"He lives. And he's growing his army for revenge!" Ivan lunged forward and slashed his sword across Roman's stomach.
Roman leaped back, but the slice still found its mark. Blood seeped from the wound. He stumbled back.
Shanna gasped at the sight of Roman bleeding. Then, behind him, she spotted two Russians drawing their weapons. "Roman! Watch out!" She ran toward him.
With lightning speed, Angus caught her. "Nay, lass." - Roman spun around to defend himself from the two Russians.
Ivan glared at Shanna. "I'm sick of you, bitch!" He zipped over to her, slicing the air with his sword.
Angus shoved her behind him and drew his weapon, but Jean-Luc leaped forward first, his sword raised. He brought it down with a loud clash. Ivan stumbled back. Jean-Luc lunged forward, thrusting and sending Ivan back in retreat.
Shanna gasped when she saw Roman skewer one of his Russian attackers through the heart. The man collapsed to the ground and crumbled into dust. The other Russian dropped his sword and backed away.
Roman moved toward Shanna. "Angus, take her back home where she'll be safe." He pressed a hand to the wound across his mid-section.
Shanna tried to run toward him, but Angus held her back. "Roman, come with us. You're wounded."
He gritted his teeth. "I have unfinished business." He charged toward Petrovsky.
Jean-Luc jumped back just as Roman's sword clashed against Ivan's. Petrovsky was caught by surprise. With a quick maneuver, Roman whisked Ivan's sword from his grasp. The sword flew through the air and landed close to one of the Russians.
Ivan ran toward his sword. Roman sliced him across the back of the legs, and he stumbled to the ground. He rolled over, but Roman was already there, pointing his sword at Ivan's heart. "You lose," Roman whispered.
Ivan looked frantically about.
Roman pressed the tip of his sword against Ivan's chest. "Swear that you and your coven will never harm any of my people."
Ivan gulped. "I swear."
"And you will cease your terrorist activities against my factories."
Ivan nodded. "If I promise, you won't kill me?"
Jean-Luc eased forward. "He has to die, Roman."
"Aye." Angus let go of Shanna and strode toward them. "You canna trust him."
Roman took a deep breath. "If he dies, someone else will take over his coven and leadership of the Malcontents. And the new leader will continue to terrorize us. But if we let Petrovsky live, he'll have to keep his word. Right?"
"Right." Ivan nodded. "I'll keep my word."
"Of course you will." Roman smiled grimly. "Or I will find you during the day while you are defenseless. Understand?"
"Yes." Ivan slowly stood.
Roman backed away. "Then we're finished here."
One of the Russians dashed forward and picked up Ivan's sword. "I believe this belongs to you." He stabbed Ivan through the stomach.
Ivan stumbled back. "Alek? Why do you betray me?" He fell to his knees. "You, you bastard. You want my power, my coven."
"No." Alek glared at him. "I want your women."
Ivan collapsed on the ground, clutching his stomach.
"You fool." A female vampire walked toward him and pulled a wooden stake from her belt. "You treated me like a whore."
Ivan gasped for air. "Galina. You stupid bitch. You are a whore."
Another female pulled a stake from her belt. "You won't ever call us bitches again. We're taking over your coven."
"What?" Ivan scooted across the grass as the two female vampires approached. "Katya, Galina, stop. You can't run a coven. You're too stupid."
"We were never stupid." Galina knelt beside him. "I'll have all the men I want."
Katya knelt on the other side. "And I'll be like Catherine the Great." She glanced at Galina. "Shall we?"
The two women plunged their stakes into Ivan's heart.
"No!" His cry faded as he crumbled away to dust.
The women rose and faced the Highlanders.
"A truce, for now?" Katya suggested.
"Agreed," Angus said.
The Russians zipped away, disappearing into the night.
It was over.
Shanna gave Roman a shaky smile. "That was strange. Here. Raise your arms so we can bind your wound."
Connor wrapped a bandage around Roman's middle and tied it off. Then he removed a bottle of blood from his sporran and passed it to Roman.
"Thank you." Roman took a drink, then reached for Shanna. "We need to talk."
"We sure do. Don't you ever agree to a stupid duel again. I'll lock you up in the silver room and lose the key."
He smiled as he wrapped his arms around her. "I love it when you're bossy."
"Release her!" a voice shouted.
Shanna turned to see her father approaching with a flashlight. Behind him, Garrett, Austin, and Alyssa were carrying flashlights and silver pistols. Their belts were lined with wooden stakes. They stopped a distance from them and surveyed the scene, their lights moving here and there.
Her father shone a light on a pile of dust. "I'm hoping that's Petrovsky?"
"Aye," Angus answered. "And ye're Sean Whelan?"
"Yes." Sean located the second pile of dust. "Another Russian?"
"Yes," Roman answered. "I killed him."
With a sigh, Sean gazed about the East Green. "Not exactly the result I was looking for. Only two dead."
"What are you talking about?" Shanna asked.
"You did your part well, sweetheart. I know you're under the influence of that filthy creature who has his paws on you right now. I told Austin to let you use his phone. I knew you would warn Draganesti's friends."
"You were hoping for a war." Roman tightened his arms around Shanna. "You hoped most of us would die."
"Less work for us if you kill each other off." Sean shrugged. "But we'll get you. Mark my word."
Jean-Luc lifted his sword. "Foolish words when we have you outnumbered."
"Aye." Angus moved toward them. "What ye doona realize is that ye need us. There's an evil vampire amassing an army as we speak. Ye'll not be able to defeat Casimir without our help."
Sean's eyes narrowed. "I haven't heard of this Casimir. And why should I believe anything a demon tells me?"
"It's true, Dad," Shanna yelled. "You need these men."
"They're not men!" Sean shouted. "Now, step away from that monster and come with me."
Roman cleared his throat. "I don't suppose this would be a good time to ask for your daughter's hand in marriage?"
Sean whipped a wooden stake from his belt. "I'll see you in hell first!"
Roman winced. "Yeah, bad timing."
Shanna touched his face and smiled. "I think your timing's perfect."
"Shanna, I'll try to give you everything you ever wanted. The house with the picket fence - "
She laughed and hugged him close. "All I really need is you."
"Even children," Roman continued. "We'll figure out a way to insert my DNA into live sperm."
"What?" Shanna looked at him. "You want to be a father?"
"Only if you're the mother."
She grinned. "You do realize the harem has to go?"
"Already taken care of. Gregori's taking them to his house until they can manage on their own."
"Oh, how kind of him." Shanna laughed. "His mother will have a fit."
"I love you, Shanna." Roman kissed her mouth.
"Get away from her!" Sean advanced with the wooden stake.
"No!" Shanna turned to face her father.
"Shanna, come with me. That creature has a hold on your mind."
"No. The hold is on my heart." She pressed a hand to her chest. "I love him." She realized her hand was on the silver cross. "Oh, my gosh." She swiveled to face Roman. "Hug me again."
He pulled her close.
"It doesn't hurt you?" She stepped back and lifted the crucifix. "It didn't burn you."
Roman's eyes widened as he gently touched the cross.
"It must be a sign." Shanna's eyes misted with tears. "God has not abandoned you."
Roman's hand curled around the cross. " 'Perhaps you do not understand the magnitude of God's forgiveness.' A wise man told me that tonight. I couldn't believe it until now."