“Amber,” said Dex as Gong lumbered toward us, “get back.”
“Go to hell with that attitude,” I shot back. “We’re in this together.”
BOOM. BOOM. Each of Gong’s massive footsteps shook the floor a little bit. He came slowly, taking one step, pausing for a second, then taking another step. More than eight feet tall, with muscles that threatened to burst out of his fine, funeral-ish suit every time he swung his arms. He reminded me of Mr. Wrogan, maybe even taking his place as the World’s Biggest Guy I Had Ever Seen.
That obviously wasn’t going to stop him from pounding us into paste, though.
“Kill them both,” Amnubar said. “But spare Benny.”
Gong raised both of his massive fists.
“Amber, move!” Dex yelled.
He shouldn’t have bothered, because I had already throwing myself out of the way. Gong’s hands came down and struck the concrete floor so hard that cracks spiderwebbed their way outwards from around it. I hit the ground, rolled, and came back up to see Dex doing the same thing in the other direction. Benny squealed in pain when Dex landed in top of him, and when Dex sprang upright, one of his feet was on Benny’s throat, keeping him trapped on the floor. Behind us, the crowd of onlookers screamed and ran for cover. So much for keeping a low profile.
I clenched my teeth, glaring at Amnubar. This was just so freaking typical. Dex and I had come up with a plan that had actually looked like it was going to work, and then what happened? This freaking idiot! I was becoming increasingly convinced that the world was deliberately screwing with me just to see how far I could bend before I broke.
Well, I wasn’t the one who was going to break today. He was! Into a hundred itty bitty pieces! And I was going to be the one to do it!
Growling, I charged toward him, ready to tear out his throat just like I’d done to D.K. all those years ago. The cement walls of the mail room flashed past me in a blur of gray, but Amnubar just looked at me as if I were only as threatening as a fly. That made me even angrier. Amnubar made a vague gesture with his hand. I was going to kill him so hard that—
I was halted midstep with a flaring pain in my skull when Gong’s oversized hand closed around my long hair. He yanked me backwards, nearly tearing my head from my shoulders, and I cried out as I was lifted into the air and flung across the room. The basement became a spiral of colors as I flew, only to collide headlong with the wall fifty feet away. I fell to the ground, vision black and head spinning.
NOT OVER! my wolf yelled at me. GET UP! FIGHT MORE! KILL!
For once, I agreed with it. Ignoring the ringing in my ears and the blood that spilled down the side of my face, I stumbled to my feet. I probably had a concussion, but it didn’t matter. I still had enough moonlight from a couple nights ago to heal either a ton of bumps and bruises, or a couple major injuries like broken bones. I could already feel this one sapping my power. I’d be fine, but I’d have to be careful. A couple more hits like that, and I’d moon starve myself.
Gong had turned his attention to Dex, who was doing a lot better than I had. Gong was powerful, but slow, and Dex was employing the same dodging tactics against him that he’d used against my Silverblood. Benny was lying on the floor, unconscious I guessed. Gong’s arms swept out in wide, ponderous arcs. A single one of those slaps would probably break Dex in half, but for the moment he was nimbly ducking in and out of the massive corpse thing’s reach.
What he wasn’t doing, however, was attacking.
He’s distracting him for you, I realized as the remainder of my headache faded into a bad memory. So that you can…
That was it! I sprinted back across the mail room toward the fight. I briefly considered shifting into my Silverblood form—not even Gong would stand a chance against that—but decided against it when I remembered how low the ceiling was. The Silverblood wouldn’t have room to stand up, much less fight effectively. Deep inside me, the giant wolf growled in resignation.
Don’t worry, you’ll get your chance soon, I promised it.
Dex was still keeping Gong busy. I ran across the room, putting as much space between me and Gong as possible so that he wouldn’t have a chance to stop me from getting to Amnubar. Again, Amnubar didn’t react at all when he saw me coming. This time I was able to run right up to him. Once I was face to ugly tattooed face with him, I raised my leg and used my momentum to spin around with the force of a cannonball, kicking Amnubar right in the chin! His head snapped around so hard that I heard his neck pop—
But then he calmly turned back around to face me. Slowly, a smile stretched across his face.
“Tough guy, huh?” I grunted, and then ducked down and threw a Silverblood-strength punch to his nuts.
“Have you ever studied voodoo, Amber?” he asked.
Without giving me time to answer, he held up both hands. With his right, he made a weird symbol right in front of his mouth. With his left, he pressed a finger against a tattoo on his throat. The tattoo began to glow, sending veins of orange light creeping up his throat until—
Oh, hot dang! I thought.
I dove to the side just as a river of fire erupted from Amnubar’s mouth. It missed, but the heat was so intense it felt like I’d been burned anyway. Rolling back to my feet, I had to sprint while Amnubar turned his head, chasing me with his freaking firebreath, until I reached the wall. Thinking fast, I put my foot against the gray cement bricks and thrust upwards as hard as I could. I flew straight up into the air, curling backwards into a flip, and closed my eyes while the roaring pillar of fame passed a mere couple of inches below me. Then I landed, spun around faster than Amnubar could react, and sent another spinning kick toward his face. His weird voodoo crap might not have let me hurt him, but it couldn’t stop me from knocking his hand away from the tattoo on his neck. As soon as it was gone, the flames vanished.
