Black Heart Page 68

“You can’t,” J.B. said. “You could take out the whole city. Killing something that old and magical would be like setting off a nuclear bomb over Lake Michigan.”

“I can diminish her,” I said. “Like I did with Oberon.”

“This is ridiculous,” J.B said.

“I agree,” Nathaniel said.

Beezle only watched me with sad, steady eyes. “Maddy’s right. She has to do this now, or else Titania will never give her peace. But, Maddy . . .”

I waited for him to finish, my eyes on his.

“Don’t forget who you are,” he said finally.

“I won’t,” I promised, and kissed his forehead. “Now, go. I’m going to head toward the lake before the Wicked Witch appears.”

“Are you so sure she will follow you?” Nathaniel asked.

“Yes,” I said. “She’ll look for traces of magic, and she’ll know I was here. And once she knows that, she will follow me.”

“I do not want to leave you alone,” Nathaniel said. “I sent you away from me once, and I thought I lost you forever. You cannot ask me to stand by and let you take this risk on your own.”

“You have to. It’s me she wants, me that she will engage. You’ll just get in the way,” I said, pushing him toward J.B. and Beezle. “I won’t die.”

“Do not make promises you cannot keep,” Nathaniel said. “Everything dies. You should know that better than anyone. You told me so yourself.”

“I do know,” I said. “But I won’t let Titania kill me.”

He reached for me, but I backed away, shaking my head. “I’m not going to kiss you good-bye. Because I am going to come back.”

I turned away then, speeding east over the city and toward Lake Michigan. I wished I felt as confident as I seemed. There was a very good chance that Titania would tear me to shreds. But I had to try to deal with her now, while she was grieving and presumably not thinking straight. I might never have a shot otherwise.

The storm in the sky grew, reaching its tentacles across Chicago. The city below was coated in green light.

I passed over the Loop, a busy hive of people hurrying to work. The El rumbled along its various tracks. Cabs discharged harried passengers in front of office buildings. No one seemed in the least concerned that a major unscheduled storm was brewing.

The sailboats had returned to the harbor with the advent of spring, and the boats were rocking on their moorings as the lake was whipped up by the atmosphere.

I wondered whether Alerian had returned to the lake, and whether he would help me if I needed it. I knew next to nothing about my mysterious uncle, but I didn’t get the same feeling of warmth and comfort from him that I got from Daharan. I didn’t think he would be inclined to stick his neck out for me, especially since he didn’t seem to like Lucifer much.

None of his brothers seemed to like Lucifer much, come to think of it.

I kept going until I was well away from the shore, and still I flew. I didn’t want Titania anywhere near my city. The people of Chicago had suffered more than enough already.

When I glanced behind me and saw that the skyline was nothing but a speck, I stopped and turned around. My heart was pounding furiously in my chest. I floated high above the surface of Lake Michigan, and wondered just what the hell I thought I was doing here.

I didn’t have the least idea of how I would defeat Titania. I just knew that I had to. This wasn’t just about my life, no matter what I’d claimed to Nathaniel and J.B. It was about my baby.

My pregnancy wasn’t hidden anymore. Now that her son was dead, she wouldn’t be satisfied with just killing me. She would want my child, the tangible proof that she had defeated Lucifer’s favorite, that she had obtained an advantage in her ongoing battle with the Morningstar.

So she wouldn’t kill me. Not right away. She would keep me like a breeding animal until the baby was born. Then she would take my son and kill me by inches, letting me live my final moments in agony, knowing that my child would grow up calling her “Mommy” instead of me.

Maybe I was getting better at figuring out what immortals wanted.

The storm above the city had chased me over the lake, the physical manifestation of Titania’s seeking magic. I waited.

There was no warning. One moment I was alone, fluttering my wings to stay aloft in the increasing wind, and the next moment she was there before me.

Her face was as unearthly and beautiful as always, even when frozen in a white mask of rage. She was dressed in unyielding black, and it only made her beauty more perfect, more unreal.

“Madeline Black,” she said, and in her voice was all the power that she had kept suppressed for centuries.

This was an ancient being, perhaps older than the Earth itself. She had been toying with her court and with mortal lives to keep amused as the eons passed. Like Lucifer, she hadn’t bothered to exert herself for time untold. But now she was angry, and grieving, and all of that magic was building inside her, waiting to punish me.

“Titania,” I said. “I had nothing to do with his death.”

“If you did not, then why did you run from me?” she asked. Her voice was pitched low and full of malice.

“Because I knew you would think I killed Bendith,” I said. I gathered my energy. I didn’t want to be the one to strike the first blow. I was still hoping—in a vague, naïve sort of way—that this wouldn’t turn into a fistfight. But I wanted to be prepared for whatever Titania might decide to do.

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