Black Heart Page 1

Author: Christina Henry

Series: Black Wings #6

Genres: Fantasy

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“YOU HAVE TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE—NOW,” J.B. SAID.

“Why?” I asked.

I faced the front window, the portable phone tucked under my ear. A strange black shadow slid across the surface of the glass, like an oil slick.

“Sokolov has sent the Retrievers after you,” J.B. said. “You have to go. You have to go now.”

The side window in the living room was drenched in the same shadow. So were the ones in the dining room. I ran through the house, looking for an escape, but there was none. The things looked like nothing more than black liquid, but I could feel their hate. They wanted me, and they would not leave without me.

“It’s too late,” I said, backing into the dining room. I felt Nathaniel’s arms close around me.

“They’re already here.”

We watched in silence as the black fluid oozed over each of the windows.

J.B.’s voice was in my ear. I realized I was still holding the phone to my ear and he was still talking.

“Don’t try to fight them,” J.B. said. I’d never heard that tone in his voice before. He was pleading. “It will be much, much worse for you if you do.”

“I’m not afraid of them,” I said.

But my bravado was false. I was afraid. The apartment had been sealed shut by darkness. The Retrievers would not leave an opening for me to escape.

Someone was pounding on the door at the bottom of the stairs. J.B. was still talking, telling me not to be dumb, telling me if I fought the Retrievers, then I would be returned to Beezle in a thousand bloody pieces.

“Beezle’s gone,” I said.

The pounding repeated. I looked at Nathaniel. He shook his head from side to side.

“Good-bye, J.B.,” I said.

I clicked off before he could say anything else.

“J.B. says not to fight,” I said. “What do you think?”

“He knows more of the Retrievers than I,” Nathaniel said. “Perhaps you should heed his advice.”

“They’re not taking me,” I said. “On the off chance that they leave me alive, they would surely take—or kill—my baby as soon as it’s born. And I am not spending the rest of my life in some Agency prison.”

There was the sound of splintering wood below. The Retrievers were breaking in.

“Surely Lord Lucifer will not permit this to happen,” Nathaniel said. “Call for his assistance.”

“Lucifer’s a little busy right now with Alerian,” I said.

“He owes you more than this,” Nathaniel said angrily. “You would not be in this predicament were it not for him. He forced you to cross into the realm of the dead and retrieve Evangeline’s soul.”

“If you haven’t noticed, Lucifer’s not real big on helping out those in need,” I said.

“Run,” Nathaniel said. “I will stay here and hold them off, distract them.”

“Run where?” I asked. “They’ve got the house surrounded.”

Nathaniel murmured something, and a portal opened up in the middle of the living room. I stared into its swirling depths.

“Where does it go?”

“Someplace safe,” Nathaniel said. “Run. I will close the portal behind you and ensure the Retrievers do not follow.”

Heavy footsteps sounded on the stairs.

“But . . . how will I be able to get home again?”

Nathaniel grabbed my shoulders, gave me a fierce, hard kiss, then shoved me toward the portal. “I will speak to Lord Lucifer. We will find you. Go.”

The door to the apartment splintered as the thing outside slammed into it.

“Go!” Nathaniel shouted.

He turned toward the door as it slammed to the ground and something awful came through. I caught a glimpse of darkness, terrible darkness, as I dove into the portal, a shadow reaching for Nathaniel even as I fell. I called his name once, but I was already gone.

The portal pressed in on me, making my head squeeze in agony. I had no time to wonder where Nathaniel had sent me. Before I knew it, I was falling out of the portal, crashing into soft moss below. I stood up, brushed off my clothes, gathered my dignity, and looked around.

Wherever Nathaniel had sent me appeared pretty primeval. I was in a lush forest, surrounded by ferns and moss and broad-leafed trees. Candy-colored flowers bloomed everywhere I looked. A little waterfall trickled over rocks and into a slender stream to my left. It was a completely alien world, as far from my urban jungle as I was likely to get.

My legs felt suddenly shaky, the aftereffects of the appearance of the Retrievers hitting my system. I sat down on the moss and took stock.

I was alone in a strange world with no food or water. I had my sword and the clothes on my back. And my last friend in the world might be slaughtered by the Agency’s bogeyman for helping me escape.

No. I couldn’t think that way. Nathaniel was powerful, even more so now that he had come into his legacy from Puck. I had to believe that he would be able to defend himself. I had to believe, too, that the Retrievers would ultimately leave him alone.

Everything I knew about the Retrievers said that they were like attack dogs that went after a specific target. Kind of like the Hound of the Hunt, I thought. So chances were very good that Nathaniel would be ignored since they weren’t after him. But if he picked a fight with them, put himself in their way . . .

Every instinct I had told me to open another portal, go back home, and fight until the Retrievers were destroyed. I am not a runner. It is not in my nature to leave a fight. But J.B. didn’t seem to think I would have a chance against the Retrievers, and J.B. understood pretty well what I could do.

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