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Authors: J. C. Daniels

Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #Vampires, #Tagline… A knife in the dark

Night Blade (30 page)

BOOK: Night Blade
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No
!” I screamed.

No…no…
no
…I had to get away, damn it. I had to.

I jammed my hands against my temple and then I lifted my head and stared at the chasm. It was deep. If I was lucky, it would kill me. I backed up a few steps and ran. Leaped.

For one lovely, wonderful moment, I was free.

But then something caught my waist.

Struggling and fighting, kicking, I tore at it. And I gave voice to the years worth of screams that I’d kept trapped inside.

 

 

Chapter Seventeen

 

 

“Kit!”

I slammed my fist outward and broke free. But I didn’t even make it two feet before something took me down. Heat blasted me.
Heat—

It had been so long since I’d felt warm.

Against me, I felt soft, warm fur…and a hard body. As massive, clawed hands closed my wrists, panic slammed into me and the animal Jude had tried to make me into finally broke free. I clawed, I bit, I fought with everything I had in me…but I couldn’t get free.

“—not helping, damn it—let—”

Voices rose.

Fell.

There was raging. I heard the voices, in some deep part of me, and I waited for the pain. I hadn’t gotten free. I’d be back in that cell again and the beatings would come, the rapes—

I screamed and huddled in on myself.

And then I was free.

The hands that had pinned me down were gone and I huddled alone in the snow.

“Kit.”

I flinched away from the sound of her voice.

It wasn’t her.

I’d hoped maybe she’d care enough, but Colleen wasn’t a fighter and she’d never come—

“Oh, Kit…I hate having to do this, but we can’t stay here like this…”

Hands caught me by the hair and tugged my head back and I found myself staring at an illusion. Colleen crouched in front of me, Justin kneeling at her side.

“Don’t,” I begged, hating the tears that rolled down my face. He’d broken me, damn it. That son of a bitch had broken me, but I just couldn’t do this. “Please don’t do this anymore. I’ll…I’ll stop. I’m done. I give up.”

I couldn’t take it to see the rest of my hopes smashed so brutally.

Colleen’s face—no—not
her
—the fake Colleen—her face crumpled and she looked down.

“Move over, Coll,” the not-Justin said.

I tried to pull away but I couldn’t. The hands holding me were just too strong. Whining low in my throat, I shrank in on myself as he laid a hand on my forehead, the other on my chest. “Kit…look at me—”

Magic slammed into me.
Hot
magic.
Familiar
magic—

It burned through me, clearing away the determined fog that had driven me the past few days.
Survive the pain. Hold on. Survive the pain.
At some point,
Escape
had replaced
Survive the pain
and
hold on
.

All of that muffling fog disappeared, and even the fear faded enough for me to see past it.

See the man in front of me. Familiar green eyes, set in a face all but ravaged with grief and rage. A stocking cap covered his dreads and snowflakes clung to the dense, dark hair.

Justin

Words rose in my throat, but I was almost afraid to let them out. Reaching up with a hand that shook, I brushed one of the snowflakes off. Against my fingers, I felt the familiar, nubby texture of his hair.
Justin

Somewhere off to the side, I heard a low, ragged growl, one that made me shudder, but I couldn’t look. I didn’t dare. Focusing on Justin’s green eyes, I poked at his dreads again, this time tugging on one. Real. He felt
real
.

“Justin,” I whispered thinly. “You…are you
here
?”

“Yeah, Kitty-kitty.” His hand shifted away from my breastbone to touch my cheek. He shot for a teasing smile, but it fell flat. I grabbed at his wrist, desperate. “Did you ever doubt it?”

“You’re here.” What strength I had left drained out of me, and I sagged to the ground. Justin crouched down with me, staying on eye level as I muttered again, “You’re here… you’re really here.”

“Yeah.” He reached out and caught my hands. “I have to ask one you thing, and you have to answer. Flat-out. It’s brutally important, Kitty-kitty.”

“You’re here,” I whispered again as I started to shiver. “You’re here.”

“Kit!” His voice was a slap in the air and I flinched.

Staring at him, dazed, I nodded. “Answer. Important.”

Behind me,
just
behind me, I heard a broken, ragged growl. Instinct drove me away from that sound, toward Justin. Gentle hands caught me and he murmured, “Shhh….shhhh. It’s okay.” The look in his eyes said anything
but
okay, though and he shot a look past my shoulder that scared me even more.

