The Ghulah took a few steps towards him, a smug smile on her painted face. Jai found the fury, drawing a foot across the ground like a bull readying to charge.
“I’ll deal with the girl once I’ve gotten rid of you for good. What say I lower the barrier and we play this nice and fair half-breed?”
No way was he telling her he wasn’t a half-breed Hunter. He needed the advantage the element of surprise would provide. The barrier dropped immediately and Jai fell back on good old fashioned human training.
He threw a punch. Her nose breaking under his fist.
Howling the Ghulah clasped her face, clearly having expected something in the way of a magical attack from her opponent. Her retaliation, the buzzing that erupted in Jai’s ears, almost made him laugh. It was a wasp enchantment — a hallucination that wasps were crawling in his ears and into his brain — to make him think he was being eaten alive by them. With a wave of his hand he killed the enchantment, something a half-breed would never be able to do.
The Ghulah’s eyes narrowed at his defense, the blood dripping out of her mashed nostrils. “What are you?”
Without another word he shot a leg out, his foot connecting with her solar plexus. She stumbled back in outrage and Jai lunged at her, his fist pummeling into her face again and again. At the hum of power emanating from her neck Jai swore and snatched at the talisman, ripping it from her neck and melting the stone in his bare hand. The act cost him, the Ghulah pushing her own magic out to cast him back into the air. He slammed into the wall again, the breath whooshing momentarily out of his body as he slumped to the ground.
“You’re not The Guild,” The Ghulah snarled. “You’re full-blooded Jinn!”
Huffing, Jai drew to his feet, shrugging at his leather jacket. He would be reeking by the time he got out of here. “Yeah. So that kind of leaves us at a stalemate. Neither of us can kill the other without being taken before the Jinn Courts. So what do you say you get the hell out of Roswell?”
She curled her lip. “I was here first.”
Narrowing his eyes, Jai crossed his arms over his chest. “Look, I may not be able to put you in the ground like I want to but I sure as hell can do something to make sure you never walk again. So what’s it going to be?”
“You don’t frighten me.”
“Yeah well I don’t have all day and my patience is wearing thin since you tried to choke my friend to death.”
“She didn’t though,” Ari croaked, and Jai shuddered in relief as she clambered to her feet. Her face was pale, her neck red and swollen, and she swayed unbalanced on her feet. She touched her neck, wincing, before drawing those eyes of hers up and at the Ghulah.
“You OK?” he asked quietly, wishing he could just grab her and hide her somewhere where nothing bad could happen to her ever again. How the hell was he going to get them out of this?
“I’m fine,” she reassured him, taking a few tentative steps towards him, her hair falling into her face. She tucked a few strands behind her ear with trembling fingers, revealing intense eyes narrowed solely on the Ghulah in front of them. When she pressed her side up against him it took everything within him to resist putting an arm around her. She coughed, tears of pain pricking her eyes before she threw her shoulders back, looking every inch the battered Princess. “More than I can say for this bitch.”
The Ghulah grinned, cocking her hip confidently. “Like you could do anything to me, sweetheart.”
“Actually…” Ari smiled back at her, a dark smile he’d never seen before. It made him shiver, as did the pulse in her aura that told him she was about to use her magic. “I command you to leave Roswell and to never eat the flesh of any living creature again.”
The smug smile on the Ghulah’s face slipped as the force of Ari’s command seeped into her. “How…?” she blinked, her body automatically walking her out of the alleyway. She stepped over the boy’s body next to the dumpster and as she strode towards the mouth of the alleyway her neck was still craned back over her shoulder as she gaped at Ari in utter disbelief.
That is some seriously wickedly creepy power she has going on. Jai eyed Ari, not sure what to say.
Catching his look Ari shrugged wearily. “I know. It’s creepy.”
He couldn’t help but smile. “A little.”
“It worked though, right?”
“That it did.”
Frowning Ari whipped back around, her eyes falling on the body of the guy. “We should help—”
“He’s gone, Ari.” Not wanting her to see the mess the boy was in Jai caught her arm, pulling her back.
Hating the way her lip trembled with confusion and distress Jai wished there was something he could say or do but there was really no way to comfort someone during their first experience with death, especially a violent one.
“We need to get out of here,” he told her quietly, trying to draw her gaze away from the young man. “We need to step into the Cloak and get back out there and find Pazuzu. You OK to do that?”
What’s the Use of the Wind if It Won’t Take You Away on It?
