Dance of the Gods Page 32

The fire in the back of his neck burned to the bone. The caves echoed with screams, running feet. He was nearly trod on as his strength and his speed wavered, but continued to head toward the thin wash of moonlight, the roar of the sea.

There were people running, clawing their way up the cliff wall. Some carried the weak, the wounded. Larkin knew if he attempted a change again, he’d need to be carried himself.

He could do nothing more. With what he had left, he dragged his small body to a rock, wedged himself behind it.

The last thing he saw was the flicker of stars going out as dawn crept closer.

Chapter 8

“H e should have been back by now.” From the window in the parlor, Blair watched dawn break through the long night. “On his way back anyway. Maybe you should start again.” She turned around to Hoyt and Glenna. “Just start again.”

“Blair.” Glenna crossed over, ran a hand up and down Blair’s arm. “I promise you, as soon as he can be seen, we’ll see.”

“It was a stupid idea. Reckless and stupid. What was I thinking? I sent him in there.”

“No.” Now Glenna gripped both of her arms. “He went in, and we all agreed. We’re all equal in this. None of us bears all the burden.”

“He went in there without a weapon, without a shield.” She closed her hand over her crosses.

“He could hardly fly or crawl or slither around a nest of vampires with a cross around his neck,” Cian pointed out. “A beacon like that? He wouldn’t have lasted five minutes.”

“So what? He lasts ten going in naked.”

“He’s not dead.” Moira spoke quietly, and continued to sit on the floor, staring at the fire. “I’d know. I think we’d all know. The circle would be broken.” She looked over her shoulder at Hoyt. “Isn’t that so?”

“I believe it is, yes. It may be as simple as he needed to rest. Maintaining other shapes must take considerable energy and concentration.”

“It does. That’s why he eats like a plow horse.” Scooting to face the room, Moira managed a weak smile. “And he’s never, that I know, held a shape above two or three hours.”

Another nightmare, Blair thought. To imagine him skulking around the caves as the rat they’d agreed on, then, whoops, he’s a human without so much as a Popsicle stick to defend himself.

Alive, she could hold on to that. It made sense that they’d feel it if he’d been killed. But he could be in a cage, hurt, being tortured.

“I’m going to go make some food.” Glenna gave Blair’s shoulder a comforting pat.

“I’ll do it. I should practice more with the cooking,” Moira said as she got to her feet. “And I need something to do besides sit and worry.”

“I’ll give you a hand.” Glenna draped an arm over Moira’s shoulders. “I’ll bring out some coffee in a few minutes.”

“I’m going out.” Hoyt pushed himself out of the chair. “It may be I can draw something, sense something, outside the confines of the house.”

“I’ll go with you.”

But he shook his head at Blair. “I’d do better alone.”

What was she supposed to do? She wasn’t used to standing and waiting. She was the one who went out, did the job, risked her skin. She wasn’t supposed to stand and wring her hands while someone else was on the line.

“Would you mind closing those other drapes? Light’s coming in from that side.”

Baffled, she looked back. Cian was sprawled lazily in a chair—and the slant of light coming in the east windows was barely a foot from the tips of his boots.

She imagined most of his kind would have been scampering back in a fast hurry from that spread of light. Not Cian. She doubted they’d get a scamper out of him if they gave him a boot in front of a sunny window.

“Sure.” She moved over, drew them, and plunged the room into gloom. She didn’t bother with a lamp. Just then the dark was a comfort.

“What will they do to him? Don’t lie, don’t soften it. If they have him, what will they do to him?”

You know, Cian thought. You know already. “She’ll have him tortured. For the entertainment value and for the practical purpose of getting information.”

“He won’t tell her—”

“Of course he will.” Impatience whipped into Cian’s voice. It was infuriating that he was attached enough to Larkin to worry about the boy.

“She can do things to a man no human being can withstand—and keep him just this side of alive while she’s at it. He’ll tell her anything. So would you, so would any of us. And does it matter?”

“Maybe not.” She came over, gave in to her weak legs and sat on the table in front of his chair. He was giving her the truth, naked and without sentiment. It was what she needed. “She’ll change him, won’t she? That’s the big coup, siring one of us.”

“That would be two of us.”

“Right. Right.” She dropped her head in her hands because it felt sick. As sick as her gut, as sick as her belly. “Cian. If…we’ll have to…”

“Yes, we will.”

“I don’t think I can stand it. I don’t think I could go on with this. If he’s just dead, I can, because otherwise it would be like we wasted his life. But if she sends him back here changed, and we have to…” She lifted her head now, rubbed her hands over her damp cheeks. “How did you get through it? After King? Glenna told me you and King were tight, and you had to end him. How did you get through it?”

“I got piss-faced for a couple of days.”

“Did it help?”

“Not particularly. I grieved and I drank, then I let the anger in. It’s because of what was done to King, more than any other reason, that I’ll see this through to the end.” He angled his head, studying her. “You’ve fallen for him.”

“What? It’s not—I care about him, of course. All of us. We’re a unit.”

“Humans are so strange, their reactions to what they feel. The expressions of emotions. For you it seems to be embarrassment. Why is that? You’re both young, healthy, and caught in a situation filled with passion and jeopardy. Why shouldn’t you form an attachment?”

“It’s not that simple.”

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