Deadly Desire
Page 26

 Keri Arthur

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"It's silver, Kye. Silver and werewolves are never a good mix,"
"Neither are werewolves and vampires, but that doesn't seem to have stopped you."
His comment surprised me enough that all I could do for several seconds was stare at him, then anger surged and I lashed out. He caught the blow in his fist, holding it tight. "Don't ever hit me, Riley."
"Don't ever creep around in my head," I snapped back, pulling my fist from his. Surprise flickered briefly through his eyes before the mask returned. "Or I'll fry your fucking mind to a crisp."
"It's not like I want to," he said, voice still flat, and yet sounding oddly frustrated. "Trust me on that."
"You're a telepath. You have the choice to intrude or not. Trust me, the not is the best option here."
"I'm not a telepath, Riley. I've told you that-"
I clamped a hand over his mouth, stopping his denial. Not that I believed it, anyway. "Listen."
For several seconds there were no sounds beyond the usual for this time of night. Then it came-the soft scrape of a nail against concrete.
They were on us.
But they weren't just coming from the main street. One of them was above us, on the roof.
Kye swung around and pulled out a gun from under his coat. The burn of silver suddenly became stronger.
"You carry silver bullets?" I asked, slipping my bag over my shoulder and tossing it into the shadows, out of the way.
"In certain situations, yes. Back to back, Riley. They're going to come at us from two angles."
"Thanks for telling me that. I would never have guessed otherwise," I said sarcastically, but he didn't answer.
I looked at the rooflines above us. A shadow moved in low and fast, and then it leapt.
"Drop," I said, doing exactly that, trying to scrunch myself into the smallest possible ball. As the hound flew over the top of us, I slashed with the knife. The blue fire on the blade seemed to blaze even brighter as it scoured the creature's stomach, burning through hair and flesh and down into gut. Blood and God knows what else gushed, thick and black and putrid, splattering across my clothes and burning like acid. I swore and tore off my coat, but by then the creature had turned and was leaping again.
Two shots ran across the night. The creature jerked and twisted away from us. For a moment I thought the shots had missed, then I saw the hole in the side of its jaw, the blood and bone splattered across the nearby wall.
It snarled, revealing wickedly sharp teeth. Kye twisted around and fired off a third shot. It took the creature in the chest, ripped through flesh and bone, then clean through its body, smashing into the wall behind it. The creature howled and leaped.
I grabbed Kye, pulling him sideways, both of us falling to the ground hard. Again the creature flew over us, but this time it lashed out. Claws raked my side, spilling warmth down my hip.
I bit back a yelp of pain and slashed with the knife, missing its belly but getting a hind leg. Toes and gleaming claws plopped down onto the pavement beside me.
"Oh, fuck, here comes the other one," Kye said, scrambling to his feet before reaching down to grab my arm and haul me upright.
"Use the holy water. We have to blind them if we're to have any hope at all."
"Whatever else these things are, they're hounds," he said grimly. "They hunt by scent."
"They can't if you destroy their sensory center as well."
He didn't look convinced that would work, and in honesty, I wasn't, either.
"You take the injured one," he said.
"Kye-" But I was already talking to the air.
Soft padding steps echoed behind me. I twisted around, the knife held in front of me like a blazing lance. I wished it was a lance-long and strong and wickedly sharp-because it was the only way I was going to beat this thing without getting too damn close.
The bloodied hellhound stalked toward me, its steps measured, its gaze on mine, luminous and deadly. Fear stirred in my stomach, but I pushed it away. I'd beaten these things once before. I could do it again.
It sprang. There was no warning, no bunching of muscles. One minute it was walking, the next it was in the air. I twisted out of its way, slashing at the soft flesh of its neck, hoping to at least sever something vital.
Again the blue fire erupted along the blade, but the hellhound shifted at the last moment, and the knife barely skimmed the creature's flesh.