Accepting that there was nothing to be done for that one boy was harder than Ari ever could have imagined. Numbly she followed Jai into the Cloak disappearing out onto Main Street just in time. Two deputies were approaching the alley with cautious and sober expressions. Feeling sick at the thought of what they’d find, Ari turned away, gripping tight to Jai’s hand. The garish costumes and masks — some seriously scary — as well as the pounding music and riotous flurry of the crowds felt difficult to manage after what had just happened. She was quiet, not even using telepathy to talk to Jai. After ten minutes of causing freak outs bumping into people while invisible, Jai squeezed her head. Come out of the Cloak.
You sure? People might have seen us go into the alley.
We’ll have a greater chance of feeling Pazuzu if we come out.
She didn’t need much persuading after that. She so wanted this over. She wanted to find him. She wanted to cure her dad.
And then what?
Thankfully Ari wasn’t allowed to fall into a teenage/Jinn version of a mid-life crisis because a ripple of power suddenly flooded over her, the unpleasant taste of dirt filling her mouth. What is that?
Heart pounding Ari clasped her other hand around Jai’s wrist, feeling the vibrations grow deeper, stronger, nearer. She twisted her neck around, checking the people strolling past.
“Watch it,” a voice growled as a body slammed into her. Jai pulled at her as her eyes washed over the tall figure before her. A grey alien mask with its pointy chin and huge black almond-shaped eyes stared down at her blankly and Ari screamed inwardly at the pulsating power that was coming off of the guy in waves.
“Damn,” the voice cursed and Ari blinked in disbelief as he disappeared into the Cloak.
Hauled into Jai’s arms Ari didn’t even have time to squeeze her eyes shut as he took off. Ari, CLOAK, CLOAK!
HOLY MACAROONS! She bit her lips, focusing on stepping into the Cloak, although she was pretty sure it was too late now.
Holy what? Jai teased as they blazed through the air.
Not the time!
This time when they landed it was with a bump. The impact ripped her from Jai’s arms and she collapsed on her ass in the sandy dirt. Gaping up at Jai, who had somehow managed to keep his feet, Ari’s heart throbbed seeing him stare off into the distance like a gunslinger getting ready to duel. She followed his glower and scrambled back to her feet to face the Jinn who stood legs braced apart before them. Around them was nothing but open New Mexico desert. The scent of sage hit her nose in the muggy atmosphere, lifted by the musky scent of animal. There was no road near them, hardly any plantation, just red clay-colored rock mountains looming in the background like bored spectators. There wasn’t even a breeze to send a shiver of foreboding down her spine.
When her eyes focused on the Jinn before them, the Jinn that moved towards them on taloned feet, Ari’s jaw dropped. He was almost as bad as the Nisnas. Freaked out, Ari backed into Jai, wishing she was more graceful — his feet must be black and blue by now. At the parade she had been pretty sure the Jinn looked like… well… a guy. Dressed bizarrely in a shirt and jeans, the Jinn smirked, his face part human, part lion. The flesh of his mouth curled like an upside down love heart, reminding Ari of the Lion from The Wizard of Oz except this guy had huge fangs peeking from between his lips. He had human shaped eyes and nose, except where the bridge should be — like the Nisnas’ it was completely flat. His skin was almost black in color, his amber eyes glowing eerily against the rich dark chocolate of his flesh. He pointed a long, twig-like finger at Ari and it was then she noticed that even more strange, his left hand was twisted downwards, while his right hand seemed to be perpetually twisted upwards, the bones pushing against his flesh, making Ari feel queasy.
“You shouldn’t have come for me, girl. Have you no idea who I am?” his voice to her surprise was… normal. For some reason she’d expected it to be screechy, like nails across a vinyl.
Pulse throbbing visibly Ari threw her shoulders back, pulling on all the bravery she could muster even though her legs were shaking so badly it was a wonder she could still stand. “You’re Pazuzu.”
He smiled. “I am Pazuzu!”
At the pronouncement a gale force wind rushed in around her and Jai, the desert storm blinding her, stinging her eyes and beating into her mouth. She clamped her lips closed and threw a hand up to shield her eyes, wondering how the hell they were going to get out of this.
Ari! Jai shouted.
I’m here. I’m right here! What do we do?
Try and reach for me. I’ll get us out!
I don’t know where you are!
Beat out your arms around you, I’ll do the same!
OK! Ari began flapping her arms around her like a blindfolded idiot determined to hit the piñata at a child’s birthday party.