I flinched and pressed even closer to him. His arm came around me and he sighed. “It’s okay, Kit. I swear. You hear me?” He shrugged out of the black jacket he wore, wrapping it around my shoulders. “But I need that answer and I need it now. Did you
willingly
leave Florida and travel
anywhere
with Jude Whittier?”

Terror choked me. I wanted to cry. Scream. Beg. But Justin had come.

Vaguely, I realized there were people gathered around us. A lot of them. I wanted to hide between Colleen and him, these two friends who I’d wanted so desperately to count on…but I hadn’t let myself. Justin was counting on me now. “Answer,” I whispered, pressing my head against his shoulder as I tried to think. I was so damn cold. So damn cold. “Important.”

“It is.”

I nodded jerkily. “No. Was outside my office.” Fear slammed into me as I made myself think. “Had packed up…went to grab some weapons. I called—”

Justin touched my shoulder. “It’s okay, Kit. He can’t hurt you now. Did he call you about a job or something?”

I shook my head. “No. Called…” my voice broke. “Called the Lair. They wouldn’t…” I plucked at my borrowed jacket as shame flooded me. It was done. Over. Done—and if I thought of anything else, I’d break. Just the answer. I could only think of the answer right now. “I called the Lair. I looked down…Dart in my chest…couldn’t move…Xavier…freelance witch. Everything went black and I woke up here.”

“And you didn’t come willingly?”

Hadn’t I just said that? Lifting my head, I stared at Justin and tried to figure out what he needed.

“No,” I whispered.

A hand touched my shoulder.

From the corner of my eye, I saw it. And flinched. Skin a warm golden brown. Strong, beautiful hands—

Desperate, I bolted.

Behind me, I heard a low, furious roar and I tried to block it from my mind. I had to get away.

I made it five feet before I crashed into a mountain.

This mountain was big, living and had hands that were gentle and soothing as he picked me up. “Easy there, Kitty,” Goliath said. “No reason to run now. You’re safe.”

I heard Damon snarling again.

Goliath, big, gentle Goliath growled, deep in his chest and then he turned away. “Come on, little Kitty. You need to get warm. Don’t know how long those stupid Banner boys are going to be, but you don’t need to be here for this.”

“Wolf,” Damon snarled.

Goliath covered one of my ears with his hand while I huddled against his chest and the thud of his heart beat against my other ear. Between that, and the thundering of my own heart, the roaring of blood crashing inside my head, I barely heard anything more than a rumble at first.

The words barely connected, anyway. At first.

Don’t you get it, cat? You’re scaring the hell out of her and she’s already scared enough
.

Goliath was wrong.

Oh, I was scared.

But I couldn’t face Damon now.

I couldn’t face him…I couldn’t face myself.

I didn’t know if I could face anything, ever again.

 

* * * * *

 

Silver lights flashed.

I strained my head to see no matter how hard Goliath tried to keep me from looking. Part of me had to know it was done.

I don’t know how much time passed as he tried to protect me from it and I tried to see around him.

Finally, he looked down at me and asked, “You have to know, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

He sighed and carried me back to the fringe of the trees. “We waited here for hours, trying to get a lock on where you were,” he said softly.

Something made a weird
thnk
sound down by our feet and after about sixty seconds of rabid fear, I made myself look.

The tiger looked terribly vibrant against the snow. I flinched at the sight of him, but Goliath rubbed his cheek against my hair. “Doyle’s a tracker, Kitty. Almost as good as you. Never seen the like of it. He didn’t track you by scent. It was…” He shrugged. “It was amazing. I ain’t never seen anything like it.”

“Doyle,” I whispered. Closing my eyes, I turned that over in my head. “Doyle found me?”

“Yes.” He crouched down in the snow by the tiger and I had no choice by to stare at his face. Golden eyes stared back at me. “Everybody else was scouring Orlando. Nobody would listen to the kid and he showed up in Wolf Haven, roaring like a big, dumb….well, tiger. I go out there and he shifted, stared at me. Asked if I was the one who’d raised you.” He settled me on his legs and then reached over, stroked Doyle’s head. “Told him that he’d need TJ for that…that’s close, isn’t it, little Kitty? We were all looking, but he says everybody was looking wrong. So I say we were friends, sure, and he tells me he can find you but nobody is helping him. I tell him if he’s wrong, I’m gonna have me a tiger-skin rug.”