It snarled and slashed out with its claws. I leapt backward, crashed into some bins, then spilled sideways along with the rubbish. I caught my balance and backed away, down the lane, drawing the creature away from Kye, who seemed to be having no more luck with his creature than I was with mine.
The hound shook its head, spraying droplets of blood that hit the brick walls of the buildings on either side of us and began to sizzle. These things had acid for blood. What the hell kind of hound were they? At least the other hounds I'd faced in the past hadn't possessed deadly bodily fluids.
It leapt again. As I ran backward, out of the way, I drew the small container from my pocket and popped the top. But I didn't throw it, holding steady as the creature hit the pavement and launched again. When it was near enough that I could smell its fetid breath, I threw the holy water. The liquid arced across the air like a silver ribbon, hitting the creature across the snout and splashing upward, into its eyes.
The hellhound screamed, the sound so high and piercing that I had to resist the urge to thrust my hands up to my ears to muffle the sound. I twisted out the creature's way, but it was too close and moving too fast. It hit with incredible force, lifting me off my feet and throwing me backward.
I smashed into the wall, cracking my head against the brick and driving the breath from my lungs. Pain hit like a truck and blood spurted, the metallic taste filling my mouth. I spat it out and scrambled sideways, somehow avoiding the creature's slashing paws. A weird bubbling sound rode the air, accompanied by the scent of burning flesh. The holy water, doing its stuff, but nowhere near fast enough for my liking.
I twisted around, knife once again in front of me, and saw the mess that was the creature's face. It wasn't dead. Wasn't even stopped. Its olfactory senses might be in the process of being destroyed, but right now it could still smell me. And it attacked-hard, fast, and low. I leapt out of the way, rolled to my feet, and slashed at its neck with the knife. This time it cut deep, and black blood spurted from the creature's wound, spraying across my face and arms, stinging like acid.
I swore and scrambled away, stripping off my shirt and hastily swiping at the blood. It did little more than smear the stinking black fluid, but at least the sting lessened. The scrape of nails against concrete echoed across the night-the creature, coming after me again. I kept running, gathering speed, then leapt, as high and as hard as I could. I grabbed the gutters of the nearest building and hauled myself up onto the roof.
The creature leapt after me. I sidestepped and swept the knife down hard. The blazing blade sliced through flesh and bone with little effort, and the hellhound's head dropped at my feet. Its momentum kept the body flying past, so that it crashed back down several feet away. Blue flames spread quickly across its remains, consuming its flesh until there was nothing left but ash.
Ash the wind quickly scattered. Even the smeared blood on my arms disappeared.
One down, one to go.
I leapt over the remaining bits of soot and ran across the rooftop. Below in the alleyway, the second creature howled, and this time there was no answering shot. Kye was running backward, slashing at the creature with a short knife, chipping at the claws that threatened to rend him in two, but doing little else to stop it.
The hellhound's face was ruined, its nose rotting and ready to fall off, its eyes mere holes. It didn't matter, it was relying on sound and its ears were in perfect working order. I stopped, took a deep breath, then, as Kye passed my position, leapt.
I landed on the creature's back and wrapped my legs around its belly. It roared and began to buck, twist, and turn. I held on, raised the knife, then plunged it down as hard as I could, thrusting the blade deep into its neck before twisting it hard. As one side of the creature's neck began to split away from its body, I pulled out the knife and hacked at the remaining skin.
The creature crashed to the ground, taking me with it. Kye leapt in, grabbed my arms, and hauled me free from the creature, but already it was beginning to disintegrate, the blue flame of the knife crawling over its body, consuming it, until there was nothing left but ash blowing away on the breeze.
"I really am going to have to get one those knives," he said, lifting me upright with little effort. "They do a rather efficient job on hell's beasties."
"That they do." I stepped back then moved across to the bins to retrieve my bag. My hip ached in protest, and blood gushed warmly down my leg. But I couldn't shapeshift when I was holding silver, and I wouldn't have done so anyway. Kye might have fought by my side, but I didn't entirely trust him.
