Her lip curled back, exposing her fangs. Angry tears lined her lower lids. Perhaps he’d finally hit a nerve with her. “You’re lying.”
“Why should I lie about such a thing? That money has been an albatross around my neck, just one more link in the thousand-pound chain that keeps me bound to you. Why do you think I never abandoned you after you left me? Or that I paid every bill you sent my way and refilled every bank account you drained? Because I still loved you?” He laughed bitterly, the truth lifting the cloud that hovered over his life for so long. “All of it was because I promised your father. And I’ll promise you now that all of this is as true as the blade you’re about to run through my heart.”
“Lies,” she whispered.
“You’ve told me I’m about to die. What more perfect time for confession is there?”
She swallowed hard and blinked away the tears, regaining her composure. “I don’t care about the past, whatever it is. I want the power to walk in the sun.”
“That’s the last thing you should have. You’re enough of a menace to this world at night.”
She bared her fangs and growled at him. “Tell me the secret. This is your last chance.”
He stared at her for a long moment, then slowly shook his head. He’d promised her father he would protect her, but the woman in front of him was a stranger. “I am loath to break a promise, but no.”
“Then you leave me no choice.” Her knuckles paled as her grip on the blade tightened.
The office door swung open. “Sebastian, I’m ready to—”
Tessa stopped dead in her tracks. Her face went from confusion to panic in a quarter second. “Get away from him.”
Evangeline laughed. “Or what? You’ll fine me for overdue books?” She leaned on the dagger, causing a sharp pain to pierce Sebastian’s body as she looked up at him. “Maybe I’ll torture your little librarian first. I bet that would loosen your tongue.”
Fear filled Tessa eyes. “What do you want, Evangeline?”
“She wants the secret to my very special SPF.” Sebastian shook his head. “But we’re not telling her.”
Evangeline’s eyes flared bright. “The librarian knows more than she told me?” Her gaze turned calculating as she twisted toward Tessa. “And here I thought we were becoming friends.”
Damn it. He’d slipped. “She doesn’t know enough to help you.”
“Too late, husband dear.” Evangeline focused on Tessa. “Feel free to tell me if you’d like to save Sebastian’s life. Otherwise, I’m going to turn him to ash right in front of you. Sorry to do that on your wedding day, but the choice is yours.” Then Evangeline turned back to Sebastian. “Let’s see if your fiancée really loves you, shall we?”
Tessa’s panicked expression morphed into the war mask of a fierce warrior goddess. She went steely-eyed and her body tensed like a wild cat ready to pounce. The valkyrie in all her glory. “Don’t. You. Dare.”
Evangeline tossed her head back. “You don’t scare me, librarian.”
“Then you’re a lot dumber than you look.” The sweet hiss of metal sang out as Tessa did something Sebastian was sure he’d never witness.
The valkyrie drew her sword.
In a moment of brilliant clarity, Tessa understood that her vow to never again draw her sword had been made with the impetuousness of youth. Clearly there was a time and place and this was it.
The protection of the worthy.
Kettlingr hummed in her hand, happy to be unsheathed after so long. But the blade’s joy did nothing to quell Tessa’s building anger. Her ire at Evangeline’s bold stupidity narrowed Tessa’s focus down to the vampiress.
And the man she loved.
She leveled her sword at Evangeline, sighting down the metal length until Evangeline’s heart was at the end. One quick thrust and it would all be over, even at this distance. “Put the dagger down, step away from Sebastian and I will let you live.”
Evangeline glanced over at Tessa, and for the first time, a small crack appeared in her confidence. She looked twice at the sword before speaking. “You’ll let me live? Very cute. Put your little toy down and I won’t run this blade through him.”
Tessa laughed. The blade, sharp enough to divide a human hair into three parts, was a yard long and as wide as her fist. While its familiar weight felt like no more than a butter knife in her hand, it was no toy. “You’re a lot dumber than you look.”
Evangeline rolled her eyes. “I’m not the dumb one here. You have to actually know how to use a weapon like that for it to be effective.”
The rage that tripped along Tessa’s skin sank deeper to coil in her belly. It sent a wave of cold lucidity through her that cleared her head and laid out several paths of action before her. This was not the rage of her youth, the temper she’d fear for so long. This was something measured and powerful and worth giving room to.
Tessa examined her options and chose the path that ended peaceably. The others could be returned to later if need be. The peaceable path required a distraction. Tessa sent a little prayer to Freya that her lessons from battle camp had not been completely forgotten.
Letting memory take over, she started with what had once been a daily warm up.
She raised the sword two-handed and began to swing it in a figure-eight around her body, spinning it in one full circle around her hands on each side. It was a showy, elaborate movement that displayed the sword for the weapon that it was. Kettlingr purred through the air, a sound Tessa had forgotten. She laughed at the pleasure of hearing it again, reminded by the gentle thrumming vibrato of why she’d named her sword the way she had.