Then, his beautiful smile drops, and dozens of sharp pointed teeth lower from his gums. He’s moving straight toward me. “Eli! Goddamn it!” I try to run, but I can’t even lift my foot. I think to grab my silver blade, but my hands won’t budge, either.
A figure flies past me and slams into the alternative Eli. Both hit the wall, and when one rises, he flies toward me so fast, I don’t have time to blink. It’s Noah. I know his scent. He grabs me and rushes me out of the chamber. Through darkened passageways we race, my feet barely touching the stone flooring. Finally, we stumble into another chamber. I drop to my knees immediately. That humming sound. It’s so potent in my ears, it’s making me sick.
“What happened?” Jake is there, asking. The ringing in my ears is so loud, I can barely hear Noah’s words as he explains. “Riley?” Jake is shaking me, then helping me up. I cup my hands over my ears. The pain is searing into my brain.
“What is wrong with you, girl?” Jake yells at me.
“Got it,” I hear Ginger’s voice in a distant chamber. “I think I found it.”
Noah, standing right next to me, grabs my hand holding the flashlight and points it at his face. “Are you okay?”
The ringing is overwhelming. I take off running. Blindly. I don’t even know where I’m heading. Just . . . away from that sound. I think I’m moving toward the exit of the catacombs, but even as I hear Noah’s swears softening behind me, I duck into another chamber. The ringing isn’t quite as loud now. I must be near the street side. I see a door. I move toward it.
Riley, wait. Don’t go.
I stop in my tracks and tune in my hearing. Only that dripping water sound. The other WUP members in another chamber. The wind, squeaking in through some miniscule cracks, and it’s almost a whine or a moan. Not a voice.
This way. Please.
My body turns toward the voice, and I arc my light across the room. Empty.
I shine my light left, and it falls on a small passageway. Something is drawing me that way. More than the voice. A familiar sensation comes over me, and the first thing that pops into my head is Eli.
Hurrying now, I squeeze into the passage, and it empties into a long threadlike hallway of stone. I move as quickly as possible, my flashlight providing only a small patch of light to keep me from stepping into holes or tripping over loose stones. Far ahead, a light flickers.
You’re almost here. Hurry.
Eli. All I can think of is Eli. It might be him. How, I don’t know, but it might. I have to find him.
I step into the chamber with the flickering light, and all at once it extinguishes. A force—not a hand, but a force—knocks the flashlight from me. It clamors to the stone floor and goes out, leaving me in total darkness.
All at once the sensation of being crowded envelopes me. Warmth. Sensual arousal penetrates my rock-hard senses, and I feel weak. It’s like a drug, and my body involuntarily moves toward it.
“I’ve not been able to think of anything else, save you,” a seductively raspy voice says. “I had to see you again.”
I blink in the darkness. “I can’t see you now. Who are you? And what . . . are you doing to me?”
“I’m not who you think I am,” he answers. His voice is oddly ancient, with a medieval accent, sort of like Darius’s. Yet different. “I have no intentions of harming you, Riley.” He gives a low, soft laugh. “Trust me. That’s anything but my intention.”
“I didn’t ask if you were going to harm me,” I say, forcing my eyes to remain open, even in the pitch-darkness. “Who the hell are you?” I’m not physically restrained. Yet . . . I can’t seem to move. Except closer to him.
“That doesn’t matter right now. I just . . . had to see you,” his words brush my jaw, my throat, and it’s intoxicating. I can’t help it. I lean into it. Into him. “I will watch over you,” he whispers, his lips grazing mine. “I vow, nothing will happen to you.”
An arc of light sweeps the cold, dank room, and immediately my body is released from the shackles even I can’t detect. I shake my head a few times, just long enough for Noah to reach me. I look at him, and his face is angry.
“What the hell are you doing?” he says, and looks me over. “Where did you go?”
“Well, apparently I went here,” I answer. “I thought I heard something.”
“So your best course of action is to find that something instead of alerting the rest of us?” he answers. “Come on. Let’s go.”
Meet me, Riley. Beneath lights, so I am no longer a shadow to you. In three days, at the Marimae House, in New Town. Seven p.m. Dress formal. I’ll find you. And come alone. I don’t wish to share you with another soul. . . .
Quietly, I push the seductive voice out of my head and follow a fuming Noah, who has confiscated someone’s flashlight out of the chambers. That humming, ringing in my ears is strengthening again, and its pain rips into the side of my head. I almost drop to my knees. I stumble along, following Noah. We wind through the passageways of the catacombs until we meet up with Jake and the others. Ginger is pointing her light toward him. In his hand, Jake holds a small, old-as-dirt-looking cross. Part of it is broken off. He looks up at me. “Let’s get out of here.”
