Soulmate (Chapter 16)

It was a very long time before Hannah heard footsteps again.

She distracted herself during the long wait by whistling songs under her breath and thinking about the

people she loved.

Her mother. Her mother didn't even miss her yet, didn't know she was gone. But by tomorrow she

would. Tomorrow was May first, Hannah's birthday, and Chess would give her mother the letter.

Chess, of course. Hannah wished now that she'd spent more time saying goodbye to Chess, that she'd

explained things better. Chess would have been fascinated. And she had a right to know she was an Old

Soul, too.

Paul Winfield. That was strange-she'd only known him a week. But he'd tried to help her. And at this

moment, he knew more about Hannah Snow than anyone else in Montana.

I hope he doesn't start smoking again if he rinds out I'm dead.

Because that was probably how she would end up. Hannah had no illusions about that. She had a

weapon-but so did Maya, and Maya was much faster and stronger. She was no match for Maya under

the best of circumstances, much less when she was weak and feverish. The best she could hope for was

to get Maya to kill her while she was still human.

She thought about the Circle Daybreak members. They were good people. She was sorry she wouldn't

have the chance to know them better, to help them. They were doing something important, something she

instinctively sensed was necessary right now.

And she thought about Thierry.

He'll have to go wandering again, I guess. It's too bad. He hasn't had a very happy life. I was starting to

think I could take that sadness out of his eyes….

When she heard a noise at last, she thought it might be her imagination. She held her breath.

No. It's footsteps. Getting closer.

She's coming.

Hannah shifted position. She had stationed herself near the mouth of the cavern; now she took a deep

breath and eased herself into a crouch. She wiped her sweaty right palm on her jeans and got a better

grip on her stake.

She figured that Maya would shine the flashlight toward the pole where Hannah had been tied, then

maybe take a few steps farther inside the cavern, trying to see what was going on.

And then I'll do it. I'll come out of the darkness

behind her. Jump and skewer her through the back. But I've got to time it right.

She held her breath as she saw light outside the mouth of the cavern. Her greatest fear was that Maya

would hear her.

Quiet… quiet…

The light came closer. Hannah watched it, not moving. But her brain was clicking along in surprise. It

wasn't the slanted, focused beam of a flashlight. It was the more diffuse pool of light from a lantern.

She's brought another one. But that means…

Maya was walking in.

Walking quickly-and not pausing. She couldn't shine the light onto the pole yet. And she didn't seem

anxious to-apparently it didn't occur to her that she needed to check on Hannah. She was that confident.

Hannah cursed mentally. She's going too far-she's out of range. Get up!

Her plan in ruins, she flexed her knees and stood. She heard a crack in her knee joint that sounded as

loud as a gunshot.

But Maya didn't stop. She kept going. She was almost at the pole.

As silently as she could, Hannah headed across the cavern. All Maya had to do was turn around to see


Maya was at the pole. She was stopping. She was looking from side to side.

Hannah was behind her.


Now was the time. Hannah's muscles could feel how she had to stab, to throw her weight behind the

thrust so that the stake went in under Maya's left shoulder blade. She knew how to do it. …

But she couldn't.

She couldn't stab somebody in the back. Somebody who wasn't menacing her at the moment, who

didn't even know they were in danger.

Oh, my God! Don't be stupid! Do it!

Oh, my Goddess! a voice echoed back in her head. You're not a killer. This isn't even self-defense!

Frustrated almost to the point of hysteria, Hannah heard herself let out a breath. It was wet. She was


Her arm drooped. Her muscles collapsed. She wasn't doing it. She couldn't do it.

Maya slowly turned around.

She looked both beautiful and eerie in the lantern light. She surveyed Hannah up and down, looking in

particular at the drooping stake.

Then she looked at Hannah's face.

"You're the strangest girl," she said, in what seemed to be genuine bewilderment. "Why didn't you do it?

You were smart enough to get yourself out and make yourself a weapon. Why didn't you have the guts to

finish it?"

Hannah was asking herself the same thing. Only with more expletives.

I am going to die now, she thought. And maybe die for good-because I don't have guts. Because I

couldn't kill somebody I know is completely evil and completely determined to kill me. That's not ethics.

That's stupid. "I suppose it's that Egyptian temple training," Maya was saying. "Or maybe the life when

you were a Buddhist-do you remember that? Or maybe you're just weak." And a victim. I've spent a

couple thousand years being a victim-yours. I guess I've got my part down perfect by now.

"Oh, well. It doesn't really matter why," Maya said. "It all comes down to the same thing in the end.

Now. Let's get this over with."

Hannah stared at her, breathing hard, feeling like a rabbit looking at a headlight.

Nobody should live as a victim. Every creature has a right to fight for its life.

But she couldn't seem to get her muscles to move anymore. She was just too tired. Every part of her

hurt, from her throbbing head to her raw fingertips to her bruised and aching feet.

