Evelyn leaned in. “Always so difficult. Always so proud.”
“Not always,” Conah said softly. “Not with you.”
Something crossed Evelyn’s face, sorrow, regret, it was hard to make out, and it was gone too soon to hold onto.
“Last chance,” Evelyn said. “Just tell me what I need to know.”
“Like I said before, fuck you.”
“Oh, but you already did that,” she drawled, and then her mouth opened, her jaw unhinged, and her maw elongated even more.
Conah began to glow as if activated by her open mouth.
Oh, fuck. Oh, God. A Dread. She was a fucking Dread, and she was about to feed off Conah.
I shook my right hand and then opened and closed my fist. Come on, scythe, where the fuck are you?
Please, come on.
Nothing happened except Evelyn’s head whipping toward Conah’s face.
Terror short-circuited my brain and galvanized my body into action. With a battle cry, I barreled into the street, swinging my clutch like a lethal weapon. The pit-eyed guys ran at me as one. Fuck!
I smacked one in the face with my bag, putting all my force into the swing, and then dropped it and went in for a jab with my fist. It connected with a satisfying crunch. The guy went down, but another took his place, hissing in my face, showcasing elongated canines.
I punched him in the mouth, grazing my knuckles on his teeth. Fuck, that hurt. Talons swung at my face. I ducked and jabbed, connecting with a crotch and eliciting a pained grunt.
The vampire went down, clutching his jewels, but the one I’d punched in the face was back up. He approached slowly, and two of his comrades joined him. They circled me.
Shitting hell. Okay, I had this. I could do this. But my legs trembled, and my stomach was alive with crawly things that made me want to puke. Then the street lit up as the moon peeked out from behind a cloud. Heat coursed through my veins, my vision sharpened, and the crawly things in my stomach morphed into something dark with claws. It swelled until it filled my body, and then I was pushed into the back seat as my body took over, moving of its own accord.
Get to Conah. I had to get to Conah.
The vampires attacked, or maybe I attacked them. It didn’t matter. They had to die. I had to tear them up. I felt a blow here, a punch there, but it was as if the pain was at a distance. Adrenaline was my fuel and the clawed monster that had taken me over needed nothing else.
All that mattered was saving Conah.
Keep hitting, keep moving. But then my forward motion was halted by a hand at my throat. My feet left the ground, and the world tilted. Pain blossomed across the back of my head. Ooh, pretty stars.
I was down. Vision compromised. Fuck! I lashed out, raking and shoving at the weight on top of me, at the hand pinning me. And then my face was shoved to the side to expose my throat.
Argh. Pain ripped through me. He was feeding on me. On my blood. I was going to die. My hand tingled and heated, and then a weight settled into it.
The scythe. Hope was a fresh wave of adrenaline.
I brought the scythe up and buried the blade in my attacker’s body. The vampire tore its fangs from my throat with a gurgle and fell off me, turning to dust as he hit the ground. I rolled and stood, swinging the scythe to keep the other vampires at bay. Light filled the street, spilling from my blade in an arc of power.
The vampires fell back.
The Dread lifted her maw and released Conah. He toppled onto his side with his back to me.
I stared at the Dread, at her soulless eyes and her grotesque mouth, and then down at Conah’s lifeless form.
Not again. Fuck, please, not again.
Conah wasn’t moving. He wasn’t breathing.
A scream of rage surged up my throat and smashed into the air. My boots beat the ground as I hurtled toward her, scythe ready to take off her head.
Her hands shot up, and power slugged me in the chest, throwing me backward. I hit the ground on my ass, and the world dimmed for a moment.
No. Losing consciousness wasn’t an option. I rolled onto my front and braced myself on the ground.
“Get away from him. Get away …” Shit, I needed to catch my breath.
The world was too silent.
The air still.
They were gone.
Conah? I staggered toward him, fighting the darkness at the edge of my vision. My knees hit the ground beside him.
I rolled him onto his back and pressed my fingers to his pulse. Oh, God. Thank God. His pulse was weak, but it was present, and that was all that mattered. Alive. He was … The world tried to tilt, and my neck throbbed. My hand came away sticky with blood. Losing blood. Shit. Why wasn’t I healing this time? The scythe was here. It should heal me …
I had to stay conscious. If I passed out, then Conah could die before anyone found us. Why the fuck couldn’t I teleport? My phone? Where was it? I spotted my clutch not too far away and crawled toward it. Cora … I’d call Cora. Cora would get help. Cora would come and …
The world went dark.
