Rose balled her hands into fists at her side, her gaze darting back and forth between me and Chase. “Did either of you know she was still around? Don’t lie to me.”
I bit my lip. I was such an idiot. I hadn’t even thought to tell Rose that Nix was back in Shelby. Nix had been manipulated by my grandmother into killing Rose’s family members, but it didn’t change the fact that she was the one who’d murdered them in cold blood.
“You did know,” she accused, reading my expression.
I lifted my hands in surrender. “Only since yesterday. Before that, I hadn’t seen her since she went on the run from the Demon Council. I had no idea she was involved with Sam’s death.” I frowned at that, because it really didn’t make any sense. If she killed Sam, then why come to me?
“Where is she now?” Rose growled.
Mel walked up behind her, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Rose,” she said softly, “don’t involve yourself with them. What’s done is done. Nix will get her karma eventually.”
I sensed a shiver of magic coming from Mel. She was doing something to calm Rose’s ire. I lifted a brow at her. It wasn’t often one met a real witch. Low power witches, sure, but they couldn’t accomplish much without a coven. Mel was something a little bit more.
Her hand still on Rose’s shoulder, she glared at me. “Don’t get any funny ideas, demon.”
I lifted my hands in surrender again, then jumped at the sound of glass breaking. Jason was out of the kitchen in a flash, leaving those of us without supernatural speed to stare dumbly at each other.
“Xoe!” Jason called out, finally spurring me into motion.
I leapt from my stool and raced past the witches, shoving the bagged dagger into my coat pocket on the way out. I took a sharp left, then skidded to a halt in the entry room. Jason stood back near the wide staircase, arms held out defensively. Across from him were two men and one women, their clothing heavy on black leather.
“They’re vampires,” he said as Chase, Mel, and Rose caught up with me.
The man nearest us, tall and gaunt with close-cropped brown hair, flicked his gaze to me, then back to Jason. “Our business is with the witches,” he hissed, “the rest of you must leave now.”
I stepped forward, summoning a ball of flame into my palm. “We’re not going anywhere. Now give me one good reason not to roast you.” They hadn’t offered us violence, yet, but they had broken the window to unlock the door from the inside. That justified a fireball in my book.
Mel stepped up on my left, then Chase on my right.
The vampires seemed unsure what to do.
“More than you bargained for?” I questioned.
His smile was the only warning I had before they attacked. Almost too fast to follow, the woman rushed Jason, and the two men came barreling toward us. I had to dive to the side before I could throw my fireball, quickly rolling to my feet just as Mel sailed past me to thud into the wall, hard. The vampire had tossed her like she weighed nothing.
Turning away from Mel, I chucked a fireball at the back of the male vamp who’d yet to speak, just as he made a grab for Rose. He screeched, then fell back, rolling across the tiles in an attempt to put the fire out. Using the distraction to his advantage, the brown-haired vamp darted behind Rose, using her like a human shield.
Chase took a step toward him. His back was to me, but I knew his fangs would be out. Not vamp fangs, but snake fangs, inherited from his Naga bloodline. I’d seen his poison kill a vampire once before. It wasn’t pretty.
The vampire holding rose produced a knife, quickly pressing it against her throat. “Not another step,” he warned, his eyes on Chase. His buddy, now flame free, stumbled to his feet.
I glanced toward Mel’s crumpled form to find Jason checking her pulse. He rose with a subtle nod, signaling she was alive, then joined my side. I assumed the female vamp’s corpse was somewhere behind us, but didn’t look.
The vampire with the knife pressed it more firmly against Rose’s throat. “The rest of you will be leaving now. We have business with the witches that does not concern you.”
I flexed my fists, wondering if he’d really kill her. Probably not since he had business with her, but I wasn’t willing to stake her life on it.
“Let her go, and you’ll walk out of here alive,” I offered. “Refuse, and you’re both going to end up crispy critters.”
The vamp who’d already almost become a crispy critter audibly gulped, but knife guy wasn’t wavering. He began to back down the hall, tugging Rose along.
