Raven kept his gaze straight ahead.
He couldn’t look at Missy.
Her clothes disheartened him too much.
I can’t blame her, though. After all, it isn’t like she had a vast wardrobe to choose from.
He side-glanced at her.
I can’t see them as anything other than pajamas.
She linked arms with him.
This is very nice.
“This is way too easy.” said Robin.
Raven looked over at him.
“Come on. Don’t give me that look. It’s too easy. After all of the mayhem I kicked up, there should be guards stationed at the corners waiting to pick us off. At least, stake cannons in the ceiling. I mean, come on! There should be something.”
Missy tightened her grip on his arm.
“It’s all right, Missy.”
“Baloney. You hear me okay, Raven? I said Ba–lon–ey. They’re waiting to catch us off guard. You can count on it.”
“As long as they aren’t fey—”
“Or stake cannons in the ceiling.”
“—we should be able to catch their scent in time.”
“Yeah? Well, here’s to hopeful thinking.”
A heavy metal wall fell into place behind them.
“See? What did I tell you?”
Missy gave him a panicked look. Antioch. Raven. It’s Antioch. I know it I know it I know it.
“It’s all right. Calm down.”
She shook her head and ran up the hall.
“Missy!” Raven ran after her.
The intercom dinged. “XQ. STOP.”
“Oh, I have such a bad feeling about this.” said Robin. “Darn it!”
“Missy. Don’t listen. Come to me. Come to me.”
“THE TWO MEN BEHIND YOU ARE INTRUDERS.”
“Missy. It’s me. Please. It’s me. Raven. Turn around and look at me.”
“Missy. Don’t listen to him. He stole your voice away. I would never do that to you even if I had that ability.”
“XQ. ELIMINATE THE INTRUDERS.”
She turned around. The flames arced around her fiery body.
“Darn it. Darn it. Darn it. DARN IT!” Robin stomped his foot on the floor. “WHY DO I HAVE TO BE RIGHT?”
She focused on Raven.
Her mind was completely silent.
She ran at him.
“Robin. Get out of here. Save yourself.”
She jumped on top of Raven and knocked him flat on his back.
Her flames licked and danced on his skin.
“Missy. Please don’t.”
She roared and lunged at his face.
His pupils widened as he remembered.
He struggled, but she dragged him down to the floor.
“No. Please don’t. Please don’t.”
Her claws tore through his collars, exposing his neck.
“No! I don’t want. I…I…”
Her fangs pierced his skin.
His arms flailed out as pleasure rushed through his veins. He closed his eyes and yielded to her bite.
Until the pain began.
By then, it was too late to escape.
This is not then.
This is now.
I will not be destroyed again.
Her flaming mouth engulfed his head.
He could see the fire – yellow, orange, red, black – right before his eyes. Touching his face. Licking up inside his nose. Warping and rippling everything outside of her.
He opened his mouth and the flames rushed inside – hurting but not burning. “XQ.”
It hurt so much to speak.
“XQ. OFF. NOW.”
He lay there, gasping with the pain.
“XQ.” Antioch’s voice spoke up. “ATTACK.”
He rolled onto his side and lay there, trying to find the strength to stand.
She rushed at him again.
“Missy.” He saw her coming.
He couldn’t move.
Someone grabbed him and threw him over their shoulder.
She turned on Raven’s rescuer.
Everything hurts so much.
He closed his eyes and was only dimly aware of his head jostling against someone’s back.