No way in freaking Hell is another Jodís going to kill an innocent with me this close by. I hurry behind her, my eyes darting in the dark. No Jodís yet. Hopefully, we’re here in time. I ease back into the shadows as I follow her. I don’t want to scare her and I don’t want the Jodís to see me. Not yet anyway.
Then I see them. Rather, their shadows. Shit, and no sign of Vic and Jake. Where the hell are you guys?
So I handle things alone. My way.
I look at the woman’s retreating back. Turn back around and run. Back to the front gates and into the first open establishment you see. Or rejoin your tour group. Do it now.
The woman turns right around and starts hauling ass up the paved walkway.
That immediately draws the Jodís out.
As soon as the human runs past me, I draw my blade and step out into the path. It’s dark as shit in this place, and only a faraway glow from a nearby yard lamp shines in my direction. I’m just outside the arc of light. I turn to the Jodís and watch four of them emerge from the shadows.
You in the front. Drop to the ground.
Nothing. Nothing at all happens. Except they all begin to hiss like fucking Sleestaks from Land of the Lost and edge closer. Three begin to circle around me. Guess they’re creations of magic, and my quadruple-vampiric mind wizardry just doesn’t work on them.
That means I’ll just have to hack off their ugly heads.
Quickly, I shrug out of this suffocating long cloak and kick it out of the way. Not so restricted, I can move better now, and I face the first Jodís advancing on me. They’re tall, gray, and leathery, with exaggerated mouths that don’t close all the way. And they stink like a rotting hog carcass. Yes, unfortunately I know what that smells like. You’d think a creature of magic could possibly be more . . . becoming. Not the Jodís.
The one in front of me lunges, and I crouch, roll, and jump up behind him, my sword raised. With a heavy swing, I take his head. Off. It rolls on the paved walkway and into the grass, where it turns into white mush. The screaming starts, the white gross liquid stuff the Jodís turns into begins, and I’m facing the next one. Where the Hell did Vic and Jake go?
Scratch that. Two more facing me, one circling behind me. Hissing. Their mouths open and hissing. Long, spindly fingers with ragged claws reach for me, and the only thing I can think to do is knock one down and hack at the other one. I do just that. With one leap I bound off the chest of the one facing me, swing midair at the other’s head and connect. The head rolls, and I land in a crouch. The one I knocked down is already up again, advancing.
I’m grabbed from behind. A cold, leathery grasp around my throat. It literally lifts me off the ground. The other two are advancing still, and I slam the tip of my sword down and into the top of the foot of the one holding me. It screams but doesn’t let go.
Then a crack of glass, the lamplight extinguishes, and darkness falls upon the whole cemetery. I see nothing. The grip tightens around my throat and I choke, and with my elbow I slam into the ribs of the Jodís. Lightning fast, over and over, I hit it, but still it holds me.
Then wings. Dozens of beating wings. I can’t see them, only hear them, and they’re overhead and furious. So close now I can feel the air stirring against my skin. A shrieking noise, more wings, and a turbulent wind picks up. I’m dropped. Rolling, I find my footing and spring up, stay low, and peer into the darkness. It looks as though a cloud of shadow swirls through the cemetery, and the cries of the Jodís fill the night air. Then, just as swiftly as they arrived, they cease. Silence fills Greyfriars. The Jodís are no more.
Question is, Who killed them?
I told you I would watch after you, Riley. No matter that you were left to defend yourself alone. I might not be physically there to help you, but I’m always here. I look forward to tomorrow evening. Until . . .
“What happened?” Jake says suddenly, running up the paved walkway. Victorian is just behind him. Both look as bewildered as I feel. “Where’d you go?”
Confusion webs my brain and I give Jake a puzzled look. “Where’d I go? Where did you two go? I called you both and neither answered.”
“Yes, I did,” they both answered at once.
“You said you had followed some human out of Greyfriars gates and onto Niddry Street, into a club,” Jake says.
“When we couldn’t find you inside, Noah and the lupines went to fight a few Jodís just up the block. We went there to help, thinking you were there, too.”
I am completely perplexed. “That’s not what I said,” I tell them. “I said to come here.”
Both shook their head. I nod. “Well, then, the Fallen have one up on us.” I look at Jake. “They’ve figured out how to manipulate us without even being physically here. They told you to go to a different location.”
“What happened?” Jake asks, looking around me at the bubbling piles of Jodís goo.
