Iced - Page 86/120

“Why would she take you captive?”

“Because we’re immortal, and once she takes what she wants from us, our bodies grow it back. Then she takes it again. We’re a never-ending supply. She can just keep us chained up, sit and knit.”

Knit? The idea of an Unseelie monster knitting is more than I can wrap my brain around. “What does she want from you?” A cloud of red smoke slithers over my shoulder. “Hurry, Christian! We’ve got to go faster! Get us out of here!”

We barrel down bronze halls, twist and turn through lemon wings, until finally we skid onto white marble. I swear I can feel the Hag breathing down my neck.

Then we’re in the white room, rushing into the mirror, and I can’t help myself, I look back as I turn all spongy.

The Crimson Hag is the most revolting creature I’ve ever seen. Worse than the Gray Woman, worse than the Unseelie princes, worse even than Papa Roach, and I have a special hatred for roaches. Roaches hang out on floors. My cage was on the floor.

Bloody, matted hair frames an ice-white face with black holes for eyes. She licks crimson fangs when she sees me looking. But the truly disturbing thing about her is what she’s wearing. Her upper body is voluptuous and encased in a corset of bone and sinew. She has no lower body that I can see. A tattered, incomplete crimson gown streams behind her.

And now I know why she smells of rotting meat.

Her unfinished gown is made of guts.

My stomach heaves again. “It collects Unseelie prince guts?”

“Among others. She’d take yours, too. Though yours would rot sooner.”

“Can’t you go any faster?” I like my guts. I want to keep them for a long time.

We explode from the mirror into the second white room and leap headfirst into the next mirror. We pass through multiple mirrors, chased by the scent of rotting meat. “Uh, Christian, she’s going to get out.”

“Good. More prey in Dublin. She’ll go after someone else.”

“We can’t have her loose in my city!”

“You’re the one that opened the bottle.”

I screwed up. Big-time. But I’ll figure it out. I’ll trap and kill her and make my city safe again. Before she hurts anyone. I can’t stand the thought of innocent folks getting killed because of my stupid curiosity. “You should have warned me not to open stuff!”

“I did. Then there was the whole ‘read them and weep’ thing chiseled over the door. Which warning didn’t you get?”

“That was about the books, not bottles!”

“Some warnings are unilateral.”

Then we’re out and the cold slams into me like the brick wall we just exploded from. It takes my breath away, and when I get it back, it comes out in frosty puffs on the air. I go skidding across the alley on snow and ice and crash into the building opposite. Christian slams into me. We steady each other and I look around disbelievingly. The ground’s covered with six inches of snow!

Did the Hoar Frost King ice something in this alley in the few hours we were gone? It can’t be more than ten degrees and the windchill is killer. It never gets cold like this at night! And never over the space of a few hours. I look around for an ice sculpture nearby.

“Aw, crap,” I say, because it’s about to hit the fan. Snow’s not the only thing in the alley.

Ryodan and Barrons are behind BB&B, getting out of Barrons’s Bugatti Veyron. They both stare at me a sec, like they can’t believe their eyes, then Ryodan’s gaze fixes on where I’m holding Christian’s hand. I drop it like a hot potato, but the look on his face doesn’t improve. “It’s not what you think! He’s not going to be my superhero boyfriend and kick your—”

“Yes, I am,” Christian says.

“No, you’re not,” Ryodan says. “And where the fuck have you been. Do you know the problems you’ve caused me.”

“Dude, I only been gone, like, two hours. And we got bigger problems right now,” I say.

“No shit. This whole city is turning to ice.”

“What the bloody hell were you doing in the White Mansion?” Barrons demands. “Who told you how to get in there?”

“You will never go anywhere without me again,” Ryodan says to me. “If you do, I’ll lock you in my dungeon until you rot.”

“Speaking of rotting, I think—”

“No more. From this moment forward, I’m going to be doing all your thinking for you.”

I bristle. “My ass, you will.”

“Seal the wall,” he says to Barrons. “And get her the fuck out of here. It’s time for the Highlander to die.”

“You just try,” Christian says.

“I ain’t going nowhere. Well,” I amend, “actually I am and you need to, too. We all have to get out of here.” I start trying to freeze-frame but I crash into Barrons and bounce off. What happens next happens so fast I almost can’t process it.

The stench of rotten meat fills the air, and Christian and me duck and split off in opposite directions because we know what’s coming, then the Crimson Hag explodes from the wall, holding what looks like six-foot-long knitting needles made from bone, like lances at her sides.

She pierces Barrons and Ryodan with them then shoots straight up in the air, trailing their guts behind her.


“I’m swimming in the smoke of bridges I have burned”

I stand there like an idiot.

I should run before she turns on me, too, but my feet seem to sprout icy roots.

Barrons and Ryodan are lying in the alley on their backs, blood staining the snow in widening circles around them, and I gape, thinking: They can’t die! Superheroes don’t die!

Misguided beliefs aside, they sure look like they’re dying to me. Nothing could get that mutilated and survive.

The Crimson Hag didn’t just puncture them, she flayed them from groin to neck, and split them clean through bone. In one quick yank she scrapped all their intestines and internal organs from their bodies. It’s a move she’s had hundreds of thousands of years to perfect. Puncture, fly, yank. Their chest and abdomen cavities are open and scraped empty. The only way the treacherous bitch could have done this to them was to catch them by surprise.

What the feck was I thinking, standing there saying anything besides “Run”? Bickering as usual, like we had forever and always would!