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|The Reckoning(Darkest Powers #3) by Kelley Armstrong|
“Something bothering you?”
“Nah.” A pause, then, “Yeah. I couldn’t sleep so I went up on the roof and thought I saw something down here. A light in the woods. I couldn’t find anything, though.”
His gaze returned to the forest, fingers tapping his thigh, like he was eager to get back in there.
“You want to keep looking?” I asked.
“I’ll leave you to it, then.” I started for the door.
“No.” He said it quickly, and reached for my arm, but stopped before he touched me. “I mean, if you’re tired, sure. But you don’t have to.”
He nodded. Then we stood there. After a moment, he rubbed the back of his neck and rolled his shoulders.
“So, uh, you said something about a ghost?”
“Right.” I told him what happened.
“You okay?” he said when I finished.
“Spooked, but sure, I’m fine.” He kept looking at me, like he didn’t believe that, and I hurried on. “So did you find anything last night when you searched the house?”
He shook his head. “I tried getting into the basement, but it was locked. There should be a key somewhere.”
“Old-fashioned lock, needing an old-fashioned key?”
“You and Simon need to communicate better. He’s already found it. Well, a key anyway. We should see if it works before everyone else gets up.”
We were almost at the back door when it opened. Andrew glanced out, frowning. He didn’t say anything, but the look he gave us was a lot like the one we’d gotten from the staff at Lyle House when they found Derek and me climbing out of the crawl space together. Andrew’s was more uncertain, like he hoped he was wrong. Considering he’d seen me holding hands with Simon the other night, I didn’t blame him for that.
The last time Derek and I had been caught together, I’d stammered excuses. He’d said nothing, and that had pissed me off. But he’d been right-my excuses only made it seem like we’d done something that needed excusing. Andrew hadn’t caught us making out or holding hands or even coming out of the forest. We were in the yard together, in daylight, walking and talking. Nothing wrong with that. So why did he keep looking at us like he expected an explanation?
“Getting warmer out,” I said. “Might even see the sun today.”
A very mature, casual thing to say. Derek even rumbled, “Hope so.” Andrew’s expression didn’t change.
“Are the others up?” I asked. “They were dead to the world when we left.”
“Not yet. I was about to make breakfast when I noticed the back door open.”
“I figured we shouldn’t close it,” I said. “You probably want to know where we are, right?”
He nodded and waved us through, waiting until we were inside, then turning to look out at the woods, frowning, before closing and bolting the door.
Derek went upstairs for a shower. I was going to check on Tori, but Andrew wanted my help in the kitchen, asking me to set the table while he fried bacon.
“You’re a writer, so I presume you like to read,” he said. “Who’re your favorite authors?”
I rattled off a few names.
He laughed. “Simon was right. No society-girl princess books for you. I have something you might like, lots of action and adventure. It’s still in manuscript form, but if you want a sneak peek, I’ll let you borrow my laptop. I’d love to get your opinion”-he grinned over his shoulder at me-“if you don’t mind playing test audience.”
“No, that’d be cool. What’s it about?”
He certainly made it sound good, and we talked books a bit. Then he asked me how I liked my eggs and when he was cracking ours, he said, “How much do you know about werewolves, Chloe?”
“Just what I’ve learned from Derek.”
“Well, I’m hardly an expert myself. But Tomas told me years ago that there is one thing you always need to remember when dealing with a werewolf. They may look like you and me, but they aren’t. They’re only half human.”
I bristled. I’d heard enough of that crap at the laboratory.
“And half monster?” I said, my voice cooler.
“No, half wolf.”
I relaxed. “Derek’s dad raised him to understand that.”
“I’m sure Kit did, but…To Kit, Derek is his son, as much as Simon. There are things parents gloss over for their children. Being half wolf doesn’t just make Derek a little different. Half of him is an animal ruled by instinct. There are some instincts…” He cleared his throat. “Derek seems very attached to you, Chloe.”
