But she lives. And she was in jeopardy once more. Gritting his teeth, he began to shove bones back under his skin, as he gazed around him, wary for his enemies.
Why hadn't he been attacked by the Wendigo? Why weren't they attracted to the scent of his blood?
Though he couldn't yet stand, he would reach her somehow. She'd believed in me.
He'd f**king crawl to her if he had to.
Just as he was about to shove his femur back into place, he stilled. That goddamned sword...
It was still strapped to his back.
"Where do I go now?" she whispered, as she closed the church doors behind her. There was no answer, nothing but echoing silence.
She'd swept death over this place. Yet she felt little of the satisfaction she'd expected, only gut-wrenching sadness from Cadeon's betrayal.
By the time she'd reached the edge of the town once more, her clothes and hair had frozen. Ice formed on her eyelashes.
As Holly turned in dazed circles, shuddering from cold and shock, she felt warmth from above. She raised her face in confusion.
The northern lights.
They waved and floated so peacefully, calling to her, beckoning like opened arms.
Without thought, Holly ran headlong toward them, into the darkest wilds, with no other thought than to follow the lights....
Holly had eluded him for four days, but Cade was fast on her trail, hauling ass down a frozen road toward another mining town. He had even more of his crew scouring the countryside for her.
Cade had lost her in Prosperity that night. After finding a scene of carnage, Cade had realized the reason he hadn't been attacked by Wendigos was because she'd slaughtered every last one, unwittingly saving his life.
After that, she hadn't headed south as anyone else in her position would have. Had she gone in that direction, then she would've been trapped in the same bottleneck that had blocked his men.
Nor had she headed east, following the river or the road toward easier terrain.
She'd cannily headed northwest, straight into the heart of the mountains.
By chance, he stumbled upon her direction, having spied a miner with a black eye and a broken arm. The man had grown cagey when given Holly's description.
Apparently, she'd cleaned his clock. Good girl...
Cade had broken the man's other arm for her trouble.
Once on her trail, Cade had been able to readily trace her movements because the men in the Territories remembered her. In the dead of winter, not many females were about, much less beautiful ones.
At the portage where the miner had previously stayed, Cade had been directed to the next town to the north. There, Holly had sold her watch for a single meal and a pair of snowshoes, then made her way on foot to another camp. Once she'd bunked through the worst of a storm, she'd begun hitching to the mining town Cade now sped to.
He believed he was only hours behind her - he'd find her there. The thought made him increase his speed even more.
She was out of money and had no one to call. She wouldn't contact her human friends and didn't have Nïx's number. Not that she would call her aunt anyway. Holly had to know that Nïx had been in on the scheme from the beginning.
The scheme... Cade's gaze flickered over the sheathed sword propped on the passenger's seat. Cade hated the mere sight of it, a constant reminder that he'd been forced to choose yet again.
Before, he hadn't really gotten the term "hollow victory" - a win is a win, so what's not to like? - but now he understood.
The ne'er-do-well had finally done well.
And he'd never felt more like a failure.
Because of him, Holly was in constant danger, no doubt afraid and confused. Yes, she was stronger, but she was still so young and had hardly ever left New Orleans, much less hitched across the Territories in the winter.
The worry for her was punishing. In his lifetime, Cade had been tortured many times. He'd been a sinew away from being beheaded. None of those ordeals came close to the constant ache in his chest...
Cade was in love with her. Damn it, he wanted his halfling back.
Holly huddled down in a side alley, sitting on a mound of dirty snow. More of the vile stuff was coming down wetly. If she never saw snow again...
She had no idea where she was. Yet another barren mining town. They were beginning to blur together.
Unable to sleep for the last four days, she was nearing mental and physical exhaustion. The hunger she hadn't felt in weeks now redoubled, making her dizzy.
She was out of money, her watch long since sold, and there were no banks for wiring funds here. There wasn't even a regular post. Not that she had anyone to contact for help.
I am utterly alone -
The pay phone at the corner began to ring. As a girl who worshipped technology, Holly didn't want to be in a place where there were still pay phones about. Pay phones equaled somewhere she oughtn't ever be.
Eventually it stopped ringing.
So what to do now? I can keep moving, or I can sit in the dirty snow till I freeze.
She actually could sit in the dirt. No longer was it incapacitating for her. Of late, fate had enrolled Holly in a comprehensive immersion therapy. She hadn't showered for days, had no way to brush her teeth. She'd slept in unwashed sheets, bunking in portages that smelled of men's feet and cooked onions.
What is my next move? She could only hope to hitch another ride -
The ringing began again, and this time the sound grated on her frayed nerves. She shakily rose, then crossed to the phone, intending to take it off the hook. But once she picked it up, curiosity compelled her to answer.
"Hello?" Her voice was hoarse.
"Look for us!" Nïx yelled over blaring music. "We're vibrating with bass." Click.
What - the - hell? Holly hung up the phone, staring at it for long moments, as if it held the answers as to how and why Nïx had just called her.
Minutes later, a red thumping SUV skidded to a stop in front of her. A Valkyrie with a glowing face and a wry expression was behind the wheel. Nïx was in the passenger seat, waving for Holly to get in.
Holly flipped her off, returning to burrow in her dirty snow.
The two women followed her.
"Wow, you look like a bucket-o-fuck," the glowing one told Holly.
In a cheery tone, Nïx said, "This is your aunt, Regin the Radiant. We don't believe she possesses verbal governors of any kind. Now, come along, dearling. We're late for the airport."
Holly's brows rose. "I'm not going anywhere with you."
Nïx blinked in confusion. "Why ever not?"
Holly gaped before she could finally find words. "Maybe because you lied to me, tricking me to go off with an evil demon? One who turned me over to a sorcerer who planned to impregnate me with the ultimate evil!"