For the first time, a spark of anger lit up Amnubar’s eyes. “Why you little—”
Another tattoo on his right hand began to glow, and bright green sparks crackled around it. He lunged, grabbing for my face, and I dodged just barely out of the way. He wasn’t any the worse for wear, and a quick glance told me neither was Gong. How much punishment could Amnubar’s magic protect him from? If there was a limit, then I didn’t get the feeling I’d survive long enough to find it. One slip up, and it was all over.
It’s not fair! I screamed inside my head, dodging another swipe of his flashing green hand. Every time I think I have things figured out, something like this happens.
How was I supposed to fight against magic? That was Dex’s area of expertise—which was probably why Amnubar had him fighting Gong. Everything I knew about magic had come from him, which wasn’t much. In fact, the only thing he’d really told me…
I gasped when an idea suddenly came to me!
Amnubar grabbed for me one more time, I ducked beneath it, and then turned to run toward Dex as fast as I could.
“Get back here!” Amnubar shouted. There was a pause, and then I felt the telltale heat of his firebreath coming from behind me again. I ducked just in time for it to pass over me, singeing the tips of my hair, and then sprang forward like a pouncing wolf, tackling Dex.
“Amber?” he asked in complete surprise. “What the hell are you—”
“No time! Need this!”
With both of us lying on the floor, I reached into his jacket, found what felt like I was looking for, and yanked it free. Before Dex could protest, I gave him a quick kiss on the lips, then rolled off of him and turned to face Amnubar again. Behind me, Dex yelped in fright as Gong swung a fist down, coming dangerously close to squashing him.
I faced off against Amnubar, trying not to let him see what was in my hand. I was only going to get one chance at this, so I had to do it right. If I didn’t, Dex and I were both dead. It would be a more merciful death than Hendricks would give us, but for once I had a plan that might actually work. Neither of us were going to die today.
I charged at Amnubar. Amnubar stood his ground, raising his hands to breathe fire at me again. I had to get to him before he could. I put on an extra burst of speed, running faster than I’d ever run in my life. Time almost seemed to slow down around me. There was no way to stop myself in time. I ran smack dab into Amnubar, but that was fine because as soon as I hit him, I whipped my other hand out from behind my back…
And I smashed the little glass vial against his face.
Everything happened too fast for me to see. The sound of breaking glass filled the air. We both fell to the floor, tangled with each other. I felt the shards of glass cut my skin, but ignored the pain, pressing my palm even harder against Amnubar’s face. We hit the ground, rolled, and Amnubar recovered first. Planting a foot against my stomach, he sent me flying a second time to land a few feet away from him. My ears were ringing again, but I still scrambled to my feet. Amnubar did the same.
“You can’t win,” he growled. “I have the magic of the spirit world in me! Every strike only makes me stronger!”
“That’s what I’m counting on,” I said.
He glared at me, eyes beginning to glow. “Kaylie wanted to kill you herself. To get revenge for what you did to her brother. But I think she’ll still be happy to know that…”
He froze, a stunned look on his face.
He began to shake. His breathing became ragged, like something was blocking his throat. With a trembling hand, he reached up to feel his forehead. Then he took a step backwards.
“What…What did you…” he gasped.
“Correction,” I told him with a humorless grin. “You had the magic of the spirit world in you.”
He fell to one knee, sweat pouring down his brow and gasping for breath.
“That potion took care of that,” I went on. “And I think it took care of all your moonlight, too.”
Amnubar looked up at me in horror. Feeling more spiteful than was probably called for, I raised a foot and kicked him, putting him on his back. He didn’t even try to get up. His feeble gasps were becoming weaker, and farther between. His muscles seemed to deflate, leaving a sack of overly tattooed skin hanging from a pitiful skeleton.
Further back, Gong gave a low moan and fell collapsed as well. The floor shook beneath my feet. Dead.
Amnubar’s eyes met mine, and he managed to croak out his final words.
I closed my eyes as he died. I already knew that, of course, but that didn’t make hearing it any easier. A minute later, Dex came to join me.
“Well, that was fun,” he quipped, obviously out of breath. “But now that that’s out of the way—”
“You killed him!”
We both spun around just as Benny raced past us to kneel over Amnubar’s corpse. Whatever blow Dex had knocked him out with had obviously worn off. He knelt there, shaking either with fear or grief. Probably both, now that I thought of it.
Dex looked at me. “We still have a ransom to collect.”
He reached to grab Benny again, but this time I stopped him.
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “I don’t think that’ll be necessary anymore.”
Terrified, Benny turned to look at us. I stared straight into his eyes, watching him squirm under the gaze of a dominant werewolf.
“You’re going to go back to Kaylie,” I said in my coldest voice. “You’re going to tell her what happened. And you’re going to tell her that I’ll kill every member of her pack one by one until she comes and faces me. Got it?”
“Good.” I grabbed him by the collar of his shirt, hauled him to his feet, and shoved him toward the elevator. “Now go!”
The elevator dinged close—he had to press the button himself, with poor Gong being dead—and I turned to look at Dex. He looked back at me, and nodded his approval.
“We’d better get ready,” I said softly.
Tomorrow, this finally ended.