Grave Dance (Alex Craft, #2)(7)


“The fae from the floodplain. He’s over by the magazine rack.” I pointed at the newsstand across the street. The fae, with his strange slumped stance and hawkish nose, held a copy of what looked suspiciously like Fae Weekly—a gossip rag—but his attention wasn’t on candid pictures or exaggerated articles. His gaze locked with mine, and I swal owed hard.

“The police issued a BOLO, be on the lookout, on him, right? As a person of interest in the case? I’m cal ing the station.” Hol y pul ed her phone from her clutch, but before she flipped it open, a scream rang out down the street.

For one stal ed moment, the café went quiet as al conversation stopped and the patrons turned to look. My gaze tore free of the fae and I whirled around. A block up the street, cars slammed on brakes, horns blaring, and pedestrians ran inside buildings. Tamara jumped to her feet, Hol y right behind her.

I glanced back to where the fae had stood, but he’d vanished. Of course, that didn’t mean he was gone. What is going on?

A car swerved, wheels screeching as it braked, and my A car swerved, wheels screeching as it braked, and my attention snapped back to the commotion in the street.

More screams sounded as people ran, and the air tingled with dozens of charms being activated at once. Then the cause of the panic became sickeningly apparent.

A hulking form lunged onto the hood of a car, which buckled under the beast’s weight. I stared, rooted to the spot. I’d never seen anything like it. I would have said the creature was a wolf, except it was the size of a grizzly bear and covered in shaggy moss green fur. A fae beast. It tipped its head back, its nose working the air. Then its red-tinted gaze swung toward the café. Metal bunched under its claws as it hurled itself off the car.

Oh, crap. “Let’s get out of here,” I said, snagging my purse. “Two steps ahead of you,” Tamara said, already breaking into a run. The air around her tingled as she activated a charm.

Between one step and the next she vanished behind the invisibility charm. I only wished I had one as wel , but the best thing I had was my ability to run. So I did. Fast.

I’d just reached the door of the potion shop next to the café when the air around me chil ed. Death appeared in front of me, his tight black T-shirt pul ing taut over his muscles as he stepped forward into my path.

Soul col ector, Grim Reaper, Angel of Death—whatever you cal ed him, his job was to gather the souls of the dead and dying. Which meant, unless he’d picked a damn funny time for a social cal , someone was about to breathe their last.

Who? I mouthed, not wanting to be seen talking to someone no one else could see. Not that anyone on the street was likely to notice amid the panic.

Death looked away, his heavy lids drooping to mask his deep hazel eyes. I turned, looking back at the street. Hol y hadn’t run, hadn’t moved.

We were in the center of the Magic Quarter, so magic abounded. Almost everyone—witch, fae, and norm alike—

abounded. Almost everyone—witch, fae, and norm alike—

was getting the hel off the street, but a handful of witches had hung back, magic snapping and crackling around them. Hol y also held her ground. She stood facing the street. I could see only her profile, but her eyes were closed, her fingers twitching.

She’s crafting a spell.

A web of magic catapulted across the street from one of the pedestrians. It snarled around the beast, but with a shake, the creature shrugged off the spel and kept running.

It was headed straight for the café. And Hol y.

I turned back to Death. “Not her,” I whispered.

He didn’t look at me.

No! I dashed back through the tables, tripping over toppled chairs in my haste. I reached Hol y just as her eyes popped open. She lifted her hands and a bal of fire burst into existence, building between her palms. The rubies she wore on her fingers—gems where she stored raw magic—

glittered in the flames, and the bal of fire burst forward.

The firebal exploded against the beast’s chest, the backlash of heat slamming into us. But the beast didn’t stop. It didn’t even pause. Hol y’s eyes went wide as she backpedaled. The cool and col ected assistant DA was gone. The confident witch? Gone. Al that remained was a mortal staring at her doom.

And behind her, Death, his expression grim.

Hol y’s legs tangled in a chair, and I grabbed her arm, trying to keep her standing, to get her moving. Too late.

The beast’s red eyes locked on us, and it tipped its head back, releasing a bloodcurdling howl. It was the first sound it had made, and al other sound fel away under that howl.

Then the beast was suddenly there, fil ing the sidewalk. Its breath, thick with the smel of rotted meat, tumbled over us.

Hol y could hurl firebal s, but I had no offensive magic. Hel , I could barely cast a circle. Grave magic wasn’t exactly effective on things not already dead. But it was al I had, so I reached for it.

reached for it.

I dropped my mental shields so fast that pain stabbed through my head. The street washed out into shades of gray, the concrete crumbling in my sight, and the chairs rusting as the land of the dead snapped into focus. Bril iant wisps of raw magic swirled through the air. The ground throbbed with the signatures and emotions absorbed from those who’d crossed it.

And the beast disappeared.

It simply vanished. A faint shimmering outline remained, but nothing substantial. In the very center of the strange shape hung a clump of glowing magic.

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