CHAPTER 32

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"Hold still, you big baby," Tom said.

"Let's see how fun you are with a gaping hole in your arm." I shoved him with my good hand.

He yanked off his shirt, exposing his massively broad chest. I glanced around, my hand pressed firmly around my forearm, trying to stop the bleeding. The palm tree-line neighborhood streets were empty. Houses lay quiet, and the silence pounded on the top of my head. I seriously thought my hair would burst into flames it was so hot.

The sounds of fabric ripping drew my attention back to Tom. He wrapped the shard of fabric around my arm twice, then tied it tight. A little too tight because I yelped and hopped right up to my feet.

"Oh, yeah. That hurt." My arm throbbed like it had its own heartbeat. It matched the drumming in my brain, too. I cupped my head. "I think that guy had steel fists."

"He conked you good, your electricity even flickered." He slid his shirt over his head again. The bottom, where he tore a piece for me, hung ragged.

"I singed him a little, though, right?"

"He was sizzling when I nailed him."

I scanned the area. "Let's bolt. We need to get to the team and figure out our next move. But spill about the kid, okay?"

"Needed to get you fixed up first. Let's go." He took off in a jog up the street toward the main road we'd stopped just short of. "I couldn't read the boy."

"Why?"

"But not because he's a demon or anything, he's got a mental block up. Like maybe something traumatic happened to him."

I pointed to my left. "Here, this way to Main Street. Then just a few more blocks."

The heat of the sun pounding on the cement sidewalks seeped through the thick soles of my combat boots. Sweat dribbled down my back, between my shoulder blades. I felt some trickles down the side of my face and swiped the back of my hand along my jaw.

"Okay, go on."

"The Mom, you know how panicked she was when she stormed out of that house?"

"Yeah. I mean, I know I'm scary lookin' with the wild red hair going on, but she looked like she thought we were ax murderers or something."

Tom laughed. "I read her loud and clear. Last week, a guy tried to snatch Gregory. I think that's what he was blocking out or something."

"Really?"

"He was gone for a few hours. They found him at a gas station six blocks away. Only got a vague description from the kid. Black hair, red eyes, and big."

"Red eyes?" I stutter-stepped to a stop. "Did you say red eyes?"

Tom nodded. He brushed his cheek against his shirtsleeve and sucked in a deep breath. "Dang it's hot here."

"That's summer in the desert, Iowa Boy."

I glanced around. The tops of the dorms came into view. The blue sky beamed its early afternoon brightness. "Come on, we need to keep moving. We're almost there. Go on."

"Demon grabbed him, but he survived. I don't get it. The mom doesn't believe the red eyes description. Cops pretty much brushed them off, promising more patrols in the area."

"He didn't seem too scared to talk to strangers."

"I know. I don't get that. And why can't I read him?" he said.

"He was blank? Completely blank?"

"Walls thicker than I am tall around his brain."

"That's why you stopped. God, I was freaking out wanting to get away."

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