The winkies circled a painting that sat on a crate near the doorway. They kept trying to light on the frame and then flittering off again almost immediately. No wonder, Maurice decided a moment later, when he narrowed his eyes and separated the agitated red light of the winkies from the agitated red haze of magic coating the frame.
Then he saw the two hands gripping the bottom of the frame, the knuckles white and the tips of the fingers turning purple from trapped blood. He lunged forward, going to his knees on the crates, and grabbed hold of Angela's wrists. A hot sheet of irritated, strained magic wrapped around him, yanking the breath out of his lungs for a moment.
Angela looked up at him, pale and sweating, her lips bitten through and bloody, her eyes wide. Maurice nearly roared from the sudden stab of fear that cut through him. Angela's customary serenity was entirely missing--she was afraid and in pain.
"Hold on, Angie-baby," he growled, and threw himself backwards, using all his weight to yank her up and out of the painting.
Holly shouted. Behind him, he was vaguely aware of running feet, thudding on the landing and then down the stairs.
Maurice gritted his teeth and leaned backwards when the painting's magic got stubborn and resisted him. For a precious couple of heartbeats, Angela hung in mid-air, stretched between Maurice's grip and the painting's, still caught in it from the knees down.
At last something snapped, and there was a smell like ozone and hairs caught in a blow dryer. The two of them went tumbling toward the door of the painting room. Angela landed on him, her elbow in his gut, and Maurice saw stars when the back of his head hit the edge of a crate.
"You...okay?" he gasped, trying to convince his diaphragm to resume working and let him breathe.
"Maurice." Angela nodded. Sweat coated her face and darkened her hair. She closed her eyes and took a couple deep breaths. "Thank you."
"Hey, what are pals for?" Then he realized something was wrong. Missing. "Holly?"
"They took her." She staggered to her feet and past him.