"I should have thought about what the blood would do to the carpets," Giacinta muttered agitatedly, hovering over the vivid scarlet stain and wringing her hands in distraction. She glared at Cameron from beneath lush ebony lashes. "Hasn't anyone told you it's not polite to bleed all over the place?"
A strangled laugh tore from her throat. "I wasn't aware I had a choice. After all, you were the one holding the knife." She coughed, blood bubbling into her mouth and running a vermilion trail across her cheek.
Giacinta glanced up, momentarily distracted, and reached to smear the bloody path into a translucent rosy smudge. She sucked the rich blood from her fingers almost absently. "You were the one who had to be smart about it," she answered sulkily. Her hand snaked out to flick at an angry and gaping gash on Cameron's arm.
She gasped, biting back a shrill scream. "And you were the one who had to be messy," she managed through gritted teeth. "Don't blame this on me."
"Well, the carpets are worth nothing compared to the pleasure hearing you scream gave me," Giacinta purred, probing at another open wound and delighting in Cameron's wincing shudder.
Cameron fought against hazy waves of mind-numbing pain. "I'll remember that," she replied, her concentration wavering. "It was a rather tepid performance on my part. I'll try to aim for 'blood-curdling' next time."
"You do that," Giacinta said brightly, patting her gently on the head. "And I'll do my best to make sure you've got blood to go along with that."
Wrenching her head away, Cameron nearly screamed in agony. "Do you really expect him to come after me?" she whispered, though the pain was scorching and harsh.
She smiled. "Oh, I know he'll come. Kian is predictable, if nothing else." She shrugged and turned toward the doorway, gesturing for the girl standing there to enter.
"As a radioactive warhead," Cameron retorted sweetly. Bound as she was on the table, she couldn't see the witch standing behind her. "One life he's murdering me, then next he's stalking me and begging forgiveness."
Giacinta paused, considering her words. "He's got the mental stability of a monkey on crack, doesn't he?" She shook her head and sighed, the sound loud and mocking, reverberating through the spacious room. Then her attention slid to the witch standing nearby, clutching a bag and looking bored. "Don't take too long, Calista," she ordered imperiously. "I'd like to get back to work."
Calista raised an eyebrow, but nodded. Giacinta smiled charmingly and left the room. Calista waited until she knew she was gone, then moved to the side of the table, staring down at Cameron's bloody and battered face. Cameron stared back defiantly.
Calista sighed. "This is going to take some work," she muttered, resigned. She smoothed a blood-soaked lock of hair away from Cameron's face. Her touch was gentle.
"Helping her accomplish her goal?" Cameron asked, her voice as cold as she could manage. She tried to ignore the pain, bringing Kian's gentle visage to mind instead and concentrating on the memory of his burning violet eyes. It warmed her and chased away the pain.
Calista laughed, the sound self-derisive and bitter. "Not bloody likely," she answered. "I owe that bitch a favor for saving my brother's life." She laid her hands on Cameron's arm, cool green light flooding over the still bleeding gashes. She paused a moment and the light faded. "Do you want to die?"
Meeting her eyes with a mixture of scorn and compassion, Cameron countered her question with one of her own, "What do you think? That I want her to win?"
Calista's eyes blazed at her answer, fierce and urgent. "Then listen to me," she commanded. "She's asked me to heal all these bloody cuts she's inflicted on you. She intends to do more damage when they're healed. I imagine you expect as much. You're a witch, right?"
Cameron nodded affirmatively, suddenly listening to the other witch. A witch who clearly had reasons of her own for being there, ones that didn't include biting pain or massive blood loss.
"Giacinta will stop at nothing." Cameron wondered at the caustic venom in the witch's words. She certainly couldn't disagree with her, otherwise she wouldn't be here. "You can stop her."
Now it was Cameron's turn to laugh. "With what? My astounding logic and wit? Giacinta isn't really the type to listen while she turns my body into the world's freshest sirloin steak."
"You only need to draw blood," Calista answered, ignoring her sarcasm pointedly. She closed her eyes again, murmuring words Cameron couldn't hear in a language she didn't know. The wound on her arm sealed instantaneously. The witch moved down to the foot of the shiny metal table and grasped Cameron's leg.
