Home > One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #3)(2)

One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #3)(2)
Author: Ilona Andrews

“How did you know?” he asked. “I stayed off the inn grounds.”

“The peace summit gave the inn a boost. Gertrude Hunt is spreading its roots and you skimmed the zone of the new growth.” I pushed slightly. The boundary of the inn glowed with pale green for a second and faded again. “That’s the new boundary.”

“Sorry,” he said. “I’ll keep it in mind. I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“Couldn’t sleep?” I pulled the cardigan tighter around myself.

“Just have a feeling, that’s all.”

“What kind of feeling?”

“Like something is going to happen.”

“If something is going to happen, we might as well wait inside.”

And I just invited him in. In the middle of the night. While wearing a cardigan and a Hello Kitty sleeping T-shirt that barely came to my mid-thigh. What exactly was I doing?

“Do you want to come in?” My mouth just kept going. “I’ll make you a cup of tea.”

Brilliant.

An amber sheen rolled over his eyes. “At two o’clock in the morning real men drink coffee. Black.”

He took his coffee with cream. Was that a joke? Please be a joke.

“Aha. And do they wait to drink it until it’s old and bitter and then compare the chest hair growth it produced?”

“Possibly.”

Definitely a joke. Hope sparked inside me. It was tiny, but it was so much better than nothing.

“Well, if any men here would dare to drink a cup of sissy hazelnut coffee with lots of cream, they are welcome to come inside.”

He leaned a little closer. “Are you inviting me in?” His voice held just a touch of suggestion to it.

Suddenly I wasn’t so cold anymore. “Well, you’re already here, it’s freezing, and we can’t just stand here on the balcony and talk. Someone might see us and get the wrong idea.”

Actually, nobody would see us, because it was the middle of the night and if we got in trouble, the inn would screen us from the street.

He leapt off the branch and landed softly next to me. He was so very… tall. And standing too close. And looking at me.

“Wouldn’t people get the wrong idea if they see me sneaking into your house in the middle of the night?”

I opened my mouth, trying to think of something clever to say.

The sky above Park Street split in an electric explosion of yellow lightning and spat a boost bike.

Sean whipped around.

The needle-shaped aboveground craft tore down the road a foot above the payment, its engine roaring loud enough to wake the dead. The windows in the inn vibrated. Car alarms blared down the street.

Oh no.

The deafening blast of sound receded and came back, growing louder. The idiot had turned around and was coming back this way. Sean took off, leaping over the balcony.

“Smother cannon,” I barked.

The roof of the inn split open, the shingles flowing like melted wax, and a three-foot-long cannon barrel slid out.

The boost bike thundered, engine roaring.

Lights came on in the two closest houses. Damn it.

The boost bike shot into my view.

“Fire.”

The cannon made a metallic ting. The lights in the Ramirez residence went out. The lamp post turned dark. The engine of the boost bike died like someone had thrown a switch.

An electromagnetic pulse is a terribly useful thing.

The bike spun, rotating wildly, crashed into a lamppost and bounced off, landing on the pavement, and skidding to a stop. Twenty feet from the inn's boundary. Crap.

In a moment Mr. Ramirez would realize his lights refused to come on and he would do exactly what most men did in this situation. He’d come outside to check if the rest of the neighborhood had lost power. He would see us and the boost bike that clearly didn’t look like it belonged on Earth.

I leapt over the balcony. A massive root snaked out of the ground, catching me, and set me gently on the grass. I dashed to the street, the broom in my hand splitting to reveal its glowing blue insides and flowing into a spear with a hook on the end.

Sean darted to the bike, grabbed the small passenger, and threw him backward toward the inn. Roots snatched him out of the air, the lawn yawned, and they dragged him under. I hooked the boost bike with my spear. Sean grasped the other edge, strained, and we half-dragged, half-carried it to the inn's boundary.

Behind me a door swung open. Sean grunted, I cried out, and we heaved the bike and my broom over the hedge. I spun around and faced the street.

Mr. Ramirez walked out, his Rhodesian Ridgeback, Asad, trailing him.

“Dina,” Mr. Ramirez said. “Are you okay?”

No, I’m not okay. “Some dimwit just drove his bike up and down the street!”

I didn’t even have to manufacture the outrage in my voice. I had outrage to spare. All visitors to Earth had to follow one rule: never let themselves be discovered. That was the entire purpose of the inns. I’d had too many close calls already and as soon as I got inside, the rider of the boost bike would deeply regret it.

“We’re fine,” Sean said.

“This is completely ridiculous.” I waved my arm and pulled the cardigan tighter around myself. “People have to be able to sleep.”

“People have no sense,” Mr. Ramirez said. “My power went out.”

“Looks like he hit a lamppost. Might’ve damaged the power lines,” Sean offered.

Mr. Ramirez frowned. “You might be right.” His eyes narrowed. “Wait. Isn’t your house all the way down the street? What are you doing here?”

   
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