Though I wasn't sure what he could do when I was in wolf form that he couldn't do when I was in human. I shoved the knife back into its sheath, then picked up the bag and my coat and swung around.
"Will the witch sense the death of her hounds?" he asked, his crossed arms slashed and bleeding almost as much as my leg.
Maybe he didn't trust me enough to change shape and stop the bleeding.
It was a somewhat cheery thought, if only because I didn't think there was much that made this wolf pause. Certainly the hellhounds hadn't fazed him.
"From what I understand, sorcerers use a lot of 'personal' magic as well as their own blood to raise the sort of magic required for the hellhounds. So yes, she will probably feel their deaths."
"Meaning she might come here to investigate."
"I doubt it. Whatever else these women might be, they aren't stupid. And that would be a stupid move."
"Still, it's worth staying here to check. If the bad guys never did stupid things, then we good guys would never catch them."
I snorted softly. "I hardly think you can stand in line with the good guys, Kye."
"Depends on who's paying me at the time," he said, without the slightest trace of humor. "Right now, I'm on the side of the angels."
"I don't think the angels appreciate it." Or wanted it.
"Tough," he said, leaving me wondering if he was answering my spoken or unspoken comment. If I'd had more energy, I might have retaliated and found out, but right now, I just wanted to go home, have a shower, and grab some sleep.
"Well, you can have this watch all to yourself. Although I would appreciate being told if anything interesting happens."
"If anything interesting happens, I'll give you a call."
"You haven't got my number." And he wasn't going to get it, either.
He smiled. It was the sort of smile that suggested getting information like that wasn't a problem. And for someone like him, it probably wasn't. Hell, he'd probably already snatched it in his sneaky mind raids.
And how he did that, when I supposedly had shields strong enough to keep out the likes of Quinn and Jack-who were the strongest telepaths I'd ever met-is one of the many things I wanted to know. But not now, when I was so bone tired.
"Good night, Kye."
"Don't let the vampires bite."
"Why shouldn't I?" I countered sweetly, "when that only adds to the overall pleasure? And trust me, it is pleasurable."
He didn't say anything, but there was a fierceness in his eyes that made something deep inside tremble. I had an odd feeling I'd just flung a challenge his way, and I was going to regret it.
Or worse still, not regret it.
I hitched my bag up onto my shoulder and walked away before I got myself into deeper trouble.
Getting a taxi when I looked like something the dog had thrown up proved to be problematic. So was flying home clutching a bag filled with clothes, holy water, and a great big silver knife. Which meant I ended up walking-not fun, and a pretty crappy way to end the night.
I slept the sleep of the dead when I got home, and it was well after three by the time I dragged myself back to the land of the living.
The apartment was quiet, but the scent of coffee lingered in the air, tantalizing my taste buds. Hoping Liander had left the percolator on for me, I flung the blankets off and climbed out of bed. My hip twinged a reminder to be careful, and I glanced down. Three pink scars stretched from the top of my hip to my thigh-a stark reminder of just how close I'd come to death again last night. One of these days, my luck was going to change.
I shivered and thrust the thought away as I walked into the kitchen. The coffee was still warm, and I breathed deep, sucking in the delicious scent, feeling it flow down through my body, waking and revitalizing.
Coffee on call, without having to wait for the kettle to boil, had to be one of life's greatest pleasures. Of all the good things Liander had brought to our lives, the coffeemaker had to be among the best of them.
I poured myself a cup, then splashed in some milk, taking several sips before I shoved some bread in the toaster. My cell phone rang, and I knew without doubt it would be Jack. He always seemed to pick the worst possible moments to call with an update.
I walked into the living room, dug my phone out of my bag, and hit the receive button.
"I was going to call in a report right after I had a coffee, boss," I said.
"I'm not ringing for a report," he said, voice flat and annoyed.
Which couldn't mean that anything good had happened.
"Then what's the problem?"
"We've got ourselves another dead vampire, and this time it's really bad."