Ladona sat crossed legged with her back against the wall opposite from where she knew the opening to the chamber was even though it was pitch black once again. She cradled her arm against her stomach, wincing at the throbbing that got worse with every passing second. I finally stopped bleeding so that’s good, she thought, feeling the deep wound that ran from her right shoulder down to her elbow, which is where she guessed her arm was actually broken.
But Anna. What was happening to her? Ladona imagined torture like what Anna had endured in Hell and she shook with the force of her fear for the older woman. I’m going to kill that bitch, Ladona repeated grimly for the hundredth time, imagining her hands closing around the throat of the dark-haired witch who had led Anna from the cave.
Even though she knew it was futile, she closed her left hand and channeled energy to her palm then opened her fingers, but as she expected … nothing. No light. No zing. Nothing. Ladona hadn’t realized how much she had come to rely on her power and felt bereft without it, vulnerable.
And Dean. Where was he? She had no idea how much time had passed since she and Anna had been attacked and taken, but he and John had to have discovered the chaos of the hotel room by now. Her body ached from the fight, but her heart called to Dean and she willed him to hear her, to feel her even though she knew this underground – intermountain? – fortress probably had a protection around it to prevent any kind of psychic connection between its prisoners and the outside.
Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and visualized standing at the foot of a long, curving staircase that ran alongside a peaceful creek that ran down and gurgled over a rocky streambed. She stood in a brilliantly lush forest with a bright sun overhead and --
“Am I interrupting?”
Ladona opened her eyes to find the witch – Celeste – standing at the opening with another woman Ladona presumed was a witch and two men who, despite her desperate situation, she had to admit were pretty damn handsome. Small, flickering lights danced along the floor, outlining the perimeter of the cave.
“What do you want?” Ladona intoned, trying to sound bored even though her heart had begun to beat faster.
“What an appropriate question,” one of the men said in a deep baritone. The timber of his voice sent shocks up Ladona’s spine and she was disgusted with herself for responding this way.
“Isn’t it though?” the other witch smiled and looked at Ladona through lowered lashes. Ladona felt her nipples harden and a fire start low in her belly. Her face flushed with shame and she began to shake, whether from fear or the beginnings of desire she couldn’t tell.
The man who first addressed her walked forward with an almost animal-like stealth. He wasn’t just handsome, Ladona realized. He was sexy, too, with broad shoulders, a tapered waist and long legs encased in a black shirt and black pants. His dark hair gleamed in the dim light and his dark eyes shone with desire. Something beyond her control made Ladona stand as he got closer, made her blood hum with the sexual energy he exuded.
The girl was suddenly on the side of her broken arm and the man stood in front of and just slightly to her other side. Ladona wondered how they’d gotten so close without her even being aware of it. The girl lifted one of Ladona’s thick curls and blew lightly on the side of her neck, causing Ladona to suck in her breath and the fire in her belly to ignite into full blown need.
“Easy,” Celeste warned in a teasing tone. “You want to make sure there’s plenty to go around now.”
Oh, shit, she thought, understanding in a flash what was happening. They’re going to rape me to soften me up for their god or whatever it is. A sudden image of what she’d endured in AlmostHell flashed through her mind and her throat went dry with terror. Ladona almost succumbed to her fear, but then she mentally kicked herself. Think, Ladona, think! You are not going to let this happen! They’re obviously using some type of spell or aura or something to make it consensual. This must be part of the ritual for joining the coven. Sex, blood offering, induction ceremony.
“As much as I appreciate your, um, offer, I’m going to have to pass,” Ladona said not a little sarcastically. “You’re just not my type. Any of you.” Dear Goddess, please help me. An image of Dean floated in her mind’s eye and she imagined his love wrapped around her like a blanket. A lump formed in her throat and threatened to overwhelm her, but Ladona swallowed hard and lifted her chin.
