Bridget stood a few feet away from the preacher. Lykos had assured her the ammunition she had would take down a werewolf, which just served to remind her there was a decent chance they’d be facing werewolves. Part of her wished the priest still had his collar on. He, at least, looked calm. “You know, it seems like it wasn’t all that long ago…” She looked up at the sky. “The most I had to worry about was remembering when my assignments were due.”
“To all things there is a season.” Father Williams smiled at her. “And a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
“I used to love that song.” She smiled. “My mother played it…” She trailed off when she caught sight of movement. She swallowed. “Here they come.”
“Well now…” A man seemed to emerge from the very shadows. He smiled, showing fangs. “You look like a tasty morsel.”
Okay. Her ammo was for werewolves. She fired a shot anyway. The vampire glanced down at where she’d shot him in the chest, then back up at her. She could see two others starting to come in behind him. “Really?”
“Uh…” She shrugged. Across the house she heard other shots being fired. Ted was going to be so pissed if they wrecked his house. “Yeah, might want to break out the holy water, Father.”
“I have…” Father William’s eyes suddenly glazed over, as though they were covered with frost, leaving them a solid white. “A better idea.” The vampire started to move, and Father Williams merely stepped aside as it charged. It hit the side of the house. And shattered into a thousand frozen pieces. He spread his hands as the other two started forward. “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.”
Khait touched Abigail’s shoulder. She smiled up at him. He bent to kiss her. “Tomorrow, if we are both still alive…” He touched her cheek. “Why don’t I teleport us to Vegas and we get hitched?”
Her eyes went wide, and it took her a few moments to find her voice. It creaked just a little when she replied. “You’re supposed to have a ring and be on your knees.”
“I’m a bit tired of rings, and I’ve been on my knees for you many times.” He brushed her hair back. “Abigail Cross, will you marry me?”
“Of course.” She smiled. “You really think I’d ever let you get away?” She reached up to catch his chin and pulled him to her for another kiss. “But you will ask me properly before I officially say yes. Understand?”
“Yes, ma’am.” He grinned.
The smile died on his face as he saw movement coming toward them. Abigail nodded, and drew her gun as she turned to face their foes. His beautiful warrior woman. Khait spread his wings behind her, pulling his power to him.
As shots rang out from other locations, he drew the sword.
Ash had a different sword in his hand. It was still Gabriel’s. Steel this time, instead of fire, but still Gabriel’s. He stood behind Magda. She gave him a worried look, but he nodded to her. She smiled, but the worry didn’t leave her eyes. He reached out to put a hand on her arm. She reached out and pulled him to her, holding him tightly. He hugged her back, then smiled. “I love you, Magda.”
“I love you too, Ash.” Her lips brushed his ear.
“I…” He ran his fingers through her hair before pulling back to meet her eyes. “Two years ago, I…” He smiled. “I can stand because of you. Thank you.”
“Oh, Ash.” Her eyes were wet.
He nodded to the left, where figured were approaching. “Come on.” He hefted the sword. “Once more into the breach.”
She smiled fiercely as she shifted into the form of the wolf. Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage. Ash took a deep breath and assumed a combat stance as the enemy forces realized the house was guarded. They snarled as they came.
Lykos spun, bashing his opponent’s head against a tree. The vampire staggered, and Lykos flicked his blade up into his hand and rammed it into the creature’s heart. It turned to dust. “I thought that had to be blessed wood.” Christophe shook his head. When Lykos opened his mouth. “Please don’t say anything about pixies.”
“Normally does need blessed wood.” Lykos shrugged. “But that kind…” He pointed the blade at the last vestiges of swirling dust. “Shepherds must be able to protect the flock, yes?”
“I’d feel better if that metaphor didn’t require me to be one of the sheep.” Christophe heard another round of gunfire. Their opponents had clearly expected some kind of opposition, but not as much as they’d received. Given that the vampires had silver knives, it was likely they’d only expected the pack. Iggy and his people were forming the last line of defense around the chest. Jormun had checked in once, and they had ten minutes remaining of their next fifteen.
