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A slaver cracked open the door with a threatening look and a pistol aimed not a foot from Aric s
chest.
Death spoke. Whatever he said made the man pull the trigger. The bullet ricocheted, plugging the slaver
in the face.
Jack did a double take, then headed toward the back of the house. Aric drew his sword and breached
the room.
Then . . . pandemonium.
Lamps crashed to the floor, dimming the area. Shadowy figures moved. Muzzle flashes blazed. Bullets
bounced off mystical metal, a repeated ping ping ping.
An amoeba would ve learned by now not to shoot at Aric s armor.
Yells came from the backyard. I spurred my mare toward Jack. But he didn t need any help, was firing
on any who fled. The hunter had known a sight like Death would drive the men out the back. Then he d
merely waited.
The skirmish concluded in minutes. Aric had slain everyone inside; Jack outside.
The line of bodies stretched from the backyard into the house. Right where the arrow corpses stopped,
the headless ones started.
The enemy was done. Neither Jack nor Aric had allowed me to contribute whatsoever. No witch
invocation necessary.
With a nod of acknowledgment toward me, Jack retrieved his arrows, his bruised face flushed with
aggression and excitement?
The heat of battle.
At the back doorway, Aric lifted the grille of his helmet, smirking at him.  Eight to seven.
 Only one ahead of me? Jack snagged a two-way radio from a dead man s belt, clipping it to his own.
 And you got body armor from head to toe.
The two of them were acting like such . . . guys. I wanted to strangle them. Neither should have been
this reckless going in or this pleased with himself afterward.
Or maybe I was aggravated that I hadn t gotten to carry my weight.
At the threshold, a man with an arrow in his eye whimpered. Still alive. Jack strode forward to finish
the kill, but Death beat him to it, removing his gauntlet on the way.
Aric stared at Jack as he laid his hand over the man s face.
Ghastly black lines branched out over the half-dead slaver. He gulped a lungful to shriek, clawing
Aric s hand in a frenzy.
There was no greater pain than Death s touch. It did outstrip even the plague and my poison.
 Think twice about trying to strike me, Aric told Jack as the man went still.  Oh, and now the score s
nine to six. He stood, donning his gauntlet.
Jack snared the arrow, avoiding contact with the dead man s putrefying skin.
Aric chuckled.  My touch isn t contagious, mortal. The Black Death was a tribute to me; I wasn t a
tribute to it.
 All the same . . . Jack wiped the arrowhead across the bottom of his boot.  If you re done showing
off, I m goan to clear this place. He kicked the body out of the doorway and motioned me inside so he
could lock up that entrance.  We ll stay here for a spell and rest the mounts.
I bit my bottom lip.  Do we have time? Dolor was only a day s ride away, and I burned to get to
Selena.
 We ll make it up with fresh horses. Come on, you.
Claws at the ready, I followed Jack and Aric toward the front of the house. I gaped at Death s
destruction: heads and bullet holes everywhere. Sofa tufting clung to the blood splatter on the walls. Guns
smoked in clenched hands. The fire in the hearth flickered on, oblivious.
 I m reluctantly impressed by your take, mortal, Death said.  I thought you were only good at
thievery.
With a mean smile, Jack drawled,  Thievery s the second thing I m really good at. He turned to me,
all cockiness.  Ain t that right, bb?
Death gripped the hilt of his sword. Jack had no idea how close the knight was to cutting him down.
 Aric, why don t you go retrieve your other sword? I mentally added, You made me a promise.
 He courts his own doom.
Please?
 Empress, he grated, inclining his head before setting off.
Once Aric was out of earshot, I told Jack,  You don t have to bait him like that.
Jack checked behind a door. Then around a corner.  I bait him to let out steam or I blow.
 And what if you push him too far?
 You got this idea of him as invincible. Every man s got a weakness.
Matthew had always said Aric s weakness was me.
 There s a chink somewhere in the Reaper s armor. Just need to find it, me.
Before I could say more, Jack turned toward the stairs.
On the second floor, we investigated nooks and closets. One bedroom was filled with clothes and
packs stolen from slaves while three other rooms were furnished and spotless. But then, this boss had
enjoyed free domestic labor.
 Oh ouais, we re goan to stay here tonight. The windows up here are nailed, with nothing outside to
climb. Decent security.
 You don t think more slavers will show up?
 Non. But just in case, we ll drag all the bodies around front. We descended the stairs.  Anybody with
a lick of sense will keep goan.
 Why did you take such a risk earlier? Leaping to the bus? I hadn t had a real moment to process his [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]