“Attached?” I couldn’t help laughing at that. “Sure, he feels some responsibility for me. It’s like you said about being part wolf. I’m temporarily in his pack, so he has to watch out for me, whether he wants to or not. He feels obligated-instinct.”
For a moment, Andrew said nothing, just flipped the eggs.
“Do you want me to start the toast?” I asked. “I can-”
“When the Edison Group first planned the Genesis project, Dr. Davidoff wanted to include werewolves and vampires.”
“V-vampires?” There were vampires? I was still getting used to the idea of werewolves.
“The others outvoted him on that point, but he got his way with werewolves. With all of you we were messing with things we knew nothing about, but more so with werewolves.”
He handed me the bread and pointed at the toaster. “Werewolves and vampires are different from the other supernatural races. They are much, much rarer and we consider them-as they consider themselves-a breed apart. You won’t find a single werewolf or vampire in our group or the Edison Group. The Cabals won’t hire them. Our special hospitals won’t treat them. I know that sounds like segregation, but it goes both ways. Our doctors don’t know enough about werewolves to treat them. And they aren’t interested in coming to our doctors or working alongside us. We are as alien to them as they are to us. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them. They’re just better off-and happier-with their own kind.”
I shook my head. “Derek’s happy where he is.”
“Derek’s a good kid, Chloe. He always has been. Responsible, mature…Kit used to joke that, some days, he’d rather have a dozen of Derek than one of Simon. But the wolf is coming out now, and he’s struggling with it. I always told Kit…” He exhaled and shook his head. “The point I’m making is that I know Derek seems like a normal kid.”
Normal? I could have laughed at that. I don’t think anyone ever mistook Derek for a normal kid.
“But you need to remember that Derek is different. You need to be careful.”
I was sick of hearing how dangerous Derek was. Different, yes, but no more than a dozen guys I knew from school, guys who stood out, didn’t act like everyone else, followed their own rules. He could be dangerous, with his superhuman strength. But how was he any worse than Tori, with her uncontrollable spells? Tori had a track record of trying to hurt me, but no one except the guys had ever warned me away from her.
Unlike Tori, Derek was struggling to control his powers. But no one even recognized that. They didn’t see Derek. All they saw was the werewolf.
GWEN ARRIVED FOR TRAINING after breakfast, and Margaret was supposed to show up at any moment. Simon and I were in the hall when Gwen popped in, cell phone in hand.
“Is Tori with you guys?” she asked.
“I think she’s still in bed,” I said. “She didn’t want breakfast. I’ll go get-”
“That’s okay. I just got a call from work. Someone called in sick and they need me to mind the gallery. Tell Tori I’ll be back around four.” She started to leave, then stopped and turned to Simon. “Yesterday, when Andrew said I was a witch, you looked surprised. You couldn’t tell?”
“Cool. Guess that part of the modification worked.”
She smiled and waved us into the parlor, then she plunked into an oversized armchair, kicked off her shoes, and tucked her stockinged feet under her, obviously in no hurry to get to work.
“I can tell you’re a sorcerer just by looking at you. It’s a hereditary trait. Sorcerers can recognize witches and vice versa. Andrew said they wanted to get rid of that when they tweaked your genes.”
“Political correctness run amok. They say witches and sorcerers developed the trait as a defense mechanism.” She grinned. “Know thy enemy.”
“Enemy?” I said.
She looked at Simon. “What have you heard about witches?”
“Um, not much.”
“Oh, don’t be polite. You’ve heard we’re inferior spell-casters, right? We hear the same about sorcerers. It’s a silly rivalry, rooted back in the Inquisition. Both races are good spell-casters, with their own specialties. Anyway, Andrew says the Edison Group got the idea that if they could do away with that internal radar, we’d all just get along.”
She rolled her blue eyes. “Personally, I think they made a big mistake. That recognition serves a perfectly good evolutionary purpose-to prevent accidentally interbreeding.”
“Between witches and sorcerers?” I said.
