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Alys noted the lines of his face, the set of his mouth, and realized why Leeds had seemed so familiar. “The emeralds won’t make you immortal, Robert. It’s only a legend. If you want to kill this Lord Marietto—”

“Oh, I’ve already done that.” He smiled at her. “One phone call to the Kyn’s enemies was all it took. I wished I could have watched him burn, but other matters required my attention.”

“I understand.” She glanced over her shoulder at the two men standing guard outside the tent. “Building an army of traitors takes some time, doesn’t it?”

“I prefer to think of it as freeing my fellow slaves. What the Kyn have never understood about the tresori is that we can think for ourselves. After centuries of catering to them, we know exactly what they are. A plague upon the earth, one that has ravaged humanity for far too long.” He stood. “A plague that you were born to help me to end.”

“I’m not going to help you do anything,” Alys told him. “I don’t have the emeralds.”

“But you do have a photographic memory and excellent drafting skills.” Robert picked up the roll of paper and placed it on the table. “Which is why you’re going to draw a floor plan of the Realm, and show me precisely where Lady Jayr put the emeralds.”

“By now they know you shot Dr. Keller and kidnapped me,” Alys said. “Even if I do this, you’ll never get your men back inside.”

Robert took hold of her arm and pulled her out of the chair, forcing her out of the tent and out into the center of the camp. Once there, he pointed to the road.

Alys saw an endless line of vehicles filling both lanes of the road. There had to be hundreds of them, all driving east toward the Realm.

“As you can see, my army is already on the way,” Robert said. “We don’t have to sneak into the castle. This time, we’re going to take it, and kill them all.”

Chapter 17

Clutching his shoulder, Beau hurried out to the service lot, where he saw the taillights of a van as it pulled out onto the road. As it turned to the west, it passed a red Ferrari and a black Porsche entering the access road.

Beau scanned the vehicles left in the lot as the two sports cars parked. Two tall, fair-haired Kyn males climbed out of the Ferrari, while a more youthful-looking warrior got out of the Porsche.

As they approached him, Beau recognized Lucan, and remembered to bow as the suzerain halted in front of him. “Good evening, Lord Alenfar.”

“Warrior.” The former assassin eyed the front of his tunic. “Are you aware that you are bleeding all over yourself?”

“Aye, my lord. A traitor infiltrated the keep and has taken my woman. I was wounded trying to stop him.” Beau glanced back at the castle. “Forgive me; I would escort you inside and summon my lady, but I must go now if I am to recover her.”

“Not with that copper slug burning in your flesh.” Lucan reached one gloved hand into his jacket and offered the dagger he drew out to the Kyn standing beside him. “I believe you have some experience with this sort of extraction, Korvel.”

Beau shook his head. “There is no time. If I do not pursue them now, they will surely kill her—”

“While you will surely drop dead of copper poisoning before you can reach her. I will have it out quickly,” Korvel promised. When Beau nodded, he said, “Stand against the wall.” He turned to the youthful-looking warrior. “Lord Jamys, hold him, if you would.”

Jamys used his arms to brace Beau in place, and Korvel tore aside his shirt before slipping the tip of the dagger into his wound. Beau bit back a howl as white-hot pain sizzled through his joint and down his arm.

“I nearly have it.” The Kyn lord deftly worked the slug out of his flesh, and caught it in his palm, tossing it away.

“Here, brother.” Jamys bit his palm, and clamped it over the wound.

“I am in your debt.” As the pain eased, Beau regarded Lucan. “Might I borrow your vehicle, my lord?”

“And drip your blood all over the hand-sewn leather interior?” The suzerain sniffed. “I think not.”

“Oh, for God’s sake, Lucan.” Korvel looked disgusted. “It’s only a car.”

“I beg to differ. It is a Ferrari.” He glared at his companion. “My favorite Ferrari, as it happens.”

“Take mine.” Jamys pressed his keys into Beau’s hand.

“My thanks, Lord Jamys. Suzerain. Lord Korvel.” With another hasty bow Beau ran to the Porsche.

Once out on the road, Beau lowered the window to let the night air stream inside. Being locked up inside the van had effectively cut off Alys’s scent, but it was easy enough to pick up and follow the fresh exhaust left from the van’s engine. By the time he reached the back roads leading to Tremayne’s property, Beau knew where he would find her.

