The attacks are brutal, leaving the victims unconscious and broken. A powerful Mindhealer might be able to piece together what's happening to these crushed bodies and shattered minds, so Caroline Robbins is pulled away from her relatively quiet life. A Mindhealer is incredibly vulnerable to the Dark—and Caro refuses even the idea of having a Watcher. She won’t have another man die in front of her, and that’s that. Unfortunately, the Watcher she just ran into has other ideas . . .
Caro, the witch Merrick rescues from the dogs of the Dark, is obnoxiously stubborn, infuriating, and seemingly determined to throw herself into every dangerous situation possible. It’s enough to drive a man insane, and definitely enough to make a Watcher frustrated. How is he supposed to protect her, especially when she insists she doesn’t need a Watcher? But Caro is going to need all of Merrick’s skill and strength sooner than anyone guesses. The attacks haven’t stopped, and the closer Caro gets to solving the mystery, the more danger she’s in. Because she’s the next victim—unless Merrick can save her. And Merrick just might die in the line of fire if Caro can’t find a way to keep her Watcher safe.
Bounced around the world as a military brat, Lilith Saintcrow fell in love with writing in second grade and never looked back. She currently resides in Vancouver, Washington, with two children, a menagerie, and books. Find her on the web at lilithsaintcrow.com.
Read an Excerpt
The EEG suddenly blipped into life. High hard alpha waves, beta scrabbling thickly enough to blur, static crawling over the screen. Stink filled the air, heavy and close like the smell of an animal's lair, and Merrick didn't stop to think. He bolted forward, blurring with preternatural speed, over the bed, getting her down and away as the thing burst like a poisonous flower, snarling in a psychic falsetto that drove through his teeth. Caro let out a short cry, bitten off halfway as Merrick hit her, driving her down.
Landed, hard, twisted so she didn't hit the floor, he barked his elbow a good one and his head smacked the radiator under the window with stunning force. He had her down and rolled, covering her body with his as the thing clawed at the air. There was no space, his legs tangled with hers and he pushed himself up, knife hilt smacking into his palm. He made it to his feet, facing the thing that rose from the shattered body like a cancerous mushroom. Warmth slid down the side of his neck, wet and coppery. He'd smacked himself a good one in the close quarters between the bed and window.
Red dappled the walls, the runes chased into the black steel of the knife blazing with clear crimson radiance that cut through weak wintery sunlight. Merrick's lips pulled back from his teeth.
The thing squealed again as sunlight pierced it, thin red lines from the blazing runefire bouncing off the walls. The dual assault striped its smoking flesh. A low head, eyes made of unhealthy crimson radioactivity, a clawed paw that swiped at him uselessly as it shredded in the sun falling over his shoulder. The body on the bed twisted and jerked, a fine mist ofblood spattering up from broken capillaries in the skin of her face and hands; the machines began to give out warning beeps, boops, and whistles.
Lovely. That will bring everyone running. Dammit.
Caro struggled up to her knees. Merrick kept himself between her and the bed. The jade bowl chattered, water turning to steam, the thing howled again as the steam billowed around it. The smell was insistent, sulfur mixed with a darker tang, and the thing retreated, hopping down from the bed and clumsily splatting on the floor on the other side. He could see it, writhing and melting, and his blood went chill. "Caro?"
"I'm all right." She sounded dazed, and most definitely not all right. He was unprepared for the sharp pinch of fear under his skin. He had just touched a Mindhealer during her work. You were never supposed to do that lest you disturb the careful balance necessary for them to leave their bodies and walk in other minds. He was damn lucky she was still alive. "Merrick?" Wondering, disoriented.
Thank you, gods. She's alive and conscious. Two to the good, luckier than I have any right to be. "Right here. It's dying, the sunlight hurts it. Get your bowl and your bag, we're leaving."
She shook her head as if dazed, and he was suddenly possessed of the intense desire to shake her. Don't ever do that to me again. He discarded the thought. It wasn't the kind of thing a Watcher could say.
Who? Then he remembered. The victim. He heard running feet, shouts. The nurses and doctors would be along soon. The thing shrieked again, but fainter. The chaos of noise from the machines splashed through the room, tore at his ears. He shut it out.
Merrick scooped up the jade bowl with his left hand. The water was gone and the stone bowl was hot enough to burn a man's fingers. Thankfully, none of the bloodmist had fouled it. He resheathed the knife--this thing, whatever it was, was losing coherency quickly. Each moment of sunlight made it more insubstantial.
It still might hurt her, so he kept his body between Caro and the thing as he bent down, offered her his free hand. "Come on, love. Best to be on our way."