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Knowing she needed her strength, Samantha took another bite. She chewed slowly and tried not to look at her trembling hand. Last night she had been so full of bravado, now she was afraid.

The silence continued until Sergio appeared in the doorway. “So,” he said rubbing his sleep-weary eyes. “We going to go kill us a bad guy or what?”

Samantha looked up at him and she forced her hands to be steady. “Yep. ”

“We're going to go kill that vampiro,” Innocente declared.

“I have always felt the need to play fast and loose with my life,” Jeff said with a shrug and a wry grin.

“Then it's a plan,” Sergio said rubbing his hands together. “Oh, awesome! Fresh tortillas!”

Chapter Twenty-Two

Cian came to slowly. He could feel Amaliya's arms around him and her lips against his cheek. The excruciating pain radiating out of the silver dagger in his chest nearly plunged him back into darkness, but he forced himself to stay alert. He could feel his blood seeping away and his power with it. Slowly, he raised his head and saw The Summoner standing nearby, conversing with Roberto. The vision was startling, yet, somehow, he was not surprised. The betrayal was harsh, but he could endure it if he and Amaliya escaped. She had changed him more than he had ever imagined. It wasn't that she had returned him to his former self, she had made him evolve into who he was now: the Master of Austin. Before, he had lived in the city without care of anything other than his own safety. Now, he wanted to step firmly into his role and protect his cabal and his city. He felt reborn.

He had made a fatal error. He had trusted Roberto.

But now he had Amaliya.

Turning his head, he caught her lips and the kiss was gentle and good. Her fingers slid over his hair and her eyes spoke of her emotions more than any words ever could. Looking down, he saw her terribly scorched hand and knew she had tried to remove the dagger. The weapon burned in him and he could feel it slowly killing him. With one hand, he slid his hand over his bloodied chest, then pressed it to her lips. Understanding, she quickly drew her tongue over it, taking his blood.

“None of that!” Roberto darted forward with preternatural swiftness and jerked Amaliya away.

Her tongue licked desperately at her bloodied lips as Roberto tossed her into the wall. She hit it hard and sank against it, her eyes tortured.

“Now. Now. We were being kind and you took advantage of that,” the Summoner said in a put out voice, and kicked Amaliya hard in the ribs.

Cian could hear them shatter. She spit up blood and fell forward onto the moldy floor.

Cian lo

oked down at the dagger and weakly drew his hand up to grip it and draw it out. Roberto was faster and hoisted him up off the ground and flung him into a table. Cian barely felt the pain as he impacted with the old piece of furniture. He was a furnace inside. He was dying.

Two massive men, obviously dead, entered and reached down to grip him under his armpits. They lifted him up so Roberto could bind his hands. Cian felt himself drifting in and out of consciousness as the room kept altering around him.

For a moment he saw The Summoner quite close, then the next he was standing over Amaliya.

Darkness swirled up again, then Amaliya stood nearby her dark hair falling over her shoulders to her waist. She was wearing a blue-gray satin dress that matched her eyes perfectly. It had a Victorian look about it, but Cian had seen a similar dress just recently in one of the haute couture fashion shows on TV Samantha had been watching.

“Dressing her up,” Cian mused. “Why?”

“She looks more like a lady this way, don't you think?” The Summoner sat in a nearby chair, his legs crossed. “It forces a certain dignity to her countenance. ”

Amaliya looked toward Cian and she lifted her skirt enough for him to see her jeans and boots underneath. As usual, The Summoner was more about illusion than reality. Dressing her up was to make her unsure of herself and steal a bit of her identity.

Slowly, Cian took in his circumstances. He was bound to a chair with cord and the dagger had been drawn out. The damage was still there, deep and painful, but he was no longer dying.

Roberto lounged against the wall nearby watching the proceedings with a rather excited look on his face. Cian knew from experience that did not bode well for them.

Several dead creatures stood about the room. Some were fresh, but others were quite old. Cian had a feeling it was yet again another show of power.

Before Amaliya lay a woman dressed in a very pretty pink outfit and high heels. She was freshly dead and smelled of warmth and liquor.

“Now, where were we before he woke up? Ah, yes. Make her rise!”

“I don't know how,” Amaliya said in a tired voice. Her silky black hair was hanging around her face and Cian could only make out the tip of her nose.

“You defeated my creatures and now you can't raise this simple little corpse for me? I have a difficult time believing that. ” The Summoner's voice was dangerous and cruel.

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