Oh, now there was an award-winning answer. “You told me the Dark-Hunters were our enemies.”
“They are our enemies. They hunt and kill us.”
It wasn’t that simple. Not anymore. Jess had been right. They had lied to her. Used her. “You have no idea what you’ve done. What you’ve set into motion.”
You will be known forever by the tracks you leave. Her mother’s words haunted her now.
I will be known as the woman who ended the world. She felt so sick. Lost. Confused.
Kurt grabbed her arm. “Abigail, listen to me. We’re not your enemies. We took you in when no one else would have. My parents raised you like one of their own.”
But there was more to it than that.
The truth hovered around the fringes of her mind like a ghost she could neither see nor touch. Only feel.
She stared at him as her conscience shredded her over her actions. “I don’t trust you anymore.”
Hannah stepped forward. “Abby-”
She moved away from Hannah’s grasp.
I need to go. She didn’t want to be here. It no longer felt like home.
It felt like hell.
She’d taken innocent lives. Killed an elder Guardian. Her life would never be the same. And it shouldn’t be. Not after what she’d done. She stumbled back toward the door and went outside. The sky above twinkled with stars. It looked a thousand times brighter tonight than it ever had before.
Why would it be that way when everything was so wrong? Surely it should be storming. But it wasn’t. The world appeared completely ignorant of the horrors to come.
“I have to fix this,” she whispered. Before it was too late.
She would go with Choo Co La Tah to the Valley.
And there she would die.
Jess followed Sasha’s directions as they sped toward Abigail’s location. His stomach was knotted tight, and he had no idea why. It wasn’t just that she was gone. He had a tangible need to find her and make sure she was all right.
To make sure no one hurt her.
He came around a corner right as a car rolled through the stop sign-straight into his path. Biting his lip, he tried to swerve to miss it, but because of the car’s speed, it still managed to clip his back tire. His motorcycle came out from under him and dragged him down the street at a deadly pace.
Crap! The asphalt tore at his clothes and skin, reminding him why he wore a duster when he rode and why he was glad he was no longer mortal. Still, it hurt to kiss pavement, and his body was extremely unhappy with this predicament.
* * *
Abigail’s heart stopped beating as she realized in her dazed stupor that she’d just hit someone. She slammed on the brakes and looked back to see the motorcycle and rider on the street, skidding sideways toward the curb.
Oh my God! What have I done now?
It wasn’t until she’d put the car in park and opened the door that she recognized the sprawled-out man.
“Jess!” She ran toward him as fast as she could. She cringed at the length of how far he’d traveled over the road on his back. He’s a Dark-Hunter. A crash won’t kill him. In her mind, she knew it was the truth.
But her emotions weren’t listening. Panic filled her as she drew closer and didn’t see him moving.
Jess lay on the street, looking up through his helmet, trying to figure out if he’d broken something other than his pride. Gah, it hurt to breathe. To move. He felt pretty banged up, but it was hard to tell just how bad.
And the damned billion-pound motorcycle was lying on his foot. That was going to leave a limp.
“Jess!” Out of nowhere, Abigail appeared, her face a mask of terrified fear. Before he could answer, she sank down beside him. “Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! Are you all right? Are you alive? Did I hurt you?” She clutched at his body as if trying to find an injury. “Jess? Can you speak?”
It was so wrong, but he couldn’t help grinning at her panic. No woman had been this scared for him in a long while. “Yeah, I can talk. But I kind of like the attention you’re giving me. You want to grope a little lower, it’d be even better.”
“Oh, you…” She shoved at him.
Pain cut through his body. “Ow!”
Her panic returned instantly. “Are you all right?”
He laughed. “Dang, you’re easy.”
“And you’re completely evil.”
Jess pulled his helmet off to stare up at her. The streetlights played in her dark hair, making it shimmer. Her eyes glowed with warmth, concern, and anger. It was a heady combination. “And you’re completely beautiful.”
Abigail’s breath caught at those unexpected words. They settled something deep inside her. Made it calm in a way she’d never been calm before. And at the same time, her entire body was on fire from his nearness. A strange dichotomy that made no sense whatsoever.
He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her lips down to his so that he could give her the hottest kiss she’d ever received. One so unsettling that it made her entire body burn and caused her to forget where they were and what had happened. Nothing mattered in this moment except the sensation of his tongue sweeping against hers. Of his arms holding her close to his hard body.
Nothing had ever felt better.
“Excuse me, people. You’re both lying in the middle of the street. Might want to move before someone else runs over both your damn fool selves.”
Abigail pulled back, then turned to glare at Sasha, who stood on the curb, under the streetlamp, giving them an irritated grimace. She started to smart off, when all of a sudden, she heard a peculiar sound. It was like someone had let loose a herd of angry chainsaws.
Scowling, she looked back at Jess. “What is that?”
Sasha’s face blanched. “Wasps … A shitload of them.” He pointed down the street.
Following the direction of his arm, Abigail gaped at the sight of what appeared to be a thick, dancing cloud rolling toward them.
“Next plague.” Jess jumped to his feet and pulled her up. He met Sasha’s gaze. “Can you get the bike home?”
“On it. I’ll see you back in your compound.”
Jess inclined his head to him before he took her hand and ran with her back to the Audi. Abigail was still gaping as she watched the wasps draw closer and closer at an abnormal pace. The cloud rose and dived like some giant, lumbering, solid beast.
She ran to the passenger side while Jess wedged himself into the driver’s seat and moved it back.
“I really hope you didn’t damage this thing.”
She slammed the door shut, grateful she’d left it running, then buckled herself in. “You that attached to it, cowboy?”
