It was after midnight when Austin's cell phone buzzed. By his respectful tone and the way he kept glancing at her, Shanna suspected he was talking to her father. She'd been worried all evening about the possibility of a vampire war. Her attempts to contact Roman mentally had failed.
"I understand, sir." Austin handed his phone to Shanna. "Your father wants to talk to you."
She lifted the phone to her ear. "Dad?"
"Shanna, I thought I'd let you know what was going on. We have a tap on Petrovsky's phone, so we heard him talking to Draganesti."
"What's happening? Are they going to war?"
"Well, it appears Draganesti was ready for one. He claims to have two hundred warriors. Petrovsky's been on the phone all evening, ordering his followers to show up. We think he has about fifty at the most."
Shanna exhaled with relief. "Roman has him outnumbered."
"Well, not exactly. You see, Draganesti made a deal with Petrovksy. They're meeting in Central Park. Instead of a war, the two of them are supposed to duel to the death."
Shanna's knees buckled and she collapsed on the bed. "What?"
"Yeah, they're supposed to meet alone on the East Green at two in the morning. Silver swords and only one left standing."
Shanna struggled for air. Roman was fighting to the death? "This - this can't be true. We have to stop this."
"Don't think we can, sweetheart. But I'm a bit concerned about your friend. You see, we heard Petrovsky order his men to show up this evening. As far as we know, Draganesti will be coming alone. But Petrovsky, he's bringing his whole army."
Shanna gasped. "Oh my God."
"When we listened in, we could tell Draganesti's people don't know where the duel's taking place. So there's no way they can help him. Kinda sad. Looks like a slaughter to me."
Shanna thought back over the conversation. Two a.m., East Green, Central Park. She had to let the Highlanders know.
"Gotta go, sweetheart. Just wanted to give you an update. Bye."
"Bye." Shanna gripped the phone tightly and glanced at Austin and Alyssa. "I have to make a call."
Alyssa stood. "We can't allow that, Shanna."
Austin lounged on the second bed. "What's the harm in it? Even prisoners are allowed one call."
Alyssa pivoted toward Austin. "Are you crazy?"
"No." Austin gave her a pointed look.
Shanna quickly punched in the number to Roman's house. She knew this was too strange. Too convenient. First her dad told her the information, and now Austin was letting her use his phone. But it made no difference. She still had to save Roman.
"Connor, is that you?"
"Aye. Shanna? We've been worried about you."
"Can you, uh, do that phone thing?"
"Teleport? Aye. Where are you?"
"A hotel room. Hurry. I'll keep talking." Shanna glanced at Austin and Alyssa. "There are two other people here, but I don't think it should be a - "
Connor materialized beside her.
"Holy shit!" Austin scrambled out of bed.
Alyssa's mouth dropped open.
"Sorry for the intrusion." Connor took the phone from Shanna. "Ian, are ye there?"
"He - he's wearing a kilt," Alyssa whispered.
"Aye, that I am." Connor's gaze drifted over the female CIA agent. "And ye're a bonnie lass."
"How the hell did you do that?" Austin asked.
"Och, about the same way I do this." Connor wrapped an arm around Shanna. She grabbed him just as everything went black.
When the darkness faded away, she found herself in the foyer at Roman's house. The first floor was jammed with Highlanders, all armed to the teeth. An air of frustration hung over them as they paced about.
Angus MacKay strode toward her. "Connor, why have ye brought her here?"
Before Connor could answer, Shanna broke in. "I have news. Roman and Petrovsky are fighting a duel tonight."
"That is no' news, lass." Connor regarded her sadly.
"But Petrovsky is bringing an army! You have to help Roman."
"Bugger," Angus muttered. "I knew that bastard wouldna keep his word."
"How do ye know this, Shanna?" Connor asked.
"My father bugged Petrovsky's house. He heard their plans and told me. I had to warn you. Roman is meeting Petrovsky on the East Green in Central Park at two a.m."
The Scotsmen exchanged desperate glances.
Angus shook his head. " Tis no use, lass. We promised we wouldna follow him."
"I'm not leaving him alone!" Shanna reached for Connor's sword. "I made no promise, so I'm going."
"Wait," Connor shouted. "If Shanna goes, we can follow her. We never promised we wouldna do that."
"Aye." Angus grinned. "And the lass will need our protection. Roman would want us to follow her."
"Great." Shanna faced the Highlanders and lifted her sword in the air. "Follow me!"
The small kernel of hope Roman had garnered from his confession quickly withered away when he arrived at the East Green. Petrovsky had broken his agreement. He was not alone.
His coven spread out in a semicircle. Roman estimated fifty vampires, mostly male. About two dozen carried torches.
Petrovsky stepped forward. "It will be a pleasure killing you."
Roman gripped the hilt of his sword. "I see you were too afraid to come alone. You even brought a few women with you to wipe your nose."
"I'm not afraid. I gave my word I wouldn't harm any of your people, but I never promised that my followers wouldn't attack you if I'm killed. So you see, Draganesti, one way or another, tonight you will die."
Roman swallowed hard. He'd already figured as much. The prayers of one priest and three friends were not enough. God had abandoned him long ago.
"Are you ready?" Petrovsky drew his sword.
Roman drew his own sword. A gift from Jean-Luc, it was razor sharp, the steel blade plated with pure silver. The hilt was steel and leather and fit perfectly in his hand. He swished the blade through the air and saluted Petrovsky. He allowed himself one last thought of Shanna, then focused his mind on one thing only - survival.
As Shanna ran to the East Green, she could hear the clash of swords. The sound was terrifying, yet reassuring. If Roman was fighting, he was still alive.
"Halt!" Angus stopped beside her. "I know we're supposed to be following you, lass, but we need to do it faster." He swung her up into his arms.
Trees zoomed by, and Shanna held on tight. The Highlanders moved with vampire speed until they reached the edge of the clearing.
Angus set her down on her feet. "I'm sorry I misjudged you. Here." He handed her a sword. "Now we will follow you."
"Thank you." She stepped into the clearing.
The warriors spread out behind her, led by Angus MacKay and Jean-Luc Echarpe. Roman and Ivan Petrovsky were in the middle of the clearing, circling each other. As far as Shanna could tell, Roman was untouched. Ivan's clothes were slashed in a few places. Blood oozed from a wound on his left arm.
Petrovsky glanced her way and cursed. "You bastard, you had her all along. And you brought your bloody army."
Roman eased back and glanced quickly at Shanna and the Highlanders. He focused once more on Petrovksy, but yelled, "Angus, you gave me your word you would not follow me."
"We dinna follow you," Angus shouted back. "We dinna know where ye were. It was the lass we followed."
Roman leaped to the right as Petrovsky charged. He spun about and jabbed the Russian in his hip. Ivan cried out and pressed a hand against the wound.
"Shanna!" Roman yelled. "Get out of here."
"I'm not leaving you." She stepped forward. "And I'm not letting you die."
Ivan looked at the blood on his hand. "You think you're winning, don't you, Draganesti? But you're wrong. Just like you were wrong about Casimir."
Roman circled him. "Casimir is dead."
"Is he now?" Ivan pivoted to keep Roman in view. "Did you see him die?"
"He fell just moments before sunrise."
"And you and your friends fled to shelter. So you didn't see what happened next. I took Casimir to my secret lair."
A gasp echoed among the Highlanders.
"You lie," Roman whispered, his face pale. "Casimir is dead."