"That won't be hard at all," Cameron answered brightly. "After all, she's the one holding the knife."
Calista's expression turned sardonic. "Her blood, not yours."
Cameron heaved an exasperated sigh and nearly screamed at the pain it caused. "I know that," she murmured, her voice wavering. Tears sprang to her blue eyes, turning them a vivid cobalt, but she blinked them back. "Then what do I do? Wait until she bleeds to death?"
Shaking her head, Calista waited until the deep and brutal cuts on Cameron's leg healed. "No, there's a spell," she answered quietly. She glanced at the door, deep violet eyes shadowed by her long lashes.
Blinding warmth flooded Cameron's battered body. "Why would you tell me this?" she questioned, keeping her voice so low that Calista nearly didn't hear her.
The witch shrugged. "Because even after I do her this favor, it won't be over. She has something I want and you can help me get it."
"What is it you want?" Cameron asked softly, watching the witch's shadowed violet eyes darken with more disillusion than she'd ever known in her life.
"My brother's life," she whispered. The deep pain was evident in her expression and in her voice. Whatever Giacinta had done, it had scarred horribly.
Blinking, Cameron replied, "But I thought you said she saved his life."
Calista hesitated, moving to a wound near the base of Cameron's long, white neck. Finally, she admitted, "She did. And then she kept it." Glowing green filled Cameron's vision and the heat flooded into her spine, dancing like a thousand licking flames. "She promised to let him go after this, but I know it's not bloody likely, not with all the 'favors' she's managed to get out of me."
"How can I help you?" Cameron wondered. Calista couldn't help but notice the bitterness filtering through her voice. "I'm strapped to a hospital gurney and she's turning me into a pincushion. What am I supposed to do, bite her?"
"Use your imagination," Calista shrugged. "I'm sure you'll find an opportunity." She healed a shallow cut on Cameron's hollow cheek. "Do you want the spell or not?"
Uneasiness hovered over Cameron like a thick blanket. Of course, she wanted it. At this point, anything working in her favor would be welcome. She couldn't help but wonder, however, just how honest this witch was being. She sounded sincere… but the whole thing could be another ploy of Giacinta's. Did she take the risk?
As if that was ever in question. Of course, she did. What other choice did she have? She'd played the victim long enough and this little stint of fun at Giacinta's leisure brought up memories she didn't want. The past was dead. She fully intended it to stay that way.
"Almost done?" Giacinta asked casually from the doorway.
Neither of them had heard her return. Calista looked up, her cool violet eyes betraying none of her surprise. "Nearly. Just a few more cuts and bruises."
Giacinta smiled tightly. "Good. I can't have her dying on me, and especially not from blood loss. That would ruin all my plans."
Letting a sheet of silky brown hair fall around her face like a shield, Calista looked back down at Cameron's arm and rolled her eyes, knowing Giacinta wouldn't see. "I'm almost done," she said, eyeing a gaping slash on Cameron's abdomen with distaste.
"Five minutes," Giacinta told her flatly, then she disappeared into the obscurity of the hallway.
"Well?" Calista demanded, her voice just a shade above a whisper. "Erin and I searched endlessly for this bloody spell. It's yours if you want it. Just say the word."
Cameron's eyes widened at the mention of Erin's name. How…? Now wasn't the time to wonder about the details. They had five minutes and Cameron intended to make use of every second. "I'm listening," she said.
Calista smiled. "This is what you need to do."
Kian seemed to know exactly where they were going.
They wound their way through crowds of tourists and foreigners slowly, jostled by baggage and angry parents chasing their children. He led her through a terminal quickly. He stopped. Jessa looked around, her brow furrowed, and checked the sign for the destination of Kieran's flight, hoping he hadn't departed.
In bold, flashing letters, the word moved across the screen. Now, wait, that couldn't be right…
"Afghanistan?" she yelped. "Who could he possibly know in Afghanistan?"
Kian shrugged, walking toward the desk. "I told you Jihn disappears a lot."
She had to bite her tongue so she didn't blurt out Jihn's actual location. She'd have to explain how she knew, what Jihn was doing there… It would be a mess. So instead she kept silent while Kian talked to the bored attendant.