He put it in gear. “Nope. Not mine. It’s Andy’s pride and joy. If there’s so much as a scratch on this thing, I’ll never hear the end of it.”
Great. Now the Squire had another reason to hate her. “I can’t win for losing with him, can I?”
Jess didn’t answer as the wasps literally enveloped the car. They landed on the windshield so thick that he had to turn the wipers on to try and dislodge them.
It didn’t work. All it did was piss them off.
Disgusted and scared, Abigail hissed as she realized they were also crawling in through the vents.
“Close them quick,” Jess said, snatching his shut.
She complied and held them in place to make sure the wasps didn’t push them open again. “This is getting ugly.”
“Like my great-aunt’s underpants.”
She arched a brow at his strange and unexpected comment. Okay …
Jess tried to navigate the streets, but it was far from easy going. Cars were swerving everywhere, trying to avoid the wasps. Horns blared and people screamed so loudly that it was deafening. She’d never seen anything like it.
What were they going to do?
She sighed. “I’m getting a little tired of this.”
Jess flashed a fanged grin. “Not my fave thing either, I have to say. You wouldn’t happen to have a can of Raid, would you?”
“I wish. What else don’t they like?”
“Apparently us … and a little brown Audi.”
She shook her head. “How can you find humor right now?”
“Damned if I know. I must be one sick SOB. There’s definitely something in my noodle that’s shorted out.”
And how could she find that charming?
More than that, her entire life was falling apart, and the only comfort she had was him. Maybe he wasn’t the sick one after all.
Maybe it was her.
Yeah, there’s definitely something wrong with me. And it wasn’t just the wasps trying to break into the car and sting them or the demon that had made her eat a friend. “This is definitely one of those days when you’re praying it’s a dream. Only you never wake up from the nightmare.”
“I’ve had a few of those in my time. But this one here’s not so bad.”
“How do you figure?” she asked, flabbergasted by his words.
He flashed a fanged grin at her. “I might have lost some skin, but I got kissed by a beautiful woman who was happy to see me. I gotta say that’s pretty epic in my book. Definitely not a worst-case day here.”
Given what she’d seen of his past, she knew that for a fact. Still …
He frowned. “For what?”
Being you. Things she couldn’t say out loud without embarrassing herself to the deepest level. But she felt that gratitude so much that it made tears prick at her eyes.
After a few seconds when she didn’t respond, Jess looked over at her. She was staring at her hands as if they belonged to a stranger. A cloak of sadness enveloped her. “You okay?”
She nodded. And still she looked at her hands. “I killed a … Daimon tonight.”
Swallowing, she glanced over at him. “You were right. They’d lied to me my whole life and kept that knowledge from me. I don’t know what to believe now.”
“Believe in yourself. Trust your instincts.”
“Is that what you do?”
Jess snorted as old memories burned. “No. Not doing it is what got me shot in the back by a man I thought was my brother. I like to think I learn a little as I go.”
But sometimes he wondered. Like right now, there was a part of him that wanted to trust her, and if ever someone should know better than that, it was him. She’d already proved that she was willing to hurt him to get what she wanted.
And she’d also run to him when he was hurt to make sure he was still alive.
After she hit him with a car, of course. Yeah, okay, so that part sucked. But she had come back when she didn’t have to. It was more than a lot of people would do.
“We’re not going to make it back to your house, are we?” He heard the fearful undercurrent in her voice.
“Don’t get maudlin on me. We’re not dead yet … any chance those demon powers of yours have anything to help with this?”
“Not that…” Her voice trailed off as if an idea suddenly occurred to her. “Don’t wasps hate bad smells?”
“I’m not fond of them neither. Is there something you need to tell me? ‘Cause right now, I really can’t open a window.”
She made a sound of disgust at his offbeat humor. “Whenever the powers surge, they put off an awful smell. I was thinking-”
“I prefer the idea of me driving through the worst BOB ever than having you smell up the car with demon funk to choke us down. No offense, my sight and hearing aren’t the only things my Dark-Hunter powers boost.”
He loved that out of all that, she’d gotten only one word. “Baked on bugs. Or in this case, I guess I should have said BOW-baked on wasps.”
She started to laugh, but something slammed into them so hard, it snapped her forcefully to the right.
Jess cursed as he lost control of the car and they spun around. He wasn’t sure what had struck them, but it felt like a semi.
All of a sudden, there was a lone howl.
Coyote. He’d know that sound anywhere. The only question was if he meant it as a taunt or an order for his servants. When the car finally stopped moving, it ended up embedded against a pole.
“You all right?” he asked Abigail.
She nodded. “I think so. You?”
“Brain’s a mite rattled, but that’s nothing new for me.”
She jerked up in her seat as if someone had shocked her. “You hear that?”
He strained, then shook his head. The only sound in his ears was a bad inner buzzing and the wasps outside. “Hear what?”
“I can’t make out the words, but it sounds like someone whispering.”
He tried again, and again he heard nothing. “I only hear you.”
“You really don’t hear that?”
“Sorry. My medium powers are on the fritz, and I can’t channel spirits or bells right now. I’ll get them worked on later. For-”
“Shh,” she said, touching his arm with her hand. “The wasps are talking to someone. I hear them so clearly.”
Okay, time to get someone to a psych ward.
“It says to kill the buffalo.”
His scowl deepened. “There’s no buffalo in Vegas. At least not that I know of.”
“That’s what they’re saying, though.”
Maybe what she heard was that weird tendency people had to make ambient noise and other obnoxious things tolerable by incorporating them into understandable sounds and syllables. He didn’t know for sure.
At least not until he felt something else strike the car and land on the hood. It struck the windshield repeatedly.