The machine that looked like Tobias was with Adele, following her commands. He was pretty sure Zeke and Tobias had tweaked the subroutines to ensure autonomous mode would prioritize her safety over any of theirs, which was probably for the best. Her presence seemed to have the same effect on Jormun that Jormun claimed Christophe had on Lykos. He watched Lykos drive a blade up under a vampire’s chin, yank it out, then drive it into the creature’s heart. And perhaps Lykos and Jormun were all the more dangerous for it.
Daniel shoved the last of the kids hard enough to nearly send the kid to the ground. “You heard the fucking fire alarm.” He shoved the teen again. “What the fuck were you thinking? People could have been killed saving your dumb ass.” He started to shove the teen again and felt Ted’s hand on his shoulder.
“Daniel. Daniel.” He tried to yank away from Ted to continue his assault on the kind of fucking moron that… “Daniel, that’s enough.”
He made himself take a few deep breaths as the teens scrambled away, running down the street. “He can’t…” Ted’s arms went around him, pulling him in close. He buried his face in Ted’s chest as he started crying. “He can’t…”
“Jormun’s here.” There was another crashing sound from inside the center. “Matthias is tough. He’s probably hurt, but Jormun’s here. He’ll handle whatever that was, and you’ll be able to get Matthias on his feet again.”
“I…” He wished he could believe that. Except Erilon had been desperate enough to get them out of there that she’d taken over his body. Daniel hadn’t even realized she could do that. “I need him to be okay.”
“I understand.” Ted hugged him tightly.
It occurred to him in that moment that Ted did understand. Gabriel was still a prisoner of Merlin. “Okay.” He nodded. “Okay.” He wiped at his eyes. “Where’s Michaels?”
Laura touched Adam’s hand. He’d let her handle the two vampires, grinning as she’d send out enough electricity to send them both flying. “I’ve been practicing.”
“I can see that.” He chuckled. “I was just thinking what your superhero name might be. Sparklefingers.”
She rolled her eyes. “I’m a Crimson Crusader.”
“I thought…” Adam blinked.
“The Crimson Crusader transcends individuality. It is a mantle, taken up in times of need.” She lifted her head, raising an eyebrow at him.
“Yeah, this isn’t the type of argument I can win.” He smirked at her, then pulled her behind him.
Her heart lurched when she saw the man walking calmly up the stairs toward them. Then she stepped closer to Adam and reached for her power. Merlin sighed, then shook his head. “You two cannot be this stupid.”
“I dated Wren.” Adam shrugged.
Merlin blinked. Then he tilted his head, frowned, and nodded. “Alright, fair point.” He raised an eyebrow. “It’s not too late for you to come to your senses. I could use people like you, in the days to come. Imagine what I can offer a being of your nature, Adam. We —”
“He’s giving you the ‘we can rule together’ speech.” Laura turned to look at Adam.
“Yep.” Adam exhaled.
“He’s actually giving you the ‘we can rule together’ speech.” She shook her head.
“I can hear him.” Adam nodded.
“He’s seriously giving you the ‘we can rule together’ speech.” She stared at Merlin.
“You’re interrupting his ‘we can rule together’ speech.” Adam glanced at her.
“You sound ungrateful for that.” Laura wrinkled her nose.
“Well, he might put some kind of new twist on it or something.” Adam gestured at Merlin.
“If you two…” Merlin gave a long-suffering sigh. “Are quite finished?”
“Oh.” Laura nodded. “Right. Carry on.”
The dragon stared at them for a moment. “Where was I?”
“The ‘we can rule together speech?” Adam raised an eyebrow.
“I’ve reconsidered that option, and I don’t think I’ll be offering it.” Merlin ran a hand down his face.