"When does the flight leave?" Kian asked her politely. Her nametag read "Jill." She bestowed him with an incredulous look, then pointed to the wall, where the departure time was clearly listed. He had the grace to look abashed. "Boarding hasn't started?"
Her lashes dropped flirtatiously. "It'll start in about twenty minutes." Her southern twang was unmistakable.
Kian thanked her courteously and smiled, then walked away. She watched his progress, glaring at Jessa, her eyes wistful. "So where is Kieran?" he wondered, frowning. He scanned the crowd futilely. No one in the waiting area resembled Kieran. Or Kian, for that matter.
"Are you sure he's here?" Jessa looked somewhat doubtful. If Kieran really was on this flight, he should be sitting in one of the under-stuffed chairs, looking bored. Of course, if this were a perfect world, he wouldn't be here in the first place.
It was too damned bad the world wasn't perfect.
"Perfect is boring," Kian informed her absently, his violet gaze still raking over the mass of people. "Could you imagine a world where everything went exactly the way you wanted all the time? We'd all end up like Joan Crawford, and I can't imagine everyone in the world thinking that highly of themselves."
"Or finding their soulmates so easily? And having them stay alive?" Jessa raised her eyebrow and waited.
Kian merely looked uncomfortable. He turned away, his gaze sweeping over the crowd one more time. "There he is." He pointed across the terminal to where a boy with mulberry-colored hair and a bored expression sprawled carelessly in his seat.
He started across the terminal before she could stop him. She sighed, trailing behind him and wishing God had given Kian more sense than he'd given her hamster. Accost Kieran in an open airport? Brilliant idea. Maybe tomorrow they could blow up Beacon Hill.
The two were already arguing when she finally pushed her way to their side. They stood inches from each other, hatred blazing like a banner between them.
"What the hell do you want?" Kieran demanded angrily. He looked like a startled Rottweiler, all feral eyes and snapping teeth. She felt a momentary chill at the fierceness buried in his expression, bubbling like acid below the surface.
Suddenly afraid that something was about to combust, she stepped forward. "We need your help."
The horror in Kian's eyes told her it had been the wrong thing to say. Kieran's smile spread like butter across his face, slow and rich. "Forget it," he said, his voice uncompromising, and turned away. He sat back down in the uncomfortable airport seat and closed his heavily lashed eyes, dismissing them.
Kian looked ready to commit murder, which Jessa bet wasn't too far off the mark. His hands clenched into angry white balls. His artery pulsed at the base of his neck like an off-beat drum, erratic and violent. Jessa laid a calming hand on his tight forearm. The fury is his eyes almost made her pause, but she shook her head.
Don't slap him, Kian warned mentally, remembering what she'd done to him at this stage in the argument. You'll be missing more than your hand.
She nearly laughed. And would have, if she hadn't been afraid it would set Kieran off. With luck, it would only arouse his curiosity, but she really wasn't willing to take the risk. At the moment she was more concerned with how close she could get to him without getting her head ripped off.
I'd keep a safe distance, Kian advised. If she hadn't been so absorbed with Kian, she would have taught him a valuable lesson about snooping in other people's thoughts. A valuable lesson involving toothpicks and some really blunt Popsicle sticks.
Now was not the time for that, however. Moving slowly, she eased into the chair next to his twin. Kieran didn't flinch, didn't acknowledge her presence. "Giacinta's going to kill her, you know."
That got his attention. He didn't open his eyes, but his body tensed, the muscles going taunt, and his mouth tightened. If she hadn't been watching so closely, she wouldn't have noticed, but Jessa was never one to miss the finer details.
"I could hear her all the way across Boston," she mused thoughtfully. "Of course, the bond between us helped, but she was screaming so loudly I don't think I would have missed it anyway. You've heard what a dying cat sounds like, right?" He didn't respond, but she could tell her words were tearing him into pieces, even if he looked as interested as Damie's comatose grandfather. She shrugged, then continued, "I'd say Giacinta's going to give up soon. She won't kill her quickly. A quick death wouldn't be worth the trouble she put into kidnapping her." A quick peek at his tormented features. "But I suppose this doesn't interest you."
He still didn't answer. Two curious indents hollowed into Kian's lower lip and his eyes were more silver than violet. She held up a cautious hand. With a muttered curse, he subsided, shoving his hands deep into his pockets.
