Everything in me screamed to go after him. But with violence so close, I had the inn to protect.
I held very still, trying to listen to the night noises. Gloom drowned the subdivision streets.
Come on, Sean. Don’t get hurt and get out of there. Someone will call the cops.
If they arrested him, I’d totally bail him out.
A faint scrape came from the right. I turned, scanning the house across the street. It set with its side to me, facing Camelot Road. I peered at the darkness under its bushes, searching for any hint of movement.
Something watched me from the darkness. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. The gaze pressed on me, like a razor blade slowly cutting into my nerves.
The broom flowed in my hand, forming a five-foot shaft with a three-foot-long sword-like blade on one end. I modeled it after the Japanese naginata.
At least Beast was locked inside. The last thing I needed was her getting hurt.
Somewhere in the darkness muscles tensed, ligaments stretched, as something prepared for a leap. I could almost feel it.
“Do not fire,” I whispered. The inn creaked in acknowledgment. The less noise, the better.
In the depth of the subdivision a dog barked.
The darkness stared back at me with invisible evil eyes. My knees shook. Every muscle clenched inside me. Now wasn’t the time to freak out. Whoever it was staring at me from the gloom would not enter my inn.
A stalker shot out of the gloom under the bushes and sprinted across the road, so fast it was a blur. All thought dashed out of my head in a terrified stampede. I spun my weapon, gathering momentum.
The stalker leaped over the hedge, flying straight at me.
I sidestepped, spun my naginata and struck in a devastating diagonal cut. The blade carved through the stalker’s shoulder and side, slicing through the ribs with ease of a cleaver. The stalker fell into the grass. The inn’s roots shot out of the ground and grasped the stalker. It buckled, straining. I swung and sliced its head off. White liquid bubbled from the wound.
Inside the house Beast exploded with hysterical barking.
A second stalker leapt over the hedge and charged me. I braced myself, lunged, and drove the blade into his chest. The metal cut through flesh like knife through a ripe fruit. The stalker gurgled, impaled on my spear and trying to claw at me.
A low snarl tore through the night, coming from behind me on the left. Another stalker was coming. I chanced a glance and saw it running full speed down the road. My blade was still stuck inside the second stalker. I needed to finish it fast.
I sent a pulse of magic into the broom. The naginata’s blade split inside the second stalker’s chest, turning into a dozen foot long spikes. The spike tips burst through the beast’s back, their razor-sharp tips bloody with white and glowing with faint blue.
The stalker gasped and went limp.
I retracted the spikes and yanked the naginata out of the body.
The third stalker was almost to me.
The third stalker lunged at him.
The werewolf swept the creature off its feet and jerked it up, one enormous clawed hand constricting the beast’s throat. Sean shook the hundred pound beast once, a violent sharp motion like cracking a whip or snapping a wet towel. Something crunched with a sickening bone-snapping sound. The stalker hung limp. Its head lolled to the side.
He just killed a stalker, one-handed. Okay. Good information to have for the future, especially if I decided to threaten him again. Also letting him hit me with a wet towel would be a really bad idea. He could probably take my head off with it.
The sound of an approaching car’s engine rumbled from the right.
The werewolf tossed the stalker on my lawn and dashed to the house. I stabbed the stalker’s corpse just in case and stepped behind an oak. Sean ducked into the doorway.
Car lights illuminated the night and a lone truck rolled past us and kept going.
Phew. “Secure the bodies.”
Pits opened under the stalkers, as the house pulled them under. I ran to the house, melting the weapon in my hand back into the broom.
Inside Sean laid the vampire on the table. Brown mane touched with silver spilled over the edge. Lord Soren. Oh no.
“Console,” I ordered.
A communication console emerged from the floor, like a mushroom on a thin stalk. Blue icons flared on the smooth metal surface.
“They were ambushed.” Sean pulled at the armor. “He hit them hard. One vehicle is turned completely to chunks of scrap metal, like something froze it and then busted it to pieces. The other was in the ditch.”
Something gurgled, whistling, and I realized it was Lord Soren breathing.
Sean tugged the armor again, nearly lifting the prone vampire off the table. “By the time I got there, their vehicles were in the ditch and two stalkers were dragging him off. He’s a tough old bastard. He killed two before the others got him. He was the only one I found. Dina, he’s bleeding out. How do we get this damn armor off?”
“We can’t. It’s genetically locked onto him. Unless he becomes conscious or a blood relative shows up, we’re stuck. I can heal him, but not with the armor on.”
“Can’t we cut it off?”
I shook my head, adjusting the settings. “That’s why people killed them with stakes. Back when the legends started, they didn’t mean little garden stakes, they meant a sharpened four by four. If he were a man-at-arms, we probably could, but he’s a knight. It’s reinforced.”
“So he’s just going to die?” Sean stared at me, incredulous, his eyes luminescing.
“Not if I can help it.”
He finally noticed the console. “What are you doing?”
“We can’t get the armor off, but other vampires can. They got here very quickly, which means either there is a gate somewhere or they have a craft in orbit.”
“And since this is an extraction, they didn’t plan to stay long,” Sean said. “Either way, they would’ve left someone to guard it.”
“Exactly. He should have a House crest on his body. It will have that panther-bear with teeth.”
Sean plucked the crest from the armor and passed it to me. It was about the size of a notecard. I slid it into the receptacle on the console. It stood like an i-Pod. I touched the exclamation mark on the console. The crest pulsed once. A tiny red light ran along the edge of the crest, circling it.
“Exclamation mark?” Sean asked.
“Universal sign for distress. If he has any members of his House in the vicinity, they will arrive shortly. Until then, keeping him comfortable is the only thing we can do.”
A pale pink line appeared on the wall above the table. It moved, drawing peaks and valleys.
“Heartbeat?” Sean guessed.
I nodded. “If it stops, he’s dead.”
We looked at each other. The pink line gently zigzagged on the wall.
The only thing we could do now was wait.