Chapter 26

 H.M. Ward

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Will sat between Kahli and Reggie, his eyes darting between them as they spoke. "Don't go this way," Kahli hissed at Reggie, practically crawling over Will to make a grab for the steering wheel.
Reggie swatted at her hands. When they hit a patch of ice, the back of the truck slid and hit a bump, knocking Kahli back into her seat. Reggie fumed, "I'll go the way I please, you deranged lunatic!" Glancing at William, he added, "Please restrain that beast or I'll stop the truck and throw her in the box in the back!"
Will ignored Reggie, but yanked Kahli down when she tried to reach past him again. "I'd like to get there without a tree in my head, Kahli."
She huffed and sat down, "He's taking us to the front of the palace! They'll shoot us and ask questions later."
"Shows what you know," Reggie hissed at her, glancing briefly before narrowing his gaze on the road again. "Which is nothing, by the way. The Queen has scouts on this road. She'll know we're coming long before we get there. And with the insane way Sophia was acting yesterday, she'll wait to kill me until she sees why I came back. Then I offer up the two of you, and I'm her favorite sibling again."
"You're her only sibling," Kahli muttered, folding her arms over her chest and slumping back into the seat. Her gaze cut to Will. He wasn't acting like himself, but then neither was she. Somehow, they had to get out of the truck.
Reggie grunted, but Will cut him off before he could say anything else, and asked, "What's the plan after you get inside? Are you just going to walk straight up to her and stab her?" His dark brow creased as he looked over at the vampire.
Reggie shrugged, "Sounds good to me."
"No it doesn't," Will sighed loudly and shook his head. "If she's expecting an attack, she'll be ready."
Reggie lifted a tapered finger from the steering wheel, and formally announced, "Ah, yes, but I've had more of that creature's blood. I should be stronger, by far."
"Should be," Will said firmly. "I wouldn't base my life on a guess."
"It's not a guess. Kahli told me how many times she was called for tastings, and I know my hideous sister couldn't manage to swallow more than a drop at a time. I did the math, William. I know that I've had more than her." Reggie spoke with the regal authority of an aristocrat.
"So, you're willing to bet your life on that?" Will asked.
"It's not a bet. It's a fact."
"Then let me ask you this - did you ever stop to think why you managed to swallow Kahli's blood, but the Queen, the strongest vampire in the world, couldn't?" Will's question jolted Reggie. His foot lifted from the accelerator as a dazed expression came across his face. The truck began to drift off the road. The pitch of the shoulders on the road were so slanted from snow and ice that hitting it would be like hitting a wall.
"Steer!" Kahli screamed and reached for the steering wheel again, throwing her body across Will's to grab at it.
Reggie snapped to life, and jerked the truck back before it hit. Will wrapped his fingers around Kahli's waist and set her back in her seat. She frowned at him. "So, it's okay if he crashes us?"
"No. I prefer to get there in one piece. It's been a while since I was able to go anywhere without getting covered in blood." Will smirked as he said it. Kahli's eyes slide over Will's face. She was having difficulty getting a read on him. His emotions were jumbled like a ball of yarn. There was no clear feeling, just a tangled mess.
Reggie added, "There's a simple, red-headed reason for that."
Kahli scowled, and looked at the door as she pressed her lips tightly together. Her gaze lowered to the door latch, and lingered there. It was long enough for Will to realize that she was thinking about jumping. Will took her hand in his before Kahli reached for it. "Please don't jump out the door. Then I'd have to jump out after you and I'm really not up to it right now." He smirked, rubbing her hand in his, not hiding his feelings toward Kahli from Reggie. When questioned later, Reggie would find out anyway...if there was a later. At the rate Reggie was going, he'd be lucky if they got the Queen's palace alive. As it was Reggie was driving like a madman. The truck was bouncing along the icy road with the back fishtailing, as they turned onto another blindingly bright road. The way the sun shone down at this time of day made it difficult to see. The ice reflected the light back up into their faces, illuminating everything like they were standing under a massive search light.
