Night Shift Page 77

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This was not a time to speak. Wordlessly, she loosened the tie of her robe and let it slip down, and stood back. Her eyes straight ahead, she held herself rigid as Bobo looked at her, until he said, “Look at me.” She did, and read only delight there. Bobo stripped off his sweatshirt and she stepped in to unbuckle his belt and unzip his pants. He dropped them in a heap and Mr. Snuggly sat on the discarded clothes, his golden eyes glowing.

Though it was nipping cold, Fiji, full of magic, willed them to be warm, and they were. She had power she had never imagined, and it dazed her.

Fiji knew the moment when Colconnar realized the ritual was taking place above him. He began to move with increasing violence and purpose, clawing his way to the surface, slowly and sluggishly.

She should have been terrified. Instead, Fiji was possessed by a sure confidence: in her power, in her womanhood. She and Bobo kissed again, longer, and this time they lay down on the road. Bobo tried to interpose himself between Fiji and the cold muddy asphalt, but she said, “I have to touch the ground.” He nodded, and she lay on her back. She looked up at him, knowing he could see that she loved him. She was not afraid, now, of his knowing that. She forgot other people were there.

“Are you ready?” Bobo asked, his blue eyes intent on her face. They could both hear the demon now, and they knew they could not spend any more time on preliminaries.

“Oh, yes,” she said, surprised to find it was true. She lusted for him with a pure brightness. He pushed into her. It stung. She knew she had bled a few drops, and was thankful. She thought, Not a virgin anymore. They could stop right now, and the ritual would be satisfied.

But she would not be. Her body had a mind of its own, and that mind said, Hell no. She realized in a far part of her brain that she need not have had performance anxiety. She certainly knew how to do this. She and Bobo moved together as if they had done it a dozen times. Despite everything that should have prevented her pleasure—the spectators, the weather, the discomfort of lying on cold pavement—Fiji found herself getting close to a climax, which she had never expected.

The magic was gathering around her and Bobo like a thick cloud. But Colconnar was very close to the surface. He was still moving upward. So it wasn’t just the virginity or the virgin blood that counted, she realized dimly.

A taloned hand burst through the asphalt. The demon was dark red, or at least it looked that way in the glimpse Fiji had before her body demanded all her attention. The other hand appeared, and Colconnar began to heave himself out of the ground, but still Fiji and Bobo kept up their movement.

Colconnar’s talons were almost at Bobo’s leg.

Fiji saw the shadow of a lion, small but unmistakable. She knew it was there to protect her. She forgot it, let the magic build and build, her body moving with Bobo’s, her hands on his back stroking, digging in, urging him on even when a dark talon pierced his leg and his blood spurted, blending with hers. He screamed, but with her hands on him he did not stop moving in and out of her. With his second scream, he exploded inside her, and at that moment her power flared outward.

Colconnar bellowed.

The sound was so loud Fiji’s ears rang. The demon’s emerging arm, as big around as a man’s thigh, flailed to try to reach Fiji. But Bobo stayed on top of her to protect her, though his injury was terrible.

The shadow lion stood over them, and it had grown to giant size. Its shadowy form snarled and bit the demon’s arm. Bright purple blood spattered the ground, already stained with Fiji’s and Bobo’s blood. Fiji’s brilliant power lit up the scene like a floodlight, and that light made the demon’s skin bubble and hiss.

With the terrible sounds of a building collapsing, Colconnar slid back underneath the Texas soil.

In the sudden silence, Fiji heard someone begin clapping. Then everyone joined in, many hands.

As she and Bobo looked into each other’s eyes and he kissed her yet again, she figured the clapping was the only way the residents of Midnight could think of to express their profound relief that they were not going to be eaten, and to thank her for her protection and sacrifice.

“Not so much,” she said. “Not such a sacrifice.”

“Maybe we can get in a warm bed and sacrifice again, real soon?” Bobo seemed reluctant to get off her and get up, and she could understand that. She would like to revel in the moment, too. But the world intruded, and she knew her magic would not be able to hold the scene for long, even with Sylvester’s chant.

“That sounds very good to me.”

She could tell the moment Bobo felt the full impact of the injury. He hissed, and rolled off to her side. “Plus, we need to look at that leg of yours,” she said prosaically.

“It hurts a hell of lot. Damn. This is literally anticlimactic,” Bobo said, and she began to giggle. He sat up, and she scrambled to her feet. She looked around for her silk robe and found it lying in a dirt-streaked heap a few feet away. Bobo’s own clothes were not in much better shape, and his jeans were decorated lavishly with cat hair, though Mr. Snuggly was nowhere in sight. Perhaps he was enjoying being a lion.

Lemuel and Quinn helped Bobo to his feet and half carried him to Fiji’s house, after a moment of hesitation.

“You have some cleaning up to do,” the Rev said, in his creaky voice. “You’re still . . . beaming.”

After a moment, Fiji realized he meant magical cleaning up. She was the source of the light around the crossroad. Okay, she would figure this out.

She ratcheted down her magic, unfocusing her will to dissolve the bubble that had kept the world out. As she did so, she saw that all the ghosts of the town were clustered around the ash-and-salt circle, interspersed with live people. Aunt Mildred was standing next to Chuy, and a Mexican cowboy in clothes of a hundred years before was looking at Olivia, who’d resumed her seat on the steps of the pawnshop.

Though she was fascinated and would have liked to spend moments looking at every face, the next instant a car’s headlights were coming from the west, from Marthasville, and the cold pinched her skin, and she realized she had to get inside or risk getting arrested. She felt her weariness in her bones . . . plus a very pleasant sense of relaxation and a slight achiness.

Fiji caught a glimpse of the body of Harvey Whitefield, but someone else would have to take care of that particular problem.

Fiji gathered up their clothes hurriedly and started for her house. She sensed someone in front of her and looked up to discover her sister, who had somehow wriggled out of her bonds.

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