“Fee? Oh, God. Fee!”
Pressure on my neck.
Cora? Why wasn’t my mouth working? My pouty fucking mouth. I needed to open my eyes.
“Fee, oh, fuck. What do I do? The cops. No. That Grigori dude. Shit, what was his name?”
“Uri …” My voice was a croak.
Cora let out a laugh that was part sob. “Oh, babe, you’re alive. Okay, Uri. I need to find … Hey! You. Come here. Spread the word. We’re looking for a Uri, Grigori. It’s reaper-related and urgent. You get him now!” The pressure on my neck increased. “Babe. Babe, you’re bleeding out. Oh, fuck. I can’t.”
I wanted to hug her. To tell her it would be okay. “Conah?”
“Breathing, last I checked. Just hold on, babe.”
“What is this?”
That voice. I knew that voice.
“Are you Uri?” Cora asked.
Darkness took me once more.
“Fee? Babe? Can you hear me?”
The world claimed me back in increments. I opened my eyes to low lighting and a beloved face.
Cora smiled, her eyes glistening with unshed tears. “Hey, sleepyhead.”
Her voice was thick with emotion. Why? Why was she—oh, shit. It all came rushing back—the attack, Conah, my neck. My hand flew to my throat. Healed and smooth.
I struggled to sit up. “Conah …”
“Is fine.” Cora pushed me back down to the pillows. The poufy pillows from my underworld room.
Wait … “You’re here.”
She frowned. “Yes, babe. I’m here.”
“And so am I,” Cyril’s sibilant voice said from my right.
I looked down to see him lying across my bed, his head by my elbow.
He nodded with his perpetual snake smile. “You gave us quite a scare.”
“How are you both here?”
Cora pursed her lips. “Like hell was I letting you out of my sight. I made that Grigori bring me with you. I told him, in no uncertain terms, that if he left me behind, I’d have every ghost in Necro haunt the fuck out of him.”
“And then she sent him to fetch me,” Cyril said. “We were in the middle of watching a movie when you called.”
I called … I remembered reaching for my clutch, but had I made a call? Urgh, my head hurt too much.
“You need us,” Cora said. “And we’re staying with you. End of. Your imp, Iza, has made up a room for us, and the snarky reaper Mal agreed to it.”
“And Conah is fine?”
“He’s healing,” Cora said. “Just like you should.”
My eyelids were already heavy again. “You’re really here.”
A cool hand touched my brow. “Yes, babe. We are.”
I allowed sleep to claim me.
This time I woke to sunshine streaming across my bed and a silhouette at my window.
Iza polished the glass, humming softly to herself as she worked.
I sat up, mouth dry, body sluggish. “Iza?”
“Fee!” She dropped the cloth and hurried over. “You’re awake. Oh, thank goodness. I was worried. Two masters dead in a month does not look good for an imp.”
She was worried about her reputation. “At least you’re honest about your concern.”
She blinked slowly up at me. “And, of course, I was worried about you also. Decent masters who don’t expect me to massage their asses are hard to come by.”
Had she just made a joke?
She grinned, and I couldn’t help but smile.
“Water.” She held a glass to my lips.
Oh, fuck. That felt good. Cool and refreshing.
“How long have I been out?”
“Three days,” Iza said. “And Master Conah is still in a healing sleep.”
Three days … Cora and Cyril … they’d been here? Or had that been a dream? “Um … did I have any visitors?”
Iza rolled her eyes. “Your bossy friend and rude reptile pop in twice a day.”
They were really here. “Where are they now?”
“Visiting the town. Polyindra took them to the market with her.” She sniffed. “Trying to muscle in on my charges. I tell you, that imp has no respect. She should be at her master’s bedside, watching over him while he sleeps.”
“Polyindra is Conah’s imp?”
Iza rolled her eyes. “And she doesn’t let anyone forget it. The last son of Adam, she says, like it matters anymore.”
Son of Adam … that’s what Evelyn had called him. But what did Iza mean, the last son of Adam?
I pushed back the covers and swung my legs out of bed. “Iza, I need a shower and some clothes, and then I need you to take me to see Conah.”
Iza looked uncomfortable. “I’m not sure that would be such a good idea.”
“Master Conah is not alone.”
“I thought you said his imp was out?”