The man standing next to Celeste stared at Ladona as if she were a meal he couldn’t wait to taste. “Really?” he asked. “I thought we could be great friends.”
Damn, they’re good, she thought, understanding they’d had years and years of practice and wondering just how in the hell she was going to not only resist but get out of this. Wise up, Winters, another part of her brain railed. You’re a hunter, not just a witch, a trained fighter with hundreds of hunts under your belt. Be like Dean! Kick ass and take names later!
“Why do you resist when you so clearly want to give in?” Celeste asked, her voice a smoky tone that seemed to dance across Ladona’s skin.
Ladona leveled an evil gaze at Celeste, ignoring the two on either side of her. “Yeah, well, I’ve never been one to take the easy way and I don’t see any reason to start now.” Before anyone could react, Ladona curled her good hand into a claw and raked the girl across the throat. A split second later, she kicked out and caught the man high on his chest, kicking hard enough to hopefully stop his heart.
The witch Ladona had attacked sank to the floor, holding her hands to her throat in a futile attempt to staunch the blood. Ladona had aimed her blow just as Dean had taught her: right across the Adam’s apple for maximum damage with minimal effort. The man – wizard? – who had tried to seduce her had a shocked look on his face and put his hand over his heart before he, too, fell over. Ladona stood staring, shocked that it had worked. And Dean teases me for reading those obscure medical articles I sometimes find online, she thought smugly for a second before movement out of the corner of her eye made her spin and back up against the cool stone wall.
Celeste moved like the wind and was standing nearly nose-to-nose with Ladona. Any seductive vibes Celeste had been sending had been definitively replaced by a dark and deadly anger that seemed to rise up and out of the woman’s very soul to curl around Ladona’s ankles and wind its way up her legs. She was held in place more firmly than if steel bands had been used.
Celeste wrapped her hands around Ladona’s throat and Ladona tried not to wince from the way the witch’s touch burned, could even smell her flesh burning. The pain was intense, searing and sharp. Tears came to her eyes, but she refused to blink or give in. Celeste said nothing, just smiled gently and took one hand from Ladona’s throat and laid it on her broken arm.
Ladona’s scream rebounded off the walls of the cave and echoed out of the hidden opening and through the mountain hideaway. She felt the bones separate completely with a snap. One of them came through the skin. The gash on her arm started bleeding again and felt as if it, too, were on fire. Ladona dropped to her knees sobbing and watching her blood drip onto the hard floor and pool in front of her. She could barely breathe or see from the pain.
“This is nothing, my dear,” Celeste whispered in her ear. “I’ll be back to see to you, and then you will beg to join us.”
A scurry of movement that Ladona could barely register told her the bodies of the two she’d killed were being removed, but the sounds seemed to come from far away. There was nothing in Ladona’s mind but the pain in her arm and the burns around her throat. Dean, she cried silently, where are you? Please hurry.
Fire consumes Anna, seeming to burn her from within, but she grits her teeth against the screams that want to escape. She’ll not give this bastard the satisfaction. Besides, she endured far worse than this at the hands of the Yellow-Eyed Demon. It is a new and extremely unpleasant sensation though to feel the blood being drained from her body. She wonders vaguely if this is how it felt when the water faerie was sucking the life out of John.
Just thinking of her husband brings tears to her eyes. She knows he’ll come. The question is whether he’ll arrive in time. And what it will mean for him if he doesn’t.
She’s distracted from her thoughts as the creature once again slides his hand down her arm from its resting place on her left shoulder. She refuses to think of him as a god despite what these delusional freaks call him but he’s obviously not human either. She shoves his hand away and grits, “I told you to keep your fuckin’ hands off of me!” It scares her how much energy it takes just to say the words though. She’s weakening faster than she thought.
