Did she intend to try to capture them and then… do what? Use Aria to bend him to her will? That would be a much more likely scenario than this woman becoming his queen, but he would never allow Aria to go through the hell of imprisonment again, and he would never fall into line with anyone who sought to use her in such a way.
Or did this woman simply believe she was too powerful to fall to him and merely played with them now? He felt that was exactly what she was trying to do as her eyes surveyed him with amusement.
Her gaze fell to Aria again, who met the woman’s malicious gaze head-on. “You taint the line with a turned human as your queen,” the woman replied. “An imposter queen.”
“Such words are punishable by death,” Braith replied.
The woman chuckled. “Death is not so frightening for some.” Her gaze slid back and forth between Aria and William, before settling on Braith once more. “This perversion of vampire blood cannot be allowed to continue. It most certainly cannot be allowed to reproduce.”
“Enough!” Braith roared as Aria’s fingers dug into his arm.
“Braith,” Aria whispered warningly.
The woman’s gaze slid to Jack, who pulled Hannah more firmly against his chest. His gray eyes were focused on the woman as a muscle twitched in his cheek. “The younger brother,” the woman murmured before her gaze slid over the group once more. It finally settled on Melinda. “And the youngest child, I’m assuming. You look very much like your mother.”
Xavier shot Braith another questioning look at the revelation this woman had somehow known their mother. Ashby backed his mount further away from the woman with Melinda pressed close against his chest. The others all looked to him, but Braith had no answers for any of them about this woman’s identity.
“Kill them all,” the woman commanded flippantly before pointing a finger at Braith. “But bring me his head.”
“William, fire now!” Braith commanded.
At the last second, William spun his arrow away from the woman and fired at Goran. Goran twisted to the side, but not fast enough to avoid taking the arrow to the center of his chest, centimeters off his heart. William never would have been able to hit the woman with an arrow, but he’d distracted them all by hitting Goran.
Aria sat up before him and pulled another arrow from her quiver as the white-cloaked vampires surged forward. Max fought against the hands grasping at him, but he was torn from his mount. Timber kept his reins in the hand of his injured arm as he swung at the vampires swarming him. Ashby launched a fist at one trying to grab at Melinda and caught him in the jaw, knocking him away. Two other vampires ripped him from his horse. Melinda lurched toward Ashby, but he had vanished from view within the sea of white.
“No!” Aria screamed when Daniel was pulled from his horse.
She plucked three arrows from her quiver and released them in rapid fire, taking out the two who had captured Daniel and the one who had grabbed Max. Ashby remerged from the crush of vamps, swinging and punching his way back toward Melinda. Throwing herself from the saddle, Melinda attacked the vampires who were still trying to drag Ashby beneath them. Ashby remained on his feet as he moved to position Melinda behind him.
More bowstrings twanged from the vampires attacking them, the feathers of the arrows whistled as they soared through the air. Unlike the first wave of arrows, which were meant to corral them into one spot, these arrows had targets. An arrow pierced straight through Xavier’s throat, knocking him back. Braith jerked Aria against his chest when she lurched toward Xavier as he tumbled from his saddle.
“No!” he hissed in her ear. “Stay against me.”
Jack pulled Hannah from their horse when another wave of arrows erupted into the clearing. He hadn’t been fast enough to get clear of the saddle though as an arrow pierced his right thigh. His momentum out of the saddle was the only thing that kept him from being pinned against the horse by the arrow.
Diving backward, William wrapped his arm around Tempest’s waist and pulled her out of the back of the saddle. His body twisted to take the impact on the ground before he rolled over to pin Tempest beneath him. His horse, Achilles, spooked and charged toward a grouping of vampires, knocking them all back.
Kicking his feet free of the stirrups, Braith lifted Aria from the saddle and leapt out at the same time his hand swung down to hit his horse on the rump. The horse charged into the fray, creating more chaos and disorganization amongst the group of attackers. Around them, he saw the rest of the horses taking off into the woods, looking to escape the blood and noise of the unfolding battle.