The man gave up his knife after the second attempt at Malachi’s neck. It clattered to the stones in the alley as the Grigori lunged toward him. Catching him in midair, Malachi hugged the soldier to his chest and felt the magic coursing through his own body. He grabbed for his own silver dagger, ignoring the chokehold his opponent was attempting. The man twisted around, realizing too late that Malachi was armed. He loosened his hold and tried to flee, but by that time, Malachi had a firm grip on the man’s long hair. He twisted it around his wrist and pulled up, letting the Grigori dangle and scream as he kicked.
“They said you were dead!” The man tried to break Malachi’s hold, tried to pry open the fingers that held him, but the scribe’s grip didn’t falter. “They told us—”
“They were wrong,” he said, jerking the soldier closer and plunging the blade into his spine.
In the blink of an eye, the body shimmered and turned golden. Malachi stared into the man’s black eyes as they met his own. He was gold. Shimmering. Translucent in death. And for a moment, the soldier was gone and Malachi watched his own face dissolve as a piercing scream shattered his ears.
He blinked away the echoing scream and came back to the alley. From the corner, a young woman held her arms out toward the dust that rose.
“What have you done, you monster?” she shouted at him, tears streaming down her face. “Ciril!” she sobbed, rocking back and forth.
Malachi went to her, bending down. “You’re safe now,” he said. “We’ll keep you safe.”
The woman kept rocking, clutching her arms around her body and sobbing into her knees. Malachi looked up, wondering what to do with the woman in the back streets of Sofia. They’d stopped in the capitol of Bulgaria to eat and stretch their legs before they continued driving to Budapest. Leo, Rhys, and Malachi had been taking turns, but they all needed sustenance. The fact that they’d happened to find a Grigori preying on a human woman at the restaurant was simply a coincidence. He’d run from them immediately but had grabbed the woman and taken her with him. They’d all given chase; Malachi was just the first to catch him.
Within seconds, he heard his brothers’ scuffling feet near the mouth of the alley. Malachi was trying to soothe the sobbing human without putting his hands on her skin. Rhys had said Grigori victims often mourned their attackers’ deaths, not knowing how dangerous the creatures truly were.
“Please,” Malachi said. Rhys had handed him a Bulgarian dictionary as soon as they’d crossed the border, so Malachi had already absorbed most of the language. “Please, miss, who can I call for you? Surely, there is someone—”
“There was Ciril,” she choked out. “There was only Ciril. And now there is no one.” She clutched her head, pressing her palms to her temples as she wailed.
“He would have hurt you,” Malachi said, speaking softly as Rhys and Leo approached. “You’re safe now.”
Finally, the woman’s eyes lifted to his. His stomach dropped when he saw them. Blank. Dead. There was nothing behind the young woman’s gaze.
“You know nothing,” she whispered.
Then she lunged forward, bashed her forehead into Malachi’s nose, and scrambled up, darting between Leo and Rhys and out of the alley before Malachi had time to recover. Blood streamed down his nose and into his mouth. She was gone by the time he reached his feet.
“What was that?” Leo asked with wide eyes.
“I have no idea.” He wiped the blood from his face with the corner of his sleeve. “I killed the Grigori, and she went crazy.”
Rhys shook his head sadly. “It’s horrible. They become obsessed. I only hope she has someone she can go to.”
Malachi narrowed his eyes. “She knew his name. Do they usually tell humans their name?”
Rhys shrugged. “He told her a name. I doubt it’s his. Let’s go. Who knows who that woman is calling right now? She could be running to the police. We need to get back on the road.”
Leo was staring at the spot where the woman had been crouched, his eyes lost in thought. After a second’s silence, he shook his head and said, “Rhys and I will grab some food from one of the corner shops. Malachi, you get back to the car. Your face would draw too much attention right now.”
As they walked, Rhys slapped Malachi’s shoulder. “How do you feel? No trouble with the new spells?”
“I feel fine,” he said, rolling his shoulders as he felt his nose start to knit together. “Actually, I feel amazing.”
It was true. Nothing about the fight had been a struggle. It was as if his muscles knew exactly what to do, from the way to immobilize his opponent to the exact angle at which to stab the knife. Like so many things, he only consciously thought about his actions after they were over, not unlike watching a movie on rewind, wondering how each point connected to the last.
Leo asked, “Did you remember anything more? Rhys and I have been debating whether or not tapping into your magic and scribing some of your old spells would help your memory.”
“I don’t remember anything more about Ava,” he said, “if that’s what you were wondering.”
No, he didn’t remember anything from the past, but his dreams—the intimate communion he reached for in sleep—those, he decided, they didn’t need to know about. Perhaps he was falling in love with his subconscious memories of the woman. He knew her without question in his dreams. He only wished he had something to hold on to when he woke.