“You like being underground.” Khait glared at Lykos.
“When there is exit.” Lykos glared back. “Took three years dig way out.”
“Frankly, you’re lucky I stuck you under a rock on this planet.” Khait rolled his eyes.
Bridget sighed, then glanced at Christophe and muttered, “I’m starting to suspect they actually are an old married couple.” When he tilted his head, she winced a little. “No offense.”
“Sorry, I was just enjoying the mental image.” He shrugged and grinned. Khait was a very attractive man, though Lykos had actually snarled at the demon when Khait had attempted to shake Christophe’s hand.
“…got me burned at the stake.”
“Fire not hurt you.”
“The trial lasted for six days. Six days of having my hands tied behind my back while my nose itched because I was actually being good and trying not to start another Inquisition.”
“Day seven you made church explode. Good stonework, art, broken.” Lykos shook his head. “Shameful.” He wrinkled his nose at the ingot, then sniffed it before actually biting a small bit off the corner and chewing it a moment. He spit the silver into the bucket he was carrying. “Good. Take these ones.”
“How many?” Khait raised an eyebrow.
“We are going to be paying for this, right?” Bridget’s eyes widened.
“Jormun gave me a credit card.” Christophe shrugged.
“Plastic gold, numbers in magnets.” Lykos grunted before picking up some other bit of metal and chewing on a corner. “Abstract wealth. Points on screen. Shameful.”
“Bridget won’t let me have credit cards anymore.” Khait sighed wistfully. “She says I’m irresponsible.”
“Smart girl.” Lykos spit the metal out, then put the ingot back. “Mining with acid. Shameful.”
“Is there anything in the modern world he does approve of?” Bridget raised an eyebrow at Christophe.
“The printing press.” Christophe nodded.
“Pinnacle of human evolution.” Lykos chose a different ingot and added it to the bucket. “Then came internet, evolution start going wrong way. Shameful.”
“Are you kidding?” Khait stared at him in disbelief. “Have you seen the sheer breadth of porn available on the web?”
“Please don’t go there.” Christophe started shaking his head.
“I’m siding with him.” Bridget jumped a little when her phone buzzed, then took it out of her pocket. “I’m going to step out where there is signal.” She headed for the exit of the warehouse.
“Pictures waste of effort. Nothing primal in eyes.” Lykos made an annoyed sound before examining another metal. He was extraordinarily picky about the metal, though Christophe still wasn’t sure what his criteria actually was. It didn’t seem to be the purity or karat.
“How much do you —” He straightened, then blinked when Bridget slammed the door open and came back toward them at a dead run.
He wasn’t sure if his vision was blurring because of tears, or because he was about to pass out. Stephan panted. “Get the gun, Stephan.” Matthias’s voice was calm. “Please.”
“Is Michaels dead?” He couldn’t quite raise his head to look up at Matthias.
“He wasn’t when she took him.” Matthias touched his head. “Stephan.”
“Erilon’s here.” Stephan hear her, though her voice was faint. “Little longer.”
“You need to make the shot count, Stephan. You probably won’t get a second one, so aim…”
“Not gonna shoot you.” Stephan heard the words slurring. He could feel his grip starting to slip and tightened it. “Can’t do that to Mags.”
“I’ll kill you, Stephan.” Matthias’s voice took on a pleading note.
“I’ll take that chance…” He felt dizzy. Dimly, he heard Matthias call his name as his hand slipped off the man’s arm. He heard a beat of wings, and then everything went dark.
Bridget jerked back, staring in horror as Matthias’s body started to shift. His eyes were gold when he snarled at her, and there was nothing human left in his features. She screamed as he lunged.
Khait caught him and went straight up, black wings tearing through the top of the tent. She saw Matthias twist to claw at him, and Khait dropped him. The werewolf landed on his feet as though he hadn’t just fallen sixty feet and howled before heading their way. Lykos stepped into his path. The massive beast swung dagger like claws at Lykos’s face. The dwarf ducked, then drove his shoulder into Matthias’s stomach, pushing him back several feet. “Get witch clear.”
“Right.” Christophe immediately bent to tend to Stephan.
She moved to the man’s other side. “Is he dead?”
“I’ve got a pulse.” Christophe grabbed Stephan’s arm. “Help me get him up.”
Stephan was as limp as a rag doll as she helped Christophe get him onto his shoulder. Christophe grunted as he stood. “The vans aren’t here.” Bridget looked over her shoulder to see Matthias throw Khait halfway across the ruins. Lykos struck a blow at the beast’s leg, making Matthias stagger, then dodged two claw swipes before Khait came rocketing back, slamming into Matthias from behind and sending the big man sprawling.