Kahli smiled at Will sheepishly. It was the most girlish look Will had ever seen on her face. Will wanted to reach out, press his hand to her cheeks, and kiss her. It was perfect, until Reggie muttered, "So, you can tame the beast? I knew you were good for something."
Before Kahli could say anything, Will turned to Reggie. Cutting Kahli off, he said, "The Queen might be more powerful than you think."
Reggie's voice changed from certain to irritated, "Just let me handle my sister. I know things you don't, all right?"
"Such as?" Will promoted, not thinking that Reggie would answer him. The vampire was strange. He never acted predictably. Reggie probably thought it was too mundane to behave in a normal fashion.
Reggie tightened his grip on the steering wheel, making his knuckles crack. Finally, he growled, "All those fights you saw over the years, well, guess what? They were staged. STAGED, as in fake. As in not real." Reggie glanced at Will, but Will didn't speak. He knew Reggie was holding back for some reason. Now he knew why. Reggie rolled his eyes, his gaze narrowing as he looked out the windshield. "Sophia's insane, in case you haven't noticed. She's weaker than I am. I let her win."
"Why?" Kahli asked, her lips pulled back in disgust.
Reggie arched a dark brow at her, like she was a moron. "Blood. She gave me extra, sometimes it was even fresh." He scoffed at her, "Why else would I do anything?" Will knew Reggie well, and had no doubt that he was telling the truth, but he could sense there was more to the story. Reggie continued, "Sophia has been staging those fights for years. She wanted to make the other Regent thought she was stronger and more fearsome that she actually was. It kept her from real fighting, from dealing with challengers that would try to take her throne."
While that may have been true, Will knew she was strong and merciless. He'd been by Sophia's side since he was sold to Reggie. The Queen favored his looks and his wit, so Will had gotten access and heard things that no one else knew. Reggie had been able to pry most of those secrets from him due to the runes. Ownership was nearly all of the law, but one rune trumped them all, and no one knew he had it. Reggie had no idea how deep Will's debt was, neither did Sophia. While the King thought about branding him with another rune, he never did. At least that was one person Will didn't owe a damn thing, but at the same time, Will couldn't escape his bonds without the King. There was a reason for all those years of favors, all those things he'd done that he shouldn't have. Loyalty, runes, and blood compelled him. Will's hand tightened around Kahli's.
When neither of them spoke, Reggie blurted out the obvious, "You know you can't save her, William, so why have you allowed yourself to grow attached to this one?"
The way he said, this one, made Kahli glance at Will. The expression on her face made her thoughts transparent - there were others?
Damn you, Reggie, Will thought. "I can do what I like, as long as I'm loyal to you, so what do you care if I favor her?"
Kahli's green eyes sparkled like gems. They darted between the two as they spoke, but she said nothing. Will could feel a pulling sensation in her gut like he was hurting her, stretching her too far, too fast. There was no time to deal with that now. There was no way to explain what he was and what he'd done. The part that Will wanted to reveal the most was the one thing he could never say. It was the thing that would destroy any chance they had of being together. His thumb brushed the rune on the back of her wrist as he thought about it. Kahli was promised to someone else. Reggie was right, even if the vamp didn't know why.
"Just don't do anything stupid, and stop drooling on her," Reggie responded not looking at them.
"I'm right here. You can act like it." Kahli said and leaned back in her seat, folding her arms across her chest.
Will laughed.
Reggie responded, "Yes, I don't see how we could forget. You are the one that caused all these problems. It seems fitting that you're the one to end them." Before Kahli could say a word, Reggie broke formality and blurted out, "Oh, shut up and listen. This is what we are doing once Sophia's guards find us." Reggie began to speak, filling in bits of information that Will suspected and other things that he already knew. Kahli remained leaning against the door, looking bored, but her sharp gaze didn't fool him. She was listening, trying to figure out every scenario, looking for a way to win - to escape. No matter what Kahli said or promised, she was wild and no wild creature willingly surrendered their freedom.