Sisters of Blood and Spirit Page 71

I should have been more frightened—I realized that. I didn’t know why I wasn’t. Adrenaline, maybe. Stupidity. Whatever the cause, it made me focus enough to land a good solid punch to her throat. She staggered backward—surprised that I’d managed to strike her—and I used that hesitation to come at her with a spinning round kick to the head. She retaliated with a hard left. Then she picked me up and slammed me to the ground.

Something else snapped inside me. I tasted blood in my mouth.

She was going to kill me. I knew that.

Having died once already, I wasn’t afraid of repeating the process, but I’d be damned if it would be at the hands of a ghost. I was more afraid of what would happen to the others with me gone. With any luck I’d end up with Wren, but more than likely I’d end up a prisoner of this place—and that was what really terrified me. I didn’t want to be one of Bent’s puppets.

I would not be one of Bent’s puppets.

I kicked her hard in the knee, and she went down. Then I landed a kick to her face, crushing her nose. Ha! Then suddenly she was on me—moving with the speed of the dead. I was aware of her fists slamming into my face, but I couldn’t tell you which one or how many times—it was all a blur. A painful, bloody blur.

Behind the red film seeping over my eyes, I saw the white-haired woman. Was she there or in my mind? Looking at her filled me with a sense of peace.

“My dear girl,” she said in a low, melodic voice as she reached out and touched my face. “This is not how you end. Now get up and fight.”

It was like she had flicked a switch inside me. Awoke something. One moment I was a battered meat-sack on the verge of death and the next... Well, I didn’t know what the hell I was.

The white-haired woman was gone, and so was the blood in my eyes. I reached up and grabbed my attacker’s wrists. I threw her to the side and leaped to my feet. My ribs hurt, but it didn’t matter. In fact, none of the pain or blood mattered. I felt strong—so strong.

“What are you?” the Bettie Page wannabe asked, her eyes wide.

I smiled. “I’m Lark.”

When I lunged for her I moved faster than I’d ever moved before. I hit her hard and sent her scattering. My fist was more effective than an iron bar.

What the hell?

I couldn’t even wonder at what I’d just done because another ghost took her place. This one was a kid from the ’70s. I might have had some sympathy for him if he hadn’t called me a disgusting name before he attacked. I kicked him in his ghostly nads before shoving my fist under his chin and up into his skull. Poof! He was gone.

This time two more came. They managed to get a couple of punches in before I nailed them both. A third sneaked up behind me and kicked me hard between the shoulder blades. I staggered forward, right into the path of another ghost, but I dived out of the way before he could strike. I lashed out, scattering both of them.

I was surrounded. At least six or seven dead had formed a circle around me. My mysterious savior had made me incredibly strong and fast, but there was no way I could take on this many at once. I bent my legs into a crouch, then pushed up hard. I jumped high into the air and did a backflip over the heads of the ghosts that had been behind me.

I’d never done a backflip in my life. Never. I scooped my iron bar off the ground where I had dropped it and threw it at the circle. It took out three of them before embedding itself in the ground. The remaining three came at me. One hit me hard about the head, but I shoved my fist through her chest. Another went for my stomach and doubled me over, but I managed to punch him in the groin. The last one I kicked and then struck as he fell.

They were just going to keep coming. The ones I scattered would eventually regroup and return. I couldn’t win this fight. It didn’t matter how good I was. Eventually they would wear me down and finish me.

“Got him!” Mace yelled.

I ran for the grave and jumped over the barrier. The ghosts charged after me, smashing hard into the barricade we’d built.

Sarah stared at them. Her face was pale and streaked with dirt. “Oh, my God.”

They meant business if they were manifesting. That meant our crude defenses didn’t have much time before they fell. Against one ghost we’d do great, but not against an army. The ghosts might not be able to touch the iron or the salt, but they could disrupt the energy around them enough to break through.

I looked down. Several feet below me, in a roughly dug hole was an old wooden coffin. The lid had been busted open by Mace’s boot. I gave him a hand up out of the grave. He dumped the can of salt all over the coffin and through the hole in the lid and followed that with lighter fluid. Then he handed me a box of matches.

“You want the honors?” he asked.

I shook my head. “You do it.”

“You sure?”

“One of you just fucking do it!” Sarah shouted. “They’re getting through!”

Mace struck a match and dropped it. It fell into the hole in the coffin, flickered and then—just when I thought it had gone out—burst into beautiful blue-and-orange flames.

The ghosts screamed—a thunderous screech that froze my soul. For a second I thought they were going to charge, but they didn’t. Some of them disappeared. Others took to the sky. A few turned and walked away. And a few...a few smiled before fading from sight.

They were free.

“Is that it?” Sarah asked, wide-eyed. “Is it over?”

“Not yet,” I told her as I caught a glimpse of headlights coming toward us. “We’ve got to get out of here. Now.”

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