Betrayals (Cainsville #4) - Kelley Armstrong Page 0,1

same language, telling her companion that the point of the game was to find her. The first girl let out a victory laugh, hearing her target, who shrieked as she realized she’d given herself away.

I stepped around a half-crumbled wall and saw a campsite—sleeping bags and backpacks—tucked into what remained of a room, the roof mostly intact. When I came closer, I saw more bags. Not a camp but a squat for the homeless.

The girls laughed again. One darted past. She was in her late teens, older than I expected, given the games and the giggling. Another girl zoomed from a hiding place. She launched herself at the first, and they fell, tumbling together and laughing.

Then they went still. Absolutely, unnaturally still. That youthful joy vanished in a blink, and when I looked into their faces, I saw two other girls—prostitutes—sitting on a bench. I’d spotted them six months ago while searching for an apartment. When they’d looked at me, I’d seen that emptiness in their gaze.

These were the same girls, recognizable now only as they presented that soulless gaze to the world. Then that disappeared, and the girls looked normal, though still solemn, their eyes dark with worry and concern.

“He’s found us,” the second one said in that foreign tongue.

The first girl made a noise in her throat, an odd rattle, as her sharp gaze darted about. “Go warn the others,” she whispered.

The second one shook her head vehemently. “I won’t leave—”

The first girl spun and grabbed her by the throat, and when she spoke, her words came carried on a hiss. “I said go.” She gave the second one a shove.

Still the girl hesitated, but her companion stomped in her direction with an urgent “Go!” and she took off through the trees. The first one watched her and whispered, “Be safe, little sister.” Then she turned and, once again, her gaze emptied. She took a step toward the forest.

“I know you’re there,” she said, speaking English now. “I have what you want.” Her voice took on a coy lilt. “I have everything you want. You need only come and take it.”

She stepped toward the forest, her hips swaying, and when my gaze lowered to those hips, I saw her belt. Snakeskin, like she’d been wearing the last time.

The girl walked into the forest, still calling to whomever she sensed there. I hurried after her, but when I stepped into the forest, all that was left was her voice, and even that was growing faint.

I stopped to listen and—

A scream. A horrible scream.

Like those of the fae. The dying fae on the grounds of Villa Tuscana.

Dragging Ricky, I ran toward the sound. I heard a hiss. I caught a glint of scale and of fang. A man howled. Then he cursed. That scream came again from all around me, and I spun, but there was nothing to see, nothing more to hear, just that terrible scream.

A thump, like a body hitting the ground. An odd rasp, like a death rattle. Silence.

I kept walking, kept listening. Breathing. A soft scrape. A grunt. The whisper of fabric. The smell of blood.

My hand tightened on Ricky’s. A single moonbeam swept the clearing, like a peephole into another world, and I spotted a foot. The girl’s foot. Bare. Her toenails painted red. The beam moved over her supine body. Her leg. Her snakeskin belt. Then her torso, her shirt pushed up, stomach painted as red as her nails, a slash of crimson that split her belly in two. A hand reached into her stomach, and I fell back as the moonbeam moved up a man’s bloodstained arm. I could see the girl, dead on the ground, but I focused on him, as that light passed over his shoulder, to his head, fixed on the girl. Then he turned, and I saw the face of a man maybe thirty, fair-haired and bearded.

The moonbeam passed and the scene went dark. I hurried forward, hanging on to Ricky, and found myself in an empty clearing. A sob sounded to my left. Another joined it, rising to a keening cry.

I was back at the ruined building. The dead girl had been laid out in the grass, her ripped stomach covered with a jacket. Four teenaged girls ringed her. All wore those snakeskin belts. They wept and they wailed and they gnashed their teeth, and when they did, I saw fangs, growing and retracting, as they cursed the girl’s killer in that foreign tongue.

“Why do you wait?” a