The creature is sitting on the edge of a fur covered bed not unlike the one that haunts her nightmares. She had to hide her horror when they brought her into the chamber and she first saw it but she soon had more immediate problems to deal with when the creature removed his robe to reveal his nude body beneath. He climbed onto the bed and held his hand up in invitation. When she didn’t respond the witch used her hold on Anna’s hair to propel her forward ‘til her legs touched the edge of the bed. She would no doubt have forced Anna down beside her “god” if Anna hadn’t snapped, “Is this your idea of privacy?” It was the only thing she could think of to say but as soon as the words were out she realized her odds of surviving were definitely better against one than against two.
The witch’s grip on her hair tightened painfully but the creature only chuckled. “Very well. Leave us, Celeste.” When the witch hesitated he growled, “Now! And see we are not disturbed!”
“Yes, my god,” Celeste murmured but Anna felt her hateful stare as she backed from the room. The sudden cessation of sound told her a silencing spell had been put in place.
The creature grasped her hand and tried to tug her down beside him but she moved out of reach. “I offered blood. Nothing more,” she said firmly, surprised to find her voice didn’t shake.
He studied her for several minutes and she felt his eyes crawling over her body like a physical touch. She kept her own gaze riveted to the wall above the bed even though it was decorated with the most gruesome scene imaginable. Rivers of blood flowed and she knew from the smell that it was real, an insane remnant of the creature’s previous victims. Would her blood soon be added to it?
With another chuckle the creature sat up and grasped her hand again. When she resisted his tug he said, “You must kneel before your god to offer sacrifice.”
Biting her tongue against a sharp retort she allowed him to pull her down to her knees. He tried to guide her between his legs but she managed to scoot off to the side instead with her right forearm resting across his bare thighs. She suspected he was strong enough to force her to comply but he only smiled as if to say he’d get his way eventually. And she was terrified he was right. He didn’t seem to be using any magic on her at the moment but that could change at any time and she had no defense against it. He gripped her left shoulder with his right hand to keep her from drawing away again and raised her bleeding forearm to his mouth. He stopped to look at her, slowly licking the bite mark clean. Knowing she was all out of delaying tactics she closed her eyes just as his teeth sank into her flesh. And the fire began.
He raises his face now and the sight of her blood streaked across his mouth and chin makes her nauseous but she doesn’t allow him to see. Nor does she look away from his burning eyes. It takes her a moment to realize he’s smiling through her blood and anger joins the nausea in her stomach.
“Why do you resist? You will be mine completely before this night is through anyway.” He tilts his head to study her and his voice drops to an intimate whisper that sends chills down her spine. “I will feast on more than your sweet blood.” His gaze moves down her body to linger on her breasts. “And you will beg for my touch as all others have before you.”
The anger gives her a boost of strength and she snaps, “Oh, go to Hell! I can show you the way if you’d like.”
His eyes return to her face and she sees surprise in them. Or maybe that’s just the blood loss talking. He continues to study her as if she’s a puzzle he can’t quite figure out. “You feel the pain, I know you do. Why not give in to it? I want to hear you scream. Scream for my mercy…” He caresses her cheek and she forces herself not to flinch away. “Beg and I will put out the fire that’s consuming you.” His hand moves around to grip the back of her neck. “I will quench you as only a god can.”
He starts to pull her in for a kiss but she rakes her nails down his face, cutting deep furrows. He slaps her then, a sharp backhand that would have sent her flying across the room if he weren’t still holding her right arm in an iron grip. She moans as she tastes blood.
Fury fills her. Meeting his eyes once again she spits, “You’re pathetic! You think this hurts? I’ve experienced more pain stubbing my toe!”
She knows immediately it was a huge mistake. He pushes her back on the stone floor with an animal growl and sits astride her as he buries his teeth in her throat. This time the pain is so intense she can’t hold back the screams and she realizes with dismay that the seduction is over and he intends to kill her now. She tries to push him away but her strength is completely gone. Black dots dance in her vision as he gulps her blood in earnest, his throat working steadily to drain her life away.Her last thought before unconsciousness takes her is of John and how she failed him just as she feared.