Balthazar Page 40

He needed to go back to the last place he thought Skye had reached safely: her home. From there he could track her. At least the Tierneys’ house wasn’t far from the church. Within minutes he’d run to her door, only to see that he was too late.

The front door had been forced. “Skye!” Balthazar shouted as he ran inside, though he knew she wouldn’t answer. Despite the darkness, he could see the few telltale signs that she had made it home and not left of her own free will. Her backpack was slung on the bench in the front hallway; wet footprints along the carpeted stair showed that at least four vampires had come after her.

He ran up to her bedroom; he knew he wouldn’t find her there, but he couldn’t help himself. In her room was her phone—still blinking to tell her about texts she’d never read—and her coat. Balthazar’s fist closed around the collar of her coat, clutching it close to him as if it could somehow stand in for her.

Where would they have gone? He had to think. There was only the one main highway out of town; ultimately Redgrave and his tribe had to travel that path if they were leaving Darby Glen, and Balthazar felt sure that they were. If he hurried, he might be able to cut them off—but how could he get there in time with his car a torn wreck on the side of the road?

He could saddle up Eb—or ride bareback to save time, if Eb would submit to it—but even the fastest horse in the world couldn’t make that trip with the speed Balthazar needed to save Skye.

Just then he heard a vehicle pulling in to the driveway. Skye’s parents, finally coming home too late? Constantia out for revenge? Balthazar went to the window, preparing to jump to the earth below and circle around, hopefully in time to steal whatever car had just pulled up while the driver was inside the house.

Then he heard the voices from below: “Skye? Are you here?” That was Craig Weathers.

“Hello? We thought we would check on you?” And that was Britnee Fong.

Balthazar weighed the possibilities, made his decision, turned around, and started downstairs, just as the lights came back on.

Craig stood near the door, his hand on the light switch. Britnee was a few steps ahead. Both of them gaped when they saw him descending the stairs.

“Oh, my God?” Britnee said. “I thought Madison was just making stuff up?”

Craig’s face hardened with anger; in one instant, he went from looking like a handsome boy to a formidable man. “What have you done? Where’s Skye?”

Balthazar held up his hands, a gesture that he too late realized might have been more effective if he hadn’t been holding Skye’s abandoned coat. “Skye’s in serious trouble. We have to find her, now, and I need your help.”

“The only trouble she’s in is because of you,” Craig said. “You’re our teacher. You’re not supposed to … mess with any of the students.”

“I’m not a teacher,” Balthazar replied, giving them as much of the truth as he could while sounding credible. “I’ve been pretending to be one, but I’m not. She’s known all along. Skye’s been in danger since before this semester started, and I came to Darby Glen to protect her.”

Both Craig and Britnee stared at him, clearly caught between surprise and disbelief. Britnee finally said, “That is so not where I saw this conversation going?”

Balthazar descended the final few steps so that he and Craig were face-to-face. He said, “Skye’s been kidnapped. If we don’t stop the people who took her before they get out of town, I don’t know if we’re ever going to get her back. I don’t have a vehicle. Are you going to lend me yours or not?”

Britnee raised her hand, as if they were still in history class. “Maybe we should call the police?”

“This isn’t a situation the police can deal with,” Balthazar said. Especially not the handful of rent-a-cops in this small town, he left unspoken.

Craig’s glare only became more intense. “Why should we trust you?” he demanded. “How do we know you didn’t hurt Skye?”

Balthazar’s patience, already frayed, began to break. “Let’s find her and then you can ask her, okay?”

Although he could tell Craig wasn’t convinced, Britnee put one hand on Craig’s arm and said the first sentence Balthazar had ever heard from her that didn’t sound like a question: “I believe him.”

Craig breathed out sharply, then said, “I’m not giving you my car. But I’ll drive you wherever you want to go.”

“That’s a bad idea.” Balthazar didn’t want to drag any more humans than necessary into this.

“No way,” Craig insisted. “If you’re going anywhere in my car, we’re going with you.”

Every second they spent arguing here was a second Skye didn’t have to spare. Balthazar yanked the car keys from Craig’s hand and said, “You’re coming with me, but I’m driving.”

“Watch it!” Craig yelped as Balthazar swerved around another, slower vehicle; they were traveling at nearly a hundred miles per hour despite the high winds and light snow.

“I’ve got this,” Balthazar said. This was definitely not the time to mention that he’d already totaled one car today.

“Can you describe the car the kidnappers are in?” Britnee sat in the backseat. “We could call it in as a possible DUI? So the cops would at least stop them?”

That would’ve been a good idea under different circumstances. “If the police try to pull them over, they won’t be able to help Skye. We’d probably just get the cops killed.”

Craig said, very quietly, “Could that really happen to the police? To Skye?”

What awaited Skye was so much worse that Balthazar couldn’t bring himself to think about it, much less describe it to Craig and Britnee. “This is as dangerous as it could possibly be,” he said. “Which is why, when we find them, I want you both to stay out of it.”

“I could help,” Craig said. Balthazar shook his head once, a swift no.

Britnee said, “I think I would probably be more of a hindrance in this situation?”

