Kitty Saves the World Page 20

I didn’t have the whole thing memorized like Amelia did, but I’d read Paradise Lost. This sounded like the listing of demons, the followers of Lucifer. As if this could get any more ominous. This still didn’t tell me anything more about her. It didn’t give me anything useful about stopping her. She was little more than a metaphor. I couldn’t do anything about it, I could just handle what was right here in front of me.

I hunted over the ground where Roman and Mercedes had had their confrontation. The place had gone back to desolate and peaceful so quickly, it was hard to imagine that anything had happened here. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find it—but there it was, a dull glint against the pale desert earth. Mercedes’s coin, a bronze circle the size of a nickel, old face and writing barely visible.

“Does someone have a hammer we can use on this thing?”

Cormac did, in the back of his Jeep. As we had with all the other coins of Dux Bellorum we’d found, we put it against the concrete and smashed the hell out of it, until the face and writing were mangled smears of bronze, negating its connection to Roman.

“Okay, now we go to the doctor,” I said, pulling Tina toward the car.

So, we hadn’t stopped Roman, but we’d all gotten out alive. For now, I counted this one a victory.

*   *   *

WE RECONVENED at a local urgent care. After some discussion, Tina and Hardin went in by themselves, because Hardin thought the whole troop of us would have looked suspicious, and two people could keep their stories straight better than five of us. Especially if one of them was a cop. Not that “tripped and fell” was that hard of a story to keep straight. That was what they were going to say, not “smacked by a demon in the middle of a vampire war.” Damn, this needed to be a movie. No one would believe it.

While we waited for them, the three of us claimed a booth at a Denny’s down the road. The coffee was terrible and delicious at the same time. I had finally stopped shaking from spent adrenaline.

“Well?” I said finally.

“Could have gone worse,” was Cormac’s curt assessment.

I snorted. Technically, he was right—we could all be dead.

Cormac added, “My second shot would have got him if that other vampire hadn’t shown up.”

I let loose. “And what was that all about? What the hell was going on there?” Whatever it was, we didn’t have a clue, and wasn’t that always the case. This was just such a dramatic revelation of it.

“Dissention in the ranks,” Ben said. “We ought to be happy. Maybe the Long Game isn’t as far along as we thought.”

Cormac said, “In case you didn’t notice, if this was a sign of dissention, Roman pretty much quashed it. Him and that demon.”

What all this suggested to me: not only was the Long Game far along, Roman was getting ready for the home stretch, weeding out his own ranks. Our attempt at an end run had failed. And if Roman really was focused on stopping his opposition—

“We have to get back home,” I said. “Right now.”

Chapter 7

FIRST THING, I called Shaun, and got sent straight to voice mail.

“Shaun, call me, it’s important.” I sent a couple of texts for good measure. I called New Moon next, even though it was after closing and no one would be there. I left the same message.

Ben and Cormac had ordered a plate of bacon, but I wasn’t hungry. I nibbled on the same piece because it was something to do.

“He’s probably gone to bed,” Ben reassured me. “Turned off his phone for the night.”

“He doesn’t usually turn off his phone.”

“I’m sure he’s okay,” he said.

“We really need to get going,” I insisted. Cormac didn’t say anything.

Ben stopped me from calling Cheryl. She was probably fine, he kept saying, and wouldn’t appreciate being woken up at this hour.

However, it was a perfect time to call the vampires.

Angelo wasn’t answering his phone, either. Trouble was, I didn’t know if that meant something was wrong, or if he was just ignoring me. Surely as tense as things had gotten, he wouldn’t just ignore me.

Hardin called—Tina was patched up. We drove over to meet them in the parking lot of the urgent care. Tina looked awful, a bandage over her face, a splint on her nose, arm in a sling. She moved slowly.

“Are you okay?” I asked. Why did we only ever ask that question when things were clearly not okay? A bit wobbly, she leaned on the trunk of the sedan.

“Oh yeah, few weeks it’ll all heal. I got some of the good drugs.” She tried a weak, sleepy smile. Her voice was muffled, nasal, from the bandages. And the drugs, probably.

Hardin announced the litany: “Five stitches on the forehead, cracked nose, dislocated shoulder, and a couple of cracked ribs. No concussion, thank goodness. I keep telling her the appropriate response to questions is, ‘You should see the other guy.’”

And this was why we shouldn’t have dragged a normal, nonsupernaturally strong, untrained person into this. “I’m really sorry. I never should have asked you to come—”

“I offered,” Tina said. “I had a choice. It could have happened to any of us. Kitty, it’s okay. Don’t apologize.”

I’d keep apologizing forever and it wouldn’t be enough.

“We’re heading back to Denver,” I said. “Right now. I’m worried Roman’s going to take the fight back home.”

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