The Kum-N-Go’s roadside-chic interior was bathed in a sickly fluorescent glow. The aroma of stale smoke, urinal cakes, and rotgut coffee had me breathing through my mouth on the way back to the ATM. It was my turn to pay for gas, so getting cash took priority over raiding the snack aisle for the moment.
While I entered my code and waited, Adam chatted with the attendant at the front of the store. He glanced over and raised his eyebrows. I lifted a finger and took a moment to admire the way his ass filled out his jeans. Even after sitting in a car for two days straight, he still looked hot with his stubble and road-weary smile. Too bad the mage part made him off-limits.
Before I got caught staring, I moved my gaze to the window. Adam’s SUV and my cherry red Ducati provided the only scenery in the empty parking lot. The bike’s 180 horses rested docilely on a trailer behind Adam’s behemoth. Before we’d left California, he’d argued I wouldn’t need wheels in New York, but I held my ground. That motorcycle was the only good thing left of my old, broken life. Leaving it behind wasn’t an option.
A flash of white caught my attention as Stryx landed on the roof over the gas pumps. The red-eyed owl had followed us all the way from California, and I assumed he’d be joining us in New York. I’d gotten so used to seeing him, I no longer questioned his reason for following me. He never caused trouble, which was more than I could say for my other companions on this road trip from hell.
The headlights from a midnight-black Mercedes lit up the window. It pulled in on the other side of Adam’s car, so I couldn’t see the driver get out. I waited to see if he’d come inside to pay, but loud beeping from the ATM grabbed my attention.
I took the clump of twenties the machine spat out and stashed it in my pocket, relieved the account still worked. Registered under a false name through a bank in the Caymans, the account held the bulk of my savings. When I’d set it up, it was a better-safe-than-sorry measure, but now it was all I had left to my name.
I was turning toward the front of the store when the three redheads came around the back of Adam’s car. My heart sputtered and then kicked into overdrive.
How’d they find me so fast?
“Adam! We’ve got company!” With one hand, I reached for my waistband and grabbed for my gun. I cursed, realizing I’d left it in Adam’s center console along with a box of apple cider bullets. After a few days on the road with no sign of trouble, I’d grown complacent, and now I was about to fight three assassins armed with nothing but the pair of apple-wood chopsticks that held my hair back. Awesome.
The mortal male behind the counter wore a red smock with a nametag that read “Darrell.”
“Go lock yourself in the storeroom,” I told him.
I flashed my fangs and pulled him bodily across the counter. “Get the hell out of here!”
Wetness spread across the front of his wrinkled khakis. He stammered for a moment, then turned tail and ran toward the back of the store.
Adam had already spotted the trouble. “Friends of yours?”
I turned toward the door, watching the three vampires make their way toward us. “The one on the left is Nick Konstantine. Likes to get stabby, so watch your back.” Nick was the kind of vamp who gave the rest of us bad names. He liked to rape his prey before draining them. Nasty dude. “The big guy is Fatty Garza.”
“What’s his specialty? Eating his opponents whole?”
“Something like that.”
“And the female?”
I narrowed my eyes and gripped my gun tighter. “Mischa Petrov.” Just saying that bitch’s name left a bad taste in my mouth.
Adam parted his lips to say more, but the assassins stopped about ten feet back from the door. Mischa’s eyes met mine through the glass doors. She smiled snarkily and nodded. You ready to die, bitch?
I raised an eyebrow in return. Bring it.
Adam stood calmly at my side, waiting. He didn’t waste time with unnecessary questions. I knew from experience he could hold his own in a fight, which meant I didn’t have to worry about saving both our asses on my own.
Something shifted. Nothing obvious. No overt signal was given. But one second the whole world seemed to hold its breath, and the next, the air exploded with gunfire. I shoved Adam to our right, and we slid down the aisle in a tangle of limbs.
Bullets ripped through the store, turning it into swiss cheese. Sodas exploded in the refrigerated cases, coating us with cold, sticky wetness. Pulverized chocolate, salty snacks, and tampons rained down to create a PMS-themed collage on the floor.
“You got any weapons?” I yelled over the noise.
“Magic.” I shot him a look. He smiled. “And a Glock.” He pulled a Glock 20 from his waistband and handed it over. Releasing the magazine, I was relieved to find it full. That gave me fifteen rounds. Fifteen nonlethal bullets, considering we were fighting vampires, but I’d still be able to inflict some pain.
Finally, the hailstorm of bullets stopped.
“Yoo-hoo! Sabina?” Mischa called.
“What?” I shouted, and glanced at Adam. “Get ready to create a diversion.”
“Just let me zap them out of here.” I shook my head firmly. This was vampire business. I’d be damned before I let a mancy save me from my own kind. Besides, if anyone was going back to L.A., it was to take a message to my grandmother. And it wouldn’t take three of them to deliver it. But Adam’s magic could come in handy in other ways. I pointed to the fluorescent lights overhead. He nodded coolly and rose into a crouch.
Mischa sighed loudly. “I don’t suppose you’d just surrender now and save us all some time, would you, Mutt?”
I gritted my teeth. Mischa never missed an opportunity to remind me and everyone in hearing distance of my mixed blood. “Riiight. Tell you what, if you’re in such a hurry, why not just put that gun to your temple and squeeze the trigger? It’ll save me the effort.”
“And muss up my hair?” Mischa drawled. “You’re just talking crazy now.”
“Enough of this shit,” Nick said, clearly unimpressed with our banter.
Boots crunched on broken glass, signaling the assassins were on the move. I nodded to Adam.
His lips moved with an incantation, and a zap of energy shot from his fingertips. The hair on the back of my neck stood on end as I peeked between cereal boxes. Two fluorescent lights exploded above Mischa and Nick, and the metal housings holding the bulbs broke loose and crashed on their heads. Mischa’s gun skittered away, and Nick got knocked to the floor. Fatty, surprisingly agile given his size, jumped aside and started making his way to the back of the store.