pt closer. He could hear it breathe now, horrible, somehow liquid pulls on the air that merged with his own rapid panting.
He had to get out, get away. So he began to run, loping through the storm-slashed dark while what pursued him followed, with rapid clicks on the wood like eager claws.
He burst out onto a parapet, into the storm where lightning speared down and set the stone to smoking. The air burned and froze, and the rain pelted him like shards of glass.
With nowhere left to run, with fear a cold snake crawling in his belly, he turned to fight.
But the shadow was so huge, so close. It covered him before he could raise his fists. The cold tore through him, drove him to his knees.
He felt something ripped from him—wild, unspeakable pain, dull, shocking horror. And knew it was his soul.
FLYNN woke, shuddering with cold, clammy with the dregs of terror, and with the sun pouring in onto his face.
Struggling for breath, he sat up. He’d had his share of nightmares, but never one this intense. Never one where he’d actually felt pain.
Could still feel it, he thought as he gritted his teeth against the sharp stabs in his chest and belly.
He tried to tell himself it was the combination of pizza and whiskey and late night. But he didn’t believe it.
As the pain dulled, he slid gingerly out of bed, walked as cautiously as an old man to the bathroom, and turned the shower on hot. He was freezing.
He reached up to swing open the mirrored medicine cabinet for aspirin and caught a glimpse of his face.
The pallor of his skin, the glassy edge of shock in his eyes, were bad enough. But they were nothing compared to the rest.
He was soaking wet. His hair was drenched, his skin beaded with water. Like a man who’d been out in a storm, he thought, and lowered himself to the seat of the toilet as his legs gave way.
Not just a nightmare. He’d been inside Warrior’s Peak. He’d been out on the parapet. And he hadn’t been alone.
This was more than a quest for magic keys. More than a puzzle to be solved with the promise of a pot of gold at the end.
There was something else here. Something powerful. Dark and powerful.
He was going to find out what the hell was going on before any of them got in any deeper.
He stepped into the shower and let the hot water beat on him until it penetrated the chill in his bones. Then, calmer, he downed some aspirin, pulled his sweatpants on.
He would go down and make coffee, then he’d be able to think. Once his head was clear, he would roust both of his friends and get their take.
Maybe it was time for the three of them to go up to Warrior’s Peak and get the truth out of Rowena and Pitte.
He was halfway down when the bell rang, and Moe raced out barking like the hounds of hell on speed.
“Okay, okay. Shut up.” Johnnie Walker hadn’t given Flynn a hangover, but the nightmare had stepped up to the plate and knocked one home. He grabbed Moe by the collar, yanked back as he pulled the door open with his other hand.
She looked like a sunbeam. It was his only clear thought as he stared at Malory. Dressed in a pretty blue suit that showed off her legs, she smiled at him. Then stepped forward, wrapped her arms around him.
“Good morning,” she said, and by pressing her lips to his drained even that single thought out of his mind.
His fingers went limp on Moe’s collar, then fell away from it to lift up, dive into her hair. The aches and dread he’d awakened with fell away as well.
In that one moment he felt as if nothing would ever be beyond his reach again.
Moe gave up trying to shoehorn himself between them, and settled on leaping and barking for attention.
“Christ Jesus, Hennessy, can’t you get your dog to . . .” At the top of the stairs, Jordan trailed off. Below him stood his friend and the woman, bathed in morning sunlight. And drowning in each other.
The fact was, even when Flynn eased back from the embrace and glanced up, he had the look of a man going under for the third time. Blissfully.