chapter 11

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Something in me snapped. Broke. Exploded.

I threw the stake back at Eron. He must have heard it because he jerked his head. Too late. It skewered his right eye. He cried out and the other vampires gasped. I grabbed a sword from one of their belts and flung it at Eron. They collided behind me, cracking their skulls and crumpling into a groaning heap.

Tearing his sword free of Ryan just in time, Ryan batted away the oncoming weapon. The stray sword flew over the crowd and pierced a vampire. Eron tore the stake from his face, pink goo squirting out.

Ryan staggered two steps toward me and then collapsed. I ran, dropped beside him, and pressed one hand to his wound. Choking, he tried to speak.

"Shh," I said. "It's okay. It's okay."

I cradled his face. Blood sputtered out of his mouth and I wiped his lips with my thumb. I saw my panicked reflection in his filmy eyes.

"I'm here," I whispered.

I heard the squeak of boots. Enraged, I reached over Ryan's body and grabbed one of his swords then I told Alex to take Melanie and Sarah out. I stood up to face Eron, curling my lips.

My body burned and shook. I stepped over Ryan, pointing the sword at my enemy.

"What are you going to do, demon?" Eron sneered. His face was red and his right eye was a black pit. The top two buttons of his jacket had come undone.

"You're going to be sorry," I said through my teeth. "I'm going to make you sorry."

"Come on then!" he screamed.

I rushed him, slashing at him with the sword. The chains affixed to my hands whipped around as I moved. The impact of our blades vibrated down the shaft of my sword to the hilt, jolting my hands like an electric shock. Eron grunted, his hideous face contorting and his scar twisting, as we clashed again and again and I tried to hack at his neck. When he countered, my strike pushed him back. He fought to maintain his balance and a flash of fear appeared in his eye as it darted from me to the Empress that just walked in.

I'm stronger than you. Faster than you. The thought filled me with energy. He was twice my size but I was more powerful. It made him clumsy. Made him vulnerable.

"Is that all you've got?" I yelled.

He charged me. Our swords clanked above our heads. As I pressed into him, his arms wavered, his sword bending back toward his forehead. Suddenly he spun out from under me and I fell forward. From the corner of my eye I saw him turn to try to wound me from behind. Twisting in mid air, I blocked his blade with mine.

My back hit the floor and I was pinned beneath our swords. Screaming, I lashed out at his leg with my heel. I felt his knee cap detach and heard his tissues tear. His leg buckled and he hopped back from me.

I rolled over and jumped up. Grabbing his knee, Eron shifted his kneecap back and limped a few steps. A blank eyeball had formed in his right socket.

I can hurt you. I can make you pay. For Alex's family. I can do this for Ryan.

"Do you know who made this weapon, Eron?" I shouted. "My good friend Ryan. I'm going to use it to make you pay for our friends' lives."

We rushed each other and smashed swords. As he reeled back I thought he was falling, but instead he kicked me in the abdomen. My feet left the ground and I was catapulted across the room. I heard the surprised cries of soldiers scrambling to avoid me before I crashed into a marble wall. A deafening crack echoed in my head. The pain was explosive.

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