One Grave at a Time

Page 35

Bones must've heard it, too, because he whipped us to the left so violently that we crashed through the dividing wall into the bathroom. An ugly chuckle reached us over the slew of curses Spade emitted at the ghost.

"Don't come in here, there's a shitload of silver!" Denise yelled.

"She's right, stay back," Bones called out when a tremendous crash sounded like Spade used his body as a battering ram against the door and all its furniture impediments. If he was thinking clearly, he'd realize he could barrel through the dry wall in the next room a lot easier, but I didn't want him in here, so I wasn't about to point that out.

"Start burning sage outside the room," Bones continued urgently. "Sod won't be able to stand it soon enough."

Then he grabbed the edge of the ornate countertop, ripping it off with enough savagery to send hunks careening around the room. "Keep this in front of you, Kitten," he ordered, handing me the makeshift marble shield. Then he tore off a smaller hunk for himself, blood from the sharp edges painting his hands red.

"You will die, woman," Kramer hissed. I thought he was talking to me, but I didn't see his cloudy, disgusting form in either the crashed-in wall or the normal entrance to the bathroom. Then a thwacking sound coincided with Denise's yelp.

"Denise!" Spade roared.

"Stay back, you know he can't kill me!" she shouted, her voice more shrill from pain.

Bones and I burst back into the bedroom, holding up our hunks of countertops to ward off the volley of knives that immediately flew our way. Multiple explosions of pain blasted through me as the silver pierced my legs and arms, but I kept my heart protected, and everything else would heal.

Denise was on the opposite end of the room, crimson soaking her hair from a head wound and several smaller cuts darkening her clothes with blood. I hesitated, fighting my urge to run in front of her. If I did, I'd only be sending more knives her way, because Kramer was after me and Bones. Denise had just dared to interfere with his plans for us.

"Denise, try to get out," I whispered.

"I'm the safest person in this room," she countered.

Kramer spun to face us, giving Bones and me just a second to raise our marble barriers before more knives came hurtling at us.

"Stop it!" Denise yelled.

The ghost ignored her. "You try to defeat me?" Kramer hissed in our direction. "I will destroy you."

Bones replied something in German. I didn't know enough of the language to translate, but whatever he said made the ghost howl with outrage. More knives went flying, but only aimed at him this time.

"Hurry up with that sage," I called out desperately. Spade had been kind enough to supply us with a lot of weapons for our trip home, but now that meant Kramer had more ammunition against us. Plus, he would reuse the knives, flinging them as fast as they could drop or bounce off our shields.

The ghost's powers seemed even greater than before. Was it because of the closer proximity to Halloween, or because he was still really, really pissed over our attempt to trap him in the cave? We ducked under another barrage of silver, trying to make it to some sage lying on the far side of the demolished room. We couldn't afford to let our attention wander from the knives that seemed to come at us from all sides. Or the ghost who could pop up anywhere around us in a blink, bashing our bodies with what felt like painful bursts of energy. Even with how fast we moved, we didn't know which direction the next attack would come from. All Kramer needed was one lucky strike with a silver blade, and Bones or I would be shriveled.

"You need to get the f**k out of my house," Denise snarled.

I hadn't taken my attention off the hornet's nest of silver knives around us or the ghost who could somehow amass enough energy to make me feel like I was going ten rounds with an undead Mike Tyson, but then something large and dark filled my peripheral vision. I glanced over where Denise had been-and stared.

Bones yanked me down just in time to avoid a silver knife headed right for my cheek. It landed in the wall behind us instead, but I still couldn't quit glancing back at the other side of the room. Helsing let out a frightened hiss and tried harder to hide in the bed and furniture pile.

"Bones, she's . . . she's . . ."

I didn't say more, but pointed. His gaze flicked over, and then widened as even his finely honed defensive instinct couldn't cause him to look away from what was now an incredibly fast-growing mass. Almost absently, he held up his shield at the new influx of knives thrown his way.

Cracking sounds of the ceiling giving way alerted Kramer into turning around. When he did, the knives he'd levitated for imminent attack fell to the ground, and the ghost froze like he'd magically been welded to the spot.

"Drache," he managed to croak.

The bottom half of a huge creature now took up the majority of the once-spacious room, part of its neck and all of its head disappeared into the hole it had made of the ceiling. Curved scales that looked tougher than crocodile skin formed a green-and-black design over the creature's body, darkening in color as they reached its quad-runner-sized legs. A tail wider than my torso whipped out, knocking over the broken bits of furniture scattered about the room before settling in front of me and Bones like a living, flexible barricade. Two thick, horned humps unfurled from the creature's back, revealing dark green wings that took up what was left of the room even though they were only half extended. Their spiked, clubbed ends stabbed holes in the carpet as the creature appeared to use them to balance its great body. Then more wood and plaster rained down, and a new, larger hole appeared, quickly being filled by a massive, elongated head punching through the ceiling. Its jaws were as big as the bed, saucer-sized crimson eyes glaring right at the transfixed ghost while scales like a headdress flared out behind it.

"Denise, you have outdone yourself," Bones murmured in astonishment.

I still couldn't form words yet. Yes, I'd seen Denise shapeshift before, once into a cat and once into an exact replica of me when she acted as my decoy. But I had no idea that she could manifest something of this magnitude. Not ten feet in front of me was what could only be described as a large dragon. One that looked straight out of the movie Reign of Fire-only slightly smaller, because this dragon seemed to be only about two stories tall and I think the one from the film was double that size.

If she manages to breathe fire, I thought in numbing awe, I might actually pass out.

Kramer remained frozen where he stood, almost as if he thought staying still would render him invisible. He seemed to have forgotten that he had the ability to poof away, because from his expression, he didn't want to be anywhere near the enormous dragon glaring down at him with rows of teeth gleaming from a snarling mouth. Yet, with the creature's tremendous girth, Kramer was practically in the dragon's lap.

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