ONE THIRTY FIVE
I fervently do not recommend this tactic. The biting thing under some circumstances may perhaps provide a certain fleeting satisfaction but unfortunately your tongue is intimately connected with your teeth and the taste of well-worn well-used well-oiled well-blooded leather, with maybe an edge of chain for that tooth-chipping sensation, is VERY UNPLEASANT. Even if your taste buds are still stunned from their inoculation by Spirits of the Black Lagoon but moments ago.
It’s not as though I had any chance of doing Murac any damage. Neither my neck nor my teeth were long enough and he was, after all, wearing (evil-tasting) armor. It wasn’t Kevlar or titanium alloy, but it was well up to protecting him from being munched on by a wussy modern human woman whose idea of difficult chewing was a tough piece of fruit leather.
I did feel him startle and he shifted his grip on me very slightly—and was now holding me tighter. Oh well. There was enough else going on, breathing was perhaps surplus to all the other stuff I needed to be thinking about.
All of this did serve briefly to take my mind off the sensation of someone carving up my leg like a Thanksgiving turkey. Briefly it took my mind off. Not nearly long enough. Droko was not nearly fast enough at his job. How many stitches were involved, for pity’s sake? Was he embroidering the Defender logo down there or something?
I couldn’t have kicked if I’d tried. The motor controls to that leg were off-line and the remaining leg was gallantly trying to keep me upright. I didn’t think Murac had really planned on supporting me as a dead weight. Um. Let’s rephrase that. He hadn’t planned on carrying me.
I was pretty well failing at the job of constructive thought. Like whether anyone was looking at the slash on Monster’s shoulder, and if someone had loosened his girth. I should ask—I should have asked—a soldier sees to her horse first.
More thoughts intruded. Like whether what was happening to me here was having any undesirable spillage into my world . . . or rather what kind of spillage and what kind of undesirable. It must be too much to hope for that my being snatched into madness and infamy might have cauterised the gap . . . No. This crew wouldn’t be going on about Gates and Defenders and providing me with bodyguards (gitzimi optional) and huge magnificent horses if Silverheart appearing in Rose Manor’s front hall had been a fluky one-off.
But then the worst thought, the one that kept repeating: What was happening to Sid? Watermelon Shoulders could take care of himself. But Sid . . . whom I’d only just supposedly rescued. . . .
And while I’m worrying about spillage . . . how long does it take and how far does it go? If someone wanted to drop the orc farm next door in another galaxy—or deinonychus under the porch—I wouldn’t mind too much. But will it suck up Serena and Gus and Mike and Jan and the Eatsmobile? Will it ooze its way down to Manhattan and thrust sticky tendrils under Norah’s door?
For a moment, through the escalating pain that I was trying to tell myself, with my fading remnants of reason and rationality, was ridiculous for a mere leg, I thought I heard barking. . . .
It had been a long day. I was bone-marrow weary in a way not usually pertinent to someone whose crises had never until very recently involved edged metal and gates between worlds. Although walking out of Gelasio’s penthouse for the last time, whizzing down to the basement parking garage in the impeccably decorated tenants’ elevator containing a specklessly uniformed elevator attendant and a rotating selection of exquisitely tended tiny bonsai trees in a mirror-backed niche . . . and turning the key in an elderly van with over two hundred thousand miles on it, squashy shocks and illuminated by a diverse series of screaming skulls, was as close to walking through a gate into another world as anyone needed.
I was also dismayingly aware of the hard male body I was being clutched against. I was indecorously dressed for close contact and the truth was that I hadn’t been clutched to any hard male bodies in a while for any purpose, although minor surgery without anesthetic was not something that had ever occurred to me to fantasize about. But I’d always been attracted by strength and preferred the real kind rather than the gym-bunny kind although blacksmiths, stevedores and sword-bearing mercenaries are badly outnumbered by wimpy suits in the corridors of publishing where I tended to hang out. MacFarquhar get a GRIP. You’re talking about MURAC. Who is a figment of your OWN overheated brain and furthermore, said the fading remnants of my reason and rationality desperately, you don’t even LIKE HIM. Um, said my hormones. Isn’t being distracted by a little inconvenient animal magnetism preferable to total concentration on all this PAIN?
I was way beyond coping.
I had to stop biting Murac to gasp.
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