The fiery creature veered off, distracted by Nicolai. The Warden easily avoided it, listening when Roth shouted instructions on how to break them apart. I turned back to the Lilin, seeing that it had reached one of the Wardens, intent on feeding. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Abbot had one of the creatures by the neck.
Picking up speed, I raced up the aisle, aiming to power bomb the jerk, but it whipped around at the last moment, saw me and launched itself at me. There was no stopping the collision.
We smacked into others and hit the floor, rolling several times, coming to a stop a few feet from the fire, with the Lilin on top. It smiled down at me. “Give up.”
“Not going to happen.” Lifting my legs, I circled its waist and threw my weight behind the turn, flipping it off me. I moved, raising the dagger, seconds from plunging it deep into its smirking face.
Something crashed into me, knocking me to the side and chasing the air out of my lungs. Rising up, I came face-to-face with the damn lion. Beyond it and the Lilin, I saw Zayne creeping up the center aisle, a dagger in his hand. Slowly I backed up, eyes on the disturbingly sharp claws.
The Lilin laughed. “Do you like my pet?”
“Do you like this?” Zayne growled, bringing down the dagger in a wide swoop.
The Lilin whirled and twisted at the waist, but wasn’t fast enough. The dagger hit a few scant inches above the heart.
My body spasmed and the dagger fell from my fingers as an intense, breath-stealing fire exploded inside me. Screaming at the burst of sudden unexpected pain, I stumbled back and tripped over a leg—human or stone, I couldn’t be sure—and I hit the floor. I tried to drag in air, but my lungs seized. I glanced down, saw that a line of red was bleeding through my sweater, just above my heart and closer to my shoulder.
Roth spun in midair. His wide eyes moved from me to the Lilin, then to Zayne, who raised the dagger again. I pressed my hand just below my shoulder, stanching the flow of blood as I struggled to my feet.
“No!” Roth shouted, changing direction. “Zayne! No!” He hit the ground beside Zayne, slamming him in the shoulder and forcing him back several steps. He reached up, grasping the wrist that held the dagger as he stared into the bewildered face of Zayne. “Stop.”
The Lilin choked out a laugh as it staggered to the side, coming close to the flames. Blood poured down its chest as it heaved for breath. “You kill me,” it grunted out, “you kill her.”
THE LILIN’S WORDS bounced around in my head, but there was little time to focus on them. The doors burst behind me and the fight spilled out into the lobby and the smoke became too dense to see or breathe. The fire raged out of control.
Zayne tore himself free of Roth as the Lilin backed into the smoke, disappearing from sight. I turned, doubling over as the burning sensation in my shoulder spread. I searched the mess for my familiar, panicked when I couldn’t see beyond two feet in front of me.
“Robin,” I called out, gritting my teeth against the pain.
He came out from the cloud of smoke, shrinking in size as he raced toward me. Jumping up, he hit my hand, and then took the form of my tattoo. Roth was suddenly beside me, wrapping an arm around my waist.
Zayne was on my other side, his face marked with confusion as he saw the blood on my shirt. We moved out of the room, hitting the lobby. There, Dez and one of the stone creatures were duking it out, going fist to fist until another stone gargoyle came through the doors, slamming into Dez’s waist, throwing him through the window. Glass shattered, and then the fight was outside, in the street.
Nicolai was in front of us, his gaze darting back and forth. “What happened?”
“I don’t know. I stabbed the Lilin and this happened to her. You need to shift into your human form,” Zayne said as we stepped out into the fresher, cleaner night air. “Both of you. You stand out too much.”
Roth shifted back before I did. It took a moment, because adrenaline was pumping way too fast in my system, but my wings folded in and when I lifted a hand, pushing my hair back from my face, I saw insanity.
People streamed into the streets from the bars and buildings nearby. In their panicked, terrified state, they probably couldn’t tell the difference between the Wardens and gargoyles. All they saw was a brutal battle. Screams rose, as did the smoke. It now poured out of the building.
The fire had spread, reaching the top floors of the Church’s headquarters and jumping to the roofs of the buildings next to it, giving the sky a burnt-orange tint.
“I’m okay.” Pushing down the pain, I stepped away from Roth and Zayne. “Where’s—?”
Before I could finish the question, the damn lion exploded out of the building. It had sprung itself into the air and now hit Zayne in his back. The two of them fell into a parked car. Metal crunched under their combined weight. They rolled, taking out the windshield.
“Stay out of the fight,” Roth said, and I didn’t get a chance to respond. In his human form, he ran over to where the lion had Zayne pinned on the hood.
Even in his human form, Roth was a force to be reckoned with. He gripped the lion’s shoulders and hauled it back. Twisting, he tossed the creature.
A cab racing down the street slammed on its brakes, but not in time to avoid taking a direct hit. The lion slammed into the passenger-side door, tipping the cab up on its side even as the lion landed on its four stone paws.
That thing would not die.
Without warning, a hot gust of air blew into my back, and I turned, spying the stone creature that had been on fire. Disregarding the pain, I spun out before it could grab me.
Dez appeared, his wings stirring the ash settling around on the ground. He landed in a crouch, and then rose. With the epic kick of the century, he knocked the creature back into the building. Before I could so much as high-five him for that, another one slammed into him.
I turned, spying the Lilin as it stumbled out of the burning wreckage of the building, its face covered with soot. Our eyes locked, and then it pivoted, starting to run down the street. I wasn’t even thinking as I raced after it.
Because it was injured far more than me, I imagined, I caught up to it. I launched myself at it, slamming my good shoulder into its back. The Lilin went down, me on top of it. It immediately bucked, but I wasn’t having it.
I shoved my hand at the back of its head, forcing it down, but it fought me as I planted my knees on either side of its hips. It managed to lift its head. “Are you truly this stupid? You can’t kill me without killing yourself. We are in this together.”
My stomach dropped at his words. “That doesn’t mean I can’t beat the crap out of you!” I slammed its head back down and stars exploded behind my eyes, causing me to cry out. “God,” I grunted.
“Idiot.” It wheezed out a laugh. “You have to learn everything the hard way.”
Uncaring at this point if it hurt me, I cocked back my arm and slammed my fist into its ribs. I barely felt that new kiss of pain. I swung back to deliver another punch that was probably going to hurt me more than it, but that would give me a sick sense of satisfaction when a low grumble stopped me.