“What is?” I took a step back, but kept my eyes trained on his.
A razor-sharp smile cut into his lips. “You’re out here? Hanging out in a tree house? How incredibly lame is that?”
Unease quickly flipped to annoyance. “What are you doing here?”
Petr looked around pointedly. “What does it look like? Bearing witness to your pathetic existence one last time.”
A ball of ice formed in my chest. “You were told to leave me alone.”
“Yeah, see, that’s the funny thing. I was told a lot of things.” He walked around me slowly, head down, much like the predator a Warden was. “How does it feel to be left outside like a mangy dog? Unwanted? Even Zayne seems to have grown tired of you.”
His words cut deep, because in a way, they were kind of true, except I was more like an unwanted mule than a mangy dog. But I refused to show any hurt. “How does it feel to be a perverted excuse for a male?”
Petr’s eyes narrowed into thin slits as he made another wide circle. “You know what’s so funny about all of this?”
“No. But I guess you’re going to tell me?”
He smirked. “You don’t even know why the Alphas are here. You don’t even know the real reason why the demons are sniffing after you.”
I curled my hand around the cell, feeling my pulse spike. “And you’re going to tell me?”
He shot forward so fast, I didn’t even see him move. Wrapping a long finger around the chain of my necklace, he tugged on it hard enough for it to bite into my skin. His gaze dropped to where the ring dangled. “You don’t even know what this is.”
Pulling the necklace out of his grip, I stepped back. Something in his words struck a deep nerve. Did he know about Lilith? It really didn’t matter. Alphas in the house be damned, I started around him.
He grabbed my arm. “Where do you think you’re going?”
I looked down at his hand, stomping down the sudden rush of dread. Showing fear was never a good idea. “Let go of me.”
Petr sneered, and warnings fired off left and right. Too far away from the mansion to be heard if I screamed, I also knew that anyone who’d come to my aid was otherwise occupied.
I squared my shoulders. “Do you remember what happened last time?”
Unconsciously, his hand went to the faint scar along his jaw. Zayne had given him that.
“I’m going to do worse to you than break your jaw if you don’t let go of me.”
Petr’s cold laugh came like a punch in the stomach, and a sinking, drowning feeling threatened to swallow me. “This should’ve been done a long time ago, but I’m glad it wasn’t. I’m going to have fun fixing it.”
In a cold moment of striking clarity, I realized that Petr wasn’t here to just talk crap to me. He was here to kill me. With that knowledge, I inhaled sharply, but panic punched the air out of my lungs. “You won’t get away with this.”
“Ah, I think I’ll be fine.”
Instinct kicked in. Lurching to the side, I surprised him and his grip loosened. Somehow I remembered that I held my phone in my hand. I tapped on the screen blindly, praying that it dialed someone—anyone. Before he could recover, I brought my knee up and slammed it into his stomach.
Breaking loose, I whirled around, but he got a handful of my hair, yanking my head back. Petr went for the phone, twisting my wrist until I lost my grip on it. He threw it into the nearby bushes.
Terror rushed through me, as did pure rage. I swung at him, digging my nails into his cheek. Petr yelped and let go. I kicked out, clipping his leg.
Petr shot around me, slamming his fist into me and knocking me to the ground. The fresh burst of pain stunned me, but I crawled forward. He caught my shoulder, flipping me onto my back.
To the left of us, the bushes suddenly rattled wildly, drawing Petr’s attention. He reared up, just as I twisted and something—something shiny-black with big fangs—shot from the foliage. Bambi? I didn’t even question why the snake was here, but I prayed she ate Petr.
Bambi darted across the clearing, mouth open and fangs gleaming. Growling deep in his throat, Petr whipped around, catching the snake just below its head. She hissed and snapped out, but with a ripe curse, he threw the snake against a nearby tree. Bambi hit the trunk with a nasty, sickening thud and fell to the ground in a messy, unmoving lump.
Real terror spread its way through me like a virus. I swung, aiming for any part of him I could make contact with.
“You stupid little demon bitch,” Petr spat, catching my arm. “A familiar—you have a familiar hanging around you? Even Abbot will thank me for this.”
A scream caught in my throat as I kneed him in the stomach. Petr grunted and then his fist snaked out, crashing into my face. The ringing in my ears blocked out all sound. I sucked in air and blood, thrashing under his weight. I was reduced to struggling like a wild animal.
“Stop. Just stop,” Petr said, pushing my head back. “This will go so much easier if you just don’t fight.”
A different kind of instinct struggled to rise inside me—not Warden, but a part of me that was more powerful than the will to survive. Petr thought he had me defenseless under him? Let him believe that. All I needed was for him to lower his head just another inch or two. The demon inside me roared its approval.
“That’s it.” The scratches on his cheek stretched, seeping blood. “This has to be done. The entire world will be better off if you’re dead.”
Confusion and the spicy cologne he wore suffocated me. My skin felt like it was stretched to the limit. The demon inside me clawed to get out.
“You’re going to beg.” His gaze flicked up, pale eyes heated. “They all do. Beg right before we send them back to Hell.” His hand moved lower, bruising. “No pride. And that’s the way it should be. Look at you now.”
Tears of frustration and fear ran down my cheeks, mixing with dirt and blood, but they had no effect on Petr. I couldn’t do this—couldn’t just lie here and wait. I reared up, clutching the short hairs on the back of his head and forcing his mouth toward mine.
Petr crammed his hand over my mouth, forcing my head back down. “Oh, no, you aren’t going to do that.”
Full-blown panic set it. His hand crushed my split lip, and I couldn’t breathe. I beat my fists against his arms, his chest. The thin material of my camisole ripped, and then his fingers were wrapping around my throat. I felt every pebble digging into my back, and out of the mass of jumbled thoughts, I remembered what Roth had said. People with the purest souls are capable of the greatest evils. No one is perfect, no matter what they are or what side they fight for.
Truer words had never been spoken.
Desperation clouded my senses. I dug my nails into his hand, but no matter how I tried, I couldn’t breathe. My limbs felt heavy as I choked on my own tears. His fingers bruised as he tried to pry my legs apart, but I squeezed them tighter and tighter. I stared up at the darkening sky, the moon a pale, distant shadow.
Defiance burst through me. I craned my neck, his hands slipped and I bit down as hard as I could. His skin popped between my teeth and warm blood gushed. Petr jerked back, howling. The blow he landed cracked my head on the hard ground. Starbursts clouded my vision.
Don’t pass out. Don’t pass out.