Kieran inhaled sharply. "What do you want from me?" he repeated. As least his voice was civil this time, instead of promising imminent torture and various cruelties.
"Kian can't find her without you," Jessa answered. "I can't find her at all. Giacinta's done something, broken the bond between us." Flat refusal wavered in Kieran's eyes. "You don't have to help us save her," she assured him quickly, "just help us find her."
I think he was actually considering it, Kian murmured thoughtfully, his surprise evident. A short spark of hope warmed her, then he brushed that aside. He changes his mind faster than a skydiver hits earth without a parachute. Keep talking.
"I think at one point, she actually used a meat cleaver. Cameron's thoughts weren't very coherent, though, so I'm not sure, but--"
Kieran cut her off with a quick jerk of his wrist. "Shut up." Cold eyes met hers, violet drenched in cold blue ice. Frosty shards kissed the edge of his pupil, flaring like glacial currents and drowning her hopes. "Talk about something that effects me or leave. I don't care."
It only took a moment to realize that Kian had lost his temper. His motions blurred, but when she blinked, he'd curled his fists in Kieran's shirt and their faces were once again only inches apart.
But this time, Kieran looked startled.
"Do you want to find her or not?" Kian demanded savagely, his voice suddenly fierce and dangerous, while his eyes spit desperate violet anger. He stared hard at his twin, for once not at odds with himself or his other half.
Kieran merely looked thoughtful. "Not," he decided obstinately. He reached to remove Kian's hands from his shirt, but was surprised to find himself pressed harder against the back of the chair.
"That," Kian responded in a voice colder than Kieran had ever managed, "was not one of your options."
"If it wasn't an option, then why did you give me a choice?" Kieran countered nastily. "Let go or you won't ever find her. I'll make sure of that."
Jessa shifted nervously. "Ultimatums are not going to keep Cameron alive," she pointed out, hoping the twins would stop the useless fighting and just work together for once.
The younger of the twins looked at her calmly. She wondered how he could be so self-possessed even when his twin was threatening to kill him in the middle of a crowded airport. "I don't see how it effects me one way or the other. I've never known what it's like to have my soulmate anyway. What's another life?"
"A waste," Kian scoffed. His face twisted into a sneer. "You might have known what it's like to have a soulmate if you'd ever looked for yours instead of trying to steal mine."
The smile that spread across Kieran's was mocking. "Did you ever wonder why you can't feel your soulmate without me, brother dear?" he asked softly. Kian reared back, suddenly uncertain. Kieran pressed his advantage. "Did you ever stop to ask yourself why I knew where she was as often as you did? How I knew where to find her? How I got close enough to kill her?"
"The twin link," Kian answered dubiously. "You could feel her through me."
"Really?" Kieran speculated. "Was that really what you thought? Or did you realize that she and I shared the same unequivocal link that twined your souls so tight not even destiny could shatter it?"
Kian took another step back, his eyes wide. His head shook, denying the truth and refuting his brother's words. It simply wasn't possible. No one had two soulmates. No one found themselves caught between two others who shared their mind and shared their fate. Two soulmates. Twins.
And horribly, everything was now startlingly clear. Nausea threatened to overwhelm him. "You killed your soulmate!" he hissed, disgust flooding over his features. No, not disgust. Horror. Horror at the pain he'd felt, at the pain Cameron had felt, and at what must have swamped Kieran as her heart beat its final pulse. He stumbled back, ignoring the irritated gasp of trampled tourists.
"And yours," Kieran acknowledged. He shrugged. "You wanted to save her, didn't you?" He rose from the plastic seat and raised an eyebrow. "Do you think you can deal with Giacinta and this wonderful revelation all in one night?"
"He doesn't have a choice," Jessa snapped. "After that revolting display of mistimed honesty, we'll be lucky if Cameron's still alive." The whole thing had happened so quickly, she hadn't been able to stop it. But now, watching hurt and uncertainty blossom in Kian's eyes, she wished she'd staked Kieran long ago.
The hell with him. Cameron never would have known what she was missing. It was too damned bad she did now.
Kieran smiled charmingly, reveling in his twin's staggering shock. "What are we waiting for?"
Jessa was glad she didn't have a stake.