Under the moon goddesses.., p.25

Under the Moon (Goddesses Rising), page 25

 

Under the Moon (Goddesses Rising)
 


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  Two goddesses. Two people with power. The leech wasn’t here.

  Fuck.

  A scream came from the porch. Quinn watched Fran fall to her knees, blood dark against her light-colored shirt. Gunshots sounded all around her, and the fireball grew. Marley. Sam. Nick. They would lose. Worse, they would die.

  Quinn opened herself as wide as she could, imagining a giant conduit between her and the moon. She’d never done anything like this before, but she’d thought about it all day, visualizing scenarios, sensing the energy and planning how to use it. She closed her eyes and in seconds had pinpointed all the metal weapons within her range, all the enemies, and all her people. She shielded the latter and isolated the former and drew, harder than she ever had before. White light flooded her, overflowed her, and she tried to compress it, to force it into two streams. Her skin prickled and burned. With a yell she flashed the heat to all sources of metal, warping the gun barrels so the bullets would jam or explode and fusing the pins of grenades that hadn’t yet been employed.

  At the same time, she sent a concussion wave of energy sweeping across the lawn and driveway and into the house. She strengthened the shields around her people, Sam and Marley and Nick and Fran and Tim—lying motionless in front of the registration desk—and Bobby, standing on the stairs, facing down a man dressed in black. He collapsed under the force of the wave, as did all of her targets. All but one. The goddess nearby had set up her own shield of energy, protecting herself from Quinn.

  The fireball rushed past Quinn and hit the front wall of the inn.

  “Nooooooooooo!”

  Quinn tried to run back to the building, but the effort she’d expended took an immediate toll. Her legs shook and numbed, and she fell at the bottom of the steps. She reached out, struggling to find a way to extinguish the flames, but a moment later, water streamed through the door, dousing the worst of them. Marley appeared behind the water, aiming a hose. Shadows enhanced gaunt hollows in her cheeks and under her eyes.

  Quinn’s sluggish mind churned. The fireball goddess. Stop her. But when Quinn looked back toward the spot where she’d been, it was empty. She cast feelers, trying to sense her, but the goddess was already out of range.

  “Quinn!” Marley screamed. “Help me!” She now crouched over Fran, who lay on the porch, bleeding out.

  Quinn hauled herself up the steps, stamping out small flames flickering across the porch floor as she went, and collapsed next to Fran. She closed her eyes and put her hand on the woman’s chest. The bullet had gone through, low on her shoulder. The heart was okay, but a major vessel gushed blood. Quinn drew on her dwindling resources and focused her power into the injured protector. The vessel closed, then the smaller blood vessels. Flesh sealed over the wounds, front and back. Fran gasped and shuddered.

  Lights flashed in blackness at the edges of Quinn’s vision. She’d drawn too much, too fast. She closed the conduit she’d opened, and all awareness of their attackers blinked off. Her friends and Marley’s remained residually connected to her, like a ghost image after closed eyes in bright light. They were all alive, if damaged, and the fading connection was reassuring.

  The yard was silent now. No weapons discharging. No screams or shouts of anger. The fire died, and Marley went inside to Tim. Quinn hoped her sister could heal him, because she was nearly tapped out. She wasn’t even sure what was wrong with him.

  She huddled next to Fran, drawing deep breaths as her vision cleared, but as it did she lost track of everything else. Nick stood in the driveway with his pistol, which she may have melted. But Sam…

  She struggled to her feet and down the steps again. Nick sagged against the porch rail, looking haggard. He had a cut across one cheekbone and bruising on his jaw, and he held one arm against his body. Hurt ribs, maybe, or his shoulder.

  “You okay?” they asked simultaneously. Then, together, “Barely.”

  “Where’s Sam?” Quinn rasped.

  Nick shook his head. “I don’t know. He chased a guy through a window.” He motioned toward the side of the house and grimaced as he straightened.

