Christina glanced back at Eric and Nigel still talking. At least she had something to report to Eric. Uma knew about the murders and had tied them to the coven—and was afraid to talk about it openly. Maybe Uma would join her in the restroom and give her the rest of the scoop away from finely tuned ears.
Grasping her cup with two hands, Christina wandered toward the back doors of the room. The wind tossed her hair when she stepped outside. She grabbed her skirt with one hand to keep it from billowing around her. Tilting her head back, she caught a glimpse of clouds scudding across the dark sky.
She crossed the empty quad, veering to the left.
The building across the quad ended in a blue door with no label and a weak light spilling over it. Christina tried the handle, but it wouldn’t budge.
Maybe Uma just wanted her outside to meet with her in private.
“Uma?” The wind snatched her voice and carried it away.
She peeked around the corner of the building and saw another door. Crossing her arms and dipping her head against the wind that whipped around the corner, she headed for this second door.
She grasped the handle and it turned, so she yanked open the door. The breeze skittered behind her, blowing dry leaves.
Dry leaves in the middle of the summer? She half turned and a dark shape barreled toward her out of the shadows.
An arm slammed her face-first into the metal door. Her tongue smashed against the chipped paint. The coffee sloshed over the rim of the cup and scalded her hand.
Strong fingers gripped the back of her neck and squeezed so hard she couldn’t drag in a breath.
She’d caught a glimpse of a black mask before the attack, a black mask with eyes cut out. Glittering eyes.
Her hand still stung from the coffee as it dangled at her side. The smell of formaldehyde burned her nostrils, and a surge of adrenaline coursed through her veins.
Eric’s voice echoed from across the quad. The pungent odor of the formaldehyde grew stronger. Eric might not reach her in time.
With a burst of sheer will, she jerked up her arm and tossed the coffee into her attacker’s face.
He grunted and stumbled back.
She slipped from his clutches and clung to the side of the building, scrambling for the corner. She screamed Eric’s name but it came out a whimper.
She flung herself into the quad, falling to her knees.
Eric dropped beside her and she bunched his shirt in her fists and rasped, “Go get him...around the corner.”
“Are you all right?”
He pulled her against the wall of the building and propped her up. Then he took off around the corner.
The door to the bathroom banged open, and Eric shouted something unintelligible.
Had he found him? Christina held her breath.
Then she heard footsteps and the rattling of a chain-link fence. “I think he went over the fence.”
She braced her hand against the rough, uneven wall and pushed herself up. She edged around the corner.
Eric stood at the end of the cement walkway, clinging to a chain-link fence and shaking it.
“I-is he gone?”
“Looks like it.” He strode back to her and engulfed her in his arms. “What the hell happened out here? I thought you went for a brownie?”
“I had to use the restroom, and someone attacked me from behind. Pinched my neck and was about to douse me with formaldehyde. He was distracted by your voice and I threw coffee in his face.”
His arms tightened around her. “Christina, that’s not a restroom.”
“What are you talking about? Uma told me they were out here.”
“A woman I met by the brownies—tall, blond curly hair. She told me the ladies’ room was across the quad.”
“There’s a unisex bathroom right by the hall entrance. That’s some utility room.”
“Oh, my God.” She put a shaky hand to her forehead. “Uma, she lured me out here because she knew someone was waiting for me.”
“I’m sick of this secrecy.” He cinched an arm around her waist and started crossing the quad.
She dug her heels into the cement. “Hold on. What are you doing?”
“It just became open mic night at this boring meeting, and I’m taking the floor.”
“Eric, I’m not sure this is a good idea.”
“Sure it is. Are we going to cower outside and pretend you weren’t just attacked?”
He pushed through the door back into the hall, and marched to the front of the room, his motorcycle boots clomping on the floor.
“What are you doing? It’s not time for question-and-answer yet.”