Chapter OneShe didn't look like a warrior, sitting there on the boy's bed, Ishmaru thought in disappointment. She looked soft and womanly, without spirit or worth.
He peered through the narrow slit afforded by the venetian blinds covering the window of the boy's room.
Look at me. Let me see your spirit.
She didn't look at him. Didn't she know he was there, or was she scorning his threat to her?
Yes, that must be it. His power was so great tonight, he felt as if the stars themselves must feel it. Coup always brought added strength and exultation in its wake. The little girl had felt his power even before his hands had closed around her throat. The woman must be taunting him by pretending she was not aware he was watching her.
His hands tightened on the glass cutter in his hand. He could cut through the glass and show her he could not be ignored.
No, that was what she wanted. Even though he was quick, he would be at a disadvantage. She sought to lure him to his destruction as a clever warrior should do.
But he could be clever too. He would wait for the moment and then strike boldly in full view of these sheep with whom she surrounded herself.
And before she died, she would admit how great was his power.
* * *
Joshua remained awake for almost an hour, and even after his eyes finally closed, he slept fitfully.
It was just as well they were going away for a while, Kate thought. Joshua wasn't a high-strung child, but what he'd gone through was enough to unsettle anyone.
Phyliss's door was closed, Kate noted when she reached the hall. She should probably get to bed too. Not that she'd be able to sleep. She hadn't lied to Joshua; she was nervous and uneasy ... and bitterly resentful. This was her home, it was supposed to be a haven. She didn't like to think of it as a fortress.
But, like it or not, it was a fortress at the moment and she'd better make sure the soldiers were on the battlements. She checked the lock on the front door before she moved quickly toward the living room. She would see the black-and-white from the picture window.
Phyliss, as usual, had drawn the drapes over the window before she went to bed. The cave instinct, Kate thought as she reached for the cord. Close out the outside world and make your own. She and Phyliss were in complete agree-
He was standing outside the window, so close they were separated only by a quarter of an inch of glass.
Oh God. High concave cheekbones, long black straight hair drawn back in a queue, beaded necklace. It was him ... Todd Campbell ... Ishmaru ...
And he was smiling at her.
His lips moved and he was so near she could hear the words through the glass. "You weren't supposed to see me before I got in, Kate." He held her gaze as he showed her the glass cutter in his hand. "But it's all right. I'm almost finished and I like it better this way."
She couldn't move. She stared at him, mesmerized.
"You might as well let me in. You can't stop me."
She jerked the drape shut, closing him out.
Barricading herself inside with only a fragment of glass, a scrap of material ...
She heard the sound of blade on glass.
She backed away from the window, stumbled on the hassock, almost fell, righted herself.
Oh God. Where was that policeman? The porch light was out, but surely he could see Ishmaru.
Maybe the policeman wasn't there.
Didn't Michael tell you about bribery in the ranks?
The drape was moving.
He'd cut the window.
"Phyliss!" She ran down the hall. "Wake up." She threw open Joshua's door, flew across the room, and jerked him out of bed.
"Shh, be very quiet. Just do what I tell you, okay?"
"What's wrong?" Phyliss was standing in the doorway. "Is Joshua sick?"
"I want you to leave here." She pushed Joshua toward her. "There's someone outside." She hoped he was still outside. Christ, he could be in the living room by now. "I want you to take Joshua out the back door and over to the Brocklemans."
Phyliss instantly took Joshua's hand and moved toward the kitchen door. "What about you?"
She heard a sound in the living room. "Go. I'll be right behind you."
Phyliss and Joshua flew out the back door.
"Are you waiting for me, Kate?"
He sounded so close, too close. Phyliss and Joshua could not have reached the fence yet. No time to run. Stop him.
She saw him, a shadow in the doorway leading to the hall.
Where was the gun?
In her handbag on the living room table. She couldn't get past him. She backed toward the stove. Phyliss usually left a frying pan out to cook breakfast in the morning....
"I told you I was coming in. No one can stop me tonight. I had a sign."
She didn't see a weapon but the darkness was lit only by moonlight streaming through the window.
"Give up, Kate."
Her hand closed on the handle of the frying pan. "Leave me alone." She leaped forward and struck out at his head with all her strength.
He moved too fast but she connected with a glancing blow.
He was falling....
She streaked past him down the hall. Get to the purse, the gun.
She heard him behind her.
She snatched up the handbag, lunged for the door, and threw the bolt.
Get to the policeman in the black-and-white.
She fumbled with the catch on her purse as she streaked down the driveway toward the black-and-white. Her hand closed on the gun and she threw the purse aside.
"He's not there, Kate," Ishmaru said behind her. "It's just the two of us."
No one was in the driver's seat of the police car.
She whirled and raised the gun.
He was on her, knocking the gun from her grip, sending it flying. How had he moved so quickly?
She was on the ground, struggling wildly.
She couldn't breathe. His thumbs were digging into her throat.
"Mom." Joshua's agonized scream pierced the night.
What was Joshua doing here? He was supposed to be-"Go away, Josh-" Ishmaru's hands tightened, cut off speech. She was dying. She had to move. The gun. She had dropped it. On the ground ...
She reached out blindly. The metal of the gun hilt was cool and wet from the grass.
She wasn't going to make it. Everything was going black.
She tried to knee him in the groin.
"Stop fighting," he whispered. "I've gone to a great deal of trouble to give you a warrior's death."
Crazy bastard. The hell she'd stop fighting.
She raised the gun and pressed the trigger.