Black and Blue (Page 6)

Black and Blue (Otherworld Assassin #2)(6)
Author: Gena Showalter

Did you seriously just put that word in mental air quotes? You do actually have affairs.

Yeah, but the one-night stands still aren’t for my pleasure. They’re for my job. Therefore, they don’t count.

Tell that to the Black Plague. His nickname for Evie. Actually, he had a lot of nicknames for Miss Evie. “Honey Badger” was his second favorite.

Don’t think about her or your anger will cause a power surge.

At the very beginning of his relationship with Pagan, he’d told her there would always be other women. She hadn’t cared then and she wouldn’t care now. She stayed with him for his body, his money, and his fame, and not necessarily in that order.

He was fine with that, because he stayed with her for the convenience. A wife would stop targets and assets from planning a future with him.

Hard-core? Maybe. But, in the end, far more merciful.

“I have a bad feeling about this mission,” Solo muttered.

“That’s because it’s going to suck,” John replied, just as quietly.

“What are you guys complaining about? I’m the one who has to do the actual sucking,” Blue said as he led the pair to the front door of Michael’s office. He twisted the knob, prepared to exit.

Boom!

A violent blast of wind lifted him off his feet and threw him backward. He wrecked through a wall. A terrible high-pitched ring vibrated in his ears, his world shrank to only a tiny bubble, and everything hazed with black and white. He managed to draw a breath into his partially deflated lungs, and instantly regretted it. The air burned and blistered, igniting a bonfire.

Lava flowed over him . . . pressure squeezed at his limbs, his chest . . . something hard fell on his arm and leg, snapping the bones, and everything proved to be too much, pain rolling over him, consuming him, melting him, then pulling him apart piece by piece.

He drifted in and out of consciousness, his muscles too heavy and knotted to even twitch. The ringing in his ears eventually faded, allowing him to hear the crackle of flames mixed with little bits of conversation.

“—with this one?”

“—fetch a decent price.”

“—this one?”

“—ashing him.”

“—last one?”

“—keeping him.”

Blue blinked open his eyes, a nearly impossible feat. His lids were like two pieces of sandpaper that had been glued together. A human male loomed over him, one he’d never before met.

Medical personnel?

A thick cloud of smoke surrounded the man, shielding his features.

What the hell had happened?

Blue opened his mouth to ask, but rather than words, something warm and wet gurgled out and trickled down his cheek.

“Stupid alien,” the man muttered, splashing cold water over Blue’s body. No, not water. The pungent aroma of accelerant stung his nostrils. “I have double or nothing riding on your next season. Without you, the Invaders are going to blow it, and I’m gonna lose a fortune.”

A match was lit, the flames immediately capturing his attention. Yellow-gold, flickering, growing taller and taller . . . quite lovely . . . falling . . . landing . . . on Blue.

What was left of his shirt acted as kindling, feeding the flames a delectable treat, and Blue’s already decimated skin bubbled up and liquefied, drip-dripping . . . over his sides, leaving only muscles . . . but even those began to fry.

An agonized roar burst from his throat as he forced his petrified, aching limbs into action, and sat up. A chunk of plaster skidded away from him—had it pinned him? Whatever. He batted at the flames until they died, only to stop and gaze with horror at the condition of his body. His left arm ended in a stump, his hand missing. The rest of him was a mass of blood and meat. He could see several bones peeking past charred muscle.

The man stumbled backward, gasping, “You’re alive.”

A surge of fury activated Blue’s Arcadian power, and he was able to lumber to his feet. Dizzy . . . swaying . . . so much pain . . . And yet, fueled by ragged animal instincts he usually kept on a tight leash, he managed to stomp forward and grab the man by the neck, using his remaining hand, squeezing and lifting.

“Who. You?” Blue’s thoughts were coming swiftly, too swiftly, then breaking apart before he could sort through them and speak coherently. “Why. Kill. Me?”

Choking sounds. No words.

His fury magnified, and Blue squeezed harder.

Skin shaded to the color of sapphires . . . violets . . . eyes bugging out . . . lips opening and closing . . . then the man’s spine snapped, and his head lolled to the side.

Silence.

Mistake.

Irritated, Blue tossed the limp body to the ground.

He scanned his surroundings, surprised by what he found. Fires here and there, walls toppled and torched, furniture in shambles, debris everywhere, but no sign of John. No sign of Solo. Please. No sign of Michael, either.

Taken away? They wouldn’t have willingly left without him.

Can’t stay.

Had to heal. Find them. But where could he go?

If one of Michael’s houses was destroyed, it was safe to assume all the others were compromised. For the moment, Blue had to operate as if the person responsible knew the names and occupations of the three agents he’d just tried to kill, because only someone who had been welcomed into Michael’s house could have gotten a bomb inside.

Blue had to avoid his own homes, then. Maybe even Pagan’s.

Pagan. Was she a target, too?

He’d have to track her down and find out.

He climbed out from the rubble and smoke. Ignoring the agony of his body, he entered the daylight. Sirens blared in the distance, blending with the panicked murmurs of onlookers. The two houses next door had suffered extensive damage.

A frightened scream erupted behind him.

Blue spun, the action nearly knocking him off his feet. His dazed stare landed on a human female. He recognized her. She lived across the street from Michael. Was forty-eight years old. Had two children. Always hosted a holiday party at Thanksgiving.

The information hit him like bullets, one fact after the other. All useless.

She clutched her stomach, gasping, “Monster.”

Monster? Him? Probably.

Can’t stay, he reminded himself.

Authorities would arrive any minute and try to question him. They would demand to know who he was, why he was here, what he’d been doing, and in this compromised state he might admit to something he shouldn’t.

Blue tripped forward, heading down the street, staying as close to the shadows as possible. Anyone who spotted him gasped with horror and jumped out of the way. No one asked if he needed help. Good. He didn’t.