squarely in line for a similar attack from the man's companion, a smaller, rat-faced fellow with pockmarked skin. And it would have worked, if Olgun hadn't been bellowing a warning in Widdershins's mind. She indeed stepped backward, but instantly kicked out behind her with her other leg. The thug's vision filled with a blur of soft black leather, and by the time he'd realized that what he saw was the business end of a boot, it had already spread his nose across his left cheek with an unfortunate snap.
The bearded man, having brilliantly reached the conclusion that things weren't going as planned, hurled himself up onto the table, rising in a knife-fighter's crouch. Widdershins, stooping slightly herself, circled warily. She stepped right and he moved to follow, neither looking away, neither daring to blink. Step, follow. Step, follow. Step…Widdershins could barely keep from grinning. Gods, but the man was a nitwit! Follow…The bruiser scowled, uncertain why this impudent bitch was smirking at him. Step, follow.
With a very brief cry and a dull thump, he stepped clean off the table to land, seat first, on the unforgiving floor.
Laughing openly now, Widdershins crossed the wood and delivered a sharp, swift kick to the man's temple. He collapsed next to his bloody-faced companion like a sack of very ugly grain.
“Well,” Widdershins said snidely to the room at large, “I think you boys have accomplished your mission here. I guarantee you, this is an evening I'll remember for a very long eeeep!”
That bit of extemporaneous grammar was the result of Brock surging abruptly to his feet, red faced and roaring like a goosed tiger. His hammer slammed down, a thunderbolt hurled from the heavens, directed not at Widdershins but at the table. Wood splintered, the entire surface tilted sharply, and Widdershins, with a brief squeak, was on her back and sliding.
She found herself fetched up in a twisted heap at Brock's feet, rapier lying uselessly just beyond her grasp. A sick feeling roiling inside her gut, as though she'd swallowed a live and very frisky eel, Widdershins pushed the hair from her face, blinked the dust from her eyes, and peered up with a wan smile.
“Brock? You're a reasonable man, yes? I know that we can come to some sort of understanding if—Brock, your orders! You're not supposed to kill me, remember?”
Apparently, he did not remember. With an inarticulate bellow, he raised his hammer high, fully intending to pulp the young woman's skull between the weapon and the floor.
Widdershins kicked him in the groin again.
Brock couldn't have frozen any more utterly had he gazed lovingly into the face of a gorgon. For interminable seconds the tableau held: the massive enforcer standing above her, immobile as the earth itself; Widdershins, foot still buried someplace unpleasant, equally motionless. And then the air in Brock's lungs joyously escaped to freedom with a sudden whoosh. His pupils actually crossed, his grip went slack, and…well, Widdershins didn't see what else, since she had to scramble madly to remove her face from the path of the hammer that now tumbled from nerveless fingers. It hit hard, splintering the wood beside her ear and ripping several strands of hair from her head.
When Brock followed his weapon to the floor a moment later, she was forced to scuttle aside once more, this time to avoid being crushed by three-hundred-some-odd pounds of thug.
Battered and dust-caked, Widdershins bent to retrieve her rapier, clucking her tongue at the mess they'd made of Genevieve's furniture, and marched haughtily from the room. She felt a faint glimmer of satisfaction from Olgun.
“Oh, please. Like you helped.” She frowned at his indignant protest. “Yes, you warned me of the guy behind me. Well, thank you so much. You couldn't maybe have actually done something about one of them? I almost got my head turned into so much carpeting.”
Genevieve was on her in a flash, slowed only marginally by her
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni