Chapter 36

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"No,'' I whisper, biting back screams as the tendril constricts tighter, making my ribs feel like they are about to crack.

The necromancer laughs, the sound like glass being chewed. "Are you stupid, girl? Do you even realize what I could do to you?''

He pulls me closer until the stench of death makes my eyes water and I can see the slime coating his teeth.

"I could kill you in the most painful way imaginable. And once you're finally and blissfully dead, I'll use your body like a puppet. I'll make you walk to your sister's room and slit her throat with your own two hands. And then, I'll send you back to that shithole you called a home,'' he shakes me, my head snapping back and forth. "And make you do the same to your pathetic father.''

Terror turns my blood to ice. I have no doubt he's telling the truth. Tears streak down my cheeks as I imagine the horror in my family's eyes as I slaughter them like animals.

Pain suddenly tears through my stomach and I scream, arching away from the scorching knife of agony but the necromancer holds me tight. I make the mistake of looking down only to see him stabbing me with the jagged blade that it his finger. I can feel blood soaking into my dress, running down my legs and dripping to pool on the immaculate marble floor.

Fire and ice simultaneously pulse from the knife of shadow that is moving slowly, torturously slicing through my insides. Pain sucks the air from my lungs as he moves another inch and my screams echo through the empty ballroom.

Then he's pulling away and licking my blood from his finger with that black tongue, saying something that I can't hear over the ringing in my ears. My head rolls forward and I'm staring at the scarlet pool growing beneath me. Too much blood is leaving me, too fast. I can feel my life literally pulsing out of my body with each thump of my heart.

The necromancer shakes me again, snapping my head back so I'm looking at him. "Don't think I'll be letting you die that easily. I intend for those guts of yours to be fresh when I devour them."

I'm in too much pain, to woozy from blood loss to react. My heartbeat sounds sluggish in my ears.

He snarls, a sound of frustration."Did you hear me, bitch? You're going to be begging for me to-"

There's a wet thumping sound and he cuts off abruptly. I drag my eyes up, which takes more effort than it should, and my heart stops. The hilt of a knife is sticking out from his face. I stare, the tentacle that's holding me slithering away slowly and I fall to the ground. I don't think I have the strength to get to my feet.

My name is being shouted and I look up to see Hale charging across the room towards me while Kassia frantically pulls another knife from her belt. My heart sinks. If she's grabbing another knife, that means the one that hit the necromancer either wasn't her silver knife or it didn't work.

And sure enough, the necromancer's engaged howl tears through the ballroom and then he's shooting through the air at Kassia. I try to watch as she dives behind a pillar, narrowly avoiding a whip of shadow that lashes at her, but darkness is eating away at my vision.

Hot hands press against my freezing face. I didn't even realize my eyes were closed until I have to use every bit of my strength to force them open again.

"Talia, oh gods, Talia," Hale's whispering, smoothing my hair back from my face. I can feel his fingers shaking against my skin. He looks down at my wound and his face jerks, instantly going bloodless. "Oh gods, oh gods-" he's muttering over and over as he rips off his jacket and presses it against my stomach, the pressure making me fresh waves of pain shoot through me.

"Okay Talia, I need you to hold this down, keep pressure on it. I'm going to pick you up and-"

"Hale," I interrupt weakly. He shakes his head, knowing me well enough to understand what I'm going to say, and slides his arm under me.

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