It’s why he killed her and your father. He couldn’t take it any more.
A psychotic break would make sense.
Andy and Jess were lying.
She wanted to believe that. It would be the easiest. Not to mention, it was the option that didn’t leave her with a conscience that would flog her for the rest of her life.
However long that was.
Rubbing her hand over her eyes, she sat down on the bed and looked at the food. It turned her stomach.
No, not the food. What she’d done. The one thing no one had ever told her about was how to cope with the lives she’d taken. Even before Sundown had kidnapped her, her conscience had been there, telling her that she’d taken someone’s life. Her anger kept her going, but it wasn’t enough to drown out her actions.
"They deserved it. Think of how many of us they’ve killed over the centuries. Do you think they ever have a minute’s worth of compassion when it comes to us? No, they don’t. Kill the Apollite. We’re animals to be butchered to them. Wasn’t it bad enough Apollo cursed us? Then his damned sister had to go and create a race to hunt and kill us as brutally as they can. They stab us in the hearts, Abby. And stand over our bodies while we die. Where is fair in all of that? We live twenty-seven years and hit full puberty at a time when most humans are still in grade school, learning their ABC’s. Our lives are horrifically short, and you were there when my mother withered into dust. At twenty-seven. Remember that? Did you ever even hear her speak a bad word about anyone? No. She was kindness incarnate. We took you in and you’ve seen it firsthand. We don’t hurt anyone. We are the victims." Kurt’s indignation had fueled her vengeance quest, along with Perry and Jonah.
Kill the Dark-Hunters, Abby. That had been chanted to her since the moment Kurt’s mother died. Even her adoptive father, on his deathbed, had begged her for retribution.
"You’re our only hope, Abs. Don’t let us down. Remember what they did to us. What that animal did to your parents. Never forget it."
But her memories … Something in all of this didn’t feel right. There were too many missing pieces.
If only she knew the truth.
You do know the truth. You were there.
Unable to sort through it, she looked up at the ceiling, wishing the real answer would fall down and smack her hard enough to make her listen.
* * *
"Your coyotes just came slinking back in the door with tucked tails. I would have killed them, but figured you’d want the honor. They claim there’s a wolf helping your enemies now. But they don’t know who he is, or if he’s one of ours or from another pantheon. My guess is he’s not one of ours."
Coyote narrowed his gaze on the huge bear of a man who dared to enter his den with such unwelcome news. And there was only one who would be so bold. Snake was a full head taller, which given the fact that Coyote was six feet two was impressive. While his own hair was short and black, Snake’s was shaved bald and an intricate snake tattoo started at where his hairline would be on top of his head. It coiled down his neck and both of his beefy arms into a symbolic pattern that only one of their people could read. To most, Snake would appear like a criminal. But Coyote knew him for what he really was.
An ancient warrior who, like him, had lain dormant for far too long. Who would have thought when they agreed to their duties centuries ago that they, who had once made the very earth tremble in fear of their strength and skill, would be relegated to a role that was only one step above nursemaid?
"Did you hear me, Coyote?"
He gave a subtle nod. "They’ve grown fat and lazy. Unable to hunt. I weep for what has become of our people." Most of all, he wept for what had become of them.
"With Choo Co La Tah weakened, we’ll have better luck after this."
He wished he were so optimistic. Choo Co La Tah had turned back his scorpions faster than he’d expected. But it’d drained the old man. With luck, his next plague would weaken him enough that they could kill him, too.
With Choo Co La Tah out of the way, there would be no stopping them.
He could almost smile at the unexpected gift the human had given them. He’d hoped she would kill Renegade and Brady. Taking out his other enemy was a bonus.
It’d been centuries since he stood this close to his goal. So close, he feel the breath of it on his face.
But nothing was certain. Nothing should ever be taken for granted.
And never, ever underestimate Choo Co La Tah. Even though he and Snake outnumbered the old man, they still had the problem that while Coyote was the Guardian for the East, he’d only obtained it by trickery.
