D.J. bent low and started forward, his gun in one hand, sword in the other. The blade would be his first choice of weapons, but he couldn’t risk the Other getting the upper hand with Reggie depending on D.J. to rescue her.
The Other rose up to look around. Had the guy decided that he’d only been imagining someone dogging his footsteps? Maybe, because after ducking down briefly, the Other stood again to stare up the trail. After a few seconds, he started forward, his sword at the ready. D.J.’s prey moved slowly, his head sweeping from side to side, testing the night air and hunting using his sense of smell.
It was easy to know the instant the male picked up D.J.’s scent. The Other froze in midstep, slowly bringing his sword up into attack position. From where D.J. stood, he could take the Other out with a single shot. Tempting as it was, D.J. holstered his gun and followed the Kalith, Larem’s sword in his hand.
He was able to get surprisingly close before the guy realized he was no longer alone. He’d started backing up, only to realize that his prey stood right behind him.
D.J.’s predatory nature had him smiling. “Looking for me?”
The Other didn’t hesitate but spun and charged forward, swinging his sword in an arc designed to slash D.J.’s head from his shoulders. He blocked the blow with his own blade and shoved the bastard back a few steps.
D.J. taunted his opponent. “Tsk, tsk, is this how you usually greet guests in Kalithia? I didn’t see any of us trying to kill you while you were in my world.”
He went on the attack as he spoke. “Of course, I would’ve skewered both you and your buddy had I gotten the opportunity.”
The tip of his blade sliced open the Other’s cheek. Blood flowed in dark contrast to his pale skin, but the wound was more painful than serious.
“Did I mention that was my woman you kidnapped?” D.J. danced forward and marked the male’s other cheek the same way. “Tell me who has her and why, and I promise to ease your passing.”
The Other rejoined the battle, doing his own fair share of taunting in heavily accented English. “You will die screaming in my world, Paladin. I will celebrate your death by taking your woman to my pallet. I have already tasted her kiss and held her body against mine.”
D.J. fought to control his burning fury, knowing cold hate served him better in a battle to the death. He studied his opponent’s technique. The Other was good, but not great. No way this guy had the skills of a Sword Guardian. He might get lucky, but he’d never defeat D.J. on skill alone.
One thing was clear. The Other wouldn’t offer any useful information, not unless D.J. subdued him long enough to use some creative interrogation techniques. There wasn’t time for that, and it was doubtful the information would be reliable anyway.
But from the increasing panic in the guy’s fighting style, the dance was about to turn lethal. So far D.J. had managed to stay out of striking distance, but it was going to come down to stamina or bad luck.
With a bellow loud enough to wake the dead, the Other charged one last time, nicking D.J.’s sword arm and then shoving him backward. D.J. ignored the stinging pain and pushed back, causing the Other to lose his footing right at the edge of the drop-off.
For a handful of slow-motion seconds the Other hovered there, his arms pinwheeling until he finally lost his balance and went flying backward over the edge. His scream echoed through the valley, only to be cut off in midnote when his body crashed onto the rocks below.
D.J. peered over the edge in a futile attempt to determine if the Other was still breathing. All he could tell was that the Kalith wasn’t moving. Rather than wasting his time climbing down to make sure, D.J. opted for retrieving his pack and taking off down the trail after Reggie.
If the Other’s dying scream had carried as far as the campfire, his partner might panic. At the very least, he’d be waiting for D.J. now, most likely armed and ready to use Reggie as a hostage.
This time, D.J. wouldn’t hesitate to use the Glock. He ran full out, grateful for the boots that Barak had loaned him. They made little noise as he tore through the darkness. As he ran, he ignored the pain in his arm, his near exhaustion, and his lungs’ struggle to filter enough oxygen from the thin air.
All that mattered was getting to Reggie.