A knock on the door stirred him from his thoughts. It did not wake Katerina. He opened it, and a servant with a downcast gaze said, "I am sorry to disturb you, my lord, but there is a woman at the front gate who wishes to speak with you. She says it is urgent."
Cold did not bother him, so he took no cloak with him into the rain. The witch awaited him on the other side. "The moon is tonight," she said. "Tell me what you intend to do."
"The details are unimportant to you," he answered.
She shook her head. "I must know them, else the spirits will be unsatisfied and it will not work."
Elijah closed his hand around the iron slat. It would take little pressure to break it. "First, Klaus kills the werewolf, then the vampire, then the girl, when the moon reaches its apex. It is bound to a stone."
"Have you no concern for this girl, that she must suffer such a death?"
The faintest of sounds reached his ear. Elijah held up his hand to silence her. He glanced behind them into the darkness, staring into the shadows. Nothing moved. Returning his gaze to the witch, he said, "That is none of your concern."
She thrust at him a bundle that once unwrapped revealed a few sprigs of wolfsbane and a small glass phial. "It will work," she told him, teeth chattering from the cold. "I have consulted the spirits. The wolfsbane makes it potent. Mix in just enough to turn the liquid blue. She must take it no more than an hour before her death."
He searched her eyes in the partial darkness. "If you are wrong…"
"I swear that I am not."
Horses stirred in the stables. Dawn crept across them.
She hastened away from him into the haze. Elijah pocketed the phial and returned to his room. Within moments the house would stir and the servants wake. Entering his chambers, he went to the bed. "Katerina," he said softly. She moaned in her sleep and turned away from him. "Come, you must return to your room."
She slept on.
Drawing her up into his arms, he carried her down the hall and placed her in her own bed. Pressing a kiss to her forehead, he left. Klaus wanted to hunt that day. It seemed a morbid occupation hours before he intended to drain his intended of blood to break a curse, but Elijah denied him nothing. He caught sight of a servant girl in passing but ignored her, retrieving his sword from its resting place.
Katerina slept peacefully, waking only when a faint squeak followed by quick footsteps brought her maid to the side of the bed. "Mistress," she said urgently.
The young woman sighed, burrowing deeper into the covers.
"Mistress, you must up and away from this place!" the girl hissed, shaking her.
"Leave me," murmured Katerina.
Climbing onto the bed, the maid tore off the covers. "They're going to kill you!" she hissed.
Tousled but suddenly awake, Katerina sat up. "What?"
"You told me to keep an eye on Elijah… he left you this morning, he met a woman at the gate and he told her that tonight, you will die in some pagan sacrifice! He mentioned a werewolf, and a vampire, and you, Mistress!"
"Oh, Bess, you've been dreaming again."
"No, Mistress! It was the town witch! And they've been preparing for days. I've watched them, just as you instructed. Mistress, you must go now, before he returns! The men ride out on a hunt. You can leave while they are gone! Put some distance between you and them, so they cannot carry out the ritual while the moon is full."
Nimble fingers tightened her corset, tugged back her hair, made her presentable. Katerina did not want to believe it, but she had respect for witches, and if there were such things as spell-casters, was it so difficult to believe in vampires and werewolves either? She felt dizzy, sick with horror at the thought of what she had done in recent hours. She thought of the night before, of Elijah, of his gentleness… and his secrets. No wonder he hadn't wanted to touch her, to confide in her, even at times to meet her gaze when they spoke of Klaus.
Suddenly, she was furious at him.
"You must see them off," said Bess, shaking as she smoothed down her mistress' hair. "They must think nothing is wrong. Go to the barn and find Trevor. He loves you; he can be convinced to help you."
Klaus, she could understand. He never pretended she was anything more than a lamb for the slaughter. But Elijah had befriended her, comforted her, spent time with her, made love to her, all the while knowing that in a few hours, she would be dead.
That is, if it was true… but Katerina was smart enough not to wait and find out.
