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.With a shriek of the Jeep’s tires, they raced away.The son whose nose I had just busted cursed.He took a step toward me, but the taller son yelled there was no time.The first son headed toward me, hesitated, emitted an angry growl, and flashed his teeth.The taller one staggered to their car, then slapped his palm against the door.With a last snarl, the shorter man jumped behind the wheel and they sped off after the Jeep.They got to the corner before Bern placed her foot on the Bug’s front bumper and pushed it into traffic in front of them.At the shriek of tires and metal, she turned and strolled toward us.Lao was already on her feet.She made a tching sound.“Must have forgotten to put the damn thing in park.It’s hell being old, Zery.”“Lucky we have another ride,” I replied.“Yep.” She grinned.“It most certainly is.” She climbed into the truck we’d parked only a few spaces away; Areto slid into the center, and Bern hopped into the bed.I stood by the truck and watched the action.Police had arrived almost immediately.Both sons stood tense and silent; neither, I was sure, willing to say they had been outsmarted by Amazons.Not only would that have been humiliating, but as far as humans knew, we were nothing but myth.Plus the sons had no proof the baby we’d taken from them was theirs—telling the authorities would have had no benefit anyway.We had won, and they knew it.The shorter son turned.His eyes found me.For a second I thought I’d been mistaken, that he would say something to the cops.But as he stared, I realized he wasn’t thinking of pointing me out to the humans.No, he was thinking of what he would do to me when he caught me.With a smile, I swung my body into the truck and pulled the door closed with a click.He could think all he liked.It wouldn’t change that these men—men who claimed to be sons of Amazons, sons who had inherited our powers and long life spans—would never be a match for the Amazons—ever.Our safe camp was only an hour’s drive from Beloit.When we pulled in the drive, most of the camp’s current occupants were outside waiting for us.Everyone except Thea and the baby.I jumped down and strode toward Tess.The young hearth-keeper was sitting on the old farmhouse’s front porch next to the baby’s seat.She was holding some kind of stuffed animal—a cow, a flat cow.I raised a brow but didn’t comment.“Where’s Thea?” I asked.The priestess had joined our camp only a week earlier, two days before the call came that two sons had stolen a high-council member’s child and was headed in our direction.Tess dropped the stuffed toy back into the empty carrier.“She went to the clearing with the baby.”I frowned.Thea had taken the call telling us about the child.As queen of this camp, I’d have preferred to have been part of the conversation myself, but I had been out and the high council had chosen to tell Thea—it wasn’t my place to quibble.Now, though, I wasn’t sure what we were supposed to do with the child.I assumed we would reunite her with her mother, but I didn’t know when, where, or how.I didn’t like not knowing, and I didn’t like Thea disappearing with her.“I think she was doing some kind of blessing,” Tess offered.“She had a bowl and some oil.”A bowl and oil.sounded to me more like Thea was planning to make salad.I grunted and turned to go into the woods.At the last minute I went to the truck and grabbed a staff, one of my shorter ones for easier maneuvering in the trees.I didn’t normally walk around armed, but these were not normal times.The sons had grown bold, stealing the child.Who knew what they might try next?It was a bit cooler in the woods than it had been in the open sun, but it was still hot and humid.My shirt stuck to my skin and bugs zipped around me.I waved them off with one hand and mentally cursed Thea for dragging the child to the clearing in the middle of the day.The blessing could have been done at the farmhouse, or Thea could have waited until dark.Artemis was a moon goddess; any blessing from her would be strongest then.Muttering another curse, I tugged on the elastic band at the bottom of my jog bra and let it snap against my skin.The three seconds of cool air that provided was no relief.My palms were sweaty too, making it harder to grip my staff.I took a second to wipe them on my shorts and blow a lock of blond hair out of my eyes.A few feet away something crunched through the underbrush.Heat forgotten, I regripped the staff, but there was no further sound and no other signs anything might be amiss.An animal, then, maybe a stray dog.We saw plenty of them, raccoons and possums too.Could be anything.Still, the interruption made me remember my task.I gripped my staff with renewed earnestness and kept walking.I stepped over a fallen log, paused and listened again.There was no movement in the woods, though, and little sound.The animal I’d heard earlier must have left the area.I swung my back leg over the log and kept moving.I was close to the obelisk now.Just before entering the clearing, I stopped.I wanted to see what Thea was doing, what had been so important that she had fled with the baby as soon as arriving back at camp.The obelisk that marked the center of our place of worship was black and glossy in the sun.Thea stood next to it; as Tess had said, she held a bowl.She had lost the hoodie and her tattoos were now clearly visible: Medusa dominated one arm, an owl the other.I had commented on the Medusa when we first met.It wasn’t idle conversation.Her choice of the snake-haired female was unusual.Amazons tended to animals and other symbols of nature, like the moon on the back of my neck or the owl on her other arm.Even our telioses, tattoos on our lower backs that depicted our family clans, and our givnomais, personal power tattoos on our right breasts, were all animals.In fact, while we couldn’t shift into animals like the sons supposedly could, we did get strength from the animals we chose, at least the ones we chose for our givnomais.But Thea had seemed to have a different theory on tattoos than I did.She claimed body art didn’t have to relay power, that Medusa reminded her what could happen if you acted with passion instead of logic.I hadn’t bothered to reply.All of my tattoos had a purpose [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]