  Quinn took a deep breath to brace herself and walked around the corner of the house. The grass was cold and damp against her dragging feet, and she realized for the first time that she was barefoot. Her left arch throbbed as if she’d stepped on a big stone, and her toes tingled in the chill. The air felt thick, not breathable, and her eyes didn’t like the darkness. She kept flinching from phantom movement. Her voice resisted, too, and calling out for Sam was fruitless.

  They rounded the corner and the moonlight shone down on the wide yard, empty except for two figures on the ground. One wore all black, ski mask still in place.

  The other was Sam.

  “No!” Quinn whispered, fear spiking her adrenaline. She stumble-ran to where he sprawled on the ground, eyes closed, one arm bent across his body. There was no sign of blood, but that didn’t reassure her.

  “Sam.” Nick slid to a halt at Sam’s far shoulder and patted his cheek. “Wake up, Sam.”

  “I’m so sorry,” Quinn whispered.

  Nick jerked his head up. “Stop it. He’s not dead.”

  “No.” She closed her eyes, opened herself to the moon, and assessed him. No bullet wounds. No head injury—at least, not from a blow. His electrical system was all messed up, his breathing shallow, his heartbeat erratic.

  “He’s been Tasered.”

  Nick dropped his head. “Jesus. Is that all?” He sat on the ground with a thud. “I guess that’s what they need to take down a bull like him.”

  “They used too much juice for too long. He’s tachy.” She had to help him. There were no hospitals close by—they’d already established that—and she wasn’t sure they could get paramedics here in time.

  “Quinn, you’re tapped out.”

  “No, I’m not.” The energy was unlimited, even if she had few resources to access it. She put her hand on Sam’s chest and opened herself wider again. Power came in a sluggish trickle, not the raging river it had been mere moments before. She nudged Sam’s heart. It did three rapid beats before settling into a rhythm. Next she inflated his lungs deep. He pushed all the air out, then drew it in less shallowly than before.

  Now the hard part. Static zigzagged through his nervous system, causing fibers to jump and vibrate. She imagined touching them, calming them like a finger on a guitar string stops the sound. His body relaxed under her hand, and with a short sigh, she passed out on the grass next to him.

  Chapter Fourteen

  Even when a goddess’s power source seems unlimited, her own physical resources are finite. We encourage you to test your limits under controlled, safe circumstances.

  —The Society for Goddess Education and Defense, New Member Brochure

  …

  “…too much at once.”

  The soft voice was Marley’s, Quinn thought, struggling up through fog. Then came Nick’s, harsher, skeptical, shaking like he was running on caffeine and fear.

  “I don’t like this. That was too easy.”

  “Too easy? You’re insane. Fran was shot, Tim has a broken arm, Quinn’s unconscious—”

  “Not anymore.” Her voice croaked, and she didn’t think anyone would hear her. But a second later Nick and Marley both bent over her.

  “How you feelin’?” Nick asked. “I gotta tell you, this fainting shit isn’t very impressive.”

  Marley gasped. “Nick!”

  “It’s okay.” Quinn tried to sit up. Nick supported her with an arm around her back, and she saw she was on one of the stiff flowered sofas in the parlor. “He’s right.”

  “He’s a jerk. You saved us all and nearly killed yourself.”

  She shook her head. “He’s right,” she repeated. “It was too easy.” When she swallowed, her throat grated like sandpaper. “Got anything to drink?”

  Nick handed her a bottle of water. It was lukewarm, and she realized the lights were off.

  “No electricity?”

 
No. I think your energy wave knocked it out.”

  “How long was I unconscious?” She swung her legs off the cushion and shifted so Nick could lean back next to her. The water, warm as it was, felt like silk on her abused throat.

  “You don’t know?” Nick sounded incredulous.

  “I—” She stopped. She didn’t. That was bad. “No.”

  “Only about twenty minutes,” Marley soothed.

  “How are the others?”

  “Fran will be okay. She’s weak, but I don’t think she needs a transfusion.”

  “Push fluids.”

  “We are. Tim broke his arm. Nick splinted it, but he’ll need to see an orthopod. I don’t think it’s displaced.” Her face tightened. “I don’t have the healing power you do. I can’t—”

  “I’ll take a look.”

