Retribution (Page 23)

Retribution (Dark-Hunter #20)(23)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

"Ah, now," Jess said in that exaggerated drawl she was beginning to recognize as his way of keeping things either in perspective or light. "Buck up, little camper. It ain’t over yet. We’re far from out of this."

That was the problem. They had a long way to go, and she didn’t see an escape for them.

Jess kept his attention on the road as he navigated hazards every inch of the way. He was trying to be positive for her, but inside, he was worried fierce. Why had Old Bear been holding the key to the West Gate? Why take the chance? It should have been cast out to sea or something.

For that matter, couldn’t the First Guardian have locked up butterflies or something equally harmless in those jars?

No. People had to have their misery, and Old Bear would have to have the pimp daddy of plagues waiting for discovery.

Give me locusts and boils. Hell, he’d even prefer pimples on his private parts. Anything would be better than Coyote taking over the world.

At this point, they were mired so deep in the mud of Shit City, he might as well have his mail forwarded.

I swear, Coyote. If I live through this …

You won’t.

Chapter 13

Jess let out a relieved breath as he pulled into his driveway while rain pelted the car so hard, it sounded like a sledgehammer pounding on metal and glass. Man, what a night. He was exhausted already, and it wasn’t even late yet.

Of course, another round with Abigail and he’d definitely perk up.

Don’t go there.

Please, go there….

‘Cause honestly, he’d much rather think about her nak*d in his arms than think about doing what they were going to have to do and then walking away and never seeing her again.

I thought the good guy was supposed to get the girl. That was the theory, anyway. Too bad he had enough life experience to know that it definitely wasn’t the case.

Nice guys got shot by their best friend.

He shook his head to clear it of that nightmare and turned his attention where it needed to go.

Their friendly neighborhood plague.

At least it was raining heavy enough to drive the wasps back into submission and disperse them. Especially since Talon had added a little god power to it to shock and numb them.

Things were almost back to normal.

Yeah, right. Things were about as normal as a Luddite working for Bill Gates. But then, wishful thinking was about all he had left right now. That and the fierce desire to find Coyote and beat the ever-loving shit out of him.

He parked in the garage and looked over at Abigail. Her features were pinched by dread and determination, and still she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. What he wouldn’t give to be able to crawl into bed with her for a week and not come up for air until they both were near dead from lack of food.

Yeah, she’d be worth starvation.

And as he met her gaze, regret slammed hard into his gut. How he wished they’d had more time tonight. More time to explore and taste her.

More time to just …

He forced his thoughts away from that train wreck. What good were druthers, anyway? They just made you ache for things you couldn’t have. And the one thing his childhood had taught him was not to dwell on what-ifs.

What was it Nietzsche had said? Hope was the worst of all evils, for it prolonged the torment of man?

Props to the philosopher. The man was definitely right in this case. Hoping for something better wouldn’t make it manifest. It would only remind him of decisions he’d made that he couldn’t undo.

He had a job to do, and it wasn’t just to protect her. He had to save the rest of the world, too.

Steeling his own determination, he inclined his head to Abigail. "You ready for the next part?"

Apprehension lined her brow as she stared at her hands held clenched in her lap. "Like an adrenaline shot straight into my heart via my eyes." Her voice was faint and pain filled. "Weirdly, I think I dread meeting Andy more than fighting off Coyote."

He would laugh if she wasn’t right. He had the same rock in his stomach at the thought of how the kid would react to seeing his car mangled in its current condition. Definitely not something he was looking forward to.

Time to face the music.

After turning the engine off, he opened the door and got out while Abigail followed suit. He’d barely shut the car door behind him before he heard the agonized scream coming from the house.

"What have you monsters done?"

Abigail’s face blanched as she froze in place.

He quickly moved past her to intercept Andy on his way to the car. He tried to shield the car with his body, but Andy was having none of that. Andy dodged left. Jess went right. Andy pivoted right….

Jess held his arms out to stop him before he saw all the damage. Dang, the kid should have played ball. He’d seen less slippery piglets.

He offered his Squire a sympathetic nod. "You might want to order a new one."

Andy groaned in pain, then raked his hands through his hair in a way that would make James Dean proud. "I can’t believe you tore up my car! My car! My precious baby. Sheez, Jess. What did you do?"

Well, there was one thing he definitely wasn’t going to mention. That would only wig the kid out even more, and he would definitely never hear the end of that.

Not to mention Abigail would probably gut him if he told anyone what they’d done.

Jess dropped his arms and shrugged. "All I can say is, it got hairy for us."

"Hairy?" Andy covered his eyes with his fists and made the sound of ultimate suffering. Damn, the boy knew how to overreact. It was actually impressive. If the Squire gig failed, he could always get a job playing Oedipus. All he needed was to plunge two brooches into his eyes and stumble offstage. "My car looks like the stunt double for the Charger in Burn Notice. How could you? Jeez, Jess. Really?" He gestured toward the car. "Really?"

Abigail took a brave step forward. "I’m so sorry, Andy. It’s all my fault."

He glared at her as if he was imagining her in little bloody pieces spread out through the house. He raised one hand as if about to lecture her, but honestly, he was so upset that all he could do was sputter indignantly.

Jess clapped him on the back. "You’ll live. It’s just a car, kid."

"And hell is just a sauna." Each word dripped with indignation and outrage.

Wincing, Andy sucked in a deep breath and appeared to get a hold of himself. "Fine," he said in a falsetto. "You’re right. I’ll live, even though right now it feels as if my guts have been yanked out through my nostrils and laid on the floor for your bitter amusement. You insensitive bastard! Just wait till I pick up your bike from the Ishtar. Let’s see who laughs then."

"You hurt that bike, and I’ll rip out your spine."

