Time Untime (Page 38)

Time Untime (Dark-Hunter #22)(38)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Nick gave him a droll stare. "Oh, I don’t know. But we’re really enjoying it. Fear has such a wonderfully romantic scent to it that they ought to turn it into cologne and deodorant. Eau de Ew. Let’s all just take a minute, and bask in it."

While he could be annoying, Nick had moments of profound sarcastic humor.

Cabeza cleared his throat as he appeared beside Jess. "We have five minutes, people. Then, it’s going to get a whole lot worse."

Ren held his hand out to her. "You ready?"

"Absolutely."

She placed her cold hand inside his that was so warm, it sent chills over her. The strength of him was electrifying. And if she had to die tonight, she was glad his would be the last face she saw.

Ren flashed her into the cave effortlessly. Having spent centuries here, he knew every inch of this valley like the back of his hand, and he knew exactly which cave held the mural they needed for the Reset.

But it was so dark inside, she couldn’t see anything at all. Not even her own hands.

Until Ren used his fireballs to light the torches, which were spaced out every few feet on the earthen walls decorated with thousands of prehistoric glyphs. They were beautiful. Fernando would be in his glory to explore something this pristine.

"The thunderbird is over here." Ren led her to the other side of the cave, to the flattest wall there.

The whole expanse of it had been painted with a colorful mural, which told the entire story of how the world had been saved by the first Ixkib when she’d faced down an angry god.

It showed Ahau kin gifting the Kinichi to her.

But Kateri didn’t see what she was looking for. And time was ticking way too fast. They had a mere handful of seconds before the gates unlocked. "Where does the Kinichi go?"

Ren pointed up toward the ceiling where a giant thunderbird rose above the scenes below. Over the thunderbird’s head was a tiny hummingbird. You couldn’t tell if the thunderbird was following or pursuing the hummingbird. Were they friend or foe? It was impossible to tell. But it was positioned right between the thunderbird’s open beak.

Kateri wanted to weep in frustration. "Well ain’t this a bitch? How long did they think my arms would be for me to reach into the mouth of that hummingbird? I don’t suppose you have a vat of radioactive isotopes I can throw myself into and quickly mutate, do you?" It always worked in the movies.

And of course, there was one other obvious problem. "Where exactly am I supposed to put the stone?" The wall was completely flat without a single crevice in it.

"We’ll find it, don’t worry."

Now look who had found his optimism. Great timing, bud.

As Ren moved toward her, out of nowhere, a blast struck him hard enough to send him straight to the ground.

Reacting on instinct, she nocked an arrow, and turned to fire. But the moment she sighted her target, she froze.

No … It was impossible.

WTF?

Kateri couldn’t believe her eyes. It had to be a dream. Major hallucination.

Something.

She lowered the bow. "Enrique?"

"Si, Dr. Avani."

Gaping, she tried to make sense of this as he moved closer to her. "What are you doing here?"

He smiled coldly. "I’m here to see you, of course."

Of course?

"I don’t understand. How did you know I was here?"

"Veneno," he said simply. "I captured him when he attacked Chacu in your lab … I wasn’t as frozen as you and Cabeza thought. And I spit down the necks of all those so-called experts who tell people torture doesn’t work. To that, I say they don’t know how to do it right. I, personally, have never had it fail me"

It took her a second to register the name of his victim.

Ren started for her, but Enrique blasted him into the opposite direction. "If you want her to keep breathing, stay back."

Kateri’s watch started beeping to let her know they were in the final countdown. She had to get past Enrique. Now!

"What do you want?" she asked him.

"Hand me your time stone, or I will hand you your boytoy’s stones."

She looked at Ren, still unsure whether or not this was a dream.

"Don’t do it, Kateri," Ren said adamantly. "He’s not human. Whatever you do, don’t let him have the stone."

She shook her head. "He’s my grad assistant."