“Just need to get out of sight.” Christophe nodded. “Keep him from coming after us cause…” He started moving. “I don’t know about you, but I can’t tank an avalanche.”
“Tank a…” She saw Matthias hit Lykos with a backhanded blow that threw the dwarf not into, but through a stone wall. Lykos rolled back to his feet and came back just as Matthias caught hold of Khait, forcing Matthias to drop the incubus. The two began moving almost in unison, flanking the werewolf. To attack one, Matthias had to turn his back on the other. “Think they can wear him down?”
Christophe gave her a reassuring smile, but considering his next words were, “Let’s keep moving”, she failed to be comforted.
It took a few moments to get back in rhythm, then it was almost like old times. Except the monster they were fighting was theoretically a friend. He felt Lykos start to summon power. “Lykos, it’s Matthias.”
Lykos made a frustrated sound but adjusted his attack. “Get the bucket.”
“Now.” Lykos leaped, forcing Matthias to chase him to close the distance.
Khait grabbed the bucket of ingots Lykos had been holding when they’d teleported and brought it back over. After teleporting four of them halfway across the world, he didn’t quite have enough strength to move the werewolf enough distance to matter. “Got it.”
“Right. Get splatted.” Khait dodged, but even enraged, the werewolf wasn’t stupid. Matthias didn’t close with him but turned back to Lykos. “He knows you are up to something.”
“You are incubus!” Lykos gave him a frustrated look before blocking Matthias’s blow and then rolling clear. “Need time.”
“Need…” He landed, then exhaled, focusing his power. “Matthias.” The werewolf started shaking his head. “Matthias…” He called the man’s name again, drawing it out as though tasting the syllables. Matthias’s steps toward Lykos slowed. “Matthias…” He altered his voice, focusing on the image of Daniel as he reached out to the werewolf’s mind. “Matthias…” He smiled as Matthias turned toward him.
The werewolf was moving toward Khait now, but slower. He was still going to rip Khait to pieces if he got a good hold on him, but it would be with somewhat different intent. Lykos smoothed the silver between his fingers, working as fast as he could. The demon extended a hand, touching Matthias’s head even as Khait began slowly backing away. Matthias made a snarling sound as he reached for the demon.
Khait howled in pain as Matthias grabbed hold of him, claws raking across his chest as the werewolf sank teeth into his shoulder. Lykos lunged, yanking Matthias off him. The werewolf’s claws caught his leg, but he managed to hang on, bringing the silver into contact with the wolf’s flesh. It smoked, and Matthias let out a blood curdling howl of agony. “Hold him.”
Despite his own injuries, Khait caught Matthias’s wrist before he could claw Lykos away. Lykos felt the massive wolf thrash as he put the silver to the beast’s throat. The wolf tried to bite him, but to his surprise Khait used his own arm to block the fangs from landing. The demon screamed in pain as the wolf’s jaws snapped his arm.
The metal grew hot in his hands as he sealed it closed around the wolf’s neck.
Lidia pulled the van over as she saw the figures coming toward them. Laura yanked the door open. “Get in.” Abigail moved to Laura’s other side to help Christophe and Bridget get the unconscious man into the vehicle.
“Where is Michaels?” Laura looked past them.
“Michaels?” Christophe blinked up at her.
“Professor Kravitz said he was with Stephan and…” Laura glanced at Stephan, then her eyes went wide and horrified. “Where’s my dad?”
“Matthias was just turning as we got there.” Bridget shook her head. “I didn’t see Michaels anywhere.”
“My dad wouldn’t have left them there.” Laura shook her head. She started to get out of the van, and Christophe pushed her back in. “My dad is out there.”
“So are Lykos and Khait.” Christophe shook his head. “None of those three need to be distracted right now, Laura.”
“And your dad would shoot us if we let you go rushing in there.” Bridget patted her arm. “And you know he would.”
“We…” Christophe blinked, then pulled his buzzing phone out of his pocket. His eyes went a little wide, then he answered it. “Lykos?” His head came up. “I’ve got civilians.”
“Civilians?” Laura gave him a disbelieving look.
Christophe rolled his eyes. “Are you sure?” He frowned. “Yeah, that’s sounds bad. We are on our way.”
