Nora Roberts' Circle Trilogy: Morrigan's Cross, Chapter 1

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He lowered his staff, stared at her through the curtain of rain. "Give me your name."

She glided over the fog now, her red cloak billowing back. He could see the white swell of her breasts rounding ripely over the tightly laced bodice of her gown. He felt a terrible arousal even as he scented the stench of her power.

"I have so many," she countered, and touched his arm -- how had she come so close? -- with just the tip of her finger.

"Do you want to say my name as we join? To taste it on your lips, as I taste you?

His throat was dry, burning. Her eyes, blue and tender, were drawing him in, drawing him in to drown. "Aye. I want to know what my brother knows."

She laughed again, but this time there was a throatiness to it. A hunger that was an animal's hunger. And those soft blue eyes began to rim with red. "Jealous?"

She brushed her lips to his, and they were cold, bitter cold. And still, so tempting. His heart began to beat hard and fast in his chest. "I want to see what my brother sees."

He laid his hand on that lovely white breast, and felt nothing stir beneath it. "Give me your name."

She smiled, and now the white of her fangs gleamed against the awful night. "It is Lilith who takes you. It is Lilith who makes you. The power of your blood will mix with mine, and we will rule this world, and all the others."

She threw back her head, poised to strike. With all of his grief, with all of his rage, Hoyt struck at her heart with his staff.

The sound that ripped from her pierced the night, screamed up through the storm and joined it. It wasn't human, not even the howl of a beast. Here was the demon who had taken his brother, who hid her evil behind cold beauty. Who bled, he saw as a stream of blood spilled from the wound, without a heartbeat.

She flew back into the air, twisting, shrieking as lightning tore at the sky. The words he needed to say were lost in his horror as she writhed in the air, and the blood that fell steamed into filthy fog.

"You would dare!" Her voice gurgled with outrage, with pain. "You would use your puny, your pitiful magic on me? I have walked this world a thousand years." She slicked her hand over the wound, threw out her bloody hand. And when the drops struck Hoyt's arm, they sliced like a knife.

"Lilith! You are cast out! Lilith, you are vanquished from this place. By my blood." He pulled a dagger from beneath his cloak, scored his palm. "By the blood of the gods that runs through it, by the power of my birth, I cast you back -- "

What came at him seemed to fly across the ground, and struck with the feral force of fury. Tangled, they crashed over the cliff to the jagged ledge below. Through waves of pain and fear he saw the face of the thing that so closely mirrored his own. The face that had once been his brother's.

Hoyt could smell the death on him, and the blood, and could see in those red eyes the animal his brother had become. Still, a small flame of hope flickered in Hoyt's heart.

"Cian. Help me stop her. We still have a chance."

"Do you feel how strong I am?" Cian closed his hand around Hoyt's throat and squeezed. "It's only the beginning. I have forever now." He leaned down, licked blood from Hoyt's face, almost playfully. "She wants you for herself, but I'm hungry. So hungry. And the blood in you is mine, after all."

Continued on page 3:  Page 3


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