It wasn’t his right.
The legitimate Guardian still lived, even though it was as a Dark-Hunter and so long as he did, there was always the possibility that he’d step forward to claim his station and kill Coyote where he stood.
I would gladly step down. But the true Guardian had made it clear that he wouldn’t allow it. Not at the price Coyote demanded.
Snake looked up at the sky above them. "The cycle is drawing close."
At last. He didn’t say it. He didn’t have to. They’d both been waiting for the Time Untime for far too long.
If the Butterfly and the Buffalo were to unite during the Time Untime, he and Snake would be destroyed. And all the Guardians replaced by those they chose.
But if he could stop it, he could rise on the eve of the Reset, and then he would have the power to select the new Guardians himself. With them under his control, they could unite their powers and return the world to their people. The Pale One would be defeated for once and for all.
The reign of the Coyote would be absolute. Uncontested.
Their enemies would be driven back into the sea.
And the elders and earth would weep for the wrong it had done to him. Blood would rain from the skies, and the Coyote would eat the sun and cover this earth with his vengeance.
He could already savor the taste. Soon this world would be his, and with his raised army, he would subjugate everyone.
The one thing he wanted most would then be his. No one would ever remove it again from his possession.
All he had to do was destroy one more Guardian.
So simple …
So damned hard.
But he wouldn’t fail this time. This time, he would succeed and the world of man would finally understand what true misery meant.
The Reign of Coyote was about to begin, and the world would never be the same.
"You know, Jess. If something breaks in and eats me while you’re gone, you’re going to feel real bad about it. You’ve seen the movies. Read the books. You know it happens. Sidekick and girlfriend always get kidnapped, snuffed, or usually both by the bad guys after the good ones."
Jess rubbed his brow, trying to soothe the migraine Andy was causing. Not that Dark-Hunters could get migraines, but the boy was definitely putting that theory to the test.
It was either that …
Or a tumor.
Can’t get those either.
Then what was the painful throb that wouldn’t let up?
Oh yeah, it was Andy.
Jess sighed. "You’re right, pup. So I’ll be sending you over to the Ishtar for Sin to babysit until I get back. That’ll make sure nothing bad happens to you."
Now, that was a nice shade of indignation mottling the boy’s skin. Quite impressive, really. If he were tea kettle, he’d be whistling like a train. "I can take care of myself."
"Not what you just said."
"That don’t mean-"
"Jess, we have a problem."
He glanced past Andy’s shoulder to see Ren looking as flustered as the kid. Ren joined them in the kitchen.
A huge weight of dread fell right on top of Jess. "What’s wrong?"
There was something Jess didn’t want to hear. "Excuse me?"
Ren nodded. "I went to get her from downstairs, and there’s no trace of her. She must have snuck up and out while we were preparing. Damn you for a house this big. Really, folks? Was it necessary?"
Andy snorted. "You try finding a house to accommodate a dozen horses with a large basement in Vegas that’s not haunted, and that you can close on in two weeks and move in. I think I did pretty damn good."
Ignoring Andy’s ornery outburst, Jess cursed. Both he and Ren were still plagued with their waned powers. And he could kick himself for not watching her closer. How could he have lulled his brain into forgetting she was a prisoner they intended to sacrifice?
Hell, he’d have run, too.
Andy arched a brow at them. "Why are you two freaking out, anyway? If she’s in one of your cars, which I’m sure she is, she’s LoJacked."
Jess scowled. "Come again?"
"I LoJack your ass every minute of the night, cowboy. Just in case." Andy went to the wall security monitor that tapped into all their camera feeds and pulled up the garage surveillance. Then he cursed even more foully than Jess had. "Forget yours, that bitch has taste. She’s in my Audi R8 Spyder."
Jess growled at him. "Watch your mouth, pup. That’s a lady you’re talking about."
