Gods & Monsters (Serpent & Dove #3) - Shelby Mahurin Page 0,1

sanctuary beyond. It tasted of brine. Of decay.

“This place is haunted as shit,” Beau whispered.

“Language.” Scowling at him, I stepped into the sanctuary. My chest tightened at the dilapidated pews. At the loose hymnal pages collecting in the corner to rot. “This was once a holy place.”

“It isn’t haunted.” Lou’s voice echoed in the silence. She stilled behind me to stare up at a stained-glass window. The smooth face of Saint Magdaleine gazed back at her. The youngest saint in Belterra, Magdaleine had been venerated by the Church for gifting a man a blessed ring. With it, his negligent wife had fallen back in love with him, refusing to leave his side—even after he’d embarked on a perilous journey at sea. She’d followed him into the waves and drowned. Only Magdaleine’s tears had revived her. “Spirits can’t inhabit consecrated ground.”

Beau’s brows dipped. “How do you know that?”

“How do you not?” Lou countered.

“We should rest.” I wrapped an arm around Lou’s shoulders, leading her to a nearby pew. She looked paler than usual with dark shadows beneath her eyes, her hair wild and windswept from days of hard travel. More than once—when she didn’t think I was looking—I’d seen her entire body convulse as if fighting sickness. It wouldn’t surprise me. She’d been through a lot. We all had. “The villagers will wake soon. They’ll investigate any noise.”

Coco settled on a pew, closed her eyes, and pulled up the hood of her cloak. Shielding herself from us. “Someone should keep watch.”

Though I opened my mouth to volunteer, Lou interrupted. “I’ll do it.”

“No.” I shook my head, unable to recall the last time Lou had slept. Her skin felt cold, clammy, against mine. If she was fighting sickness, she needed the rest. “You sleep. I’ll watch.”

A sound reverberated from deep in her throat as she placed a hand on my cheek. Her thumb brushed my lips, lingering there. As did her eyes. “I’d much prefer to watch you. What will I see in your dreams, Chass? What will I hear in your—”

“I’ll check the scullery for food,” Beau muttered, shoving past us. He cast Lou a disgusted glance over his shoulder. My stomach rumbled as I watched him go. Swallowing hard, I ignored the ache of hunger. The sudden, unwelcome pressure in my chest. Gently, I removed her hand from my cheek and shrugged out of my coat. I handed it to her.

“Go to sleep, Lou. I’ll wake you at sunset, and we can”—the words burned up my throat—“we can continue.”

To the Chateau.

To Morgane.

To certain death.

I didn’t voice my concerns again.

Lou had made it clear she’d journey to Chateau le Blanc whether or not we joined her. Despite my protests—despite reminding her why we’d sought allies in the first place, why we needed them—Lou maintained she could handle Morgane alone. You heard Claud. Maintained she wouldn’t hesitate this time. She can no longer touch me. Maintained she would burn her ancestral home to the ground, along with all of her kin. We’ll build new.

New what? I’d asked warily.

New everything.

I’d never seen her act with such single-minded intensity. No. Obsession. Most days, a ferocious glint lit her eyes—a feral sort of hunger—and others, no light touched them at all. Those days were infinitely worse. She’d watch the world with a deadened expression, refusing to acknowledge me or my weak attempts to comfort her.

Only one person could do that.

And he was gone.

She pulled me down beside her now, stroking my throat almost absently. At her cold touch, a shiver skittered down my spine, and a sudden desire to shift away seized me. I ignored it. Silence blanketed the room, thick and heavy, except for the growls of my stomach. Hunger was a constant companion now. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d eaten my fill. With Troupe de Fortune? In the Hollow? The Tower? Across the aisle, Coco’s breathing gradually evened. I focused on the sound, on the beams of the ceiling, rather than Lou’s frigid skin or the ache in my chest.

A moment later, however, shouts exploded from the scullery, and the sanctuary door burst open. Beau shot forward, hotfooting it past the pulpit. “Bumfuzzle!” He gestured wildly toward the exit as I vaulted to my feet. “Time to go! Right now, right now, let’s go—”

“Stop!” A gnarled man in the vestments of a priest charged into the sanctuary, wielding a wooden spoon. Yellowish stew dripped from it. As if Beau had interrupted his morning meal. The flecks of vegetable in his beard—grizzled,