My gut twisted. “How…” The tiger sighed and stretched his weight out in the snow.

“He doesn’t know how, Kit. He just knew.” Goliath settled in the snow, unfazed by the cold, but it was starting to kill me. Shuddering, shaking, I huddled inside Justin’s jacket and tried to get warm, but it just wasn’t possible.

Doyle inched closer, pressed his torso against my exposed legs and feet. The relief was almost painful as pins and needles replaced the numb sensation.

Trapped—

“Tiger might as well do something useful,” Goliath said, his voice lazy and quiet. “Keep your feet warm better than I can right now. Once Justin is finished, we’ll find you something to wear, but for now…”

I latched onto the sane, simple presence that was Goliath. He’d pulled me through a lot. I could trust him. Shivering, I rested my head on his shoulder and stared at the house. “What are they doing?”

“Well…if we’re lucky, they’ll burn Jude’s ass into ashes,” Goliath said, a nasty growl edging into his voice. Then he shrugged. “We probably won’t get lucky. Jude’s an opportunistic son of a bitch and he knows all about survival. He knows he’s fucked and he won’t give them a reason to kill him.”

“What will happen now?”

I heard a branch crack behind us. The sound of it had me ready to bolt off Goliath’s lap. He let me and I would have tripped over Doyle, but the tiger shifted his long body, bracing me with his weight instead.

Three bodies—I counted them by their feet.

Two males. One of them, I couldn’t look at. Ever. I hunched my shoulders and focused on the pain in my frozen feet. I could handle the cold, but this was getting to be too much.

“Jude violated one of the major laws of the charter,” Colleen said softly. “He’s going to trial and if he wasn’t one of the one of the older ones, if he wasn’t one of the Speakers, he’d probably be a dead man walking. In more ways than one.”

I looked at her. She was safe to look at. Very safe.

Her eyes were dark, troubled. So sad. “As it is, he’s looking at confined jail-time. Decades of it, at least.”

“He’s going in a box,” I whispered.

A pleased smile curled her lips as she swung a pack off her shoulder. “If we’re lucky, he may very well leave in one.” She pulled a blanket out and approached me, moving slowly. “You need some clothes. I’ve got some if you want them…?”

I swallowed, jerking my gaze around. Where could I get dressed—?

Seemed a foolish thing to worry about considering I’d spent more than half of the past two weeks naked. They’d taken my clothes. My weapons. Their loss was an empty, jagged hole in me and I couldn’t even explain it.

My sword—
it was a jagged, raw wound inside of me and I wanted to cry. Wanted to sob. Instead, I focused on the clothes that Colleen held.

Jerking my head, I whispered, “Yes.”

Goliath got up. “I think if Miss Colleen holds the blanket by this tree and I stand just here…” He turned his back. “Between the tree, my big self and the blanket, you practically have a dressing room, Kitty.”

I nodded again, took one stumbling step away from Doyle’s sturdy presence. I almost fell and those booted feet—they belonged to a man I couldn’t look at—moved in my direction. I backed away and sank my hands into Doyle’s fur.

“Doyle, why don’t you help Kit over here?” Colleen said quietly. “I think the cold’s making her legs stiff.”

Doyle started to walk.

I heard another low snarl.

Colleen snapped, “Shut the
fuck
up before I turn you into a toad.”

I flinched. From the corner of my eye, I saw him moving and I lunged for the solid presence of Goliath. Tucked away behind him, I sagged against the tree.
Hide…I could hide here.

 

* * * * *

 

The problem with hiding behind a big, living mountain…the living mountain eventually decided to move.

I had clothes on. For the first time in too long. Colleen was a few inches taller than me and a lot curvier, but they were warm and clean and there was something terribly comforting about the scent of her herbs and magic wrapping around me.

I had barely finished shoving my feet into the spare boots before Goliath moved. And he moved fast, hard, and low.

“Not
now
,” he snarled as he caught Damon around the waist.

“Get the
fuck
away,” Damon growled.

I fell backward against the tree, arms wrapped around myself, staring at them.

His eyes cut to me and I sank to the ground, feeling like a cornered animal.

BOOK: Night Blade
3.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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