Excerpt--Aisling, Book Two: Dream

© Carole Cummings

 

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“Good shot,” Dallin said, only it came out fuzzy and slurred, his vision pulsing between light and dark in time to the pain radiating up from his back, engulfing the whole left side of his body. He reached back, fingers blundering into the hilt of a knife jutting from low in his back. Exquisite, blinding pain vibrated from his touch, sent hot bile to the back of his throat and sparkled at the edges of his perception. “Shit,” he muttered, swayed a little. “This is… this is bad.” Not fatal—everything important was higher and on the other side—but bad.

Two more shots rang his ears. Dallin blinked. His right arm shouldn’t feel like it weighed twenty stone, but just raising his gun, pointing it into the blurred mass of moving bodies, made his vision go dark.

“Brayden!”

He blinked again, shook his head, but couldn’t clear it. A vague shape that resolved itself into Wil was coming toward him. Face fierce and determined, lit from within and as close to actual feral beauty as Dallin had ever seen. Like some kind of avenging spirit. Wil was saying something, shouting, but Dallin couldn’t hear it. He peered up, wondered why Wil was suddenly so much taller than him, and realized he’d gone down to his knees, oddly disturbed that he couldn’t remember when.

Hey!” Wil shouted, fear and real concern all over his hard-set face. “C’mon, we have to go.” He reached out, took hold of Dallin’s shoulder. “We have to go!”

“Don’t shake me,” Dallin mumbled, or hoped he did. Shaking would be bad. Shaking would bloody hurt. “Can’t go,” he told Wil, shook his head, but everything was still too bright about the edges, muddled. “Just… give me a minute.”

He just needed to catch his breath, that was all. Catch his breath and clear the tangle of pain that was clouding every thought, turning him slow and stupid, sucking him down into that quick-mud everyone kept chastising him about.

“What’s wrong?” Wil wanted to know, hand gripping tighter now. “Are you shot? Did they get you? I don’t see anything—is it your head?”

Going a little bit shocky now, Dallin blinked up into Wil’s face. Then up into the face of the man looming behind him. Noted the beaded braids in the gold-gray hair… the rough, notched the scar.

Just how corrupt does an Old One have to be, he wondered dazedly, before the others slice your Marks from off your face?

“The Watcher is watched,” Dallin wheezed.

Vertigo closed him in a hard fist. He dragged his eyes back to Wil’s, reached out, gun dropping from his hand as it latched on to Wil’s sleeve.

Leaned in, whispered, “Run.”

 

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