I brought to life, Dani thought. The vision.
The smell of blood turned her stomach, the thick, acrid smoke burned her eyes, and what had been for so long a wispy, dreamlike memory was now jarring, throat-clogging reality. For just an instant she was paralyzed. It was all coming true.
Despite everything she had done, everything she had tried to do, despite all the warnings, once again it was all–
“Dani?” Hollis appeared at her side, seemingly out of the smoke, gun drawn, blue eyes sharp even squinted against the stench. “Where is it?”
“I–I can’t. I mean, I don’t think I can–”
“Dani, you’re all we’ve got. You’re all they’ve got. Do you understand that?”
Reaching desperately for strength she wasn’t at all sure she had, Dani said, “If somebody had just listened to me when it mattered–”
“Stop looking back. There’s no sense in it. Now is all that counts. Which way, Dani?”
Impossible as it was, Dani had to force herself to concentrate on the stench of blood she knew neither of the others could smell. A blood trail that was all they had to guide them. She nearly gagged, then pointed. “That way. Toward the back. But . . .”
“Down. Lower. There’s a basement level.” Stairs. She remembered stairs. Going down them. Down into hell.
“It isn’t on the blueprints.”
“Bad place to get trapped in a burning building,” Hollis noted. “The roof could fall in on us. Easily.”
Bishop appeared out of the smoke as suddenly as Hollis had, weapon in hand, his face stone, eyes haunted. “We have to hurry.”
“Yeah,” Hollis replied, “we get that. Burning building. Maniacal killer. Good seriously outnumbered by evil. Bad situation.” Her words and tone were flippant, but her gaze on his face was anything but, intent and measuring.
“You forgot potential victim in maniacal killer’s hands,” her boss said, not even trying to match her tone.
“Never. Dani, did you see the basement, or are you feeling it?”
“Stairs. I saw them.” The weight on her shoulders felt like the world, so maybe that was what was pressing her down. Or . . . “And what I feel now ...He’s lower. He’s underneath us.”
“Then we look for stairs.”
Dani coughed. She was trying to think, trying to remember. But dreams recalled were such dim, insubstantial things, even vision dreams sometimes, and there was no way for her to be sure she was remembering clearly. She was overwhelmingly conscious of precious time passing and looked at her wrist, at the bulky digital watch that told her it was 2:47 p.m. on Tuesday, October 28.
Odd. She never wore a watch. Why was she wearing one now? And why a watch that looked so . . . alien on her thin wrist?
She shook off the momentary confusion. “The stairs. Not where you’d expect them to be,” she managed finally, coughing again. “They’re in a closet or something like that. A small office. Room. Not a hallway. Hallways–” A flash of endless, featureless hallways, brightly lit . . .
The image in her mind vanished as quickly as it had come, and Dani dismissed it as unimportant because an absolute certainty had replaced it. “Shit. The basement is divided. By a solid wall. Two big rooms. And accessed from this main level by two different stairways, one at each side of the building, in the back.”
“What kind of crazy-ass design is that?” Hollis demanded.
“If we get out of this alive, you can ask the architect.” The smell of blood was almost overpowering, and Dani’s head was beginning to hurt. Badly. Hallways. No, not hallways, two separate spaces, distinct sides . . . She had never before pushed herself for so long without a break, especially with this level of intensity.
It was Bishop who said, “You don’t know which side they’re in.”
“No. I’m sorry.” She felt as if she’d been apologizing to this man since she met him. Hell, she had been.
Hollis was scowling. To Bishop, she said, “Great. That’s just great. You’re psychically blind, the storm has all my senses scrambled, and we’re in a huge burning building without a freakin’ map.”
“Which is why Dani is here.” Those pale sentry eyes were fixed on her face.
Dani felt wholly inadequate. “I–I don’t– All I know is that he’s down there somewhere.”
The name caused her a queer little shock, and for no more than a heartbeat, Dani had the dizzy sense of something out of place, out of sync somehow. But she had an answer for him. Of sorts. “She isn’t–dead. Yet. She’s bait, you know that. She was always bait, to lure you.”
“And you,” Bishop said.
Dani didn’t want to think about that. Couldn’t, for some reason she was unable to explain, think about that. “We have to go, now. He won’t wait, not this time.” And he’s not the only one.
The conversation had taken only brief minutes, but even so the smoke was thicker, the crackling roar of the fire louder, and the heat growing ever more intense.
Bitterly, Hollis said, “We’re on his timetable, just like before, like always, carried along without the chance to stop and think.”
Bishop turned and started toward the rear of the building and the south corner.
“I’ll go down on this side. You two head for the east corner.”
Dani wondered if instinct was guiding him as well, but all she said, to Hollis, was, “He wouldn’t take the chance if he had it, would he? To stop and think, I mean.”
“If it meant a minute lost in getting to Miranda? No way in hell. That alone would be enough, but on top of that he blames himself for this mess.”
“He couldn’t have known–”
“Yes. He could have. Maybe he even did. That’s why he believes it’s his fault. Come on, let’s go.”
Dani followed but had to ask, “Do you believe it’s his fault?”
Hollis paused for only an instant, looking back over her shoulder, and there was something hard and bright in her eyes. “Yes. I do. He played God one time too many. And we’re paying the price for his arrogance.”
Again, Dani followed the other woman, her throat tighter despite the fact that, as they reached the rear half of the building, the smoke wasn’t nearly as thick. They very quickly discovered, in the back of what might once have been a small office, a door that opened smoothly and silently to reveal a stairwell.
The stairwell was already lighted.
“Bingo,” Hollis breathed.
A part of Dani wanted to suggest that they wait, at least long enough for Bishop to check out the other side of the building, but every instinct as well as the waves of heat at her back told her there simply wasn’t time to wait.
Hollis shifted her weapon to a steady two-handed grip and sent Dani a quick look. “Ready?”
Dani didn’t spare the energy to wonder how anyone on earth could ever be ready for this. Instead, she concentrated on the only weapon she had, the one inside her aching head, and nodded.
Hollis had only taken one step when a thunderous crash sounded behind them and a new wave of almost intolerable heat threatened to shove them bodily into the stairwell.
The roof was falling in.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Blood Dreams by Kay Hooper. Copyright © 2007 by Kay Hooper. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.