  “No, you won’t.” Nick looked weird, and it took Quinn a minute to realize it was worry. He normally hid it well. But not tonight.

  “If I can help him, I will.”

  “Quinn, you’re completely drained.”

  “I’ll be okay.” That might be a lie. “I could at least check him, see how bad it is.”

  She could tell Nick didn’t believe her. “What else?”

  “Bobby’s fine. The attackers are gone, every last one of them.” Nick stood and paced a few feet away. “When I got you back to the house, they’d disappeared.”

  “How?”

  He shrugged. “No idea. They all puddled onto the ground when you did your major goddess mind-meld thing or whatever it was.”

  “It must have been the goddess. The one who cast the flame.”

  “She what, teleported everyone?”

  “No, but I think she cloaked them until she could get them out. Now please stop trying to divert me and tell me what’s wrong with Sam.”

  Nick and Marley exchanged a look that said they knew how she’d react. Nick sighed and sank down next to her again.

  “He’s still out.”

  A sob welled in her chest, trapped. “Where is he?”

  “Upstairs.”

  She raised her eyebrows. “How did you get him there?”

  “Wasn’t easy. Needed a Hoyer lift.” The joke fell flat. “He hasn’t moved. But it’s only been half an hour.”

  “Let me see him.”

  She expected Nick to say no, but he bent and hauled her into his arms to carry her upstairs.

  “I can walk.”

  “You need to rest.”

  “What about your ribs? I know they were hurt.”

  “Marley took the edge off. I’m fine.”

  He wasn’t, of course. His legs shook, and his abs were rock hard against her side from his effort. She wasn’t exactly petite. But he was halfway up the flight of stairs already, and struggling would send them tumbling back down, so she held him around the neck and tried to balance her weight for him. She was so exhausted her need to recharge was on hold, but she knew it would be intense once it hit.

  Plaster dust and shattered wood fragments littered the hallway at the top of the stairs. Quinn glimpsed a small hole in the common room ceiling before Nick turned right and set her down at the doorway to the room Sam was in. He clearly tried to mask that he was out of breath. Quinn squeezed his shoulder in thanks, but her attention went to her assistant, lying ghostly pale in the moonlight. She sat on the edge of the bed and put her hand on his chest, but Nick grabbed her wrist.

  “Don’t, Quinn. You don’t have the energy.”

  “I know.” She felt his heart beat under her palm. “Even if I can check him, I can’t fix him.”

  “He’ll be okay.”

  But he didn’t know, and neither did she.

  “What I’m more concerned about,” Nick said, “is what that attack was supposed to accomplish.”

  “I’m thinking the same thing.” Anson hadn’t been there. No one had tried to take Quinn or even harm her. The action had been peripheral, targeting the support team.

  “I don’t know what the purpose was or if they accomplished it,” he stated. “But I know one thing for sure.”

  Quinn finished for him. “They’ll be back.”

  …

  “You need to rest, Quinn.” Nick set his hand on her shoulder, but she didn’t move.

  “I’m not leaving Sam.”

  Marley spoke from the doorway. “Quinn, I’m not as depleted as you are. I can watch over him.”

  “You’ve got your own people to take care of.”

  “We’ll manage. You’re no good to anyone like this.”

  Quinn tried to turn her head to argue, but it hurt too much to look over her shoulder. Her entire body throbbed and ached from channeling so much energy through it, making their point for them.

  Quinn didn’t know what to do. She’d never felt so incapable in her entire adult life. Anson knew she was here, so her presence endangered everyone. Nick would never let her leave without him. He’d stand over her and fight to his last breath to keep her safe, but she’d rather lose her abilities to leeching than lose Nick forever. But the stakes were higher now. Anson obviously didn’t care whom he hurt.

  Sam would tell her the despair she felt, the enormous weight of responsibility, was so heavy because of her fatigue. She smiled a little, hearing his voice in her head, but then she wanted to cry, watching him lying so still.

