"Gotcha." Phineas upended his bottle of blood and gulped it down. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "I'll protect the women with my life."
"And I have my guns," Fidelia added. "We'll be fine."
"Let's go." Jean-Luc set his empty bottle in the sink and gathered Bethany back into his arms.
They strode down the hall and up the stairs to the ground floor.
"Let's take the car." Jean-Luc stopped next to the security office.
"We could run there just as fast," Ian protested.
"Jean-Luc's right." Robby opened the door and grabbed the keys off the hook. "We need to conserve our energy."
"Can you check the sun for us?" Jean-Luc asked Fidelia.
"Sure." Fidelia ran to the window next to the front door.
"'Tis still up," Ian murmured. "I can feel it."
Fidelia peered through the blinds. "There's only a sliver left on the horizon."
"Good." Jean-Luc handed Bethany over to Phineas. "He'll take care of you till I bring your mother back."
Jean-Luc stepped back and drew his sword. He warmed up with some thrusts and lunges. His heart pounded, but not from exercise. He couldn't allow himself to think about how frightened Heather might be. Just the thought brought bile to his throat. At least Lui was a sick enough bastard that he'd take his time with her. The stay-awake drug had given them a few precious extra minutes to prepare, and those minutes might make all the difference.
Robby emerged from the security office with an extra sword in his right hand. "We'll need to check the car for explosives. I'll look under the carriage. Ian, look under the bonnet."
"Aye." Ian tightened the straps that held the sheath and claymore on his back.
"Is it true," Robby asked, "that the sheriff tossed Phil into the trunk of his car?"
"Yes." Fidelia continued to peer out the window. "I doubt Phil can help you very much. He was shot in the leg."
Robby exchanged a look with Ian. "'Tis a full moon tonight."
Ian nodded. "Good. 'Twill give us another advantage."
"What advantage?" Jean-Luc sheathed his sword.
"The sun's down!" Fidelia threw open the door. "Go!"
"The keys!" Jean-Luc caught them, and zoomed out the door with Robby and Ian. He climbed behind the driver seat, and the second they told him it was safe, he started the engine. They jumped in, and he floored the accelerator. He turned south on the highway, then gained more speed.
After a few minutes, Robby held up a hand. "Pull over!"
"Why?" Jean-Luc veered onto the shoulder and stomped on the brakes.
"Listen," Robby whispered.
Jean-Luc heard a strange howling sound, coming from the south. "What is that?"
"Focus on it and teleport there now," Robby ordered. He and Ian wavered, then disappeared.
Jean-Luc ripped the keys from the ignition and concentrated on the sound. Everything went black.
This was no ordinary wolf. Heather had never seen one close up before, but she knew they didn't have red glowing eyes. This one had to be bigger than normal, too.
Billy lifted his pistol and took aim.
"Wait." Louie raised his hand. "We can always kill it later. I want to see if it will chew on her first."
Heather gulped. Those jaws looked incredibly strong. And the teeth - very sharp. The wolf moved toward her. She pressed back against the wall.
It was limping, favoring a back leg. The fur was matted with something dark and shiny. As the wolf limped forward, it left a bloody paw print on the stone floor.
Heather glanced at its eyes. The glow had faded, and the red was turning pale blue. It stopped in front of her and tilted its head like it was studying her. Maybe it was. The eyes looked intelligent. And somehow familiar.
It inched closer, its muzzle over her drawn-up knees.
"No," she breathed, lifting a hand to ward it off.
It leaned forward and licked her palm.
With a gasp, she closed her hand. Her mind raced. The wounded leg. The screeching sound of metal being ripped. The sniffing for bombs. The familiar eyes.
"Phil?" she whispered.
The wolf whimpered.
"Oh my God." She closed her eyes briefly against the sting of hot tears. She wasn't alone. Phil was here to protect her.
Louie sighed. "What a disappointing beast. Billy, kill it."
Billy lifted his pistol.
Phil spun around, growling. And charged.
Billy pulled the trigger, but nothing happened. He backed up, frantically pulling the trigger over and over.
Phil knocked him down and snapped his jaws on Billy's arm.
Heather grimaced. She didn't want Billy to die.
A loud howl reverberated through the room. Phil had pinned Billy to the floor and appeared to be enjoying his victory. He threw his massive head back and howled again.
"Damned creature." Louie circled the altar, unbuttoning his long black coat. "I'll take care of it myself." He whisked off his coat and tossed it on the table. It landed on Sasha.
Just then, two forms wavered before Heather's eyes and became solid. She cried with relief. Robby already had a sword in his hand. Ian drew his claymore.
A third form appeared.
"Jean-Luc!" Heather cried.
He glanced at her. "Thank God." He drew his foil and spotted Louie by the altar. He strode toward him. "Let's finish this now."
Louie sneered. "Agreed." He vanished.
"No!" Jean-Luc shouted.
Louie suddenly appeared next to Heather. His left hand gripped her arm. Good Lord, he meant to teleport away with her!
A dagger spun through the air and sliced Louie's arm before falling on the ground. He cried out and released her.
Heather grabbed the dagger, then scooted away. It must have come from Robby or Ian. She sawed at the ropes binding her ankles.
A warm nose nuzzled her shoulder, and she jumped. "Oh, it's you." Phil sat beside her. Her personal guard was back. "Good boy."
"A sword, Robby!" Jean-Luc yelled. He dropped his foil and kicked it toward Heather, then caught the sword Robby tossed him.
Heather scrambled to get the foil, then froze when she saw Jean-Luc circling Louie. Oh God, this was it. The final showdown. Louie had a huge broadsword. No wonder Jean-Luc had discarded his foil.
Louie attacked, making a swipe that whistled past Jean-Luc's stomach.
"You missed." Jean-Luc jumped and levitated to the ceiling.
Louie levitated to meet him. Jean-Luc crashed his sword against Louie's with so much force, it caused Louie to flip over backward in the air. He banged against a rafter and fell to the floor.
Jean-Luc landed on his feet next to Louie's sprawled body. He raised his sword for the killing blow, but Louie rolled suddenly and sliced upward.
Jean-Luc jumped back. His shirt was sliced, and a thin red line crossed his pale skin. The tip of Louie's sword had left its mark.
Louie leaped to his feet, smiling. "You're pitiful. I grow tired of toying with you."
Jean-Luc attacked. The swords clashed again and again. Heather glanced at Robby and Ian. Surely they wouldn't let Louie win. Ian was hovering nearby, his claymore drawn and ready.
Robby had drawn the sword from his back. He strode over to Billy and placed a hand on Billy's brow.
Heather's gaze flitted back and forth. Her ears rang with the constant clanging of swords crashing together. Both Jean-Luc and Louie were breathing heavily now.
Billy stiffened and pulled away from Robby. He looked around and cradled his wounded arm to his chest. His eyes met Heather's. "What have I done? I'm so sorry."
"Heather, move!" Jean-Luc yelled at her.
Move where? Then she realized what he was doing. Jean-Luc was driving Louie toward her and Phil. She scrambled away, and Robby grabbed her.
Jean-Luc continued to force Louie to retreat. Phil sat still and quiet. When Louie was a few feet in front of Phil, the wolf let out a tremendous howl.
Louie jumped and glanced behind him. In that second, Jean-Luc stabbed him through the heart. Louie turned completely gray, then disintegrated into a pile of dust on the floor.
Jean-Luc stepped back, lowering his sword. He closed his eyes and let the sword clatter onto the floor. "It's done," he whispered. He turned to Heather. "We're free."
With a cry, she ran to him and threw her arms around his neck. He held her tight.
"It's over," Heather whispered. "It's over."