Chapter 16 Battle Wounds
I waited in the back of the Jeep while Dante and Janine dosed the place in gasoline. I had my scarf back on. If my neck bled anymore at least it would blend in.
I didn't see Dante and Janine return to the Jeep so much as hear the doors open and slam shut.
Janine's expression softened when she turned to look at me. "Good work, Aurora."
"Did I tell you she was ready or what?" Dante spread a hand over his chest. "My raven-haired prodigy. I'm so proud."
"Let's get out of here," Janine said.
Dante held up a hand. "Wait. I want to make sure the fire catches."
I turned to my window and stared at the boarded house.
When black smoke began to leak from the cracks of the house, Dante shifted into drive and took off down the road.
I stared out my window at the deserted streets. It looked like a ghost town at night.
Dante ran a red light. It didn't matter. We were the only moving vehicle on the road.
Tommy wagged his tail when we returned to the cabin.
I sat with a thud on one of the wood chairs.
Janine grabbed a plastic gallon of water and poured it into a kettle by the cook stove.
"Coffee before the drive home?"
"Me, me," Dante said.
"Yeah, coffee's fine." Anything warm would do.
Janine lit the flame on the stove then took a seat across from me. I reached under my pant leg to remove the dagger. It scraped the table as I pushed it toward Janine.
"Keep it," she said.
I nodded and returned the dagger to its holster.
Janine was back on her feet the moment the kettle hissed steam.
My eyes wandered to the corner of the cabin. The quilt from the twin bed now lay on the floor in front of the fireplace. The sheets were in a wad at the foot of the bed, along with the pillows.
Tell me they didn't. Not while I was off getting pummeled, bitten, and left to stab two vampires in the heart.
"Smooth moves, Sky," Dante said, interrupting my train of thought. "I wish I'd been there to see them. We found Patrick in the same place on the couch as though he never saw it coming. Ivo was on his back on the floor."
Janine set an enamel mug in front of me. The steam rose below my chin.
"We found Ivo in his bedroom," Janine said carefully. "Did everything go okay? I noticed you have bruises."
"Those aren't bruises!" Dante said. "They're battle wounds. You fought the good fight, Sky." He drank from the mug Janine handed him and winced after swallowing the scalding liquid. "Next time we'll do it together."
In your dreams.
I'm sure Dante didn't mean it in a sexual way, but I couldn't help feeling annoyed. I wasn't angry at Janine. She looked genuinely concerned, and I'm sure a quick rough and tumble while I battled for my life wasn't her idea.
"I can't wait until Renard and his cohorts get back to town. We're going to buzz right back up here and paint this town red."
"Dante?" I said.
Even Dante smiled.
"Come on, Sky, lighten up. We've got another long drive ahead of us.
There were no traces of light when we stepped outside. It was hard to tell night from day in this arctic wasteland.
Janine walked us to the Jeep. She shook my hand.
"Welcome to the team, Aurora. You really impressed me back there. I look forward to working with you again."
"Thanks for the dagger."
Dante gave Janine a big bear hug, lifting her off her feet in the process. She laughed and swatted Dante playfully on the back.
"Until the next time duty calls..." she said, laughing again.
Dante broke out into a lopsided grin. "See you soon. Let's roll, Sky."
The only thing rolling were my eyes. We jumped into the Jeep and slammed our doors shut at the same time. I gave a quick wave to Janine before she disappeared inside the cabin.
Dante blasted through the secluded road to the paved streets.
"Mind if I speed?" he asked.
I had stabbed two more vampires in the heart. Dante could gun it for all I cared.
"Just get me the hell out of here."
"That's the spirit, Sky."
Dante floored the gas pedal at the first big intersection. As we approached the center, he cranked the steering wheel. The Jeep slid at a sideways angle.
I grasped the nearest handlebar.
Dante straightened out the wheel and we were once more moving head first.
When I'd regained my breath, I screamed, "In one piece, Dante!"
He chuckled. "Sorry, it's just so much fun driving these streets when no one's on them."
I pulled out my cell phone and dialed into voicemail.
"Who are you calling?" Dante asked.
Fane's voice spoke urgently inside my ear. "Hey, I've been trying to reach you. Are you okay? Give me a call."
Dante whistled a tune as I tried to listen.
When we entered Nenana, Dante said, "Gotta gas up," before pulling into a Chevron.
He hopped out of the Jeep singing "Young Forever" by Jay-Z. I could hear him through the glass. "Forever young, I wanna be forever young..."
Tommy lifted his head at the sound then settled it back over his paws and sighed.
I called Fane while Dante refilled.
He answered immediately. "Aurora, I've been worried."
"I'm fine. Sorry about cutting you off earlier."
"What's going on?"
"I got kidnapped...by choice anyway. Sort of. I just left Fairbanks."
"Are you kidding?"
"Wish I was."
"How'd you get there?"
"A friend convinced me to skip the whole car rehabilitation thing and dive in head first...or in this case, drive in head first."
"A friend," Fane repeated. The words dropped like a frown. "Who's this friend?"
"Why? So you can get jealous?"
"It's a guy then."
I glanced out the window. Dante belted out, "Forever, forever," into the pre-dawn darkness.
"More of an annoying big brother."
"When will you be back?"
"I don't know. Noon maybe? I'll call you when I'm in town. Could we meet at the video store?"
"Yeah, I'll be there."