Abigail kept an arm around Khait. Seeing a bone sticking out of his arm would have been the most disturbing thing she’d seen recently, if it hadn’t been for the man lying on the floor of the van. Matthias was snarling and shaking, despite looking human. Silver bands were wrapped around his neck, arms, and legs, keeping him from being able to move. That hadn’t stopped him from trying to bite Christophe when the man had tried examining Matthias’s wounds.
Lykos had punched Matthias in the face for that, which had dazed him for long enough that Christophe was able to pronounce the wounds superficial. The marks on Khait, however… “Are you actually superglueing my boyfriend back together?” She stared at Christophe.
“It’s not actually superglue, but uh…” Christophe nodded. “Yep. He’ll heal fast enough that stitches are counterproductive. Jormun said Daniel’s a healer, so all I’m worried about right now is minimizing what he has to do.”
“You didn’t see him?” Laura stared at Lykos.
“Possible went for other help? Will call?”
“Erilon’s too tired to…” Laura exhaled. “She and Stephan both.”
The van pulled up to the house, and Daniel was opening the door before the vehicle had even come to a stop. “Matthias.”
Bridget and Lykos both intercepted him before he could go to the snarling man, and Magda came up behind Daniel to pull him back. “Daniel, Khait and Stephan need your help. Matthias is going to be alright.” Bridget rubbed the young man’s shoulder.
“Not hurt. Just crazy.” Lykos nodded. “Khait crazy and hurt.”
“I…” Daniel looked up at Khait. “Holy fucking shit, what happened to…” He blinked, then looked down at where Matthias was yellow eyed and snarling. “Oh.”
“So as long as those are on him…” Magda glanced at Lykos.
“Is 98% human.” Lykos shrugged. “Was in hurry.”
“I appreciate you being willing to sacrifice your usual perfectionism.” Khait lay with his head in Abigail’s lap.
“Mind is still beast.” Lykos shook his head. “Anger issues.”
“Have you…” Daniel looked up from where he was sitting by the door to the room they’d put Matthias in. There had been nothing human in her son’s eyes when they brought him back. “I mean, you’re old, have you seen something like this before?”
“Is poison.” Lykos nodded.
“But he’ll…” Daniel choked a little on the words.
“There ways to treat him, get him back to normal.” Khait sighed. “They’ll take a little doing because it appears nothing is easy, but we can get him back to his normal level of scary.”
Magda went over to where Ash was sitting, Stephan’s head in his lap. He hadn’t so much as stirred, even after Daniel had tended to him. Everyone present had assured her he was only sleeping, but she checked his pulse again anyway. His heartbeat was strong. She bent to kiss his forehead.
“I…” She looked up at the sound of Tomer’s voice. “Am I intruding?”
“No, Professor.” Adele inclined her head in greeting. “How are your students?”
“Shaken, but they all seem to still believe Michaels’ story about discovering unexploded World War II ordinance.” Tomer frowned. “Is he alright?”
“We don’t know.” Magda swallowed, and looked at where Laura was dialing his phone number again. “He hasn’t contact us yet.” She took a deep breath. “The student, the one who brought the case, what…”
“Colette.” Tomer’s eyes narrowed. “She’s not among the students in the south wing, and no one seems to have seen her on the boat.”
“Colette.” Bridget frowned. “She’s new. Transferred in two months ago. From Professor Peterson’s class, when Tilly’s slot opened up.” Bridget made a growling sound. “If she had anything to do with Tilly’s husband getting sick, I’m going to break every single bone in her face.”
“I don’t recall Colette.” Khait frowned.
“She…” Bridget tilted her head, then frowned. “Yeah, she didn’t have any sessions with Abigail, so you didn’t meet her.”
“Bet that was intentional.” Abigail stroked his hair. “Afraid you’d pick up that she was…”
“I’m sorry.” Tomer sighed. “Magda, I am so —”
“Tomer, no, this isn’t your fault.” Magda shook her head. “It didn’t occur to us to even consider doing background checks on the students.” She looked over at Adele. “When will Jormun be back?”
“Four hours and…” Adele glanced at her watch. “Twenty-three minutes.”
“It’s been over an hour since anybody heard from Michaels.” Laura stood. “I want to go back and look for him.”
“Laura…” Madga took a deep breath. “Ahit is protecting the students, which means I’m the only one here who —”
“Ash and I are the only ones here that can fight if something happens. Until the others recover or Jormun returns, we…” She saw tears fall from Laura’s eyes, and walked over to put her arms around the girl. She felt Laura hug her back.
“He’s my dad.” Laura’s voice shook.
She kissed the top of Laura’s head. “He’s tough and resourceful, Laura.”