Bram secured the magical protections in place again, Lucan turned to the other wizard. “What the devil was that about?”

Bram smiled widely, clearly savoring his maneuver. “Do you think for a moment that Mathias is going to play by the rules?”

“Are you daft? Of course not.”

“Exactly. I’m certain he could care less about Rhea or anyone but his own ambition. But I told her the absolute truth. She’s free if he follows our rules. Since we both know that won’t happen, she merely stays here. But the best news is, if we manage to kill Mathias, then she dies, as well.”

~ ~ ~ ~

Nursing an idea of his own, Lucan made his way out of the dungeon and peeked into the dining room, hoping to find Anka with the rest of the people gathered there. Her seat sat empty.

With a frown, he leaned down to whisper in Sabelle’s ear, ignoring Ice’s scowl. “I need a favor.”

“Sure.” She glanced at him over her shoulder, her blue eyes expectant. “What is it?”

“I need your help with a spell. Just in case.”

Lucan didn’t want to prepare for this possibility, but he could rule nothing out. If Felicia couldn’t get there in time, if her Untouchable powers didn’t work on Morganna, if Anka couldn’t—or wouldn’t—teleport away when she should, he had to give her a way to defend herself. Mathias would likely come after her for his own malicious pleasure. No way was Lucan letting his mate be taken again.

Sabelle rose under Ice’s watchful gaze. The wizard’s green eyes narrowed, promising slow, extensive pain if Lucan touched one hair on Belle’s head. Lucan held up both hands. As lovely as she was, he had no designs on Bram’s sister. Anka had his heart…and Bram would be one terrible brother-by-mating. Hell, Ice probably deserved an award.

In the library, Sabelle quickly found what he needed. He tore the page from the book, scanned it, then handed it back to her. “That is precisely what we need. And you can perform this, if necessary.”

“Of course.”

Lucan smiled. He wanted to thank Belle with a kiss on her cheek, then decided it would be better not to incite Ice just now. Instead, he escorted her back to the dining room.

“Have you seen Anka?” he asked her as he seated her again.

The lovely witch hesitated, as if she’d rather not answer, before finally admitting, “Shock arrived about ten minutes ago. He’d obviously just received a great deal of energy from someone. Anka seemed perfectly content with that fact. Then they had a cryptic conversation, something about Shock being full or not.” She shrugged apologetically. “No idea what it meant. I only know that he said he wasn’t and they disappeared upstairs.”

Upstairs? Nothing but bedrooms up there.

After thanking Belle, Lucan left the dining room, taking the stairs two at a time, anxiety gnawing at his gut. He arrived on the landing in time to see Shock emerge from one of the bedrooms with a loose, satisfied swagger. Anka followed, looking pale and bracing herself against the wall. She closed her eyes and heaved in a deep breath. Lucan felt his temper come unhinged.

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