“Exactly. Stay in the backseat. That works.”

For a moment, they were all silent; the main noise Balthazar could hear was the roar of the car’s engine. His fear welled up to fill the spaces where their conversation had been. All he knew was his own wild terror that he’d lost Skye.

Don’t be stupid, he told himself. Even if … even if Redgrave has her, even if he’s drunk from her, you know he won’t kill her. You’ll still be able to save Skye. She’s strong. No matter what she’s been through, she’ll fight to stay alive.

The thought failed to reassure him. Every other time Redgrave had tried to take something from him during the past four centuries, Redgrave had succeeded. Anger pent up from those old treacheries, his countless defeats, burned within Balthazar until it pushed the fear out.

Before, Balthazar hadn’t thought beyond retrieving Skye and making sure she remained safe and well. Now he knew he couldn’t rest until Redgrave was finished once and for all.

As they took the next curve, Craig said, “This is around where Skye used to live.” He obviously said it just to fill the silence, but the idea caught fire in Balthazar’s mind. Instantly he knew what Skye would have done.

“Show me where,” Balthazar said, turning in the direction that Craig pointed. Even as he did, he saw the black van, the vampires around it—and Redgrave.

They looked dazed, as though they stood on consecrated ground. No doubt they’d encountered the wraith within Skye’s house … and she wasn’t with them. Maybe she was barricaded inside.

Balthazar stepped hard on the brakes, tires squealing, and shifted Craig’s car into park so fast he could feel the gears grinding. “If I go down, get the hell out of here. If they come after you, go however far you have to go to lose them. Out of town, out of state, whatever you have to do. Got it?” Quickly he popped the trunk.

Craig began, “Wait a second—” But Balthazar was already out of the car, slamming the door.

He went to the trunk of the car even as Redgrave said, “You again?”

Balthazar took out the crowbar he’d found there, marched toward Redgrave, and said, “Me again,” just before swinging the iron rod into Redgrave’s face.

They were all on him within seconds, but none of them was at their full strength, and he’d never been angrier or more vicious. More deadly. Balthazar pounded at their guts, their groins, their heads, swinging so savagely that none of them could even reach him. Nothing held him back now: not worrying about being seen by humans who would misunderstand, not fear of capture, not any sense of sentimentality, nothing. He might even have been able to hurt Charity, if she’d been with them. The monster within him had never been so free. Causing pain had never felt so good.

Redgrave staggered backward, falling to his knees. Through bloodied lips, he spat, “You know—this won’t—stop us. So why—do you bother?”

“It’ll slow you down enough,” Balthazar said, beating back one of the others. “And then I’m going to find out if it’s possible to behead you just by ripping your head off with my bare hands. Never tried that before. But you know what? I bet it works.”

Redgrave leaped up, but he was slower than a human now, and Balthazar threw him back like so many rags. As his sire fell in the snow, a pathetic wreck of his old self, Balthazar heard him say, “You’re killing Skye even now.”

Balthazar hit him again, so hard he heard the collarbone snap. As Redgrave doubled over in pain, Balthazar shouted, “Where is she?”

“She flung herself in the river,” Redgrave panted. “Better to freeze than to bleed, I suppose. Skye’s drowning or freezing to death right now … and you can’t be bothered to save her. This time, we both lose. Skye’s just like Charity—another pretty toy we broke between us.”

Once more, Balthazar smashed his crowbar into Redgrave, this time into the side of his head. His old foe went down, unconscious, and the other vampires weren’t trying to stop him; they were inching back, hoping that Balthazar would forget them.

He almost had. Without Redgrave, they were merely vermin. Let Black Cross handle them when they arrived in town. But it was Redgrave he had to kill, Redgrave he had to punish for everything he’d done—

—but every second he spent here was one he wasn’t using to help Skye.

As long as you wish to be human, you will never be able to defeat me, Redgrave had said. But keeping his soul human—human enough to love Skye and to save her—was more important than anything else. Even killing Redgrave.

Balthazar bolted for the car, leaving Redgrave behind. Craig and Britnee were still there, though both of them stared at him as if he’d grown another head. He slid into the driver’s seat, letting the crowbar fall to the floorboard, as he said, “Tell me the fastest way to get to the other side of this river. When we go over the bridge, you’ll have to hang on to the steering wheel.”

As he put the car in reverse and backed out, burning rubber, Britnee said, very quietly, “Mr. More? What’s going on?”

“We’re getting the hell out of here.” Balthazar put the car in drive as Craig mutely pointed forward. “And we’re going to save Skye.”

His anger had left him. He didn’t even glance backward at Redgrave. All Balthazar could think was, Please let me get there in time.

Chapter Twenty-eight


The visions weren’t merely visions. They weren’t some kind of cosmic punishment inflicted on her; they were signs showing her the path. Every death was a doorway.

“And you can walk through,” Dakota said. He sat next to her in the snow, his forearms resting on his bent knees. She still lay on the riverbank, shaking, but the cold and the pain were very distant. Her body might have been no more than an old nightgown she’d tossed aside.

Source: www_Novel22_Net

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