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By now he was out of the cloister, she thought as she pulled back the covers and quickly changed into her darkest clothing.

Cautiously she climbed the steps and tiptoed through the cloister. Once outside, she looked all around and listened before she turned off her flashlight and inspected the ground.

Beau’s footprints had left oval tracks through the grass, and led through the center of the site to the village path. Alys grinned and hurried toward the path. The air had grown so cold it stung her nose, but she felt completely exhilarated.

I knew it.

Following the path to the village in the dark proved easier than she’d expected, as Beau had used the machete to clear it ahead of her. Once she reached the open space that led into the village, she paused again, peering through the darkness for any sign of him before stepping out into the open.

Alys hadn’t decided what to do when she caught up to him. She could observe more if she concealed herself, and she could also keep an eye on him and make sure he didn’t get into any trouble. At the same time she wanted to see the look on his face when he realized she’d followed him. I wonder how you’ll like it, Beauregard.

To keep from losing him, she needed to make up some time and close the gap between them, so instead of following the longer path around the village, she pushed her way through the tangle of brush and grass in its center. None of the ancient Timucua dwellings had survived the ages, but parts of the clay floors of the main community house, and circles of stones that had once served as its fire pits, remained intact. Since these were hidden by the brush, Alys forced herself to slow down and plant her feet carefully.

A rustle of leaves made her freeze in place and hold her breath, but a subsequent scurrying, retreating sound told her she’d startled something in the brush.

“Another rat, I bet,” she muttered, moving away from the brush and through a silvery curtain of Spanish moss laced with dead vines. She had to stop again when a fallen vine caught her right foot, but she shook it off and emerged into an area around the largest of the fire pits that had been recently cleared.

A glimmer of moonlight reflected on something pale in color and moving inside the stones, and for a moment Alys thought of her interns’ wild stories about the ghost. Her mouth hitched as soon as she saw the peculiar way the tendrils of white mist were rolling over the sides of the pit and spreading out in all directions.

“Very funny, you guys,” she said, looking down in the direction of the camp.

Ghosts didn’t cover the ground with an inch of thick fog, Alys knew as she approached the stones, but exposed dry ice did. The interns must have set this up as some kind of prank on her and Beau—

Dry branches snapped as the ground disappeared from under her feet. Instinctively Alys scrambled backward, trying to find solid footing as the soil collapsed and dragged at her legs. She twisted, clawing desperately at some dead tufts of grass before losing her last handhold and sliding into blackness.

Chapter 9

Beau reached the American encampment first, and took to the trees to inspect the intruders. Although they had pitched their tents within a few feet of the fence surrounding Tremayne’s land, they had laid out a grid and begun excavating on the opposite side of the camp. Three men stood talking quietly as they warmed their hands over some brush burning in a barrel; the rest of the companions appeared to be in their tents. He spotted some hand tools, maps, and books arranged neatly on a long table, but saw no weapons, surveillance equipment, or any sign to make him think they had come to do anything other than dig.

He might be able to separate one of the men from the others and compel him to confess any unsavory intentions he might have, but he first wanted a look at the other camp.

Beau couldn’t move as quickly as Jayr, whose ability gave her bewildering speed and agility, but his Kyn strength allowed him to reach the second team’s camp within a few minutes. As there were no trees in the immediate area, he took to the brush, using it as cover while he employed the binoculars.

No tents for the Europeans—they had parked a dozen large new RVs at the edge of the clearing they were excavating. Mounds of aluminum cases lay neatly stacked under tables of computers, electronic devices, and what appeared to be some manner of radio. A tall, heavily rigged steel frame dangled a long pipe in a vertical position above the ground; he didn’t recognize it or its purpose. A portable satellite dish on a trailer sat aimed up at the stars; another held a robotic device mounted with cameras and attached to a coil of shielded cables. Beau suspected the latter was the research submersible Alys had wanted.

She’ll be wandering about the Americans’ site by now.

Beau had known Alys would follow him, naturally. From the moment she’d produced that phony yawn and announced she was going to bed, he’d been sure of it. Otherwise he wouldn’t have bothered with stomping each step to leave visible footprints for her, or using the machete to clear the path.

It was only fair. As unhappy as he’d made her, she needed this little victory, and he hoped it would satisfy her curiosity. He’d also have to make more of an effort to behave more like a mortal. The sharp-eyed little wench had already noticed too much about him, and with her immunity to l’attrait he couldn’t wipe any of it from her memory.

