Divine Madness is in the stormy air. Ninon d'Lenclos has no choice except to join forces with the son of an Aztec death god who will help her defeat her enemy, the Comte St. Germain.
The dirt road might have been a relic from the days of Cortez, or at least Poncho Villa. And the longer she traveled it, the more she felt that she was driving into the past instead of the future—and she wasn’t at all certain that this was where she wanted to go. She also wished that her Buns of Steel DVD and actually given her a solid-metal butt. Along with a cast-iron bladder.
This land was closer to the Bronze Age than New Age and the old gods felt closer, too, probably because people still needed them and their call was answered by an artesian upwelling of power that seethed out of the soil they had watered with their sweat and blood. The idea of wanting to be with these gods was alien, but she supposed that there was some comfort to be had in seeing aspects of your gods in their animal totems wandering your backyard. Her own disembodied deity who only visited churches and cathedrals felt uncomfortably far away out here in the desert.
In the blinking of a tired eye, the dirt track filled with birds, a bowling alley of poultry with a death-wish, which was Corazon’s favorite kind of meal and had him meowing excitedly. Not sharing her pet’s desire for a bloody strike, Ninon applied the brakes, forcing the cat to put ten more holes in the both upholstery and dashboard where he was leaning.
Disgusted at her cowardice, he spat once and then leapt from the car’s open window to fetch his own, now fleeing lunch.
“Corazon-- merde! The dry crunchies aren’t that bad!” She killed the engine and jumped out after him. She shoved her pistol into the back of her jeans. Possibly there was some law about abandoning a vehicle in the middle of the road, but she was willing to risk it. “Come back here, you black-hearted cat,” she called, but softly. The sudden and utter quiet demanded a lowered voice.
Her eyes itched, tired of the dust and from her soft brown contacts she always wore these days. It aggravated her lungs as well, causing her to cough more frequently.
She trudged after the cat. Over the crest of a white gypsum dune capped with stunted conifers, she came across a small pond—a poza—colored the deep brown of coffee and rimmed with dead golden grass that curved away like eyelashes on a coquette. A nice selection of water-lilies bloomed in the tar-colored water.
Cuatro Cienegas—she was there.
The lilies weren’t the only nice thing in the water. Or, she amended while standing in the tree’s small shadow, not the only beautiful thing. The other creature—while splendid-- might not be nice at all.
The man was tall with dark hair and pale skin that glisten with either sweat or water. Perhaps it was a reflection of the golden grass that partially screened him, but it almost looked like he was covered head to toe in gold paint. He was lean, carrying no extra baggage on his frame. He was also not an indio—at least not full-blooded. Spain’s tentacles had reached far into Mexico while searching for gold, but she doubted it was the conquistadors this man had to thank for his pale skin and height. Perhaps the stork had gotten lost while making his delivery and left this baby under a cactus instead of the cabbage patch in Iowa.
Feeling her gaze, the man stuffed something in his sock and spun about quickly. He stalked toward her, shotgun ready, though it was unlikely he couldn’t see her clearly with the sun in his eyes and her in dappled shadow.
Ninon was not tall anywhere except in intellect, but there she towered—or had until her brain had started to die off. But brains, even great ones, were not much help in certain situations, and there were many men who saw a woman alone and tended to think petite meant easy-pickings. And that was where they went wrong with her. She didn’t have a lot of weight, but every ounce of it could fight when it had to. As much as she didn’t care for it, there were some situations that benefited from the constructive use of applied violence. That was why she kept a nine millimeter pistol in a holster in the small of her back. It made for a great equalizer when reason failed and one got stuck in deadly pissing contests with morons.
Innocents found this idea of preemptive violence shocking, but aggression was like a drug—the more you used it, the less it affected your sensibilities. She was no longer a virgin and didn’t flinch from it.
She wondered if this man was himself a habitual user, a violence addict. It was impossible to tell. The gun didn’t mean anything either way. Only an insane person would go out alone into the desert and not carry a weapon for protection.
Apparently this man agreed with her, because he carried a twelve-gauge shotgun as his calling card. It went nicely with the dark sack of rocks he had dropped before starting toward her.
The shotgun was bad news if he used it though. She could probably recover from a single blast, if it wasn’t to the head or heart, but it would hurt like a son-of-a-bitch and delay her for days and would also waste precious time and energy in healing the wound.
Decision time. Hide or take the ride Fate offered?
She looked about at the available cover. Though she was small, it was smaller. Hiding in the sparse brush wasn’t an option. Merde! She was going to have to take the ride wherever that led her.
“Hello!” she called, stepping into the sun and waving at him with an ineffectual finger flutter. She gave him a smile she used only rarely because it caused men’s IQ to lower to dangerous levels. Stupid men and guns were a bad mix. She added quickly in American English: “Have you seen my cat?”