Maya was smiling, fixing her with eyes that shifted from lapis-lazuli blue to glacier green.

"Be a good girl, now," she crooned.

I don't want to be a good girl….

Maya reached for her with long arms.

"Don't touch her!" Thierry said from the cavern mouth.

Hannah's head jerked sideways. She stared at the new pool of light on the other side of the cave. For

the first few seconds she thought she was hallucinating.

But, no. He was there. Thierry was standing there with a lantern of his own, tall and almost shimmering

with coiled tension, like a predator ready to


The problem was that he was too far away. And Maya was too fast. In the same instant that it took

Hannah to make her brain believe her eyes, Maya was moving. In one swift step, she was behind

Hannah, with her hands around Hannah's throat.

"Stay where you are," she said. "Or I'll break her little neck."

Hannah knew she could do it. She could feel the iron strength in Maya's hands. Maya didn't need a


Thierry put the lantern down and raised his empty hands. "I'm staying," he said quietly.

"And tell whoever else you've got in that tunnel to go back. All the way back. If I see another person, I'll

kill her."

Without turning, Thierry shouted. "Go back to the entrance. All of you." Then he looked at Hannah.

"Are you all right?"

Hannah couldn't nod. Maya's grip was so tight that she could barely say, "Yes." But she could look at

him, and she could see his eyes.

She knew, in that moment, that all her fears about him not wanting her anymore were groundless. He

loved her. She had never seen such open love and concern in anyone's face before.

More, they understood each other. They didn't need any words. It was the end of misunderstandings

and mistrust. For perhaps the first time since she had been Hana of the Three Rivers, Hannah trusted him

without reservation. They were in accord.

And neither of them wanted this to end with a death.

When Thierry took his eyes from Hannah's, it was to look at Maya and say, "It's over, now. You have

to realize that. I've got twenty people down here, and another twenty on the surface waiting." His voice

became softer and more deliberate. "But I give you my word, you can walk out of here right now,

Maya. Nobody will touch you. All you have to do is let Hannah go first."

"Together," Hannah said, coughing as Maya's hands tightened, cutting off her breath. She gasped and

finished, "We go out together, Thierry."

Thierry nodded and looked at Maya. He was holding his hand out now, like someone trying to coax a

frightened child. "Just let her go," he said softly.

Maya laughed.

It was an unnatural sound, and it made Hannah's skin crawl. Nothing sane made a noise like that.

"But that way, I won't win," Maya said, almost pleasantly.

"You can't win anyway," Thierry said quietly. "Even if you kill her, she'll still be alive-"

"Not if I make her a vampire first," Maya interrupted.

But Thierry was shaking his head. "It doesn't matter." His voice was still quiet, but it was filled with the

authority of absolute conviction, a kind of bedrock certainty that held even Hannah mesmerized.

"Even if you kill her, she'll still be alive-here." He tapped his chest. "In me. I keep her here. She's part of

me. So until you kill me, you can't really kill her. And you can't win. It's that simple."

There was a silence. Hannah's own heart was twisted with the force of her love for him. Her eyes " were


She could hear Maya breathing, and the sound was ragged. She thought that the pressure of Maya's

hands was infinitesimally less.

"I could kill you both," Maya said at last in a grating voice.

Thierry lifted his shoulders and dropped them in a

gesture too sad to be a shrug. "But how can you win when the people you hate aren't there to see it?"

It sounded insane-but it was true. Hannah could feel it hit Maya like a well-thrown javelin. If Maya

couldn't have Thierry as her prize, if she couldn't even make him suffer, what was the point? Where was

the victory?

"Let's stop the cycle right here," Thierry said softly. "Let her go."

He was so gentle, and so reasonable, and so tired-sounding. Hannah didn't see how anyone could resist

him. But she was still surprised at what happened next.

Slowly, very slowly, the hands around her neck loosened their grip. Maya stepped away.

Hannah sucked in a deep breath. She wanted to run to Thierry, but she was afraid to do anything to

unbalance the delicate stalemate in the cavern. Besides, her knees were wobbly.

Maya was moving around her, taking a step or two in front of her, facing Thierry directly.

"I loved you," she said. There was a sound in her voice Hannah had never heard before, a quaver. "Why

didn't you ever understand that?"

Thierry shook his head. "Because it's not true. You never loved me. You wanted me. Mostly because

you couldn't have me."

There was a silence then as they stood looking at each other. Not because they understood each other

too well for words, Hannah thought. Because they would never understand each other. They had nothing

to say.

The silence stretched on and on-and then Maya collapsed.

She didn't fall down. But she might as well have. Hannah saw the life go out of her-the hope. The energy

that had kept Maya vibrant and sparkling after thousands of years. It had all come from her need to win .

. . and now she knew she'd lost.

She was defeated.

