"We're not!" George cried out.
My lips moved. I willed him to live with each whispered word, but he was fading, slipping through my fingers. Doolittle had saved me more times than I could count. I would keep him alive. Whatever magic I had, it was his. It would have to be enough.
Live, I willed. Please, please live. Please don't go.
He slipped further away from me. I was losing him, just like I had lost Bran.
I chanted, concentrating all my will on that little spark.
The world faded. The noises receded.
My lips moved, whispering the words on, and on, and on . . . It was a very simple chant that most people in my line of work learned. It was designed to boost the body's regeneration, and I poured all of myself into it. Only the next word and the tiny bit of magic it invoked mattered. If only I could claw myself open to get at the magic to keep him alive, I'd do it in a heartbeat.
My lips were numb. I couldn't feel my legs. The bottom half of me turned into a hole filled with pain. Too much magic drained too quickly.
Doolittle's eyes rolled back in his skull.
"Kate!" George yelled.
"Let me through!" Hugh roared in the back. "Let me through, damn it!"
Half a dozen snarls answered.
The chant had consumed me. I'd sunk every iota of my magic into it and now I struggled to break free. My voice was a mere whisper. "Let."
Curran crouched by me.
"Let him." Let him in.
Curran rose. "Let him through."
A moment later Hugh knelt by Doolittle. "Broken neck."
Hugh looked at me, his blue eyes studying me.
"Do you want him to live?"
Hugh rocked back, raised his head, and closed his eyes. Magic pulsed from him, like the toll of a colossal bell. It touched the bloody floor. Blue vapor rose from the blood, streaking upward.
The air around Hugh began to glow. I felt the magic move, a massive heavy current of it. So much power. Holy shit.
I held on to Doolittle with my magic, afraid to let go. I chanted, keeping him tethered to life. The ache in the pit of my stomach grew into a steady burn. A cold painful fire spread from my stomach into my chest and neck.
Hugh's body shook from the strain of the magic vibrating around him, fighting to break free.
Hugh opened his eyes. They glowed, filled with a supernatural, electric, luminescent blue. He spread his arms, palms up . . .
The magic tore from Hugh and spilled onto Doolittle in a deluge. Bones crunched.
Hugh blinked and his eyes looked normal again.
"Done," he said. "He'll live. You can let go."
I fell silent. The magic snapped, shorn. The fire inside me splashed through my head and I had an absurd notion it spilled out of my eyes.
Raphael ran into the room. "We spotted another one. He's injured and heading for the mountains."
Hugh jumped to his feet. Curran spun, half rising, and looked at me.
"Go!" I told him.
He took off, nearly colliding with Hugh as they ran out of the room.
Doolittle's chest fell and rose in a steady, smooth rhythm. He was breathing.
I slumped back and realized my jeans were soaked through. I was sitting in a puddle of my blood.
* * *
I lay back on a pile of blankets, watching shapeshifters through the doorway as they moved around the bigger room, sorting through the wreckage of Doolittle's lab. They'd carried me and Doolittle into the bedroom so we would be out of their way. I lay on the blankets on the floor, while Doolittle was submerged in a healing solution in a tub the shapeshifters had wrenched out of the bathroom. The bedroom door lay in pieces on the floor, and from my lovely perch on the blanket, I could see the entire suite.
Keira, now back in human form, was trying to clear the debris. She said she was still dizzy. I told her to lie down. Instead she tied a wet towel on her head. It must've been one hell of a hit, because normally shapeshifters shrugged concussions off and kept on rolling.
Next to Keira, Derek fished plastic jars with various medicines out of what used to be a cabinet. Eduardo was still out like a light. Desandra walked around in a bloody, shredded dress and heroically tried to pick things up, despite her stomach. I'd expected her to curl into a ball, but instead she rushed around all hyper. Mahon had ushered her into the room shortly after Curran had taken off. From my blanket, I could see Mahon looming by the front door.
Normally the sight of a twelve-hundred-pound bear didn't fill me with confidence, but right now knowing he was blocking the doorway made me downright warm and fuzzy. Especially since keeping Doolittle alive had taken every drop of strength I had. My arms had turned to wet cotton and lifting my head was an effort. Right now if a butterfly landed on me, I wouldn't wake up till the next morning.
No word from Curran. He, Hugh, Aunt B, Raphael, and Andrea had gone off over an hour ago.
Doolittle rested next to me in the makeshift tank. The green healing solution soaked his body. He hadn't said anything or opened his eyes, but his breathing was even.
I wanted him to wake up. I wanted him to open his eyes and chide me about something, anything. I would drink whatever medicine he demanded, I'd promise to stay in bed, I'd do anything just to have him wake up.
Hugh had said he would live. Being in a coma did technically count as living.
I pushed that thought away from me. That way lay dragons.
Barabas strode through the door, wearing a pair of sweatpants and nothing else. A wide gash streaked across his neck and his pale chest. He saw me and came into the bedroom. George followed him, carrying scissors, and pointed at my bloody jeans. "I'm sorry. I have to cut them off."
"I don't suppose I can get some privacy?" I asked.
"No," Derek said.
"Absolutely not," Keira said. "You can be modest later, when we're not under attack."
"This is probably a shock to you." Barabas crouched by me. "But we have all seen naked women before. The sight of your legs isn't going to traumatize anyone."
George took the scissors, stretched my jeans, and cut. The fabric tugged on the wound. I inhaled sharply. Argh. George cut the other side and pulled the blood-soaked denim rag away. "Okay. There are wounds. I'm not sure how severe this is for a nonshapeshifter."
Derek got up and passed George a handheld mirror. She held it. The left corner of it was gone, but enough remained to give me a view of my side. Three long jagged gashes cut the lower right side of my stomach, stretching all the way across my hip down over my thigh.
"Tilt it toward me?"