Babet & Prosper—A Nice, Quiet Town—chapter 5
Hatchet parked next to Fang and Red. Windows rolled down so they could talk to each other. No one wanted to step foot on the ground. At least, not yet. In case the dragon waited out of sight.
Babet reached for the powerful flashlight she’d brought and shone its beam across the yard. Maybe tomorrow, in the sunlight, she’d be able to tell a hole had yawned open and swallowed a man, but she saw no signs of it now.
Prosper sniffed the air. “I smell fear and death.”
Morgana lifted her head and flicked her tongue in and out. She smelled it, too.
“What happened?” Hatchet asked the werewolves.
Fang gave them a blow-by-blow account, then looked at Prosper. “I can’t smell the dragon. Can you?”
He shook his head. “She could be too far underground.”
“Does that mean we’re safe right now?” Red looked hopeful. “Maybe she’s too deep to hunt. Maybe she’s satisfied for a while.”
Fang nodded to agree. “When she first got here, she waited two weeks between meals, but lately, she’s attacking faster, sooner. She just ate, though. We should be okay for a few days, shouldn’t we?”
Hatchet sat on the edge of his rolled-down car window and hefted himself onto the car’s roof. “I’m tired of yelling between vehicles. But if you ask me, you’re in more danger now than before.”
“Why?” Red obviously didn’t like that news. “How often does a dragon eat?”
Hatchet hopped into Fang’s truck bed, and a curtain moved at the trailer’s window. The owner must be keeping her eyes on them. At the same time, the ground trembled and dogs barked.
“Why would things be worse now?” Fang repeated. “We know she’s here. People will be more careful.”
Hatchet carefully explained. “When Maw first got here, she played it safe. She didn’t know if anything powerful lived here. Don’t get me wrong. Your pack is strong, but Maw doesn’t fear werewolves. She’s decided she can do as she pleases. That’s why she lunged above ground tonight.”
Red gripped the frame of the truck bed. “So she’ll surge right out of the ground to hunt, like she took Roarke?”
“Hang on,” Prosper called. “I want in on this conversation, too.” He followed Hatchet’s ploy, using the car window for leverage to gain its roof, then jumping to join the werewolves.
Jazzi felt the earth shift as Maw raced toward the truck. She yelled, “Lay flat! Now!”
Maw burst from the dirt, a thick column of muscle and gleaming scales, and snapped at empty air.
The men had dropped and rolled onto their backs, facing up, ready to fight. The Weres shifted. Hatchet raised his palms and winds whirled about them. When Maw saw them lying in the truck bed, she lunged at Prosper. He punched her snout, knocking her head sideways, and jabbed his claws under her throat, then ripped upward. Hatchet’s tattoos lashed at her eyes.
The dragon jerked back, screaming in rage. Smoke puffed from her nostrils, her coils tightening for another attack. Babet wouldn’t let them face Maw alone.
“Stay here!” She leapt from the car and shut the door on Morgana. Her boa wasn’t happy, but at least, she’d be safe.
“Sorry, girl.” Dimitri blocked the snake on his side, too, and they sprinted between Maw and the pickup.
With a serpentine grin, Maw stared at them. She sniffed, and her grin grew wider.
The dragon wasn’t as clever as she thought she was. Babet gave her fair warning. “Yes, I know you recognize my scent. You ate a witch here. You might even have developed a taste for them, but I’m not a new one. You’ll regret trying for me.”
The dragon tilted her head at Dimitri.
“Don’t recognize my magic?” he asked. “All the better for me.”
Unimpressed, Maw opened her jaws and blasted fire. Babet threw an invisible protective bubble around her and the truck. Dimitri laughed and raised his hands, blasting fire of his own. Unlike their friendly fire demon, who was unaffected by flames, Dimitri’s blaze darkened Maw’s scales and she yanked away from them. Her yellow eyes narrowed as she studied him, and she immediately dove back into the earth, clawing to make a hole under his feet.
Babet pushed Dimitri behind her and stomped her foot, hard. The earth rippled in waves and caved in where Maw’s tunnel had been. The dragon rose up again, puffing steam from her nose. Hatchet swept his hands and winds blew the steam away. He called for lightning and it jabbed down to stab Maw.
The dragon dove underground before it struck. She dug straight down, and no one wanted to follow her. Soon, she’d made her escape.
Hatchet ran a hand through his short, blond hair. Lean and grim, he jumped from the truck bed and pounded the ground with his foot. “Come and get us, Maw! Don’t run and hide like a coward.”
Dogs started barking far away. The dragon ignored him, retreating farther.
“Is there anything she can harm where she’s headed?” Prosper asked.
Fang shook his head. “Not much out there. It’s mostly bog.”
Red put his hand on Fang’s shoulder to steady himself. He stared at Prosper as he shifted back to his mortal form. “What did you say you are? A werebear? You’re more like a bear on steroids. If that thing had lunged at me, I’d be a goner. My claws aren’t as long as yours.”
“She wouldn’t have gotten you. We’d have fought to protect you.” Prosper, once more in his normal, splendid shape, walked to Hatchet’s trunk and pulled on a pair of gray sweatpants. He passed extras to Fang and Red. “Babet gets tired of seeing naked men.”
She hadn’t had a chance to fuss about that yet. She was just glad they’d all survived.
Fang turned his back and shifted. So did Red. Just as they yanked on their sweats, the trailer door opened and a woman in her mid-fifties, her bleached hair pulled back in clips, stepped out on the metal stoop. She held a hand to her chest, and her whole body trembled. “Is it gone now? Did you drive the dragon away?”
Fang turned to the others, who shook their heads. “Sorry, Edna Sue, we can’t call this a victory. She left for now, though, and we don’t expect her back. The dogs stopped barking, so maybe you can get some sleep.”
It took a minute for her to gather her composure, then she stared at the newcomers Fang had brought. She blinked at Prosper’s shirtless torso—all sculpted muscle—and then at Dimitri’s lanky sophistication. “Where did you say these people were from?”
“River City,” Fang told her.
“Is every supernatural there so good-looking?”
Dimitri grinned. Tall and gorgeous and charming, he could compete with any vampire and win. “Our magic helps.”
She looked down at her chubby figure. “I wish I had a little magic, enough to keep me safe from something like Maw.”
“That would take a lot of magic,” Fang said.
“Then I hope all of you have more than you need.” She pulled her thin robe closer. “Earlier, I was too nervous to sleep, but this last scare just plum wore me out. I’m off to bed. Good luck to y’all.” She went inside and locked the door.
Fang started to his pickup, then hesitated. “Are we finished for the night? What do we do now? Should we follow Maw?”
“No reason to,” Hatchet said. “If she digs deeper, we can’t catch her. We can only defeat her when she’s on the earth’s surface.”
Red shivered. “How do we battle her without losing somebody?”
“You don’t,” Prosper said. “She’ll destroy your pack. The best way for you to help us is to let us know where she is when she surfaces again.”
“And then what? Are you telling us to just sit and watch you fight her?” Fang’s voice held a low growl.
“That’s what we’re saying.” When Fang glared, Hatchet glared back. “Unless you want to offer to be bait.”
Red took a step away from them.
Dimitri opened his mouth to volunteer, but Babet shook her head. “Not you. If she burrows under you, you might be able to shoot fire down her throat, but that won’t save you.”
“Then who?” Red asked.
“Me.” Babet flexed her fingers and sparks shot between them. “Let her focus on me while the rest of you kill her.”