She went downstairs, perfectly composed. She went looking for them in the direction of the barn. She would smile and simper and see them off with many a flirtatious glance, like usual. But as she neared the stables, she heard low voices and darted into the shadows. Creeping up to the stall, she peered through a crack in the slats.
Her mouth opened and no sound came out, as she clamped a hand over it to stifle her cry.
Klaus stood inside, a struggling woman in his arms. Elijah faced in the opposite direction, staring out over the wood. He preferred not to watch, to revel in his brother's barbarity. The girl shoved and kicked, but could do nothing against Klaus' strength. Fangs firmly planted in her neck, all she could do was whimper, which gradually fell into silence. Finally, he finished. Her limp body fell into the straw at his feet. Blood trickled down his chin and he wiped it up with a smug expression.
"Is it really necessary to kill them all?" Elijah asked, staring down at her. She had been pretty, young, vivacious, sensual and now was nothing more than a corpse. Trevor would bury her in the woods with the others.
"Would you prefer I make bastards? Feed them a few drops of blood, snap their neck?"
Someone touched Katerina on the shoulder. She nearly screamed, and would have had not a hand clamped over her mouth. "What are you doing?" Trevor hissed. He dragged her a few paces away, behind the barn, and let her go.
Rather than run, Katerina clung to him. "You must help me!"
"I can't." He shook her off and walked away.
She followed, stumbling over her long skirts. "Trevor, they're going to kill me."
Muscles worked in his cheek. He deliberately avoided her gaze. Clutching at his arm, tears in her eyes, Katerina said, "Trevor, please?"
Everything they had shared was in that appeal; days and nights spent together, passionate kisses, whispered promises, secrets that they shared. Hesitation made her know that she had a chance. Her grip tightened. "I don't want to die," she whispered.
"I can take away your fear, your memories. I can make you forget."
Shocked, she backed away from him. "You would take my fear, but not give me my life? You said that you loved me! What love is this, that you would sacrifice me like some animal on an altar?"
Anguish filled his gaze.
"How long have you known?" she demanded.
Trevor looked miserable. "Not long, a few days in fact. I wasn't meant to know, except they need me to keep an eye on you. If I help you, Katerina, Elijah will kill me."
Horses whinnied. The sound startled them. He reached for her and she jerked her arm away. "I…" he looked at her, at her soft brown eyes, at her lips, at her long, beautiful hair. "You must run," he said. "Go north, but wait until they've gone. I will try and lead them away from you. Go back up to the house. Pretend nothing is wrong. Klaus will notice nothing, but you must fool Elijah. Your life depends on it."
Shoving her in the direction of the house, Trevor headed for the stables. Katerina ran, not stopping until she stood in the great hall. By the time Elijah entered behind her, she had regained her composure. She turned to him, noticing his quiet confidence and utter lack of concern. It was difficult to keep the anger out of her face, but the cold chill that passed down her spine as he reached her side took its place.
"Good morning," he said. "I thought you would sleep for some hours yet."
Forcing her fingers to rest on his arm, Katerina stroked sensuously, as she had done the night before. "I did not want to miss you," she said. "You will return before dusk, I hope? I do hate to dine alone."
"Oh, I should think we would be home some hours before that," he answered. Something was different about her, more flushed. "Are you well?"
She tried not to flinch as his hand touched the side of her face. She stepped nearer to him, her fingers sliding down his chest. "Your exertions were more than I anticipated, my lord. But, I do intend to be fully recovered by this evening… if that is your wish."
The expression she received told her nothing, not if he suspected or was placated. Fortunately, Klaus' voice rang out in the hall, startling her so that they fell apart. He shouted for one and all and the dogs, and with a final curious glance, Elijah left her. She saw them to their horses. She did not draw her hand back when Klaus kissed it and promised her a feast of wild boar. She waved them off, the eyes of all three men lingering on her as they departed. She watched them ride off down the road.
And then, she ran.
She ran until she could run no more, until she heard them behind her, until darkness fell and the moon started to rise, until Trevor caught up with her and told her where to go.
And somehow, she knew that whatever happened, she would never stop running.