|« Last Girls, Twenty-seven||Last Girls, Chapter Twenty-five »|
“She's resting, ish,” Kelly said, glancing toward Lark. “I gave her a couple of beers. It cut through the skin, muscles, and I think it hit stuff beneath. She was having trouble moving it, and I'm not sure that's just because of pain.”
“God... she'll be devastated.” Betsy sighed.
“Let's hope,” Kelly said.
“Yeah. The way things have been going... we all might be so lucky to walk away only maimed.” Without intending to, she looked at Angel, still tied to the tree. “You should try to rest with her. Denny and I can stay up on watch. And we are going to need as much of our strength to get out of here as we can muster, come the morning.”
“Yeah. We'll switch off soon. Don't let me sleep too long.”
“Sure.” Betsy waited until Kelly had zipped the tent she was sharing with Lark up, to start towards Angel. She knew it was a bad idea, but it had been so hard doing this without him. They'd been together since high school, and there wasn't a single adult problem she hadn't been able to work through with him.
“Angel?” she whispered softly. He didn't stir, save for his breathing. She squatted down next to him, halfway leaned against the same tree.
“Babe,” she said, shaking Angel's shoulder. Sleeping peacefully, he looked like the man she'd been in love with since she first laid eyes on him. She wanted to nibble on the taut muscles in his neck, feel his chest rise and fall against her cheek. The thought usually filled her with warmth, but it was bittersweet, because she knew she may not get to do either ever again.
She stroked her fingers down his cheek as a tear slid down her own. “I don't know what to do,” she whispered. “But they're right. We can't stay. And I don't know if we can carry you out of here.”
“Betsy-” Her name came low, and soft, perhaps a trick played by the breeze through the trees. “Bets.” Her heart beat faster, as she was reminded of the way Angel would whisper her name. Though she knew better, she hoped for a moment that it could him. “Betsy,” it came again, and this time she knew it came from behind her. “The hatchet.”
She looked back to Denny, who was gesturing at the tree. She followed his pointing up, at the place where the hatchet stuck after cutting through Lark's shoulder. It looked like it had just missed the ropes, but it had severed the length securing Angel to the tree.
She heard Angel's breathing deepen. She'd spent enough time napping with him to recognize the sound of him waking up. But it was already becoming more rapid, like a dog's breathing. Then his eyes shot open, only they weren't his eyes; the pupils were wrong, and the color.
Angel snapped at her with teeth that were still human, but by the time they clamped shut, they were already lengthening and sharpening. Betsy pushed off the tree, sending herself rolling backwards.
Denny aimed his Colt at Angel's chest. There was a wet snap, and Angel's right shoulder dropped several inches, and the ropes around his torso dropped. Spiny hairs sprouted all over his body, and a snout was growing from the center of his face. He swung the arm limply at Denny, knocking the Colt from his grip.
“Help!” Betsy yelled from the ground, before Angel stomped her in the midsection, his hind claws tearing through her shirt and scraping across her stomach.
Lark tackled Angel into the tree, knocking him snout-first into the bark. He yelped as he landed beneath her. He dug his hind claws into the tree, and used them to lever her over. She landed with her chest against the clawed roots of the tree, with Angel perched on top of her.
Kelly grabbed his left arm, and Betsy his right. His clawed feet dug into Lark's back, tearing through to the meat. She cried out.
“Denny!” Kelly yelled.
He'd retrieved the Colt, but his attention was on the treeline.
“I didn't even show you the good pictures,” the detective yelled from the shadows. “The real juicy ones- and I do mean juicy.”
“Denny, goddamn it, help us!” Betsy screamed.
Denny leveled the Colt at Angel, and fired until the hammer fell on an empty cylinder.