Andy paused. "Point taken." He looked at his car and sighed. "It could be worse. No one threw up in it…." He widened his eyes, as if even more disturbed. "Did they?"

"No," Jess reassured him. "No one tossed cookies."

"All right." He straightened up and seemed to be true to his promise to let it go. "I will be a man about this."

That lasted until he saw the scratches on the hood from the mountain lion and the front fender, where Abigail had dragged it off the driveway.

Wailing, he went to it and sank to his knees. He sprawled over the hood and laid his head on the damaged fender. "I’m so sorry, Bets. I should have hidden the keys. Booted your tires. Something. I had no idea anyone would abuse you so, baby. I swear I’ll never let anyone hurt you again. Ayyy, how could they do this to you? How? Oh the humanity!"

Jess let out a deep heh as he locked gazes with Abigail. "I really need to get that boy a girlfriend-" He glanced over to where Andy was now stroking the hood. "-or at least laid."

Abigail laughed.

Pushing himself back, Andy hissed at them. "You mock my pain, sir."

"Nah," Jess drawled. "I mock your idiocy."

Andy curled his lip. "Go on. Get in the house. Leave me to my suffering, you insensitive monster. You’ve done enough damage."

Jess shook his head. "Too bad the Razzie committee can’t see this performance. We might actually have a winner if they did."

Hoping the boy would get over it without needing a therapist, he headed toward the house.

Abigail went over to Andy. "I really am sorry about your car. I mean it."

He looked up with a sincere stare that gave Jess hope Andy wasn’t completely shot in the head. "It’s all right. It’s just … a … car. I’ll get over it eventually." He pushed his bottom lip out to pout like a two-year-old.

In a weird way, it was almost adorable.

Abigail wanted to reach out and soothe poor Andy, even though his reaction was way over the top. Maybe it was ridiculous, but she felt terrible about it.

Because of her past, she tended to bond to objects more than to people, too. Objects could be stolen, but they didn’t leave voluntarily. They were always there when you needed them, and they didn’t say or do anything to hurt your feelings.

It killed her that she’d damaged something that obviously meant so much to him.

I’m becoming a massive walking disaster area. She was the opposite of Midas. Instead of turning to gold, everything she touched turned to dust.

Even her best friend …

Her heart caught on that. She still couldn’t believe everything that had happened tonight. Her friends were her enemies, and she was depending on her enemy to help save her life. Nothing in the world made sense right now.

Honestly, she just needed a few minutes of peace before the next catastrophe. A moment to ground herself before another storm blew through and swept her over the edge of insanity. But that was a luxury none of them had.

Unwilling to think about what was coming for her next, she followed after Jess, who’d already vanished into the house.

By the time Abigail caught up to him in the kitchen, he was standing with Sasha and a blond man she’d never seen before. Not quite as well muscled as Jess, the newcomer was by no means small. He had short tousled blond hair and tiny braids that fell from one temple. Dressed in jeans and a gray T-shirt, he had arms covered with black Celtic tribal tattoos. There was something about him that screamed ultimate badass.

And he pierced her with a suspicious look the moment he sensed her presence. That look pinned her feet to the floor and kept her from taking another step.

At least until Jess turned around and offered her a kind smile. By the friendly expression on his face, she knew it was safe to approach the other man.

She hoped.

Jess motioned her forward. "Abigail meet Talon. Talon, Abigail."

Relaxing a bit from his tough man stance, Talon inclined his head to her. "Hi."

Well, at least he was friendlier toward her than Zarek had been. Not that that was saying much. They’d probably be a lot friendlier if you hadn’t killed their brethren.

In all honesty, she was lucky he wasn’t attacking her, and she wouldn’t blame him if he did. There was no telling how long he’d known the ones she’d killed. How close they’d been.

I’m so sorry.

Life seriously needed an undo button. The coward in her wanted to turn around and run. But she’d never been craven a day in her life, and she wasn’t about to start now when they needed her to stand strong.

Clearing her throat, she forced herself to join them at the stainless steel island. "Are you the one responsible for the rain?"

"Yeah." Talon glanced at Jess and cracked a devilish grin that said there was an inside joke between them.

Jess made a face of supreme pain. "You’re not still busting on Storm, are you?"

"Ah, hell yeah, you know it." Talon let out an evil laugh. "There are truly few things that give me more pleasure."

"You are all kinds of wrong." Jess shook his head before he explained it to her and Sasha. "Talon’s brother-in-law is a professional rainmaker. So every time poor Storm tries to make it rain, Talon stops it. At this point, he’s beginning to get a complex over it."

Pride gleamed bright in Talon’s eyes. "I know it’s cruel, but I can’t help myself. Little bastard deserves it after all the grief he gives me over his sister. Not to mention I really like the little girl sound he makes when he fails."

Sasha snorted. "And you people think I’m twisted. Damn, that’s so cold."

"Speaking of, Weatherman," Jess said. "You can probably kill the rain now. I think the wasps are pretty much shocked and driven back."

A loud clap of thunder shook the house. "Yeah, but it’s fun."

"Might be, but you’re flooding out parts of the city."

Talon grimaced. "Make me feel bad, why don’t you? Fine, it’s canned."

Abigail was intrigued by his powers. It was one she hadn’t known a Dark-Hunter could have. "So can you summon tornadoes or earthquakes?"

"Earthquakes aren’t weather related." Talon winked at her, then sobered as if he caught himself being too friendly. "And no offense, I don’t feel comfortable discussing my powers with someone who might try and use them against me one day. So I’ll be keeping all details close."

Pain stabbed her hard in the chest. "You’re right. I deserve that. I shouldn’t have asked."

The expression on his face said that he felt as bad about his words as she did.