Kitty Rocks the House Page 54

Chanting, it turned out. Might have been Latin. He spoke too quickly and softly for me to hear, almost breathing the words rather than speaking them. This was Amelia. She was working this piece of the spell; maybe she’d been in control for a while. If I called Cormac’s name right now, he wouldn’t turn around; but if I called hers, she would. They traced the circle again, his good hand stretched over it as if they could wipe it away.

Doors slammed open—the sound came from the front of the church. Cormac had moved around to the back, he wouldn’t have heard it. I ran to the front in time to see Father Columban pounding down the front stops. “Stop! Stop this!” he cried out. “You have no idea what you’re doing!”

“Ha, it’s working,” Hardin said, coming up behind me. To the stairs she called, “Columban, I have a warrant for your arrest for arson and murder.”

“You probably shouldn’t have given him any warning,” I murmured.

Columban made an impatient brush with his hand, dismissing her. On her radio now, Hardin muttered instructions to her officers while unhooking the wooden-bolt-loaded crossbow from her belt. When Columban reached the base of the stairs and strode past her, she raised the weapon to aim at him.

“I need you to stop and come with me,” she declared.

Ignoring her, the vampire reached toward Cormac, who’d almost returned to his starting point at the north side of the church. He hadn’t yet crossed the spell’s circle. “No! You must stop!”

But Cormac finished chanting and lowered his arm to his sides.

“Kitty, what’s happening?” Rick said, trotting down the stairs toward me.

I just stared, because this wasn’t playing out at all like I thought it would. With the spell cast, I expected fire, screaming, the smell of brimstone. At least a flash of light, a scent in the air to tell me something had changed. But I didn’t sense anything. We all waited. The smallest noise would have made us jump.

“Do you have any idea what you’ve done?” Columban said, stark despair pulling at his features. Stepping back, Cormac grabbed the spray bottle from its hook on his belt, set it in the crook formed by his sling, and reached for a stake, which he held toward the vampire. But Columban didn’t move.

“I will not harm you,” the priest said. “I will not have to.”

He turned away, his cassock billowing out, and marched back to the stairs.

“You are in danger,” he said, pointing at me as he passed by. My shoulders stiffened, and Wolf bristled. He turned to Rick next. “As are you. Both of you, come with me.”

“What?” I said, more than a little startled. “No.”

Rick had joined him, walking back toward the steps. “Kitty, don’t argue.”

“Tell me what’s going on—why are the three of us in danger but not them?” The three of us, the vampires and the werewolf, not the uninfected human beings. Cormac was haunted, not infected. My skin prickled all over—Columban was terrified of something that could hurt the near-immortal, invincible creatures. What on earth—

Columban stopped at the base of the stairs, glancing up and around. “It’s too late.”

The fire and brimstone happened right now, it turned out.

A black wind flew up from the ground, a collection of dust and debris coalescing into a funnel cloud, roaring with fury. A couple of uniformed cops ran up from the road, but fell back as the wind buffeted them. I ducked away from it, raising my arm to shelter my face as dirt pelted me. The others were doing likewise. Except for Columban, who held his hand over his eyes for protection and glared at the tornado, his sharp canines bared.

The swirling wind made a jet-engine roar. The storm cloud grew until it was as tall as the building, writhing with smoke and oil, growing with mass that came from the air itself, because nothing was actually flowing into the vortex. The smell of it was … fire and grease, sewer and sadness. Like how I imagined oil-drenched wildlife must smell when I saw the pictures from an offshore spill. The wind was polluted, and it was alive.

It didn’t have eyes, but I felt it looking at me.

“Fuck, what is that thing?” Hardin yelled.

Wasn’t it obvious? It was the thing Father Columban had cast his protective circle to defend against.

Chapter 19

THE OILY vortex had expanded to include most of the church and sidewalk around it. The boundary markers of Cormac’s spell had vanished and no longer had meaning.

Cormac had gotten himself out of the way by running toward us. He dug in his pockets, but the yarn and sprigs of herbs he pulled out flew from his hand, caught in the gusts. He tried holding his broken arm up, using the sling as a shield, but the wind pinned him down to the sidewalk. Hide or cast a spell, but not both.

Leaning all my weight against the wind in order to move, I went to Hardin. Every step was an effort. The detective held her gun in one hand and minicrossbow in the other; her head was bent away from flying debris, and her ponytail lay smashed against her cheek.

“We have to help him!” I shouted at her ear and pointed at Cormac, who was bent to the ground in the shelter of a lamppost.

Huddling together, we lurched toward him. At least, we tried. She made it. On the other hand, I fell back, crashing to the sidewalk and rolling away from the others. I didn’t lose my balance, I didn’t trip or stumble. In fact, I would have sworn that someone grabbed my shoulders and yanked me to the ground. I could feel the start of bruises where the fingers had dug in.

Then Rick was kneeling beside me, helping me up. I clung to him. A sharp smacking noise came from the next gust that struck us, and Rick’s head whipped to the side—punched, hard. He didn’t hesitate, but sprang up, cocking back to strike whatever had chosen to do battle with us. He was a blur, moving so quickly I couldn’t see him, his vampiric speed and strength at the fore.

But the tendril of wind that had struck us was gone.

My heaving breaths came out as growls. I braced on all fours, Wolf ready, but no enemy presented itself, I had nothing to attack.

Hardin abandoned the crossbow and pointed her gun at us, bracing it before her with both hands. Not at us, rather, but at whatever had attacked us. She couldn’t see it, either, and swung her aim away from us. Her jaw was set.

A voice rang out, even over the blasts of wind. Father Columban, speaking from the church steps, a booming chant cast against the storm, definitely in Latin. He was praying, arms raised before him. His gaze focused on something close to us, though I couldn’t make out any details amid the swarming dust and smoke. There might have been a million insects attacking us and I wouldn’t have been able to tell. Rick, arm bent before his face, watched Columban and inched toward the staircase. He was murmuring—I couldn’t hear very well, but he seemed to be matching Columban’s words, adding to the prayer.

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