Dance of the Gods Page 63

“If they see a man, they’re more likely to attack. A woman, they’re going to want me alive—temporarily. Gives them each a playmate. It’s the most logical way.”

That was the end of her calm and reasonable. “And, here’s what. If your ego has a problem with the fact that if I were out here alone I could still handle two of them, you’ll just have to deal with it.”

“My ego has nothing to do with the matter. It’s just as logical for the three of us to lay back and wait, then move on them as one.”

“No, because if they scent either you or me, we lose the element of surprise. Moira wants them—or at least one of them alive. That’s why we’re out here instead of having a nice glass of wine in front of a roaring fire. If we have to go full scale attack we’ll probably have to kill them both. Surprise gives us a better chance of capture.”

“There are other ways.”

“Probably a dozen of them. But while they may not be back for five hours, they could also be back in five minutes. This will work, Larkin, because it’s simple and it’s basic. Because they wouldn’t expect a woman by herself to be any kind of threat. I want to bag these two as much as you do. Let’s make sure we do.”

Cian slipped back out of the trees. “Have you settled it, then, or will we be debating this much longer?”

“It seems to be settled.” Larkin brushed a hand over Blair’s hair. “I’ve just been wasting my breath.” Then he tipped back her chin. “If you have to speak to them to hold the illusion until we move in, they’ll know you’re not from Geall.”

“Sure you think I can’t manage a bit of an accent.” She slathered on the brogue, and gave him a wide-eyed helpless look. “And give every appearance of being a defenseless female?”

“That’s not altogether bad.” He lowered his lips to hers. “But for myself, I’d never believe the defenseless part of it.”

Chapter 15

A n hour passed, then another. Then a third. There was little for her to do but eat some of the bread and cheese Moira had provided for them, wash it down with the water in her bag.

At least Larkin and Cian had each other for company, while all she had was her own head. She frowned when that thought passed through. She was used to hunting alone, to waiting alone in dark, quiet places.

Strange, it had only taken a matter of weeks for her to break that lifetime habit.

In any case, the waiting was taking longer than she’d hoped, and Blair hadn’t factored in the boredom. It made her think of her first night in Ireland this time around, and the luck—fate—of getting a flat on a dark, lonely road.

There’d been three vampires that time, and the element of surprise had added to her advantage. Mostly, vamps didn’t expect to get clocked with a tire iron, especially by a woman who was a hell of a lot stronger than they’d calculated.

They sure as hell hadn’t expected her to pull out a stake and dust them.

These two—if they ever got back—wouldn’t be expecting it either. Only she had to remember dusting them wasn’t the mission. A tough one to swallow for a bred in the blood demon hunter.

Her father wouldn’t approve of this little adventure, she mused. In his book you ended them, period. Quickly, efficiently. No flourishes, no conversation.

Of course, he’d have done his best to end Cian by now, she decided. Family connection and will of the gods be damned. He would never have worked with Cian or fought beside him, trained with him.

And one of them, possibly both of them, would be dead now.

Maybe that was why she’d been brought here instead of her father. Why she could admit now, as she waited on the rutted forest path, she hadn’t told him about Cian. Not that her father bothered to actually read her e-mails, but still she hadn’t brought up an allegiance to the undead in the ones she’d sent him.

There simply were no allegiances in demon hunting, not to her father’s mind. It was you and the enemy. Black and white, live and die.

Only another reason she’d never earned his approval, she realized. It wasn’t only because she wasn’t his son, but because she’d seen the gray, and had questioned.

Because like Larkin she had felt, more than once, a pity and regret for the things she ended. She knew what her father would say. That an instant of pity or regret could mean an instant of hesitation. And an instant’s hesitation could kill you.

He’d be right, she thought. But not completely, no, not absolutely, as there were shades of gray there, too. She could feel that pity and still do her job. She had.

Wasn’t she standing here now, alive? And she damn well intended to stay alive.

She only wondered, for the first time since Jeremy, if it was possible to have a life along with a heartbeat. She’d stopped letting herself wish or want or ask if she could have someone to love her. Now there was Larkin, and she believed he did. Or close enough to love to care for and want.

In time maybe it could be love. The kind she’d never had before, the kind that crossed all the lines and accepted.

It was brutal, she thought, just brutal that there couldn’t be enough time. There just wasn’t enough of the commodity to span entire worlds.

But when she went back to her own, she would know there was someone who had looked at her, had seen who and what she was, and still had cared.

If she did make it back, if they won this thing and the worlds kept spinning, she would tell him what he’d given her. Tell him that he’d changed something inside her, so much for the better.

But she wouldn’t tell him she loved him. Words like that would only hurt them both. She wouldn’t tell him what she was finally able to admit to herself.

That she would always love him.

She felt the movement rather than saw it, and turned toward it, braced for attack. But it was Cian, the shape and scent of him, off the path and in the shadows.

“Heads up,” he murmured. “Two riders starting into the woods. They’re dragging a body behind them. Alive yet.”

She nodded and thought: Curtain up.

She began to walk the horse slowly, in the direction of the wagon so they’d come up behind her. So it would seem, she thought, that she’d ridden into the woods before her horse had come up lame.

She felt them first, something that was beyond scent. It was more a knowledge, which covered all the senses. But she waited until she heard the hoofbeats.

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