"Come on, Hannah," Thierry said quietly. "Let's go." Then he turned to shout back into the tunnel behind

him. "Clear the way. We're all coming out."

That was when it happened.

Maya had been standing slumped, her head down, her eyes on the ground.

Or on her backpack.

And now, as Thierry turned away, she flashed one glance at him and then moved as fast as a striking

snake. She grabbed the black stake and held it horizontally, her arm drawn back.

Hannah recognized the posture instantly. As Hana of the Three Rivers she'd seen hunters throw spears

all the time.

"Game over," Maya whispered.

Hannah had a fraction of a second to act-and no time to consider. All she thought was, No.

With her whole weight behind the thrust, she lunged at Maya. Stake first.

The sharp wooden point went in just under Maya's shoulder blade. She staggered, off balance, her

throw " ruined. The black stake went skittering across the rough stone floor.

Hannah was off balance, too. She was falling. Maya was falling. But it all seemed to be happening in

slow motion. I've killed her.

There was no triumph in the thought. Only a sort of hushed certainty.

When the slow-motion feeling ended, she found herself the way anybody finds themself after a fall. On

the ground and surprised. Except that Maya was underneath her, with a stake protruding from her back.

Hannah's first frantic thought was to get a doctor. She'd never seen someone this badly hurt before- not

in this life. There was blood seeping out of Maya's back around the makeshift stake. It had gone in very

deep, the wood piercing vampire flesh like razor-sharp steel through a human.

Thierry was beside her. Kneeling, pulling Hannah slightly away from Maya's prone form, as if she might

still be dangerous.

Hannah reached for him at the same time, and their hands met, intertwined. She held on tight, feeling a

rush of warmth and comfort from his presence.

Then Thierry gently turned Maya onto her side.

Hair was falling across Maya's face like a black waterfall. Her skin was chalky white and her eyes were

wide open. But she was laughing.


She looked at Hannah and laughed. In a thick choking voice, she gasped. "You had guts-after all."

Hannah whispered, "Can we do anything for her?"

Thierry shook his head.

Then it was terrible. Maya's laugh turned into a gurgle. A trickle of blood ran out of the side of her

mouth. Her body jerked. Her eyes stared. And then, finally, she was still.

Hannah felt her own breath sigh out.

She's dead. I killed her. I killed someone.

Every creature has the right to fight for its life-or its loved ones.

Thierry said softly, "The cycle is broken."

Then he let Maya's shoulder go and her body slumped down again. She seemed smaller now, shrunken.

After a moment Hannah realized it wasn't an illusion. Maya was doing what all vampires do in the movies.

She was falling in on herself, her tissues collapsing, muscle and flesh shriveling. The one hand Hannah

could see seemed to be wasting away and hardening at the same time. The skin became yellow and

leathery, showing the form of the tendons underneath.

In the end, Maya was just a leather sack full of bones.

Hannah swallowed and shut her eyes.

"Are you all right? Let me look at you." Thierry was holding her, examining her. Then when Hannah met

his eyes, he looked at her long and searchingly and said with a different meaning, "Are you all right?"

Hannah understood. She looked at Maya and then back at him.

"I'm not proud of it," she said slowly. "But I'm not sorry, either. It just-had to be done." She thought

another moment, then said, getting out each word

separately, "I refuse to be … a victim… anymore."

Thierry tightened his arm around her. "I'm proud of you," he said. Then he added, "Let's go. We need to

get you to a healer."

They walked back through the narrow passageway, which was no longer dark because Thierry's people

had placed lanterns every few feet. At the end of the

passage, in the room with the vertical shaft, they had set up some sort of rope and pulley.

Lupe was there, and Nilsson, and the rest of the CIA group. So were Rashel and Quinn. The fighters,

Hannah thought. Everyone called and laughed and patted her when she came in with Thierry.

"It's over," Thierry said briefly. "She's dead."

Everyone looked at him and then at Hannah. And somehow they knew. They all cheered and patted her

again. Hannah didn't feel like Cinderella anymore; she felt like Dorothy after killing the Wicked Witch.

And she didn't like it.

Lupe took her by the shoulders and said excitedly, "Do you know what you've done?"

Hannah said, "Yes. But I don't want to think about it any more right now."

It wasn't until they'd hauled her up the vertical shaft that it occurred to her to ask Thierry how he'd found

her. She was standing on an inconspicuous hillside with no buildings or landmarks around. Maya had

picked a very good hiding place.

"One of her own people sold her out," Thierry said. "He got to the house about the same time I did this

evening, and he said he had information to sell. He was a werewolf who wasn't happy with how she'd

treated him."

A werewolf with black hair? Hannah wondered. But she was too sleepy suddenly to ask more


"Home, sir?" Nilsson said, a little breathlessly because he'd just come up the shaft.

Thierry looked at him, laughed, and started to help Hannah down the hill. "That's right. Home, Nilsson."