Enrique laughed. "Yes and no. Enrique was your grad assistant. But I was actually your prisoner, Dr. Avani. Until Chacu unknowingly freed me."

None of that made sense to her. She scowled at Ren. "What do you mean he’s not human?"

Enrique hissed. "Stupid puta. I told you … I’m el peuchen. You brought back my carcel from your first excavation with Fernando so that you could test it. Because of those tests you ran, I was able to break free of my carcel. But I couldn’t escape that damn campus. Not even after I took over your assistant’s body. His great-grandmother was indeed powerful. And I’ve enjoyed devouring his soul. But now, I’m done. I want what I came for.

He reached for her.

Ren blasted him back. "Don’t you dare touch her!"

Enrique turned on Ren, and shot something that went straight into his chest and splintered into fragments.

Ren cried out in pain as Kateri shrieked in anger. By the sound of Ren’s voice alone, she knew how bad it was.

He would never, ever cry out like that.

She tried to get to him, but Enrique wouldn’t let her.

"Give me el piedra! Now!

For Ren’s life, she was willing to give him anything. But she wasn’t dumb enough to think for one minute this demon would allow them to leave here alive.

Think, Kateri, think …

He started for Ren to finish him off.

In that one instant when she was convinced she’d lose Ren forever, she felt it. A peculiar inner snap. Like the tiny pinprick in a dam that came right before the force of the water exploded it into a violent flood. And when that inner flood came, it saturated the room with bright light that shot out from her entire body. A light that pierced Enrique. Screaming in pain, he recoiled, and tried again to reach Ren.

The moment he moved toward Ren, her light stabbed him, over and over.

His face changing into an ugly demonic beast, Enrique attempted to reach her. The light intensified and, finally, exploded him into a thousand pieces.

Horrified, relieved, and terrified all at once, she ran to where Ren lay on the floor in a pool of blood. As gently as she could, she turned him over and held him in her lap.

His face pale and clammy, he could hardly breathe. His lips were turning blue. God, there was so much blood….

Ren covered her hand with his. "You have to reset the calendar."

Screw the damn calendar.

"You’re hurt." Worse, it looked like he might be dying.

Ren licked his lips. Each breath he took made a hollow, rattling sound in his chest. "It doesn’t matter, Kateri. The calendar is more important. Go, and I’ll wait for you."

"Don’t you dare die on me," she warned him. "I mean it."

"Go."

Nodding, she ran for the glyphs again.

This time, when she looked up, she saw something different. New details she’d missed before. Details that were only evident now that she had her father’s and grandmother’s powers.

Perspicacity. The ability to see anything hidden or masked.

Now, total clarity was hers. The thunderbird was a symbol for Ren and his metamorphosis from destroyer to protector of the world. That thunderbird was being sacrificed for the hummingbird so that it could send its eye into the sun. The open beak that surrounded the hummingbird did so to protect the hummingbird with its dying breath.

But she still didn’t know how to reach the damn thing from the ground.

Believe. Ren’s voice in her head was so strong.

She glanced over to him to make sure he was still with her.

I will always be with you, Waleli. It took me eleven thousand years to find you. Do you really think I’d leave you now?

Tears gathered in her eyes. "I do believe." And for the first time in her life, she meant that. Even though it was total and utter insanity, she believed in the ludicrous.

She believed in the paranormal.

All of it. And most of all, she believed in Ren. His love wrapped around her, giving her strength and resolve. With him by her side, she finally believed in the impossible. I am the Hummingbird-the bridge between night and day. The messenger of the sun who carries the hope of mankind.

As thoughts filled her head, it felt as if a weight left her body, and she began to float.

No, not float …

She flew.

One moment, she was on the ground, and in the next, she was high above the floor. Oh this … this was scary.

And it was a whole lot of fun.

Suddenly, Enrique reappeared.

Didn’t I kill that bastard?

"Give me the stone or I’ll kill him!" Enrique held a knife to Ren’s throat.

