Dance of the Gods Page 79

“Now don’t worry a bit, Breda.” Larkin gave her full-power charm. “I’ll be staying as low to the ground as I’m able. We’ll have you and your family at the inn quick as a wink, and send off for help for your man here. I’ll see that someone comes and fixes your wagon in the morning, and delivers it straight to you. Can’t ask better than that.”

“No, my lord, no. You’re so kind.” Still she stood, all but wringing her hands. “I’ve heard, of course, of your gift. All of Geall knows of it, but to see…And the idea of riding a dragon—”

“Won’t your daughter have stories to tell? Come now, your husband needs help.”

“Aye. Well, of course, of course.”

He changed before she could balk, and left it to Blair to deal with the rest. She helped the injured man up, taking his weight as Larkin bellied to the ground. Using rope from the wagon, she tied him on.

“I’m grateful to you,” he said to Blair. “I don’t know how we’d have managed.”

“If you’re anything like your brother, you’d have figured something. He’s a good man. You get on behind him,” Blair instructed his wife. “Keep the kids between you. I’m going to tie you on his back. You’ll be secure, I promise you.”

“I like his wings.” The girl clambered on before her mother could make a peep. “They shine.”

When it was done, Larkin picked up the pack of possessions in his jeweled legs. Then turned his head to give Blair a nuzzle on the arm.

And he was rising up. Blair heard the little girl shouting with absolute delight as they skimmed down the road and away.

“Know just how you feel,” Blair said with a laugh. With the map in hand, she crossed the road and started across the first field.

It felt good to walk, and to have a little alone time. Not that she wasn’t nuts about the guy, Blair thought as she brushed her finger over the flower in her buttonhole. But she was so used to being on her own. This whole business had all but eliminated her solo time.

Since it started, she’d been part of a team—a circle, she corrected. People she respected and believed in, no question, but people who needed to be consulted.

All in all, she was better at teamwork than she’d imagined she would be. Maybe, she decided, it was all a matter of who was making up the team.

And somehow, through that team, she’d ended up being half of a couple. She hadn’t believed that was in the cards for her, not again. Certainly not with a man who knew everything there was to know about her, and not only got it, but valued it.

She already knew it was going to rip her to pieces when they went their separate ways. No choice there that she could see, so there wasn’t much point in brooding about it, less point in wasting the time they had feeling sorry for herself.

In any case, they both had to live first before they could be miserable and alone.

It was better, all around better, to enjoy, and to cherish the time they had. When that time was done she could look back at it and know she’d loved, and had been loved.

She glanced up at the sky, wondering how the farmer and his family were faring with their first—and if she was any judge of the mother of the brood, their last—dragon flight.

Larkin would take care of them. It was one of the things he was good at. Taking care. When you added the fairy-tale-prince looks, the kick-ass attitude in battle, that quick grin and the excellent stamina in bed, he was just about perfect.

She checked her map again, hopped over a low stone fence to the next field.

Beyond it were a few trees, and the most direct route from the coast to the valley.

They’d move through here, Blair thought, two, maybe three hours before they reached the stream with the blessed water. And at night, go quickly through this open area toward the shelter of woods another few miles inland.

This route was logical, and it was efficient. Add in the scatter of farms, cottages sprinkled through, there was the possibility of fresh food.

Oh yeah, Blair mused, this is the way she’ll come. Has to. In stages, maybe, leaving some at the caves, at various safe points along the way. For hunting, for ambushes, quick raids.

“It’s what I’d do,” Blair murmured, and with a last check of the map, headed southeast into a small, thin grove of trees.

She saw it almost immediately, and her first thought was some kid or passer-by had stumbled over the trap. And into it.

Her heart bounced straight into her throat. She sprinted toward the wide hole, terrified she’d see bodies impaled on the wooded spikes below.

What she saw was a scatter of weapons, and one very dead horse.

“Moved up the schedule,” she said softly, and despite the sunlight, reached behind her to draw her sword.

Moved things up, Blair decided, when the reports came in that they’d gone to the Dance with supplies and weapons. And vanished.

She’d have known where they’d vanished, Blair thought. So Lilith’s army was already in Geall, already on the march. And had already passed this point. The trap had worked. From the weapon count, it looked to have taken out at least a dozen—and the very unlucky horse.

She crouched down, wishing she had some of the rope she’d used earlier. They needed to retrieve those weapons—waste not, want not—and get that poor horse out of there.

She was puzzling over how she and Larkin might do that when she realized the light had changed. Looking up, she saw the sky overhead was black with clouds.

As twilight fell in a fingersnap, she got to her feet. “Oh shit.”

She backed up, backed away from the hole, and thought it wasn’t just a dozen vamps who’d walked into a trap. She’d just walked into one herself.

And they came up, out of the ground.

Chapter 19

S he took two out fast, an instinctive and wide sweep of her sword, before they were fully disinterred. But there were alarms shrilling in the back of her mind that said she was in big, bad trouble.

Eight, she counted, after the two she’d dusted. They had her surrounded, cutting off any chance of retreat. And she’d walked right into it, all but whistling a tune. If she managed to live—and the odds were against it—she’d curse herself for it later. Right now since flight wasn’t an option, fight was all that was left.

The one thing she had, Blair reminded herself, was a lot of fight in her. She pulled her stake, blocked the first blade with her sword even as she pumped out a back kick. She spun, swinging out with the sword, scoring flesh, buying time. Spotting an opening, she rammed the stake.

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