Black Heart Page 56

I passed out immediately. At some point in the night another warm body slid in beside me. I woke briefly as Nathaniel put his arm around my waist and spooned up against me, his breath in my hair. Then I slept again.

I was dreaming. In my dream, something exploded. It seemed muffled and far away. A woman was screaming. I could smell smoke. Nathaniel was shaking me, his voice urgent.

“Wake up!” he said.

I was in his arms, the air cold on my bare legs, and he was carrying me to the window.

“What’s happening?” I asked, still groggy.

“Somebody bombed the building. It could come crashing down anytime,” Nathaniel shouted. As if to illustrate his point, several chunks of plaster fell from the ceiling.

“Beezle,” I said. “I won’t go without him.”

“He’s with J.B.,” Nathaniel said. “They had to get Bendith. He can’t fly.”

Nathaniel gave the window a good hard glare. The shade flew up, the glass exploded outward and the warm spring air came in. Nathaniel flew outside just in time. I could hear the building shaking on its foundation. I was reminded of the mountain crashing down on the Cimice, burying the evidence of the massacre I’d created.

It was still dark out. I was surprised. It seemed like I’d slept for a long time. But the clock on the bank down the street told me I’d been out for only a couple of hours.

Nathaniel stopped in the air and turned around. J.B. was right behind us, carrying Bendith under the shoulders. Beezle was perched on J.B.’s shoulder.

Nathaniel muttered something. I felt a veil drop over all of us. In that small spell I could feel the strength of Nathaniel’s power now, how much he’d changed in the time that had passed. J.B. was right. Nathaniel could level the city with a look if he wanted.

And that meant that if he decided to do something like that, I was the only person around with power enough to try to stop him. Emphasis here on “try,” because while I had a pretty big repository of power, I had only the smallest fraction of Nathaniel’s skill. I had a lot of magic, but I couldn’t access it with ease the way he could.

We floated down to the street. It was a good thing we were under a veil. Nathaniel was wearing nothing but pajama pants, and I was the next-best thing to naked. Bendith looked like his pride was smarting from being carried. He pulled away from J.B. as soon as his feet touched the ground.

The window Nathaniel had broken for our escape was on the back of the building, so we were standing in the alley and had no way of knowing what was happening in front. Smoke poured from the lower windows, and I could hear things crashing inside. Sirens blared, approaching fast.

“Do you think everyone got out of the building?” I asked. Nathaniel was still holding me. Normally I would feel resentful of this, but at the moment I was happy that I wasn’t walking in the alley muck in my bare feet, as he was.

“We have to check,” I said.

“No,” Nathaniel said. “We have to get you away from here as quickly as possible.”

“So you think this is because of me?” I asked.

“No one tried to blow up the building until you were in it,” J.B. said.

“I told you that it wasn’t safe for me to be there,” I said.

“I thought we could get through one night,” J.B. said. “But someone must have seen you go into the building with me.”

“Who, though?” I asked. “And where are they?”

Nathaniel frowned. “You’re right. If this was a plot to drive you out into the open, where you would be vulnerable, then the enemy should be lying in wait. But they are not.”

“Anyone coming after you would have to know that just setting off some charges in a building wouldn’t take you down,” J.B. said. His gaze took on a faraway look, a sure sign that he was thinking hard. “Maybe this doesn’t have anything to do with you.”

“You’re taking this awfully well,” I said. “Your home is probably going to be destroyed.”

J.B. shrugged. “You’re out of there. Other than that, there wasn’t anything special inside that I cared about.”

“We still have to make sure that everyone is okay,” I said. “Even if this isn’t about me, the chances are good that the explosion was meant for one of us. We can’t let innocents die just because they’re caught in the cross fire.”

“You’re not going back in there,” J.B. said.

“She does not have to,” Nathaniel said.

He held me out to J.B. like I was a baby being passed to a relative. This time I did resent his high-handedness.

“Put me down,” I said.

Nathaniel complied without argument. I shivered as my bare feet touched the concrete. J.B. looked disappointed that he wouldn’t have a chance to carry me around while I wasn’t wearing any pants. I may not have had a lot of dignity at that moment, but I wanted to preserve what little I had. I would stand on my own two feet. Even if I was standing in rat poison and the remains of last week’s garbage.

“Just so you know, you’re not going in that building alone, either,” I said to Nathaniel. “So don’t get any funny ideas about being a hero.”

“I have no such ideas,” Nathaniel said. “I am simply going to scan the building and see if there is anyone alive inside. And it is easier for me to concentrate when I am not holding you.”

“You can do that? Scan the building like an X-ray machine?” I asked. Nathaniel was getting more terrifying by the moment.

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