Kitty's Big Trouble Page 52

The room was small, cozy with the six of us in it, with unadorned stone walls and a cold floor that felt like slate. We might have been in a concrete basement or a castle dungeon—it was all the same. And we were here until sunset.

“Kitty, you gave me a fucking heart attack back there. Don’t ever do that again,” Ben breathed. I grabbed his hand and pulled myself close to him, and he wrapped his arms around me, squeezing me to him. His body felt like a blanket. Pressing my face to his shoulder, I took a deep breath of him. He smelled of sweat, grime, and exhaustion. It made me hug him harder.

“You okay?” he whispered close to my ear.

I started to shake my head, then didn’t. It wasn’t like he could do anything about it. “I love you,” I murmured instead.

“God, I love you, too.”

“You still have that chalk?” Grace asked Cormac.

He fumbled in his pocket a moment and handed it over. With it, she started writing on the walls—the door first, then moving clockwise around the room, stepping over the vampires’ bodies. She made a column of Chinese characters on each wall.

As she drew the final line of the last character, the remaining bits of it disintegrated in her hand. She brushed her hands together, wiping the last of it away.

“Is that some kind of protection spell?” Cormac asked.

“No,” she said. “They’re prayers.”

And on that cheerful note … The corridor outside remained silent, and the room seemed safe.

Grace turned to me. “The pearl—you got it,” she said, dragging me from my warm cocoon of Ben.

I finally had a chance to look inside the bag we’d fought so hard to get. I held it out as if it contained snakes. Poisonous snakes.

“That’s it, huh?” Cormac said. “Why don’t we have a look.”

We all sat on the floor and gathered round.

A button flap closed the sack. Carefully, I unfastened it, opened it, and reached inside. Nothing snapped at me, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had. My hand touched a rectangle of cool stone, which I drew out and set on the cloth.

It was a rough tablet of polished jade, pale swirling white and gray in its depths. A half dozen Chinese characters were carved into the flat surface. Beautiful, it would have been at home in a museum display. It seemed so innocuous.

“That’s it?” I said. I didn’t mean to sound disappointed.

“You weren’t expecting an actual pearl, were you?” Grace said.

I shrugged. “You know, maybe, yeah.”

Cormac moved closer to study it. “It’s not a thing, it’s a spell, isn’t it? Worked into the stone, made permanent.” He was stroking his chin, as if he was getting ideas. Amelia was probably loving this.

“Does it really work?” I said.

“I’m thinking it does,” Cormac said. “You notice the coin Henry was wearing?”

“I noticed he was wearing one,” Ben said.

“I’m thinking he already made himself a batch of the things,” Cormac said.

If only I had a few dollars in my pocket, or maybe a granola bar. My stomach growled, still hungry despite tea and cakes with the goddess. It must have been close to breakfast.

I said, “Does anyone have something to eat? Granola bar maybe?”

“Don’t tell me you’re hungry,” Cormac said.

“No. I want to try something.”

He pulled a Power Bar from an inside breast pocket of his leather jacket—a jacket with very deep and infinite pockets, apparently—and tossed it to me. I managed to catch it without fumbling. Small victories …

I put the jade tablet back into the bag, along with the Power Bar, and closed the flap.

“What are you doing?” Grace asked.

“I just want to see if this is worth all the effort we’ve spent on it,” I said.

“You can’t—” she said, horrified. I stopped her with a glare.

“So. How long does it take to work?” I said.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I have no idea how it’s supposed to work.”

“What do you know about it?”

“The magic that made it is lost. That’s why everyone wants it so badly.”

Too curious to wait and unable to keep my hands off it, I lifted the flap of the bag. Which was filled with Power Bars. I scooped them out, all of them, at least a dozen, which made an impressive pile on the floor. Then I just stared at them, afraid to touch them, because they couldn’t be real, could they?

“Okay, that’s weird,” Ben said. “Isn’t there something in the law of physics that says this should be impossible?”

“Yeah,” I murmured.

Cormac said, “Might be some kind of dimensional door or pocket. It got the mass for it from somewhere.”

“Huh,” I said. “Anyone have a twenty? A fifty?”

“No,” Grace said, scrambling forward to yank the bag away from me and hug it close to her. “No screwing around. This is serious.”

Oddly enough, I felt better, because this had all been worthwhile. We couldn’t let Roman have this. We couldn’t let anyone have this.

“Don’t tell me you’re not even a little bit tempted,” I said, poking, just a little. Grace rolled her eyes at me.

“Don’t try it with any cash until you know you’re not going to end up with a stack of twenties with the same serial number,” Ben said.

“You’re all ruining my fun,” I said. “So. Is anyone hungry?” I gestured to the stack of Power Bars.

No one was.

* * *

BEN PICKED a wall—well away from the corpselike vampires—and sat against it, huffing perhaps a little more dramatically than he needed to. I curled up next to him, pulling my legs close and snuggling against him, more wolfish than I usually was. I was tired, and I needed the comfort that the warmth and scent of my mate’s body gave me. He draped his arm across me and sighed.

Across from us, Grace sat, hugging the bag with the pearl close, propped against her own bag, looking particularly young and lost. Cormac took off his jacket and handed it to her. Accepting it, she smiled thinly and used it as a blanket.

Next to Ben and me, Cormac sat with his back to the wall, within view of the door and the vampires, the loaded crossbow propped on his bent knee. He seemed to be waiting for an invasion. He wasn’t going to be getting any sleep, either.

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