That’s when I notice the shadows.
All at once, medieval shit hits the fan.
“You’ll not take that anywhere, I fear,” a voice says from the darkness. It’s a voice I don’t recognize; poignant, refined, and sophisticated. He almost sounds apologetic.
“I fucking damn well will take it,” Jake says, not quite so refined. Even in the darkness, I can hear the tone and pitch of his voice change. He’s morphed. Ready for a fight.
Someone, I think Ginger, arcs her beam in the direction of the voice.
What the light illuminates is somewhat shocking. Even if for a second.
A woman. Midthirties, maybe, with an abundance of blond hair. Suddenly I recognize her. She’s the tour group leader in the long cloak. I’d also seen her outside of Bene’s. She’s wearing head-to-toe black—I can’t make out exactly what, other than the color. She looks dead ahead at Jake and pulls a knife. Silver. Sharp.
Hey, Blondie. Ease on out of the chamber. Now. I say to the stranger, in my mind.
She stands there, still smiling, but slowly starts to back out. She doesn’t see me, though, and that’s a good thing. That’s right. Keep going. When you’re on the street, head to the castle. Don’t stop until you reach the front gates, and then shout to be let inside.
The woman says nothing as she continues to back out of the chamber and into the close. She’s almost ready to turn when behind her emerge four more figures from the close. They’re big. And I’d smelled them before I’d seen them.
Jodís. And the one in front grabs the woman and in one movement rips her heart from her chest. The ringing in my ears now is deafening. I can’t hear anything else. The woman’s scream dies on the misty night even before her body hits the stone, jerking and kicking. It sort of shocks me. I’m not ready for it, and it’s shaken me up a bit.
Pull it together, Riley, Jake says in my head. After a deep breath, I do.
Only a small stream of light from the lamp on the close shines through, just enough illumination to see the Jodís lunge toward us. I hear Noah curse. Lucian says something. I don’t know what it is. Gaelic, maybe.
“Riley,” Ginger calls, inching closer.
“Right here,” I answer her, and we’re back to back now. Lucian wants her as far away from him right now as possible. I hear her heart racing. “Stay with me,” I say, and I reach for my sword. God almighty, I hope I lop off the right head. Ginger has reached for her sword, too.
Then it begins.
One Jodís lunges toward us, and I use the point of my sword as a brace, rear back, and kick both feet into its chest. Hard. It falls back but bounces right up and lunges again. Another lunges at the same time, and I hear Ginger’s sword make contact. Then we’re separated.
I’m fighting one alone now, and from the sounds going on around me, everyone has their own Jodís to fight. I concentrate on mine alone, and the ringing in my ears is getting harder to ignore. It’s confusing me, and my balance if thrown off. Still, I fight. I wait, weigh, calculate; then it charges me, arm reaching out to grab my throat. With an uppercut, I swing.
One Jodís head rolls across the stone.
The aftermath of a dying Jodís is just too nasty to stand by and watch. I’ve seen it once before, when Sydney touched me. They melt into this screaming, gross puddle of white pus. The screaming has already begun. I seek out the others.
Another head hits the floor, and from Noah’s curse, he did it. Two more soon follow, and the squirming piles of Jodís are just too much to take. I literally fall out of the catacomb entrance and onto the close. Only then do I notice something.
The woman’s body has disappeared.
“Where’d she go?” I ask, looking around. I shove my sword back into its sheath.
Jake’s face has not returned to its human form. His eerie eyes, now white with a pinpoint dot of red, scan the close.
“They weren’t here for us,” Gabriel says. “They came for her,” he says, referring to the woman. “I know who she is. I’ve encountered her before. She’s one of the Gemini.” His gaze finds mine. “A small sect of modern-day monster hunters determined to take back the city of Edinburgh. Just like that group of humans from before. They know of us. They know of the Jodís. And they probably know of the Fallen.” He searches the area once more, then inclines his head. “Let’s go.”
Thank God, because that freaking hum in my ears is so loud now, I think I’m going to pass out. We all separate and head back to the Crescent. The humming is weak now. I can still hear it, but it’s tolerable. Maybe I’ve got an ear infection or something . . . human like that? Who knows? The activity on the streets has slowed to a drag, only a truck or two still out along with the cabs. People still mill about, locals leaving pubs and heading home. We’re almost to Old Tolbooth Wynd when a woman’s scream breaks through the misty night. My ears pick up a muffled whimpering. It’s one lane over from Old Tolbooth. And the stench is unmistakable.