Bolivia, 1809

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It was May 25, 1809. Rosamond’s gaze followed the hypnotic arc of the charm bag that swung from Abuto’s gnarled hand in the candlelight. Abuto waved the small black bag just beyond her reach, taunting her as a bully taunts a younger child. But they weren’t children. Abuto the dark sorcerer had participated in more than twenty-thousand years of cruelty, suffering, and death yet he still craved more.

Grasping her long black hair at the nape of her neck, he yanked her head backward. “You want this, don’t you, my little pet?” His pig-snout nose pressed against her cheek.

She held her breath against the carrion stench of his breath. The charm bag still dangled beyond her reach.

“All you have to do is tell me where you hid the jaguar skull.”

So that’s what he wants this time, she thought. The totem. A palm-sized crystal shaped like a jaguar’s skull. He’d never have it, just as he’d never have her soul. Not the way he desired. Not as his mate.

She couldn’t give him the answer he wanted. Any other would only rile him. If he didn’t obtain his answer, he’d tear open her chest to remove her heart. Again. Inflicting pain was sport for Abuto, and he had a dark use for her beating heart in his experiments with the dead. The problem with being an Eternal was that pesky things like hearts grew back.

Let him do his worst, she thought. Eventually he’d make a mistake.

With a jerk, he released her head and backed away.

Rosamond stepped back to regain her balance. Abuto had chained her to a bolt in the wall and strengthened the iron with magic bonds. As she moved back, she gathered some of the chain under her foot—two links worth at the most. It would have to do.

“You are no longer missed, Rosamond. Out in the world, the last of your followers has perished. Did I tell you that? Shame, they believed their goddess had abandoned them.” He shook his head in mock sympathy. “The current generation thinks you died with their ancestors, if you existed at all.” His lips parted in a cruel smile revealing stained teeth as crooked as headstones in a forgotten cemetery. “So you see, you have only me.”

The faces of her people flashed in her mind. She believed he told the truth. By her reckoning, it was the spring of 1809. Ninety-seven years, he’d held her captive. Time had swept her followers away to the land of the dead. How she wished she could have been with them to the end, to comfort their pain and ease their distress. She’d known they were suffering alone while she remained a prisoner unable to help them. The loss left her hollow.

Abuto glanced around, appraising the tightness of her cell with its narrow shelves hewn from stone. Refitted as a prison by the addition of a small, heavy door, the room had been a burial chamber. It rested deep in the heart of a mountain temple abandoned long before Incas arose in the Andes. Skulls and bone dust lay undisturbed on the higher ledges. “An eternity within these walls will be a long time to regret your stubbornness.”

An eternity alone would be preferable to this, she thought. But his threat was a ruse. Abuto wouldn’t abandon her to the darkness of this tomb as long as he thought he could torture her into accepting him as her mate. He gained too much pleasure from the pursuit.

He waved the bag again. Like the totem he sought, the charm bag was hers, made by her beloved shaman, Tayo. If only she had been wearing it when Abuto ambushed her.

Abuto loomed over her, dwarfing her slender frame. His psychopathic eyes glinted in the candlelight. “Tell me where you hid Tayo’s totem.”

She refused to utter a word. Even though she’d lose this chance to reclaim Tayo’s magic bag, she’d never let Abuto find the crystal jaguar skull.

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