Without hesitation, she started to return, but Ren threw his arm out, and gently blasted her with wind, lifting her up higher.

Save the world Kateri.

Tears filled her eyes. "You are my world."

And you are mine. Now please, Kateri, if you love me, finish the task we were given. Reset the calendar, and then we’ll kill this ass**le.

Only Ren could make her smile when she was this scared and upset.

Nodding, she reached up and realized that from the ground the painting was a trompe l’oeil that made it appear flat. From up here, she saw the small space in the heart of the hummingbird that had been cut like a puzzle piece specifically to hold her necklace.

As soon as she touched the painting, she had total clarity of thought.

Eye. Heart. Soul. I am the power that drives out the evil. I, alone, can fight it and keep it from the most vital parts of my being.

The sun wasn’t just the light that banished the darkness. It was the warmth that kept away the icy chill of hurt and harm. Focus on the things that make you happy, that fill your heart with joy. They are all that matter, and they are what will keep you safe. They are what will keep you strong even in the worst storm.

And that joy was what gave her a heart. Her hand shaking, she placed her necklace inside the hummingbird.

Lightning ricocheted through the room. The hummingbird fell back into the mouth of the thunderbird as it shot an orange light straight up through a small hole in the top of the cave.

She turned her face away to protect her eyesight from the searing beam that shone brighter than high noon on a summer’s day.

"No!" Enrique screamed in horror. He turned to throw his knife at her.

The moment he did, Ren rose up from the floor, and snatched the red stone necklace from his neck. He looped it around Enrique’s throat at the same time Enrique let fly his knife.

She ducked the knife, and for a moment thought Ren was using his necklace as a garrote. Until he fastened it around Enrique’s neck and stepped back. "Enjoy Carcel Infierno, amigo." Give Grizzly and Windseer my best.

Enrique screamed as the floor opened and sucked him into it. He tried to fight, to hold on to the surface. But it was useless. The ground swallowed him whole.

As soon as Enrique was gone, Ren hit the deck. Hard.

Forgetting her own necklace, Kateri flashed herself to his side. Cold dread and all-out terror filled her. He was so pale. His breathing so shallow.

She carefully placed his head in her lap and brushed the hair back from his handsome face. "Baby? You’re not going to die, right? You’re immortal."

He shook his head. "The blast pierced my heart. I’m dying, Kateri."

"No!" Tears blinded her as agony tightened her chest. She couldn’t lose him. She couldn’t. "Don’t leave me, Ren. Please. I need you."

Ren savored the words that he’d never expected to hear out of another person’s mouth. And to have them come from someone as remarkable as his Kateri … It was more than he could ask for. More than he deserved. Thank you for saying them. How he wished he could stay with her, but fate had made other plans for the two of them. "You don’t need me, my precious. You were fine without me."

"I might have been fine. But I wasn’t excellent. Not until you barged into my world, and stood by me while I was under fire. I don’t want to be alone anymore, Ren. Just because I can stand alone doesn’t mean I want to."

He kissed her cheek. "Don’t cry, Waleli…. It’s better this way."

Was he insane? How could this be better? "How?"

Before Ren could respond, a huge bear of a man appeared before them. Dressed in tanned buckskin, he was fierce and well-muscled. With his lip curled, he raked them both with a hate-filled sneer. "He sold his life to me, and this is his attempt to get out of his slavery."

"Leave her alone!" Ren growled.

"Oh please, Makah’Alay, don’t bother. You have nothing with which to bargain anymore. In a few minutes you won’t even have your life"

Kateri went cold as some foreign part of her recognized this man even though she’d never seen him before.

Grizzly.

"Now I’ve come to claim what little life he has left. He owes me that much."

Kateri refused to let go. "I don’t understand. Why would you do that?" she asked him.

Grizzly answered through gritted teeth. "For you." He spat that out like it disgusted him. "He was always stupid."

"No," she said, fiercely. "Ren was never stupid. But you … You should have taken his offering when he sent Enrique in his place."