Allegiance (Causal Enchantment #3) by K.A. Tucker
A spine-chilling crack jerked Imogen’s attention to the center of the atrium. There, nestled among charred heaps of vampires and Sentinel—their bodies still smoldering—stood the snow-white marble woman, quietly reaching for the heavens. The sorceress’s nostrils curled in disgust, the smell of death permeating the air.
Twelve hours ago, Imogen led the strike on the Manhattan lair of the two most notorious vampires. She and her band of twenty-four witches exploded through the iron gates, trailing two hundred spelled Sentinel—fools who had proven useful as bloody bait to distract the horde of vampires seeking asylum. The attack, which took months of planning and one timely sorceress kidnapping, was devastatingly successful.
A few leeches escaped, including the three targets. Disappointing, but not entirely unexpected. At least now they had the vampire lair and whatever lay protected within these walls. Something here had kept those two monsters cocooned for over a hundred years, believing they were invisible. Something involving Sofie’s sister, based on what Imogen’s spy—Ileana—divulged. What exactly, no one knew. Ileana had tried gently prodding into Viggo’s mind, but it was impregnable. Either way, the sorceresses now had the building and all its secrets within.
They quickly secured the entrance with an illusion spell to cover the destruction of the entrance way and re-established the Merth barrier—that wonderful vampire-paralyzing substance that Imogen had only heard of from the legends but had never seen. From there, the sorceresses introduced the next level of their strategy.
Until this new development …
Gasps surrounded Imogen as the group watched tiny fissures spider across the statue’s torso like ice cracking over a lake. The cracks expanded, crawling up her arms and neck, all the way down to her ankles.
“What’s happening?” Imogen hissed. When she didn’t get an immediate response, she turned to the group, her wild mane of billowing black and silver-streaked hair enhancing the menace in her eyes. “Maybe there’s something inside.” Imogen answered her own question. A new enemy. Ten tiny flames appeared at Imogen’s fingertips. The other sorceresses followed suit, arming themselves with magic, ready to quash the new threat about to reveal itself.
An avalanche of marble smashed to the floor as the statue crumbled. Gauzy white fabric appeared first, followed by creamy legs … arms … shoulders … long chestnut ringlets spilled down as the marble disappeared around the creature’s back, revealing a young woman.
A stir of suspicion unsettled Imogen. She had heard the stories … “But how?” The question barely touched her lips, her whisper so soft.
“Human?” someone whispered from behind her. Dozens of purple coils, invisible to a human, shot forward like probing tentacles to interrogate the unraveled creature. The coils cocooned the creature’s frail body, caressing her cheeks, probing her body, attempting to penetrate her vital organs in search of information. The magical coils dissolved as they made contact. Several gasps of realization echoed.
“She’s immune to our magic!” Imogen hissed, now flabbergasted. “How is that possible?” No one hazarded an explanation. Every sorceress stood, frozen. Watching, waiting.
Long eyelashes fluttered as the creature blinked to focus on her surroundings. “Allo?” She called out hesitantly.“Allo? Est-il temps?”
“Who is she? Is she French? Why can’t our magic touch her?” The panicked questions began, the group looking to their leader for answers.
Imogen lifted her chin, exuding confidence she didn’t feel at this moment. “Let’s find out, shall we?” She stepped forward. Inside, panic whirled. No, it couldn’t be … how on earth had that redheaded bitch pulled this off?
“Oui! Enfin!” The young woman cried out in relief, an angelic smile spreading across her face, oblivious to the imminent threat approaching her. As Imogen advanced, she watched olive green orbs widen, taking in her surroundings—the smoldering ash, the destroyed building, the ring of witches, fingers ablaze, the crumbled marble around her feet. The smile slid off her beautiful face.
Imogen stopped twenty feet away, sidestepping a pile of corpses. “Who are you?”
Confusion flashed across the woman’s pretty face, “Veronique …”
Imogen breathed a giant sigh of triumph as whispers drifted among the witches. They had all heard the sordid tale of Sofie’s sister. It was legend. Rumor had it she simply disappeared one day. All had assumed one of her two leech lovers killed her. But now they knew what those three had done. And they had her.
“Where is Sofie?” Veronique asked timidly, switching to English. Her brow furrowed, her startled eyes roamed, suddenly halting, latching onto one of the ash mounds. Imogen watched the woman study the mounds more intently. Recognition finally passed over those haunting olive eyes and she released a blood-curdling scream.
“Quick! Secure her!” Imogen commanded. There was no reason, though. Veronique collapsed into an unconscious heap on the dais, smacking her forehead on a jagged piece of marble. A small pool of blood formed beneath her. “So … now we have Sofie’s sister.” Imogen’s lips curved into a smile as she reached for her cell phone. The Sect would want to know. “When she wakes up, let’s get as much information out of her as possible. Any means necessary,” she added. Probing spells wouldn’t work. It would take good old brute force; likely little of it. “They’ll be coming back for this one and we’ll be ready.”