Demon's Embrace
the darkness of the landing, drawing Miri with him. Sweeping her up in his arms, Ash extended his wings. Two strong nearly silent sweeps lifted them to the roof.
    Their combined mass was a strain, even as powerful as his wings were. Unlike those of raptors, they weren’t designed to carry more than his own weight. It had been a long time since they’d been required to do much more than that but it was enough to get them up to the roof. Which was all he required.
    Gently, Ash set Miri down on the flat rooftop and released her. Reluctantly.
    The fog was thick and close enough that she might be safe up here for a little while.
    Miri went still, knowing he was about to leave her. Fear for him shot through her, knowing what he was about to do. Alone. She wouldn’t know what happened, if anything, to him.
    “Ash,” she breathed.
    His fingers brushed her cheek reassuringly, touched her temple. I’m here.
    That mental voice, a deep echo of his audible one, startled her.
    Dropping a soft kiss on her mouth, he sent, “ A gift of the venom, of the bond between us. Just think of me and I’ll hear you. You’ll know how I fare. I won’t leave you alone.
    It was some consolation.
    Still.
    Be careful, Ash , she thought.
    One couldn’t lie mind to mind, it wasn’t possible. Ash could read her heart, too, the words she didn’t say and the fear that was like a tight knot around her heart.
    There was no choice, though.
    He cupped her cheek for just a moment and then spread his wings, stroked them powerfully, silently, to lift him from the roof before he banked toward the inner courtyard.
    In two strong strokes he disappeared into the fog-shrouded darkness so quietly even Miri couldn’t hear him. There was some reassurance in that.
    She looked out into the waning night, the deep banks of mist that swirled against the building in the pale moonlight. The natural gas tank looked like a submarine floating on a foggy sea and Ash’s motorcycle below was just a darker shadow within them.
    Of Ash she saw nothing and her heart clenched, but, she thought she saw a hint of movement, heard a muffled sound, in the shadowed murk below her.
    With an effort, she tried to keep her thoughts quiet. If Ash truly could read her mind, she didn’t want to distract him.
      Ash dropped to the courtyard nearly silently, grateful for the concealing fog. Motion would draw attention to him that the silence of his wings didn’t. Much like a bat’s wings or an owl’s, he flew almost as quietly as those creatures did with his wings in this configuration, unlike hawks that relied on speed to take their quarry.
    He could fly nearly as fast as a hawk if he chose but it wasn’t necessary. He folded his wings and shifted his weight forward to drive his feet into the back of the man who covered the doorway.
    The impact drove the man into the concrete wall next to him. His head struck it with a hollow sound like a melon being dropped. It wasn’t entirely as silent as he’d hoped.
    At the sound, Ash sensed the man’s partner inside the room flatten himself beside the door to debate his next move.
    Ash knew the next move well, as it was the only one the man inside could take.
    Cautiously, leading with his weapon, the man pressed himself against the door even as Ash stepped back along the outer wall beside it.
    The man came out in a rush.
    Ash caught the weapon, the steel with its iron content burning his hands a little as he jerked the gun free and flung it into the fog. With his left hand, he caught the man by his shirtfront as his right slammed into the man’s jaw. The man’s knees buckled.
    It took only seconds.
    Ash turned, extended his senses.
    He needed to silence those between him, Miri and the motorcycle. With a little luck and the element of surprise, his speed and a touch of magic would take care of the rest.
    Turning his head, he listened a moment before he moved swiftly and silently along the row of motel rooms toward the next target.
    He tried not

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