The Europeans had not bothered with staking out a grid; nor could Beau see any sign of recovered artifacts. Several broad patches of grass had been cleared in the field, but all that had been dug in those spots was single two-foot-wide oval holes. Beau couldn’t tell how deep they were, but the breadth of the holes was just a little larger than the submersible.

He shifted the binoculars to inspect the frame and pipe rig a second time; he could just make out the pointed, twisted taper protruding from the end of the shaft. They’re not excavating; they’re drilling.

The entire region lay atop a vast network of underground reservoirs; Beau guessed the Europeans were attempting to tap one and use it to send the submersible onto Tremayne’s property and possibly to the spring itself. Which meant Alys’s suspicions about the emeralds were dead to rights.

In that moment Beau could have happily invaded the camp, smashed all the equipment, and compelled the entire team to present themselves to the authorities and confess their crimes. Even as his anger billowed up in him, he knew he couldn’t do it. If these were the tresoran traitors, which he suspected they were, they would likely be immune to l’attrait. They’d also have taken the precaution of arming themselves with weapons capable of killing Kyn.

Beau tucked the binoculars in his jacket and checked the time; by now Alys should have caught up to him. He backtracked toward the Americans, breathing in the air deeply to pick up her scent, but even outside the second camp he detected nothing of her presence. She wouldn’t have given up so easily, and she couldn’t be lost.…

Beau backtracked along the trail he’d left for her, first trotting and then racing as he tried to pick up her scent path. He finally found a very faint trace in the air on the east edge of the Indian village, the merest whisper of her. He concentrated, closing his eyes as he breathed her in. She had been angry—yes, he could taste the peppery heat of that—but there was more, a sharper edge left by a sudden and very different burst of emotion: terror.

Beau followed the scent, pausing only when he picked up the minute particles of the one thing that caused his dents acérées to emerge, full and straining, into his mouth: mortal blood.

Alys was bleeding.

Sweeping methodically from one side of the village to the other, Beau searched the ground and called out her name. Toward the heart of the site he saw an unnatural fog wafting over the ground, and spilling into a dark gash in the earth as if it were being sucked in. He made his way to the edge, cursing as Alys’s scent rose up to meet him.

“Alys?” He peered into the hole, but it was too deep and dark for even his Kyn vision to penetrate. It wouldn’t harm him to jump in, but he might land on top of her. “Stay where you are. I’m fetching some rope.”

Beau ran to the camp, grabbing a coil of utility rope, a lantern, and a first aid kit from the supplies stowed in the church. If she was unconscious and the pit very deep, he wouldn’t be able to jump out with her, so he grabbed a handful of stretch cords with end clamps that he could use to bind her body to his.

Back in the village he quickly knotted the end of the rope around two tree trunks, and tested his weight on the line before he went back to the edge.

“Alys, I’m here,” he called to her. “I’m coming down for you now.” He ran the rope through the handle of the first aid kit and the lantern so that both would slide down behind him.

Loose soil rained all around him as he descended, and to prevent another cave-in he tried not to touch the side of the pit. He dropped another twenty feet before his feet touched bottom. Quickly he removed the kit and the lantern, switching on the light.

On the opposite side of the pit Alys lay next to an outcropping of stone, her body nearly buried beneath fallen dirt and broken branches. Beau placed the lantern next to her head, touching the underside of her jaw, where he felt her pulse throbbing strong and regularly. The relief to know that she had survived the fall came over him so strongly that he braced an arm to keep from dropping down alongside her.

“You are supposed to dig the holes, woman, not fall in them.” Carefully he brushed the dirt away from her face, which appeared unmarked. Almost at once she began coughing, but he clamped his hands on her shoulders and pinned her in place. “Don’t try to move yet, love. I have to check you for broken bones.”

Her eyelids fluttered open. “Beau.” She frowned at him. “I found a pit trap.” Her eyes shifted. “I think I fell in it.”

“Yes, actually, you did.” He cupped the back of her head, feeling a small bump there but no bleeding. “I have to see if you’ve broken anything. Can you be a good girl for me while I do?”

“I’m not a child. I only behave like one on occasion.” She closed her eyes. “Go ahead.”

Beau tested the set of her neck and shoulders, moving his hands down one arm and then the other. The sight of her bleeding palms and broken nails made him feel sick with fear. She’d fallen more than twenty feet; the impact might have broken her back.

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