His first feeling was relief that Gabriel was alive. His second was a terror that drove all pain of the knife away. The wings spreading out from Gabriel’s back weren’t the soft white feathers they’d been before. Ted stared as the silver wings unfurled. The edges of the feathers looked razor sharp. Horror filled him when he realized it wasn’t a sword in Gabriel’s hand.
It was a scythe.
Around them, time had gone completely still. He could see a bird paused in flight, a leaf half fallen. In the building, the crackling sound of fire had gone silent. The only things moving were the men in front of him. Michaels, Jormun, Daniel… and Pachua. The dragon tilted his head, staring at Gabriel. “No. You can’t be here.” Pachua started shaking his head. “You haven’t been summoned. You can’t be here.”
He saw Jormun try to struggle to his feet, yanking Daniel out of the way. Daniel took the hint and got a shoulder under Jormun to get them both out of there. Michaels stayed where he was, his face uncertain as he glanced at Ted and then back over his shoulder. Gabriel started forward, toward Pachua.
The dragon lowered his head and let out a snarl. It was hard to feel any pity for the thing that had torn out Monica’s throat and… God, please don’t let Matthias be dead. Gabriel’s forward motion paused, and he turned back to look at Ted. His eyes looked like molten gold as he tilted his head. Then he turned back toward Pachua. Pachua snarled again. “After I destroy you, I’m going to kill them slowly.”
A breath escaped her as she felt Jormun’s voice in her head. It echoed a little strangely, but it was him. Fifteen more.
Adele took a deep breath and reached back for him. Merlin is here. She squared her shoulders. We are holding. She couldn’t ask him to come to the rescue. If he could, he would have already. We will hold.
My love. She could almost feel his hand against her cheek. I can’t make it there. I don’t have the —
His thought cut off, and she shuddered. Then she looked at her phone screen again, reseting the timer. Fifteen minutes.
Daniel tried to focus his power into Jormun. Though the superficial wounds vanished, healing the actual damage felt a lot like trying to fill a swimming pool with a teaspoon. Jormun shook his head. “Don’t.” He winced. “Get to Ted. It’s very important right now that Ted not die. Or pass out. Or…” Jormun turned his head to look at where Gabriel was moving toward Pachua. “You know. Have even a slight headache.”
“Yeah.” Daniel set Jormun near the wall and rushed back to where Ted was trying to sit up. “Stop moving.” Daniel put his hand on the wound, focusing his power as he started pulling the dagger out. “Ted, stay still.”
“Gabriel…” Ted was staring, his face pale.
The wound closed. “What the hell were you thinking, standing between two dragons?” Daniel shook his head, then wiped tears off his face. “Ted, what…”
“I…” Ted blinked at Daniel.
“Don’t do that. Don’t…” Matthias’s cry of pain rang in his ears. For a horrible moment, he thought he was going to have to watch Ted die as well. His head came up toward where Gabriel was moving toward Pachua. Two long, wickedly curved blades seemed to grow out of the dragon’s hands. The horsemen had been four, and Gabriel was by himself. He closed his eyes and shook his head. “Come on, Ted. We’ve got to get you clear.”
“But Gabriel…” Ted started getting back on his feet.
“Ted, that’s not your Gabriel right now.” Jormun’s voice was strained. His face was pale. “We are very much not out of danger here, and Merlin is at your house right now.”
“Oh, god.” Daniel turned to stare at him, then stood and started for Jormun. “Okay, I’ll give you what I’ve got, and…”
“Daniel…” Jormun started shaking his head.
“I could kill you…” Jormun sighed. “And it would not be enough to make a difference.”
He turned back to see Gabriel had caught one of Pachua’s blades on the scythe. Gabriel twisted to deliver a kick that sent the dragon staggering backward. Then the dragon started to change shape, growing back into the feathered serpent. Daniel growled, then reached into his waistband and drew the gun Matthias had given him out of the holster. He offered it to Jormun. “Then take enough to make some fucking bullets count.”
Abigail reached the living room just in time to see Bridget head down the stairs. She glanced at Adele, who was pale and shaking. “Adele?”
“Time is running out.” Adele swallowed.
“We…” Abigail nodded. “Okay. We’ll get ready to move.” She headed down the stairs after Bridget, then stopped short. Iggy’s eyes were gold as he and Bridget stood, locked into a staring contest. Bridget wasn’t backing down an inch. Unfortunately, neither was the alpha werewolf. “Uh…”
“Chica’s gone loca.” Javier glanced at Abigail, then back at Bridget.
“He won’t…” Bridget shook her head. “Get out of my way.” She glared at Iggy. “Khait is facing Merlin, and this fucking dog won’t get out of my way.”
“Bridget, you don’t…” Abigail looked past her at what Iggy was guarding. “Oh.” She started forward.
“Shit, don’t you…” Javier started to take a step forward, only to stop short as Abigail lifted her gun and aimed it square at his chest.
“My fiance…” Abigail took a deep breath. “Is…” She shook her head, and then looked up. “Usariel is fighting a dragon, alone!” She shook her head. “Where the fuck are you?” Then she altered the aim of her gun just slightly and pulled the trigger.
This was, quite possibly, the stupidest thing he’d ever done. Khait could feel the energy in the sword. His own soul, mixed with something else. Merlin was coming toward him. The most powerful of the dragons was walking toward him, full of fury. He shifted to a combat stance and raised the blade. He’d hold as long as he…
Time suddenly seemed to slow around him. He heard an echo of hoofbeats. It’s been a long time, little brother.
His eyes went wide. “I…” He knew that voice. A smile came to his face. He knew that voice.
“Oh…” Khait tightened his hand around the hilt of the sword. “Yes.”
Magda breathed a sigh of relief when she heard Adam groan. She’d seen no reinforcements yet, but that didn’t mean none were coming. And Merlin was still out there. After all this, there was no way he’d let Adam live. “Ash, how…”
“There is freedom in life.” Ash’s voice was quiet. “There is purpose in death.”
“Ash?” She blinked as she turned to look at him. “What…”
“The force is all things.” He looked up at her as he stood up. She starred. His eyes were glowing gold again. He glanced down at his hand, and a flaming sword appeared within it. He smiled. “And I am the force.”
Michaels reloaded. Pachua clearly intended to make a fight of it. He wasn’t sure what good it would do, but he was going to back up his partner. A curse escaped him, and he put the gun away. Then he reached over and picked up one of the pieces of rebar from the wreckage of the building. Jormun had gone for blunt force trauma in fighting Pachua, so clearly it must do some good. He swallowed as he started forward, moving int at Pachua’s flank.
If he could buy just a heartbeat of distraction for Gabriel, then they’d all be okay. There is a pleasing symmetry to the name you’ve chosen to use. Rather fitting, at this particular moment. “Uh…” He blinked. “Erilon?” No. Come, my friend. Let’s give our brother some backup.
In his hand, the rebar ignited into golden flame.