“Don’t,” I warned, holding out a hand.
Before I could say more, someone started chanting in a language I didn’t recognize. I turned to see Mel had regained consciousness. Though her eyes were still closed, her lips moved with her words. Pressure built in the air, summoning forth goosebumps across my arms.
Chase suddenly whipped around. “Jason!” he shouted. “Run!”
Jason was gone in a flash, just seconds before both vampires dropped to the ground.
Rose gasped, clutching her throat as she stumbled away from her captor.
I looked between her and Mel as the latter slowly hobbled to her feet. “What the hell was that!” I gasped.
“A curse,” Chase explained, reaching my side. “One aimed at the technically dead.”
“Could you sense it because of your—” I began to ask, then realized something more important. “Jason!” I exclaimed, glancing around. He’d made it out of the room, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t lying in a heap somewhere down the hall.
“It won’t kill them,” Mel explained, drawing my attention. “Unfortunately.” She glared down at the vampire I’d lit on fire. “They’ll be out for a few hours at most. After that, they’ll be weakened until they feed.”
I jumped as I realized someone was standing behind me, peering over my shoulder, then relaxed upon realizing it was Jason. Damn silent vampires. “Glad to see you’re not unconscious,” I muttered.
“Thanks for the heads up,” he said to Chase, “but how did you . . . ”
Chase nudged the nearest vampire with his toe. “I can sense magic pertaining to death, though my gifts are nowhere near as strong as Sam’s were. I wasn’t sure what her curse would do, but I could tell it was aimed at anything dead in the room.”
Jason stepped around me, but didn’t acknowledge the dead comment. He was far more gracious than I. I’d be insulted if someone even looked at me the wrong way, let alone called me a walking corpse.
“We should restrain them,” I suggested. “When they wake up we can question them.”
“We already know what they want,” Mel grumbled. “We’ll stick them in the car and dump them somewhere.” She glanced toward the far end of the staircase, then quickly looked away. “I wish you wouldn’t have killed her,” she said to Jason. “They’ll make us pay for that.”
“She would have killed me otherwise,” he stated blandly. “What do you mean, they’ll make you pay?” How long has this been going on?”
“Since the big reveal,” Rose explained, her face still flushed from her brush with death. “Everyone is picking sides. I didn’t want to. I like Devin and Lucy, and everyone else. The wolves helped protect me from Nix.” She shook her head. “But the vampires won’t take no for an answer, and the wolves don’t want anything to do with us. They’ve chosen the demons over witches.”
I pinched my brow. I was getting a major headache. “We’ll help you dump the vamps, then we’re going to figure this out. I’m sure if Devin knew what was going on, he would want to help you. I want to help too, but first we need to find Nix.” I bit my tongue, wishing I hadn’t spoken.
Rose and Mel both glared at me.
Mel put an arm around Rose’s shoulder. “You’ll find her, then what? If she killed your friend, you’ll have to kill her, right? Or give her to the demon council?”
I should have just said yes, but I’d never been a good liar. “It’s not that simple.”
Rose shook her head. “It is that simple. She killed my sister, and she never paid the price. I don’t want your help, Xoe. If it was your family member who’d been killed, I have no doubt their murderer would be dead right now.”
I looked at my feet, unable to argue. My grandmother had killed my dad. It had actually been Dory who enacted vengeance, but if I’d had the chance, I would have done it myself. I couldn’t blame Rose for hating me in that moment, but I also couldn’t blindly blame Nix.
I took a deep breath. “The real person responsible for your loss was my grandmother. She manipulated Nix into helping her, then I killed Nix’s dad. I can’t take anything more from her, and I don’t think she killed Sam.”
“Then we’re done here,” Rose said cooly.
I sighed. “Fine.” If they wanted to take care of the vamps themselves, then so be it.
I led the way toward the front door, followed by Chase and Jason. It was funny to think just an hour before Rose had been hugging me and beaming about her new girlfriend. Now I was leaving with one less friend in the world. Story of my life.