Shadow’s Blade – Snippet 02

“Hold your brother’s hand. Don’t let go, no matter what.”

Emmy takes Zach’s hand, as grim as a warrior. For once, he doesn’t complain.


Emmy nods. Zach shoves his thumb in his mouth, something Gracie thought he’d stopped doing half a year ago. Leaving Neil has taken a toll on all of them.

Gracie pulls the restroom door open and ushers the kids out, keeping them close and squarely in front of her. She picks the weremystes out of the lunchtime crowd and they spot her at the same time. Two remain in the parking lot, visible through the glass doors, but less of a threat for now. Two more are in the restaurant, their features blurred, though she can still make out the predatory grins that curve their lips at the sight of Emmy and Zach. She has warded herself and the kids a dozen times already today, and yet she has to resist the urge to waste valuable seconds on still another protective spell.

Instead, she attacks. She doesn’t want to hurt the people around her, but she doesn’t have time enough to be careful. She lashes out, drawing on the electricity humming in the walls and ceiling of the restaurant. Bolts of magic, writhing and twisting like twin snakes, fly from the palms of her hands. The restaurant lights flicker and then burst. Glass and sparks rain down on them. People scream. And the two men before her are tossed backward like ragdolls. They land on tables, slide across them, and tumble into the laps of diners, eliciting more screams.

Zach lets out a low, “Whoa!”

She pushes the kids to the door, yanks it open and steps onto the sidewalk out front. Two more men face her there. One is young, his magic a soft blurring at the edges of his face. He is nothing.

But the other . . .

Gracie halts, her breath catching. Power like this shouldn’t be possible. Not for a mortal. She gets a vaguely familiar impression of sharp, handsome features, silver-white hair and a trim goatee and moustache. He wears dress pants and a button-down shirt. She senses age, wisdom, and all that power.

“Hello, Engracia.”

She knows better than to attack him head on. He can defeat any spell she might cast, and she won’t have time for a second attempt.

“What have you done with it?”

She tries the unexpected. Her casting lifts the younger man off his feet and slams him into the older gentlemen. Both mystes go down in a heap. For good measure she casts again, dropping a trash can on them. One of those big, rectangular faux stone ones that restaurants keep near their doors. It’s full, and it lands with a satisfying crash.

“Run!” she says.

The kids stare at her.

“Run!” She yells it this time. They sprint toward the van.

She pulls the fob from her pocket and thumbs the doors open. She checks again on the two men and casts one last spell — a second garbage can soars at the mystes from several yards away and drops onto them much as the first did. Her head is starting to hurt, and her vision swims. She’s going to be in no condition to drive.

She dashes to the van, pulls the door shut, and fumbles with the keys, trying to stick the right one in the ignition.

“Hurry, Mommy!”

Gracie glances back through the rear window. Already the older man is stirring. She shoves the key in place, starts the car, and backs out of the space with a squeal of rubber on pavement.

She hits the curb as she turns onto the street, has to swerve to avoid being hit by a pickup. The driver hollers an obscenity.

But Gracie is watching through her rearview mirror. The silver-haired man is on his feet by now. A young woman emerges from the restaurant and glares after her. The gentleman lays one hand on the woman’s shoulder and holds the other out toward the van.

“Mommy!” Emmy says, her voice rising.

“I see him.”

She casts a warding on the van. Her stomach heaves, and she fears she might be ill.

An instant later, his spell hits. The van swerves again, tips onto its right wheels. Emmy screams. Zach starts to cry. She fights it, trying to hold the steering wheel steady, and at the same time casting another warding, an answer to the silver-haired myste’s assault. And still she fears it will not be enough. She feels faint; her grip on the wheel slackens. But then the van rights itself, dropping back onto all four tires with an impact that jars her and the kids.

She chances one more peek at the mirror and sees the silver-haired myste release the woman. She crumples to the pavement.

Gracie runs a red light, barely missing an SUV. Horns blare at her, but she ignores them, steers the car down the ramp toward the interstate.

The myste will have seen her take the southbound ramp. That can’t be helped. But she’ll leave the interstate at the next opportunity and strike out into the desert. He won’t expect that, and by the time he figures out what she’s done, she and the kids will be far away, sheltered somewhere he doesn’t know, laying low until it’s safe again.

That’s the plan, anyway. But even as she hurtles down the freeway, headache building behind her eyes, she glances at her mirrors, expecting to see the dark ones coming for them.