With hexes in their holsters and spells in their saddlebags, Gracie Boswell’s posse is on the hunt for supernatural outlaws.
Carson drew the short straw, so he gets to cut off the vampire’s head tonight.
His beautiful face is screwed up in distaste and he winces at the sick, wet sound of his knife slicing through flesh. The orange and pink sunset behind him makes a pretty picture, so I keep my gaze trained on that while Carson grabs the head by its long brown curls and drops it in the sack I hold open in front of me.
“Glad that’s over,” Boone says in a quiet voice next to me.
I twist the top of the sack and wrap a piece of twine around it. Boone and I start toward the horses. When I don’t hear Carson behind us, I turn around.
“You all right, Carson?” I ask.
He stands, dusts off his knees from sitting in the dirt. A smear of blood tracks across his thigh, thick and black, but the blood ain’t his, so I decide not to mention it. He gazes down at the headless corpse, regret spelled across his features plain as the bold heading on a wanted poster.
“I ain’t entirely all right,” he says, transferring his thoughtful gaze to me, “but I reckon I will be eventually.”
I reach the horses first and mount Kitty. While I wait for Boone and Carson, I fasten the sack with the head in it to Kitty’s saddle. Then I check that my revolver is fully loaded with charms. If we’re riding at night, I want to be ready for any surprises. This area of the Rift Territory ain’t too populated with fae, as there’s more desert here and the fae prefer water. It’s also too far from the Rift to have too many demons. What it’s rich in, however, is vampires and shapeshifters.
“Want to talk about it?” Boone asks.
“Nah,” Carson says. “She just looked like someone I knew.”
That happens sometimes—you have to kill a vampire what used to be a friend, or a family member. I shiver in my coat even though it ain’t yet cold. But night falls fast on the high desert plains, and we need to head back to the town of Salvation, turn in this head, and collect our gold. I want off these plains and back into a valley, and I don’t much care that the valley is hot and stays hot at night without any relief. The high desert’s a terrible place to be.
To underscore my thought, an eerie howl rises up from what don’t seem too far off. Carson and Boone get on their horses and I send each of them a glance. I don’t know what the sound is, exactly, but it ain’t reassuring.
“Coyote?” I ask.
Boone shrugs, looks at Carson. “What d’you think?”
“Shifter,” Carson says.
A second howl joins the first.
“They’re hunting,” Carson says.
Boone swears low under his breath and we all shoot forward on our horses like charms from a gun. Boone’s butter-colored mare, Pegasus, is the fastest of our horses. Kitty’s fast, but she can’t gallop for quite as long as the other two. Carson’s horse, a black stallion named Domino, falls somewhere in the middle for speed, but at the moment, he lags behind.
“Carson, hurry up,” I call over my shoulder.
He’s turned around, looking behind us. The sun’s mostly down, just a sliver of orange against the horizon. Clear as day, though, I can see the running forms of several beasts. They’re wolves, all on the large side. Their eyes glow faint as far-off torchlight, their paws tear up dust.
They’re getting closer.
“Is it a full moon?” I ask. “Why’re they hunting us?”
“Does it matter?” Boone says.