“Sorry. I’m in the mountains. Cell coverage is bad. How is he?” I squeezed my eyes shut, hoping that the worst hadn’t happened. Not yet. I needed just a little more time.
“It’s bad. You need to get here. Like now. We had to tie him to the bed, because he kept trying to attack us. The drugs aren’t working on him at all. And…he…he smells like he’s rotting. He’s got hours at best.”
I swallowed. “I’ll be there.” I closed the phone. This didn’t feel real. None of this felt real. I was dreaming. Some awful nightmare. It couldn’t be—
Two arms wrapped around me and I leaned into the warmth. “What am I going to do?”
“I have an idea.” Lucas’ voice rumbled against my back.
So did I. Oh my God. So did I.
I shoved the athame in my purse, and cradled it to my chest. One glance at Lucas told me he was back in his running pants, minus the shirt and shoes. Good enough.
“Gobble!” I stood up and turned in a circle as I yelled. “Gobble! Come here now. I’m ready to make a deal.”
He flashed in front of me in his tiny form. “Yes, tasty. You ready now?”
I nodded as I linked my fingers with Lucas’. “I need to go to San Jose. Hotel Jesus de la Luz.”
Gobble whistled. “That’s a far trip. It will cost you.”
“What are your terms?”
“I will need a favor from you one day soon.” His pale blue eyes glinted. “That’s when you will have to pay.”
I wanted to say yes right then, but had Cosette warned me. That was too vague. I had to be more specific. “I won’t do anything bad or evil. I won’t kill or hurt anyone. You can’t hurt or kill me. Or anyone that I love. You cannot steal my magic or bind me to anyone.”
Lucas cleared his throat.
“And where I go, Lucas goes. Whatever you ask me to do can’t go against the pact you have with the wolves.” Not that I knew what the pact entailed, but I was pretty sure it would cover the worst Gobble could think of. I took a breath. Anything else? I asked Lucas through our bond.
No. That’s about all we have time for.
“Do we have a deal?” I asked Gobble. I held my breath.
Gobble disappeared and I nearly cried out. But then I heard his voice behind my ear. “You’ve got a deal.” It was his deeper voice. He was full-sized again. “Close your eyes, tasty and her wolf.”
I did what I was told. A loud pop sounded in my ears, and then the quiet forest was replaced by the sounds and smells of the city.
I blinked open my eyes, and looked up at the sign on the building.
In big red letters. Hotel Jesus de la Luz.
We were here. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve thanked Gobble. I would’ve offered him anything he wanted. Because I was here.
I just hoped I was in time.
“Let’s go.” I raced inside the hotel. Adrian’s text said they were in room 304. I wasn’t paying attention to the gaudy gold, hot pink, and black decor. I didn’t answer the lady at the front desk as she called out to me. All I wanted was my brother.
I saw a sign that pointed to the stairs and started running. Lucas kept pace beside me as I took the steps two at a time.
When we hit the third landing, I raced into the hallway.
Lucas grabbed my arm. “This way.”
We sprinted down the hall in the other direction.
I pounded on the door with a gold plate that read 304.
Adrian gaped. “How in the hell did you get here so fast?”
I pushed past him, not answering. There were four doors. It was a suite. “Which way? Where is he?”
“Here.” Adrian led the way, hurrying through the room.
I froze in the doorway.
What was on the bed wasn’t my brother.
His rattling breath had gotten much louder. And the smell. I covered my nose. “Raphael?”
He cackled. “Hey little sis. Come on over here. Give your big brother a kiss.”
My stomach rolled. His voice… What he said… That wasn’t him. That wasn’t my brother.
A tear rolled down my cheek, and I swept it away. I couldn’t let myself think that I was too late, but the closer I got, the worse the smell was.
“We’ve tried everything,” Shane said. I turned to see him standing in the corner across the room. He crossed his tattooed arms as he looked away from Raphael. “The healing chant helped for a little bit, but…”
“I knew it wouldn’t last forever.” I walked to the bed. Adrian hadn’t been lying. Raphael’s skin was gray, and a few patches looked gangrenous. What caught me off guard were his eyes. They were solid black. Not even a speck of white was visible.