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Crimson Wind by Diana Pharaoh Francis - Fantasy
THERE ARE GOOD GUYS. THERE ARE BAD GUYS. AND THEN THERES MAX.
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THE DREAM WAS NOT A DREAM. IT WAS A KIDNAP-ping.
Max struggled. She hung pendant and weightless in the abyss between worlds. Tatters of magic swirled like bright jewels in the black. They shimmered and billowed like silk rags, and they sliced like razors wherever they touched.
She twisted to avoid a swooping cluster that bunched and spiraled like a deadly flock of birds. A gauzy wisp of purple slid along Max's hip, and she wrenched away from the liquid curl of acid that reached intimately down inside her, causing a fierce ache in a place beyond flesh and bone.
Max did not scream. She had done it just once, the first time Scooter had dragged her here. She wasn't going to give him the satisfaction ever again.
A force shoved her insistently toward the right. Scooter. The fucker. She yanked away from the pressure, tumbling in the darkness and into a cloud of gray magic. It clung to her with tenacious eagerness. It melted into her. Her heart pounded frantically as her healing spells kicked into high gear, drawing on her shallow reserve of calories from the food she'd eaten before bed. It wouldn't be long until they began feeding on her flesh. If she couldn't wake herself up, she was going to die.
She hesitated, tempted to let herself stop fighting. He wanted her bad, and she was worthless to him dead. She'd love to see his face if he killed her.
But he wasn't the only one who needed her. The thought spurred her. She resumed her struggle.
Again the demanding push. She snarled and hauled back against it. She couldn't keep Scooter out--she couldn't keep him from attacking her every time she fell asleep--but she didn't have to let him push her around while he had her trapped here. She didn't care if he probably was a half-breed god.
Something like fear quivered deep inside her. She ignored it. She could panic later. And there would be a later. She'd make sure of it.
She felt his frustration like an explosion of quills drilling through her insides. They curved like hooks and ripped through her. Pain burned like nothing she had ever felt. She opened herself to it out of habit, letting herself relax into the boiling cauldron of agony. It filled her, drawing her down into its depths. Far away, her body twitched and went as still as death as Max embraced the pain. Her breathing slowed, her heart beat evenly. She felt her spectral self smiling with vicious triumph as she drew perverse strength from the hurt. It was a skill she'd mastered the hard way. She refused to ever let anyone use her body against her, not if she could help it. And today she could.
Scooter hovered out of sight, waiting for her to capitulate. He prodded her again. It felt like she'd been Tasered. Max snarled, wishing she could pummel him to bits. But there was no fighting him here. She didn't know how. But that didn't make her helpless.
With slow deliberation, she reached out to her body. She told herself to kick and thrash. On her bed far away, her physical self responded, sluggishly at first, then began to jerk and convulse. She redoubled her efforts, evading Scooter as he sought to shatter the connection. It was a race. If she could wake herself first, she'd win.
Pain streaked from her hand to her arm, and Max woke. She lunged to her feet. Her ribs bellowed as she panted. Blood ran from a ragged three-inch gash that seamed across her palm. She closed her fist around it with a grim smile of triumph. For the last two weeks, every time she went to sleep, Scooter came for her, and every time, it was harder and harder to wake up and escape. This time, she had planned for it.
Max glanced down at the tack strips on the floor surrounding her mattress. Four-inch twenty-penny...
Crimson WindBy: Diana Pharaoh Francis