Black Heart Page 36

“I’m not sure it will help my case if they know that,” I said. “They’re already afraid of me as it is. And a lot of bad stuff has happened to Agents because of me.”

Ramuell and Antares breaking into the Agency with a horde of demons, killing indiscriminately. Agents being taken and used for Azazel’s experiments. Yes, the Agency had a lot of grief it could lay at my door, even if most of it was indirect.

It wasn’t really my fault that my enemies used innocents in their quest to get to me. But I carried the burden of those deaths anyway.

My stomach grumbled loudly, breaking the tension and the silence. I grinned in an embarrassed way. “Sorry. Can’t remember the last time I ate.”

To my surprise, Daharan turned to Puck with an angry look. “Did you not think to feed the girl before you put her through her paces? She is with child. She needs nourishment.”

He muttered something to himself, and a picnic blanket appeared on the sand. And on the picnic blanket there were . . .

“Pancakes!” I said. I’m not ashamed to admit that I dove for that plate like Beezle going for the popcorn bowl.

There was a whole spread, with orange juice and a bowl of brightly colored, cut-up fruit, and every kind of pancake topping I liked—butter and syrup and fruit jams. There was even bacon, and it smelled so heavenly that I almost fainted in ecstasy.

“Slowly,” Daharan said. “You will make yourself sick.”

I nodded, and carefully cut up one pancake on my plate after drowning it in butter and syrup. I ate slowly, letting my shriveled stomach adjust to the idea of food again.

While I shoveled food in my mouth—in a careful, measured way, of course—Daharan indicated to Puck that he should follow him. The two of them wandered down the beach.

I was definitely curious about what they were discussing, but I was probably better off not knowing. The less I knew of the plans of Lucifer’s brothers, the better.

I was sure I could trust Daharan, but that didn’t mean that he wasn’t also harboring a secret plan for world domination, or some desire to see one or more of his brothers destroyed. I didn’t want any part of that. I sincerely hoped that Daharan wouldn’t help me get to the portal and then ask for some unnamed favor later.

It’s pretty likely, though, isn’t it? I thought. I’d never had dealings with any supernatural creature that didn’t want something in return.

Down the beach, Puck turned to Daharan, his face angry. He was gesturing wildly, obviously furious. Daharan faced him with crossed arms, and he seemed unmoved by Puck’s performance.

I ate until I couldn’t eat anymore, and the little guy inside my belly beat his wings happily. Now that I was full, I felt sleepy again. It seemed like all I’d done in the last couple of days was deal with insanely stressful situations and then pass out as soon as they were over. But I could feel my eyes closing, my mind drifting.

I was warm and I was safe, and so was my child. I had no fear.

When I woke it was night, and I was no longer on the beach. Daharan cradled me in a kind of sling that hung from his front claws. The ocean rolled away beneath us, and the wind blew in my hair. It should have been uncomfortable, but the heat emanating from Daharan’s body kept me warm, and I wasn’t worried that he would drop me. I drifted off again.

The next time I opened my eyes the sun was blazing, and the ocean was gone. Below us were the spiky peaks of mountains. I felt wide-awake and refreshed for the first time in days. I felt like I could take on anything—the Retrievers, the Agency, Evangeline, even Alerian. Well, maybe not Alerian. But I felt a lot better than I had for a while.

I reached up and put my hand on Daharan’s claw so that he would know I was awake. He snorted in response, and kept flying. We were close to the portal now. I wondered how long I’d been asleep, and how long we’d been flying.

It is a much different experience to be carried by a flying dragon than to fly yourself. The dragon moves a lot faster, for one. I’d never been in an airplane—I’d never had any need to be in one—but I imagine that dragon flight is not unlike jet flight. The ground was much farther away than it would have been if I had been flying myself, and it seemed like we were passing slowly over it, though I knew we were covering dozens of miles every minute.

I relaxed in the sling that Daharan had made for me, and made a concerted effort not to worry about what consequences might be in store for me if I passed through the land of the dead again. There honestly wasn’t much worse that the Agency could do to me that they hadn’t already done, but my actions would probably inflame Sokolov and his gang further.

On the other hand, I couldn’t control what the Agency decided to do. Or Lucifer and Evangeline. Or Alerian or Daharan or Puck. I could only respond to what they chose to do.

I realized that had become a way of life for me. At some point I had ceased taking the initiative. I’d become a person who responded to what happened instead of making things happen. But could I do any different? I wasn’t going to sit back and let my family members run roughshod over innocent people.

Daharan pointed his nose down, releasing flame as he descended. The mountains had morphed into smaller foothills, and the portal was near us. We dropped slowly, but I was still forced to crack my jaw to make my ears pop.

Daharan landed softly in the grass in front of the portal. Most portals exerted a strong, vacuumlike pull on their immediate vicinity. Some of them created temporary cyclones so strong that they sucked in small objects from several feet away. This portal wasn’t like that. It hung in space like a mirror, quiet and still. It blended in to the landscape in such a way that you would not know it was there if you weren’t looking for it.

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