Labyrinth of Stars (A Hunter Kiss Novel)

Free Labyrinth of Stars (A Hunter Kiss Novel) by Marjorie M. Liu

Book: Labyrinth of Stars (A Hunter Kiss Novel) by Marjorie M. Liu Read Free Book Online
Authors: Marjorie M. Liu
didn’t understand: growls, against the surface of my thoughts, soft sighs. I clung to that. I clung to the click of the approaching cane—tap, tap—echoing my heartbeat until it stopped dead beside me, and a large, warm hand touched my head. Grant’s voice surged around me: wordless, full of power. I waited for the pain in my stomach to disappear, for the hot, trickling flow of blood to stop—but nothing happened.
    I knew why. But I wanted this time to be different.
    Grant’s voice broke—and then broke again. I could almost see the pieces falling like shards of light. He tried again to sing, but it didn’t last. His silence horrified me.
    “Don’t give up,” I whispered, unable to look at him. I was paralyzed, terrified of moving, as if that would harm my child more. His cane hit the floor, and he collapsed on his knees beside me, his breathing ragged and hoarse. Trying not to cry. Trying. I was trying, too.
    “She’s immune to me. Just like you,” he said.
    “No.” I dug my fingers into my stomach. “No, Grant.”
    “She’s dying,” he whispered. “I can see it.”
    Our baby. My girl. Dying.
    Dying inside me, and I could not stop it. I could destroy the world. I could unleash hell on this planet and a million others. But I could not save the one thing that mattered most to me. Funny, how that could happen. Funny, how someone you didn’t know, who wasn’t even fully formed, could matter more than life. Funny, how fast that could slip up on you.
    I closed my eyes. I could see the boys inside my head, as real as if they crouched before me. Zee, raking his claws over his arms; past him, Raw and Aaz, who hugged teddy bears to their chests, stabbing them with spikes torn from their backs; Dek and Mal, heavy on my shoulders, growling.
    I’ll do anything,
I said to that imaginary Zee.
    A hush fell. Even my heartbeat slowed. Between my thighs, a sluggish drip: hot and inevitable.
    One way,
he whispered, finally.
One way. But, a price.
    “Maxine,” Grant croaked out, but my head and heart were already too far away to listen. All I could see was Zee. All I could feel in my blood was him and the boys, and ten thousand years of mothers and daughters burning through me, like love.
    And with that love, something else: an awakening, beneath my heart; a familiar alien presence that uncoiled in a surge of terrible, aching power. It slithered through me, pouring through my pulse, and I looked down at my arms and legs, half-expecting to see my muscles and bones displaced, shoved aside for a spirit ripped from the heart of night: darkness, alive and breathing, and trembling with impossible hunger.
    A monster. A God. Passed down from woman to woman—biding its time in dreams. Until me.
    I had resisted its presence for years. Fought its destructive possession with all my strength, and won. Again and again, I had won.
    Young Queen,
whispered a soft, sibilant voice.
    Grant reached out but stopped a hairsbreadth from touching my hand. I was glad. So glad he didn’t touch me. It would make me remember him and think about consequences—and I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t.
    I closed my eyes, took a breath.
Whatever you want. Just save her.
    A sigh passed through me, deep and hideous with pleasure, sliding like smoke into my throat. My mouth curved into a smile, but that wasn’t me. It wasn’t me at all.
whispered the darkness.
It is done.
    I didn’t ask the price. I already knew it would be horrible. No bargains with the devil ever turned out good.
    But the bleeding stopped. So did that tugging pain. Inside my belly, heat coiled around and around like a sun-warm snake making its nest, and the sensation only grew and strengthened, weighing me down until my back sank into the old linoleum, and the floorboards creaked. Sparks lit behind my eyes, sparks and stars, rushing at me: a torrent of light, as if my mind were traveling through space.
    This is the path,
I heard a quiet whisper.
This is the promise for your

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