Winged demons attacked it in the air. Dozens of them, all members of the Pravus, tore at its fuselage. The craft nosedived, crashing in the distance into a ball of flames.

"Well, scratch that escape route." She worried her lip. And they absolutely had to escape.

Although she felt safer with Malkom, there were still threats out here. He could defeat several opponents at a time, but maybe not a dozen demons, especially if they could trace. In other words, they were as much in danger now as when they'd been locked up.

And the Order would doubtless send in reinforcements. From what Fegley had said, this organization of mortals was more far-reaching than she'd ever suspected. They weren't going to merely hand over their island.

Worse than all this? La Dorada could still be here. Carrow absently muttered, "We've got to get out of here."

"Will your people not come for you?"

"Maybe. If they can find us here. I think the facility, maybe even the entire island, has been cloaked," she said. "But with this much power flowing and this many immortals active in one place, maybe the coven can pinpoint the location."

"Why do you and the girl still wear your collars?"

"Ours didn't come off. Only those of our enemies did. Anyone evil. And then yours, for some reason. Maybe because you're a vemon. I don't know."

"So certain I am not evil?"

"Yes. I am."


He narrowed his eyes. "You had your collar in Oblivion. Why were you able to do magic?"

"They turned it off while I was there."

"Of course they did," he said, his tone seething.

"Malkom, again, I want you to know - "

He raised his hand to "uiet her, saying under his breath, "I smell food cooking."

Suddenly Carrow was ravenous.

"Come." He followed the scent, leading them downhill closer to the water than they'd been before.

Soon they saw light in the distance. An old-fashioned cabin stood on a wooded cape, nestled among the trees. Smoke curled from a crooked stone chimney.

Did the property belong to the Order? Some kind of auxiliary structure?

Through a dirt-caked window she could see shapes moving within. There appeared to be three beings who had taken up residence.

"Await me here." Malkom stalked inside. As Carrow watched in amazement, he simply evicted the occupants - what looked like two shapeshifters and a nymph. He tossed the shifters bodily from the cabin, and the nymph tore outside after them, fleeing.

All three were naked, likely going at it before they'd been interrupted. Though Malkom had probably gotten an eyeful of naked nymph, he looked unaffected as he stood on the covered front porch, motioning for Carrow to join him.

As she hurried toward the inviting shelter, she again thought, I could get used to having a demon around.

The aged exterior was cedar shake, with rusted metal tools and tongs dangling from the ceiling of the covered porch. A harpoon hung above the low doorway. A whaling cottage?

The interior was cobwebbed and rustic, seeming from a bygone era. In front of the stone fireplace lay a moth-eaten rug. The earlier three s"uatters had left their clothes strewn over it. What looked like a roasting hare sizzled over the flames on a spit. She guessed they'd gotten bored waiting for dinner to cook.

"Malkom?" Where'd he go?

She found him in a compact back room adjoining the main area. Inside the chamber were a dusty rocking chair and two spartan beds, positioned against opposite walls, with their mattresses removed. Instead of wooden slats, rope nets stretched across the bed frames.

Malkom had already spread a blanket over one net, motioning for her to lay Ruby down. He'd set the feys' opened pack against the wall.

She turned to thank him, but he'd already left. "Okay," she said with a sigh, laying Ruby down. The girl was still shivering. Gotta get her out of these clothes.

Carrow had just finished changing her into the short fey's baggy sweater when Ruby woke.

"Where are we?" She glanced around with a groggy frown.

Lacing her voice with enthusiasm, Carrow said, "Our own cabin in the woods. Right on the beach." She dusted off the back of the rocking chair, hanging Ruby's clothes to dry. "We're safe as kittens here."

"Where's the demon?"

"He's just outside."

That seemed to reassure her.

"Are you hungry, honey?"

"Just really tired. Will you stay here while I go to sleep?"

Carrow wanted only to curl up next to her and get unconscious for two days. But she forced herself to plaster on a smile. "I will," she said, removing her own soaked boots and hose. "And I won't leave this little cabin until you wake up."

"I'm glad you came back to get me in the tunnel." Ruby offered her hand.

Carrow took it in her own. "Ruby. Of course." The fear Carrow had experienced this night had been worse than any she'd known before. To leave Ruby behind amidst all that danger?

The hardest decision she'd ever made.

As Carrow had run, she'd thought, This is what parents do. Sometimes they were forced to make potentially life-or-death decisions for the children they cherished most in the world. Even though it might be horrifying to do so. "But don't forget, the demon helped us."

"I don't like him," Ruby whispered loudly. "He can't swim, and he talks really slow and weird."

Yes, he did speak slowly, but Carrow thought his Demonish accent was sexy. "I didn't like him at first either. Give him a chance. Remember, he saved both of our lives."

"Did he really marry you?"

"Did he mention that?" At Ruby's nod, she said, "It's complicated, honey. Besides, even if we were, he wouldn't want to be any longer."

"But if you're married, then Ember's right. He's my stepdemon, and I'm going to have to live with him, too." She pouted, which was totally understandable, all things considered.

Of course Ruby would be nervous about her future. With so many "uestions that I don't have the answers to. "How about this - you know that house on the corner just down from Andoain, the one that can't be sold because of all the noise and fumes coming from the coven?"

"Uh-huh. It's got the big trees."

Carrow had been scoping it out because it had a pool and she was tired of sneaking dozens of witches into King Rydstrom's New Orleans pool house and residence. Plus, he'd busted them that last time. "I'll buy it, and it'll be our own clubhouse-slash-pad." It was conveniently located only a few houses down from Mariketa and Bowen's place. "You can decorate your room any way you like."

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