Kitty Saves the World Page 65

Ben saw the sign for the turnoff to the West Thumb basin before I did, so he was already yanking the wheel hard, tires squealing on pavement, before I had a chance to call a warning.

West Thumb was another cluster of geysers like the Norris Basin, but this one butted right up against the shore of the lake. There must have been something about it that made casting the spell easier for Roman. Or it might have offered the easiest access, with paved roads and convenient parking. Nice.

After dark, the lot was empty, and Ben screeched the Jeep to a stop, not bothering with something as prosaic as parking between the painted lines. In a second he was out of the driver’s seat and had the back open, digging through Cormac’s stash of weapons for stakes and spray bottles of holy water. I looked behind us for that black SUV, but didn’t see it. It had followed us all the way down the road, but didn’t come into the parking lot behind us.

“Whatever he’s doing, it’ll be by the shore, I think,” I said.

“Then we’ll follow it until we find him,” he said.

“Thank you,” I said, out of the blue.

“We’re in this together. All the way.” Pure statement of fact. His expression was open and unastonished. Very practical. Ben the lawyer, doing what needed to be done.

We trotted to the boardwalk and dirt paths that led past a collection of hot springs to the shore of the lake. Like at Norris, these springs were quiet; no geysers boiled or sprayed. Our wolves were close, feeding strength to our legs, our long strides. Our senses pushed out, taking in the air, listening for the least little sound, anything that would give a clue as to what might happen next. We were hunting. We were also being hunted. It was a strange feeling. Exhilarating, too. This was for everything. Couldn’t rest, couldn’t slack off, not for a second.

We moved a few paces away from each other, covering more ground, Ben looking right, me looking left, toward the water. No Roman, but no other bad guys, either. I pulled ahead and turned all my attention forward, looking for Roman, determined to find him before it was too late.

The trees gave way to an open plain of chalky white dust and sand, a scoured area where mineral-laden geysers and hot springs had washed over the earth and into the lake. The lake was pewter colored, stretching to a blur of hills on the opposite side. The shore curved and bent in the shape of an inlet. Bits of forest survived, and we continued into the next clump of trees. As far as I could tell, we were still within the range of the marked spot on the map. Still no Roman.

“Anything?” Ben called. We were loping together, the way it should be, me and my mate on the hunt.

It didn’t last.

At first, I thought the wind came off the water. It blasted hard enough to make me stumble, and my reflexes recognized it before I did. A moment later the smell of brimstone came.

“Ben!” I screamed in warning.

He pulled up short and turned on his flashlight. The beam of light blazed around him. She appeared in a whirlwind of choking white dust. The light stopped her briefly, which was good, because she had a spear in hand and had been reared back in the start of an attack. She dropped to both feet—between us, separating us—and took stock.

If Ashtoreth was here, what had happened back at the Norris Basin? Did this mean she had finished there? What had happened to my friends? I almost called out to her, demanding to know what she had done to Cormac and the others.

Instead, Ben yelled at me. “Go! Kitty, go, keep looking!” He had his Glock in hand. I hadn’t even known he’d had it.

“Ben!” I screamed again, because I had to. He didn’t spare me a glance. He couldn’t. All his attention was on the demon and her next attack. He aimed and fired; she stumbled back. But a bullet wouldn’t kill her.

“Run!” he called again. I did, because I had a job to do. My ears closed against the noises of the battle behind me, I kept running up the shore, into the next stand of pines, around the next inlet. Roman had to be here. All of this—it had to be worth it.

Chapter 20

I RAN, LOPING, unthinking, for maybe a quarter of a mile into the next stand of trees, losing sight of the shore and water. I must have been right on the edge of the marked-out region on the map. Pausing, I steadied my breathing and took a breath of air. And smelled vampire, a chill that was more than just the weather, more than the temperature dropping at night.

That wind roared again, then came that stench, and the shout of a warrior about to make a kill. Ashtoreth pounded into the ground in front of me, landing in a three-point crouch before swinging back in a ready stance. It was like she’d leapt from there to here, wasting no time with something so mundane as running.

She was here, and just like before I wondered, did that mean Ben was safe now, or was he gone?

“Did you kill him?” I said, my voice choking. Her wicked smile seemed answer enough.

I didn’t expect an answer, just an attack, but she said, “You’ll never know. You can’t win this, you had to know that from the start.”

“Yeah, that’s why I’m still here I guess.”

I dodged, thinking to avoid her, but she moved to block me. I went sideways—I could get to the water and swim to Roman if I had to. But she was there again. No matter how fast I was, no matter which way I tried to sprint, she barred the way.

I tried to double back, but when I broke from the trees she was there, stabbing downward with her spear, slashing with her sword. Wolfish instincts saved me. I pulled up, spun around, launched in the other direction—fast, supernaturally fast. Just fast enough to get away. Dirt pelted me from where the spear hit the ground, right behind my heel. The wind from the sword’s sweep tickled my neck.

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