Kitty's Big Trouble Page 54

I still couldn’t get over how much the two vampires lying against the far wall looked like corpses.

“Should have learned Chinese,” Cormac murmured, breaking the quiet. Only it wasn’t him, because he wasn’t looking at the door anymore; he was studying the characters Grace had written on the wall. “It was next on the list, after Arabic and Hebrew. But I never got ’round to it. I suppose I can, now.”

It sounded like Cormac, but as far as I knew he’d never harbored any ambitions of learning any foreign languages. I might accept what had happened, but I would never get used to hearing Amelia’s words spoken in Cormac’s voice.

“Amelia, I think we need Cormac here,” I said. “Just until we don’t need the crossbow anymore.”

He/she sighed. “I used to be reasonably handy with a crossbow. But you’re probably right.”

After blinking a moment and rubbing his eyes, Cormac returned to looking at the door.

“I didn’t drift off there, did I?”

“No. You handed the wheel over for a few minutes,” I said.

“Ah.” With no other reaction than that.

We couldn’t see how close the sun was to setting. Now that I was still and thinking about it, I could have really used a restroom. I could not wait to get back to the hotel room. A hot bath, some takeout, some alone time with Ben … It made a worthy goal to work toward. We’d get out of this. We would.

Henry twitched. Just a spasm in his hand.

We all jumped. Cormac swung his crossbow around.

“Don’t shoot!” I hissed, holding out my arm in front of him. He didn’t move, keeping Henry in his sights. I was sort of offended. Not like a bolt would kill me, but it was the principle of the matter.

Grace started awake. She sat up, looked around, a hand on her head as if she had a headache.

“You okay?” I asked.

She seemed to need a moment to focus on me. “Yeah, just some really weird dreams. You didn’t see a five-inch-long dragon in here at any point, did you?”

“No. I think that was a Disney movie,” I said.

“God, this is the worst night of my life,” she muttered.

Oddly enough, this had not yet reached the level of being the worst night in my life. It might not even rate in the worst three. But we weren’t quite finished yet.

“You have another candle?” Cormac said to Grace. “The light’s about out.” The quartz crystal was sputtering. Grace dug in her bag and found another stub of a candle, which Cormac lit with a lighter. I squinted and turned away from the sudden flare. Ben made an unhappy growl.

Henry was definitely waking up, an arm shifting to rest on his chest, head tilting—asleep now, not dead.

My sense of relief that he was moving—no longer unconscious or under Roman’s spell—was tempered. When he woke up, would he still be Henry? Would he recognize us, or would he be in some monstrous, blood-fueled frenzy?

I crouched, balanced on one hand, waiting to see which way I’d have to jump.

“Henry?” I prompted, cautious.

The vampire moaned, an oddly Frankenstein’s monsterish sound. I could almost hear Cormac’s finger twitching on the trigger. No, just another second, just to see.

“Henry?” I prompted again.

“Yeah?” he said tiredly.

I smiled. That single coherent word was hugely reassuring. “You need to sit up or say something intelligent before the vampire hunter gets even more twitchy.”

He sat, propping himself against the wall and looking around. He blinked at the shadows, appearing confused.

“What happened?” Henry said. “Where am I?”

I glanced back to see if Cormac had lowered the crossbow; he hadn’t.

“What do you remember?” I asked.

His expression grew thoughtful. “That was Dux Bellorum, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah. He kind of took you over.”

“I don’t remember. As soon as he looked at me—I don’t remember anything.” He rubbed both hands through his hair as if he could draw the memories forth, an oddly vulnerable, human gesture. “We’re not supposed to be able to influence each other like that. Only the one who made you should have that kind of power over you.”

“Roman’s learned a lot of tricks.” Anastasia had woken and pushed herself up, sitting with her legs bent to the side, ladylike.

Henry chuckled, but the sound was bitter. “Dux Bellorum’s a scary story Boss uses on young vampires. A ‘You think I’m bad’ kind of thing. I didn’t think I’d actually meet him. He’s not supposed to be real.” He was pale and seemed to be shivering. When he noticed his hands shaking, he balled them into fists and crossed his arms. If he’d been human, I’d have said he was about to faint.

I started, “Henry—”

“I’m fine. I’ll be fine. I just have to get back home.”

Anastasia looked at me, her expression wondering. “You did it. You kept us alive. You got the pearl.”

“You sound surprised,” I said.

“No,” she said, smiling as she ducked her head. “I’m not. But only in hindsight. Grace, may I see it?” She held out her hand for the bag with the Dragon’s Pearl.

“Kitty was messing with it,” Grace said, handing it over.

The pile of Power Bars was still in the middle of the floor. “Yes, I see.”

I blushed but resisted the urge to apologize.

Anastasia took the bag and kneaded it in her hands, feeling the shape of the tablet inside. She closed her eyes, and all tension left her expression. She nearly glowed with relief.

We were all awake. Exhausted, weak, cranky, but awake, sitting up, and glancing at that doorway. It might have been my imagination, but the chalk characters Grace had written seemed faded, as if they’d been partially rubbed out. As if their work was finished. A strange notion.

“What do we do now?” Ben asked.

I smiled a wolfish smile, showing teeth. “We get the hell out of Dodge.”

Chapter 17

CORMAC GESTURED TO Grace. “Open the door and stand back. Keep that light low.”

She shaded the light from blinding us. Cormac stepped into the corridor first, leading with his crossbow, looking both ways, then moving out. We followed, steady and watchful. Guided by Grace, Cormac led. Ben and I stayed in back. While he kept watch on the corridor behind us, I surreptitiously kept an eye on Anastasia and Henry. They seemed all right. Then again, they were surrounded by four juicy, blood-filled bodies. Maybe they’d keep it together, maybe they wouldn’t.

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