“Right. It’s a volatile mix and-” She stopped short, cheeks coloring. “Enough of my blathering. Work calls, however much I might like to avoid the summons.” She started to stand, then stopped. “You guys like pizza?”
She asked us what we wanted. “I’ll bring dessert, too.” She looked at Simon. “Can you eat dessert?”
“I can have a little of whatever you get.”
“Good.” She lowered her voice. “Anything I can get you guys, just let me know. This isn’t exactly a teen-friendly house, and you must be going nuts, worrying about your dad, Simon, and your aunt, Chloe. I’m really hoping-” Another glance, another notch lower on the voice volume. “They’ll come around. Andrew will push them in the right direction and I’ll do what I can to help.”
We thanked her. She asked us what magazines we read, so she could grab some. Then Andrew called for Simon-it was time for his lesson. He told Gwen he’d love some comics, whatever she could find, and he took off. I asked for a copy of Entertainment Weekly, which I figured would be easy to find.
Then, before she left, I asked, “What you said about mixing witch and sorcerer blood, is it dangerous?”
“Do you mean…?”
“Someone I know might have both.”
She smiled. “Something tells me we’re both talking about the same person, but neither wants to be the one to say it in case the other doesn’t know. Is this someone named after a dead queen?”
I nodded, and Gwen breathed an exaggerated sigh of relief. “Andrew wasn’t sure if you guys knew, and I didn’t want to be the one caught gossiping.”
I tried to tell her that Tori didn’t know, but she kept going.
“Yes, mixed blood presents some challenges. It adds an extra boost, and you guys, from what I’ve heard, don’t really need that. But the group says neither Diane nor Kit was a particularly powerful spell-caster, so-”
“K-Kit? S-Simon’s dad?”
We stared at each other. Gwen’s lips formed a soundless curse and she winced.
“Guess I really am spreading gossip. Typical.” She gave a shaky laugh as she busied herself checking her cell phone. “It probably isn’t true. Even the part about her dad being a sorcerer might not be true. Not like I’d know-I never worked for the Edison Group and I don’t know either Kit or Diane. Anyway, sorcerer blood or not, I’m sure Tori will be just fine. I’ll tell her-”
“No! I mean, she doesn’t know the rumors. Any of them. Her dad being a sorcerer was just something I overheard at the lab.”
“Well, then, I won’t tell her. You shouldn’t either.”
Was Kit Bae Tori’s father? He couldn’t be. Kit Bae was Korean, and you could easily see it in Simon. Not so in Tori.
Sure, genetics did some wonky things-like Simon’s dark blond hair. But if Diane Enright intentionally got herself pregnant with a sorcerer’s child-as the demi-demon claimed-picking Kit Bae would be like choosing a redheaded father when neither you nor your husband had red hair. There was a good chance Tori’s dad would know the baby wasn’t his.
So, no, Tori and Simon didn’t share a father. But if everyone else believed they did, Tori and Simon might hear the rumor, and that was a complication no one needed.
MARGARET ARRIVED SHORTLY AFTER Gwen left. When Tori came down and heard Margaret was taking me out for my lesson, she decided to join us. Tori might be good at hiding it, but I knew she was just as anxious and restless as we were. The last thing she needed was to spend the morning in our room. Derek and Simon sure wouldn’t invite her to do anything with them.
When Margaret hesitated, I said I’d be more relaxed with Tori along. Complete crap, but I can’t help it. Derek isn’t the only one to suffer from overwhelming instincts. I have the unshakable urge to be helpful, which I usually end up regretting. I only hoped I wouldn’t this time.
Before we left, Andrew gave Margaret a bunch of tips about touring with a half-million-dollar runaway. It was clear he didn’t want us to go out at all, but Margaret insisted. I was a long way from Buffalo, she said, and with my black hair, I didn’t look like the girl in the poster. Besides, what kidnap victim would be driving around with a woman who could pass for her grandmother?