“I sent the human out,” I say, and that sounds funny to my ears, as if I’m not still human. “And I stayed behind to fight off the Jodís. I got two out of four.”
Jake looks around. “Where’d the other ones go?”
I shake my head. “I heard the wings overhead again, and the light went out.” I point to the yard light in the corner that is still extinguished. “And next thing I know, the one holding my throat lets me go, and . . . something kills them all.”
“Shit,” Jake says. “Why would any of the Fallen send aid to you?” He shakes his head. “Doesn’t make sense.”
“My thoughts exactly,” I answer. “It was that voice, though. The one who gave me the invite. I recognize it.” I look at Jake. “He says he won’t let anything happen to me.”
“Well,” Victorian says, staring me down. It’s dark, but I can vaguely see his silhouette. I know those liquid brown eyes are shooting daggers at me for being careless. “There won’t be any more splitting up. From now on, I don’t budge from your side.”
Just then, a church bell tolls eleven.
“Let’s hit the other side of Old Town,” Jake says. “We’ll hunt until dawn.”
And we do.
We slip through every nook and cranny of Old Edinburgh, through the closes and wynds, in between ancient establishments and even inside a few. There’s a small slice of time when the city is still; no black cabs, no trucks, no merchants, and no tourists. That time is now, and it’s about an hour before the day breaks. Out in the Firth, seals bark, and the breaking of surf against rock invades my senses. A mist rolls in, sweeping through the aged stone and embracing the spires and architecture that make up Old Town Edinburgh. That white vapor slips through and wraps its long, spindly fingers around every surface, every rock, stone, mailbox, and parked car. It even weaves around my ankles.
We’re all in Niddry’s Pub, not on Niddry Street but a pub just the same, and the owner knows Gabriel and Sydney well enough to give them a key. We’re at a large table in the corner, lights turned low, and I’m sipping a dark lager.
“A total of seven Jodís were killed tonight,” Jake says. “I don’t think one innocent soul was lost this eve.”
“Two of those were killed, courtesy of the Fallen,” Darius says. “I dunno about you, but I think Riley has an admirer,” he says, and looks at me. “One of the Fallen.”
“Same one who gave her the invite to tonight’s charity,” Noah says. “I’d bet a bag of fresh blood on it.”
“We’ll see tonight,” Jake says. He looks at me. “And if you think for a second you girls will be there alone . . .” He gives me a slow grin. “Then you just don’t know us very well.”
I pull long on my lager, looking at Jake over the bottle bottom. I finish and grin back. “Yeah, I know that. Kinda used to it by now.”
“You should be,” Noah says beside me. His stare is a little more profound than usual. “And don’t think to get un-used to it.”
“Any of you,” Lucian says, pointedly to his mate, Ginger.
My gaze immediately goes to Gabriel.
His immediately goes to Sydney.
But he says nothing.
I’ve got half a mind to use my control and force him to tell her how he really feels.
Gabriel’s gaze turns directly to me. And stays. For several seconds.
Just as darkness wanes, and the light takes over, we file out of Niddry’s and head to the Crescent. In a mansion full of vampires, werewolves, and immortal druids, I’m the only one who has to have real sleep.
There’s still a lot of work left to be done. Darius, Gabriel, and Sydney scour the history books, old tomes passed on from one clan of people to the next, in search of battles fought according to the inscription of the first relic. While they do that, I crash.
Hopefully not for twenty-four hours.
“Oh, I’m ever so glad to see you all safe and sound,” Peter says, greeting us at the gates. It’s early morning, mist is sweeping our ankles, and old Peter is wearing his tweed cap, dungarees, and a woolen coat. His nose is bright red, and his eyes twinkle with genuine happiness. What a cute old guy.
“Yeah, we’re pretty happy about it, too,” I say, and smile at him.
“Do you care for a full Scottish breakfast, lass?” he asks me, then looks over the other members. “Anyone?”
“Ooh, I’m for it,” Ginger says.
“Aye,” Lucian, Gabriel, and Sydney all chime in.
“Excellent! It shall be ready posthaste!” he says, then bustles off to the main entrance.
“Walk with me while I have a V8?” Noah asks, knocking me in the shoulder.
“Riley, a word before you go to sleep?” Victorian interrupts.
I smile. “Sure. I’ll call ya.”
He nods and heads inside.