  Nick’s cell phone buzzed. Frowning, he checked the display, then answered. “Yeah.” He cursed. “When?” After a few more one-word queries and responses, he hung up and shook his head. “Dammit.”

  “Who was that?”

  “John.”

  His boss. “What happened?”

  “He hit again.” Nick didn’t look over when Marley gasped.

  “Another goddess was leeched?” Quinn squeezed out. “Where?”

  “Boston.”

  She stared at him for a few seconds, not getting it. “When?”

  “Half an hour ago.” He walked stiffly to the wall and leaned against it, as if too tired to stand on his own anymore. “Which means he wasn’t even close to this battle. I don’t know if this was supposed to be a distraction or if he just wanted a shortened timeline, or maybe more juice to come after you himself.”

  “Who did he get?” Quinn managed to ask. Her voice was barely audible, her body shutting down despite her struggles to focus on what Nick was telling them.

  He named a goddess she didn’t know. “He didn’t drain her completely. He’d barely started when her protector stopped him, doing some damage he’ll have to recover from, according to John. Protector couldn’t hold on to him, though, and apparently he has a concussion and a busted hand. Goddess has been pulled in to the Society offices.”

  “We have to get down there.” Quinn lurched to her feet, but her head swam and she hit the floor with a thud. She was barely aware of hands helping her down the hall to another bedroom, where she collapsed on the bed. No. Have to go. Can’t let him…

  And then she was out.

  The first couple of hours were dreamless. She woke briefly, struggling to calculate what time it was based on how long she’d been asleep. It was still scarily difficult, and her eyes closed against her will.

  This time, though, she dreamed. The unprecedented amount of power she’d channeled that night had overloaded her system. Now, with a little rest, she was rebounding, and her body clamored to recharge, desperate when it had been denied for so many cycles. First, it hummed, an engine driving a clawing hunger. Her pulse throbbed in her neck, her groin. She rolled onto her side and squeezed her thighs together. Her bra constricted around her heavy, swollen breasts. She ached—her throat, her nipples, between her legs.

  There was no one here to address the need, so her subconscious punished her for it.

  She dreamed of Sam, standing by the river back in Ohio. His bare toes curled into the silt at the water’s edge. The light was early-morning dim, so the green leaves and grass and water were dark while his skin looked like carved marble. His naked legs, ass, bac
k, shoulders were all achingly familiar and daring her to touch. He shook back his shaggy dark hair, then dove into the water. He surfaced facing her, an abandoned grin on his face.

  “C’mon, Quinn. Have some fun.” His tone left no doubt what kind of fun she should have.

  Her body craved what had so often nourished it. Even as she stood unmoving on the bank she could feel the cool, silky water on her bare skin, then Sam’s strong, hard arms and legs around her. His penis inside her, stroking and pumping until she bit his neck, cut into his back with her fingernails, and exploded in a shower of light.

  “You don’t kiss me,” he said, annoyed, and it was like the orgasm hadn’t happened, like the dream reset.

  “I’m sorry, Sam. I can’t. It’s wrong.” Wrong to accept from him what she really wanted from someone else.

  “It’s never wrong.” But he threw her away from him. She sank deep into the water, caught by the current that dragged her along, whirling and spinning up against rocks and surfacing only long enough to get a breath before being sucked under again. The maelstrom didn’t scare her, though. Even asleep, she knew the drowning was metaphorical, punishment for not slaking her lust. Drowning in need, not water.

  She washed up onto shore on a bed. Everything was dry, but she was still naked. Silk bound her wrists to the bedposts and Nick sat next to her, fully dressed. His hands rested on his lap and she arched toward him, her body begging. He shook his head.

  This was her dream. She could have what she wanted here, guilt free. The restraints disappeared and she grabbed the sides of Nick’s open flannel shirt and yanked him to her.

  The woods and river vanished, and she was in her room at Marley’s inn, dimly lit with moonlight. She was naked and panting…

  And she held Nick over her, his shirt fisted in her hands.

 
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