"Myst, even then I was still falling for you."
That at least got her to pause. She blew a curl out of her eyes and just when he tensed to trace behind her, she took two hands and plunged her sword back along her side to kill the ghoul at her back.
Now he raised his eyebrows, but continued, "I was angry when I saw your plan to trick me, but I finally understand that you rightly wanted your freedom back. I know what and who you are now. I saw all the memories, clearly at last. Not out of context." Goddamn it, more ghouls? "Myst, can we not just speak about this? Away from here? Dawn nears and all I ask is for a chance to - "
"I gave you a chance. Freely. And you threw it away. You were about to brainwash me."
With one hand, he carved at a ghoul. "I couldn't have lived with myself for that. I was wrong in many ways. I took your freedom when you needed it, and I hurt you just when you'd given yourself to me." Never had he regretted his actions so much.
He could have won her. A heart for a heart.
"I wanted you so badly I resorted to anything I could and treated you ill when you didn't deserve it." He looked around. He'd been so intent on her, he'd scarcely noticed they'd cut such a swath that the others had run. "If you give me a chance, I will make it up to you."
"Oh, you got it, Wroth. Just let me go gift wrap my chain for you."
Wroth's eyes flickered black and his voice went low. "I'd destroy the thing if I saw it."
His reaction surprised her. "You'll certainly never get within arm's reach of it."
"Myst, I felt your feelings for me, felt you struggling against them. I know you care for me." Long moments passed as they stared into each other's eyes.
She was weak, undeserving of her family, she knew, especially when her heart had leapt at the sight of him. But she shook her head. "I can't. It's just too late. I have a lot to lose from this. I won't hurt my family by accepting you."
"Kristoff seeks peace. He would fight the Horde with you. There would be no conflict with them. And I would...make an effort with your sisters, Myst. I know how important they are to you now. Believe me, I know."
She tapped her chin. "So you can see why the idea of being forced to forget them made me cranky? Huh? And what if you saw more out of context? This would just happen again and again."
"I would not drink from you."
She rolled her eyes. "Yeah, just like I'm going to finally beat my Xbox addiction."
"I'm pleased you feel the same about that option. I've already vowed never to use the information to harm the Valkyrie in any way. And I would have to tell you everything I was thinking as if you could read my mind as well. We are wed. We should know each other's secrets. Myst, we are kindred."
That made her hesitate. She'd felt that way too. Kindred.
What the hell was she thinking? He'd been about to brainwash her.
Making her voice firm, she said, "Wroth, I'm sorry, but I could never trust you - " Her words were cut off by a massive arm squeezing the breath from her throat. Not a ghoul. A demon? she thought wildly. A turned demon?
Wroth raised his sword, a savage, killing look in his eyes, but the arm tightened and he froze.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," Ivo said as he sauntered to the front of his gang of vampires. "He'll snap her head right from her neck." Ivo's red gaze flickered over her. "Now Myst, I thought I told you to wait in my dungeon." To the demon, he said, "She's not the one."
He narrowed his eyes at Wroth. "So you're the turned human who took my castle from me. Grenades? Guns? I'll kill you just for bastardizing our war." He glanced from Wroth to Myst, then back again, smiling to see Wroth's body seeming to vibrate with tension. "I believe I have something he wants very badly indeed. I'll take his life in exchange."
The demon held her neck tight in his grip. She struggled against him until she could breathe, but he was unbelievably powerful. He was a turned demon, supposed to be a true myth. Apparently, the Horde had just upped their game. She'd known he'd been up to something...
Wroth could trace away in a heartbeat. They couldn't get him, unless they had her. Wroth's eyes were assessing, and she could see him studying the situation.
"You walk into the sun, and I'll vow to the Lore that I'll free her. I'll hunt her again, but for this dawn I vow that she'll live. If you trace instead, I'll take her back to Helvita and dine on her perfect flesh every night for eternity."
"Fight me, coward," Wroth bit out, his eyes black with rage, his muscles tense and knotted with it.
"Why would I do that?" Ivo sounded confused. "Fight you for the cards I already hold?"
Wroth was so big and powerful and yet that strength was useless to him now because they wouldn't fight. She could feel his frustration roiling from his body in waves.
"You know we've got the power here. And you know my vow will compel me to release her."
She'd seen Wroth examining the situation, and she saw the exact moment that he determined his options. A calm seemed to wash over him.
"Her life or yours."
One tight nod. "Done." No hesitation. "It is done."
"Catch and release?" Myst sneered to Ivo as he and his gang traced with her back into the shade to ready for the dawn. Birdsong had begun. "Are you kidding me?" To Wroth, she said, "Are you eager to be ash?"
The sunlight hit the tops of the trees, descending inch by torturing inch. He stood sure and so brave, as if he was proud to give his life for hers.
The morning breeze blew his hair from his face. His eyes were riveted to hers.