“That’s kind of a relief, actually. I mean…” Adam squared his shoulders. “It would have made this a little rude.” He kicked off and a half ton of saber-toothed tiger crashed into Merlin, knocking him back off the stairs.
From the sound of the roar, Merlin had distracted Adam. He was the only defense they had to worry about. Wren smirked as she wove the glamour around herself and moved toward the house. Idiots. She reached out to grab the handle of the patio door. Something slammed into her, sending her flying back several feet to land on her ass. She started to weave the glamour around herself again, and the magic slid out of her fingers. She blinked.
“So…” A black man stood a few feet away. “Wren…”
“The hell is…” She reached for her magic again. Nothing. “What did you do?”
“How…” The black man stared at her. “The Cabal does have intelligence reports, right?”
“Of course, they do.” She reached for her magic again.
“Do you…” He raised an eyebrow. “Ever read them?”
Wren glared at him, then reached for her gun. “What the fuck are you going on about? Who are you?”
“Oh.” He nodded. “I’m Stephan.” He nodded again at something behind her. “I believe you know Stasya.”
“Stas…” She started to turn around.
A tiny amount of smoke came from the barrel of the gun. The bitch fell, blood trickling out of the hole between her eyes. Stasya stared down at the corpse. At Patrick’s murderer. She pictured his face in her mind, heard his laugh. Then she fired two more shots into Wren’s head. She drew a ragged breath, then looked up at the man standing across from her. “Thank you.”
“You okay?” Stephan raised an eyebrow at her.
She nodded, then glanced over at where the apple trees stood on the hill. Then she looked back at Stephan. “After this…” She took a deep breath. “You want to go have coffee?”
“I’d love to.” He smiled at her.
He reloaded, then holstered the gun again. If there were any more Cabal in here, they weren’t his problem. The building was about to come down. He felt a pang of grief at the thought. Ted and those kids had poured their heart and souls into this place. Michaels started for the door. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of a hand sticking out of some rubble. He moved in to take another look, then rushed forward. “Matthias?” He knelt, putting his fingers to the man’s throat. He adjusted its location, feeling a chill in his blood and then… “Thank god.” A tiny flicker of a pulse.
Then he looked the man over, surveying the damage. He swallowed. If Matthias were human… He shook his head. But the the man wasn’t, which meant there was still hope. Michaels put his shoulder to some of the debris covering Matthias’s lower half and pushed for all he was worth. His stomach lurched a little at what he saw, and he had to take a deep breath. The building shook again. “Fuck.”
There was a decent chance trying to pull Matthias out or carry him would just… “Erilon?”
“I’m here.” Her voice took on a shocked note. “He’s alive.”
“Yeah. Tough bastard. Think you can keep him that way while I haul him out?”
“Marines…” He glared at thin air. “Do not leave Marines behind.”
“I will do what I can. Please, Michaels. Hurry.”
Red flickered faintly under Matthias’s eyelids. Michaels bent, and hefted Matthias onto his shoulder. “Fuck he’s heavy.” He started for the door, then kicked it open. Sirens were starting to wail in the distance. That probably wasn’t good. He looked around, then saw two figures in the lot. Ted and Daniel. He started in their direction.
The side of the building exploded, and he saw Jormun go flying halfway across the lot to land only a few feet from Ted and Daniel. “Shit.” He stared as another man, one that looked almost unharmed, walked out of the hole. Jormun wasn’t getting up. Jormun wasn’t… He set Matthias down as carefully as he could before reaching for his gun. Ted was moving toward Jormun. “Ted, get out of…” He started to take aim as Ted interposed himself between Jormun and the newcomer. He couldn’t make out what Ted was saying, but the newcomer halted briefly.
Behind Ted, Jormun was starting to stir. The newcomer tilted his head, then shrugged before waving a hand. A knife flew out of it, striking Ted in the stomach with enough force to send him flying back several feet. He heard Daniel yell Ted’s name as Michaels started moving forward, firing every bullet he had at the monster.