With the shelves as cover, I opened fire on Mischa, who’d taken refuge behind a display of travel mugs. Taking aim at the bank of coffee machines behind her, I shot the carafes. Judging from her screams, the coffee shower that splashed on the bitch was roughly the temperature of magma.

One second, Adam crouched next to me, and the next, he inhaled sharply and cursed. I ripped my gaze off Mischa in time to see him pull a throwing star out of his thigh. He tossed it to the ground with an irritated grimace. “Okay,” he said, his jaw tight. “Now I’m annoyed. Seriously—who uses a throwing star?”

I sensed movement behind me. Before Fatty could get his hamhock hands on me, I back-kicked him in the stomach. My boot heel sank into the fleshy layers like I’d stepped into a pool of Jell-O before ricocheting back. Fatty’s belly shook with laughter for a moment before cutting off suddenly. We all went still for a moment, and then everyone shifted into fast-forward.

Mischa, looking like a wet, pissed-off cat, jumped Adam from out of nowhere. As he fended off her claws and kicks, Fatty grabbed me from behind and started squeezing me like a fleshy boa constrictor. He shook me like a rag doll, and the gun fell from my fingers and sparks of light danced in my eyes. I reached back and poked his eye with my index finger. I had to jab a couple of times before he finally released me with a howl.

I barely had time to gasp a few gulps of air before Mischa knocked Adam down and came after me. I backed down the aisle, pulling the apple-wood sticks from my hair. Behind Mischa, Adam went after Fatty in a blur of motion. I didn’t have time to see the outcome of his attack, because just then Mischa produced nunchucks from her back pocket. With a self-satisfied grin, she swung them overhead like helicopter blades. Cans of Spam and packages of pork rinds flew to the floor as she advanced.

I retreated until I hit a dead end at the row of drink coolers at the back. The gunfire earlier had shattered the glass and most of the bottles and cans, but I managed to find a bottle of apple juice among the wreckage. I popped the top and tossed the contents in Mischa’s face. She inhaled sharply out of surprise, forcing the forbidden fruit juice into her system. I ducked the flailing nunchucks and slammed a chopstick down at an angle behind her collarbone.

Mischa jerked back, falling into a display of Doritos. Her body ignited, and the chips went up in flames with her. The resulting odor was a bizarre mix of smoke, apple, and nacho cheese. In addition to the oddly pleasing scent of Mischa’s death, I experienced the sweet taste of retribution on my tongue. Mischa might have tormented me for years with jokes about my shameful birth, but I’d just gotten the last laugh.

A bellow near the front of the store got my attention. Fatty bent over at the waist, his hands cupping his crotch. Apparently, Adam wasn’t afraid to fight dirty. I smiled and mentally added that to my list of favorite things about him.

I moved to join the mage up front, but right then Nick performed an over-the-counter somersault, landing a foot away from Adam. My scalp tingled as Adam shot the vamp with a bolt of magical energy. Nick flew backward, his head crashing the counter before he collapsed on the floor.

I came up behind Adam and shot Nick a few times for good measure. The wounds wouldn’t kill him. To do that, I’d need to inject a dose of the forbidden fruit into his system first, to strip away his immortality. But I had other plans for Nick.

I crouched next to his limp body. He groaned, his eyes fluttering. Whatever Adam hit him with had scrambled him good. His labored breath had a wheeze to it that made me suspect I’d clipped a lung.

Behind me, I heard the crack of knuckles against skin. Sounded like Fatty had come back for more from Adam. I needed to make this quick so I could help him finish off the obese vamp.

I leaned in close to Nick’s ear. “Tonight’s your lucky night, Nick. I’m going to let you live. But in return you’re going to do something for me.”

His head jerked and his mouth moved, but no sound came out.

“Sabina,” Adam yelled. “A little help here.” A grunt followed his plea.

I held up a finger over my shoulder. “Listen up, ’cause I have to go kill your partner in a sec. Are you listening, Nick?” I pressed a thumb into the wound in Nick’s leg to make sure I had his attention. He moaned in response. I took that for a yes.

“I want you to give my grandmother a message. I want you to tell her what happened here. I want you to look her in the eye.” I grabbed Nick by the chin and forced his gaze to mine. “And then I want you to tell Lavinia I’m coming back for her real soon.”

My job done, I lifted the Glock and coldcocked Nick. His head fell to the side and his mouth went slack. Given the extent of his wounds, he’d probably be down for the count long enough for Adam and me to get the hell out of Dodge. I wasn’t worried he’d give chase. He’d know better.

Another grunt echoed through the store. I rose and saw Adam and Fatty grappling near the magazine rack. I was relieved to see Adam looking relatively uninjured despite being trapped in Fatty’s headlock. Even with Adam’s height and impressive physique, the mage had nothing on four hundred pounds of vampire flesh. I wondered why the mage hadn’t spelled the vamp into submission, but then I saw the brass knuckles glinting on Fatty’s massive hand. Brass is like Kryptonite for mages, which explained why Fatty had survived this long.

I grabbed a bottle of aerosol hairspray from the sundries aisle and ran toward them.

“Hey!” I yelled. When Fatty turned, I blasted him in the eyes with the hairspray. He dropped Adam and shrieked, swiping at his eyes with a huge paw. He ran at me blindly. I backpedaled, raising the gun. But my heel was sticky from the apple juice and slipped out from under me. As I fell, the shot went wide and clipped Fatty’s shoulder instead of his head.

Adam came up from the rear and stabbed the big guy with a stake. Fatty roared in pain but still didn’t explode. I scrambled up, trying to avoid his flailing arms. I ducked, barely avoiding one of his fists.

Adam’s eyes widened. “The stake isn’t big enough to reach his heart,” he whispered loudly.

Roaring from pain, Fatty took off for the front doors. He crashed through and ran blindly toward the pumps. Adam and I looked at each other for a beat before hauling ass after him. We couldn’t risk some mortal pulling into the station and seeing a huge, bloodied vampire lumbering through the parking lot. We skidded to a halt as Fatty crashed into Adam’s Escalade. He bounced off the rear door and fell to the ground. The SUV rocked from the impact before going still again.

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