He drove to the site, leaving the Porsche hidden behind the church before he struck out on foot for the Europeans’ camp. The dull throbbing in his shoulder hardly registered now, but his fear that he would not reach Alys in time swelled with every yard he ran.

They wouldn’t have taken her if they meant to kill her immediately, Beau thought as he vaulted over the fence and made for the Europeans’ camp. They must need her to…

He stopped as the stink of fire and spilled blood and violent death filled his lungs, and listened to the wind before he slowly approached the camp. He found the first body where it had fallen in the brush; the man had been shot in the back while running from the camp.

More bodies appeared as he moved toward the tents: all of them dead, most of them shot. Two had been repeatedly stabbed; one had his throat cut. From the tracks left in the dirt they had been attacked by at least two dozen well-trained killers. All of the team’s equipment had been burned, as well as their RVs.

Beau spotted one partially melted bag containing a potsherd, and when he picked it up, he could still make out some of Alys’s handwriting on the label. He also caught the scent of the killers, who had gone south, and dropped the bag as he followed their trail.

When he reached the grove of trees concealing the Americans’ camp, he smelled Alys’s scent and nearly fell to his knees. She was alive, and very close; he could almost hear the frantic beating of her heart in his ears.

I’m coming, love.

The first explosion came a few moments after Jayr had ordered Harlech to double the patrols.

“Down.” Byrne shielded her with his body as stone chips and dust rained over them. A low, deep rumble shook the floor beneath them, swelling to a roar and then dying away,

“That sounded like the forward tower curtain. For once he told the truth.” Jayr brushed the debris from her lover’s back as he helped her to her feet. “Sound the alarm.”

Byrne went over to the square device in the wall that was marked FIRE ALARM and punched through the glass before pulling down the handle inside. Instantly a screeching, repeating wail echoed throughout the castle.

Jayr went to the weapons cache in her cabinet and took out her sword. It was the sight of the battle-ax beside it, however, that gave her pause. “Aedan, if I could spare you this…”

“I know you would, lass.” His big hand rested on her shoulder. “But you’ve stopped me before, and you will have need of my affliction now.”

She nodded, removing the ax and passing it to him. “Try to hold on to your senses for as long as you can.” She reached up to kiss him quickly. “I love you.”

He held her hand against his heart. “And I you, wife.”

Byrne shouldered his ax and made for the garrison, while Jayr climbed the inner-ward tower to the highest point of the castle, a fortified room lined with monitors projecting every possible view of the keep, along with her communications array. Once inside, Jayr slipped on her headset and studied the screens to survey the damage to the curtain wall.

Beneath the gaping hole in the face of the ashlar, rubble had poured into the moat. Dozens of inflatable rafts propelled by small outboard motors were already crossing the waters and making for the sloped bank. On the opposite bank, two men shouldering a large pipelike device were taking aim at the castle.

Jayr enabled her microphone. “Trebuchet to the opposite bank, fifteen degrees left of tower two, fire at will. Archers, north battlement, commence the hailstorm.”

Arrows rained down on the first men attempting to climb the slope of the inner bank, skewering them to the ground. At the same time a massive ball of flame soared across the moat, smashing into the pair with the rocket launcher and setting off an even larger explosion.

Jayr rapidly relayed orders to her defender units as the intruders scattered in all directions. She almost relaxed until she saw the lines of armed men marching out of the groves.

“Aedan, they’ve a second wave carrying in flamethrowers from the south,” she warned her seneschal. “Stable master, release the horses and withdraw to the outer ward.”

“Stay aloft, my lady,” Byrne’s voice rumbled over her earpiece. “We’ll attend to these trespassers.”

“We’ve no one faster than me,” she reminded him as she scanned the monitors. “They’re moving in from all sides now. The Realm is surrounded.”

“Then they best buckle on their helmets,” Byrne growled before he began issuing orders. “Crossbowmen to the back loops—”

Jayr removed her headset and secured the transmitter before she took out her battle armor from a storage trunk under the console. While she could move faster than the eye could see, she had no illusions about how well her Kyn talent would protect her. She might dodge an arrow, but not a bullet or ground-launched rocket. To survive the night, she would have to be as clever as she was quick.

On her way down to the lower level Jayr heard three voices in the corridor, and flashed the rest of the way to stop in front of Lucan. Her sudden appearance made his two companions start in surprise, but the suzerain merely cocked a brow.

“Someone should really put a bell on you, my lady.” He exchanged bows with her. “Perhaps after the mortals have finished playing at siege.”

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