He grumbled under his breath, questioning that category. "You wouldn’t feel that way if she’d run off on one of your stinking horses."
Ren crossed his arms over his chest. "Is it LoJacked?"
"Of course," Andy said indignantly. "That’s my baby. I even have a kill switch on her."
"Then stop the engine."
Andy appeared downright horrified by Ren’s suggestion. "Are you out of your mind? What if someone hits it for stalling? I had that thing on order for over a year. Custom hand built. The epitome of German engineering. I even paid extra for the paint on her. Ain’t no way I’m going to chance someone denting my baby. Or, God forbid, totaling it."
Jess rolled his eyes at the boy’s hissy fit. If he kept that up, he’d be putting Andy back in diapers.
He turned to Ren. "You take the air. I’ll get a bike." Then he focused his attention on Andy again. "And you-"
Andy held his cell phone out to him. "Have an app. Track her down, get my car back, and beat the hell out of her…. In that precise order."
Jess would laugh if the entire fate of the world didn’t hinge on his finding Abigail. Shaking his head, he went to the garage to get his red Hayabusa. It was the fastest thing he owned. Plus, it would synch to the tracker in Andy’s phone-had to love the Squires and their toys.
He grabbed a full face helmet off the rack, along with the keys, and was on it in record time. While the garage door opened, he synched the phone. As soon as it was complete, he peeled out, leaving the stench of smoke and rubber behind him. He ducked to miss the door that hadn’t gotten out of his way fast enough.
Opening the throttle, he shot through the gates that were also only partially parted and turned on to the street, heading south. The best part about the tracker was that it told him the speed the car was traveling. She didn’t appear to be going too fast-she probably thought she was home free and didn’t want to attract the attention of any police. Smart on her part.
But it wouldn’t be enough to keep him from finding her.
* * *
Abigail regretted her choice of cars as she tried to navigate traffic. She’d thought the Audi, with its V10 engine, would be fast, but she couldn’t have been more wrong. People actually cut her off or boxed her in so that they could slow her down to take pictures of the car with their camera phones. Good grief. She’d never seen anything like it.
Really people, it was a car with four tires like any other. She’d never understood how anyone could become so enthralled by a piece of metal transportation.
How did Sundown ever get anywhere with this much attention? It was so frustrating. She’d never been in a car before that affected traffic and drivers like this.
"I should have found something generic." Unfortunately, her choices had been limited to a Ferrari, an old classic Ford pickup from the 1940s, a Gator and this. The Audi was the only one that was street legal and wasn’t a stick shift-something she couldn’t drive.
The rest had been motorcycles, and since she’d never ridden one before, she didn’t think her escape attempt should serve as her first learning experience. With her luck, she’d have wrecked it in the driveway.
Her heart raced as she habitually checked her rearview mirror, expecting to see Sundown catching up to her any second.
Don’t discover I’m gone for a while. Please.
At least not until she had a chance to find out some truths. She wasn’t running from what she’d done. She just wanted to understand her memories.
Who was lying to her?
She hated to be so confused. All her life, she’d had one clear-cut goal.
Kill Jess Brady.
Now … her emotions and memories were tangled into a knot she wasn’t sure she could ever undo. If that wasn’t bad enough, there was a bitter hunger inside her for …
She didn’t know. The demon blood they’d mixed with hers was causing all kinds of problems. At times her senses would sharpen, then fall back to normal.
Beware the pathway that vengeance will take you down. The voice in her head sounded a lot like Sundown’s.
His name had no more crossed her mind than something akin to lightning flashed behind her eyes. In that moment, she saw the past so clearly that it stole her breath.
It was Jess.
He kicked open the door to an old-fashioned room. The low, burning fire cast shadows across the cornflower blue scroll wallpaper that covered the walls. A man shot up from the old-fashioned sleigh bed with a gun in his hand. But as soon as he focused on Jess’s face, he hesitated.