“That’s his job. It’s what Enders do,” Norm said. He clutched her with one arm, then lifted the other to the sky and wiggled his three fingers as if beckoning something. The sky above darkened and snow flowed down, quickly covering the ground around us and hiding everything around us from view.
“Cold enough?” he asked.
“Good for the moment. I’m going to ask you for more in a bit.”
I put my hands to the closest tree and called on my connection to the earth, drawing the sap farther up the trunk until it hovered on the edges of the bark. It crackled and snapped as it froze. I could feel the droplets harden underneath my hand, right on the edge of exploding. It would not take much to push it over the breaking point.
“Time to run. Norm, put her down.” He did as I asked, and I grabbed Mala by the arm and ran deeper into the trees. I whipped my cloak out and around her, sliding it off my shoulders and over hers.
The last thing I needed was her to freeze, and the way the temperature was dipping, she wouldn’t last another few steps.
“Why aren’t you cold?” She looked at me as we ran, and I shook my head. Now was not the time to be answering questions. The sounds of pursuit gaining on us were enough to keep me moving and my mouth shut. I glanced back once and saw the hovering figures in between the mists of the falling snow. Their cloaks and skirts swirled out around them as if they were the center of their own storms.
“Norm, ice it over,” I said. I grabbed Mala and pulled her to the ground, yanking the cloak over us both. Norm skidded to a stop beside us, spun, and roared into the wind, his howl picking up in depth and intensity as the temperature around us plummeted at a rate that was unreal. I kept my hands buried in the ground, urging the trees around us to give up their sap, pushing it to the front of the bark.
There it was; the edge of cold that would send the trees over the edge. “Norm, down!”
The Yeti dropped flat beside us with a thud that sent the snow up around him like a wave of white. I covered our heads with the cloak as best I could.
I held my breath and the first tree exploded. The pain of the tree’s death shot through me and I yanked my hands back from the ground, but it was no use. The trees exploded one after another, the shrapnel of their bodies slicing through the witches who would follow us.
Screams rent the air, and I wasn’t sure if it was the trees or the women who hunted our trail. I waited on the ground, Mala trembling beside me, her body the only warmth. “You . . . you killed them,” she whispered. I shook my head and stood.
“I doubt that. Wounded, yes. But I don’t kill indiscriminately.”
I held a hand out to her and she took it. Her eyes darted to mine and then away. I shook my head. “Don’t even think it. I have a mate.”
She shook her head and spluttered, but the blush on her cheeks said it all. Witches were drawn to mates of power, it was in their blood.
As it was in mine.
I started forward through the remaining trees, stopping only when I realized that both Norm and Mala hadn’t followed. “We have to hurry.”
“Why? They aren’t following us now.” Mala made her way carefully to my side. She stumbled on nothing I could see, and I caught her arm. She swung lightly into me and I snorted. I let her go as soon as she balanced herself.
“Because I have a friend who is in trouble, and I need to get to her as soon as I can.”
That was it, that had always been it. I needed to get Peta away from Cassava, none of that had changed. I blinked and stared at Mala, seeing her beauty—surprised I hadn’t noticed before now. I gritted my teeth against a strange, sudden push of lust I hadn’t had in years. Even with Lark . . . no, this feeling . . . the last time I’d had it overwhelm me was when Cassava had forced me . . . I shook my head and then did a slow spin, looking for the dark hair of Raven. “Raven, I feel you out there, messing with my head.”
The lust faded slowly, but I knew it was there, ready to be kindled again. Mother goddess, if I didn’t need Mala to find the coven of witches I would have let her go right there. Why hadn’t he shown himself? Damn him. I had no choice but to move forward. Anxiety fluttered in my belly. Raven knew I was here, which meant he could warn his mother.
“Lead the way, Mala, and hurry.”
“Of course.” She sashayed in front of me as if I could see past the cloak that hid her body. For whatever yelling I’d done, she acted as though I’d said nothing.
We walked in the darkness, the only light from the reflection of the snow bouncing a little starlight back to us. After a good two hours of walking with no more pursuit from the witches behind, or Raven in front, Mala held up a hand and then touched her lips.
I drew close to her and ducked my head. “How close?”
“Over this hill, there is a valley where there are standing stones. It is a place of power and it is where Cassandra has set up her home,” Mala said softly. Her eyes flicked to my lips and then up to my eyes. She pressed a kiss on me, but I didn’t react.
I pulled back. “I told you no.”
“I don’t believe you,” she whispered. “I’ll help you take her out if you’ll give me a child.”
Norm snickered as if it was the greatest joke in the world. I didn’t even look at him. “Wait here.”
I brushed past her and headed up the slope. Norm caught up to me easily and when I dropped to my belly in the snow, he did the same. “Prank time?”