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|The Reckoning(Darkest Powers #3) by Kelley Armstrong|
When he turned my way, he must have seen it on my face. As fast as I tried to cover it up, it wasn’t fast enough, and when he looked at me, the way he looked at me…
Panic. I felt panic, like I suddenly wanted to be anywhere but here, and nowhere but here, and I wanted, I wanted…
I tore my gaze away and opened my mouth to say something, anything, but he beat me to it.
“I’m not going anywhere, Chloe.” He rubbed the back of one shoulder, scowling, like he was working out a knot. “I don’t mean to get all…”
A short, sharp laugh. “Yeah, I guess. Way too much call for angst lately. I’m really better with action.”
“I hear you.” I lifted the cell phone. “And maybe with this, we can kick-start that action. Ready to go talk to Andrew?”
He nodded and we headed for the house.
It wasn’t until we got back that the full impact of the night hit. Someone wanted Derek dead. That same someone had been willing to let me die because…well, I guess just because it didn’t matter. I didn’t matter. I was just an obstacle to the goal.
How could someone look at kids who’d never done anything wrong and see only a threat best eliminated with murder? Whoever did this was no better than the Edison Group.
Someone wanted Derek dead because he was a monster. But when he’d accidentally killed Liam, Derek had suffered and he’d continue to suffer, however justifiable the act.
So who was the real monster?
The house was quiet. That was weird. It was like we’d woken from a nightmare and could just crawl back into bed as if nothing had happened.
I let Derek get Andrew.
They found me at the kitchen table. Derek said, “There’s something we need to tell you,” and from the look on Andrew’s face, I think he expected Derek to say he’d gotten me pregnant. It seemed to come as something of a relief to discover we’d only been hunted by killer werewolves-or at least until he realized it wasn’t the Edison Group that had sent them. Once he saw that text message and confirmed it was Russell’s number, things changed, and Andrew finally became the kind of guy we needed him to be.
He was furious, pacing the kitchen, vowing if not vengeance, at least answers. And safety. He promised us that nothing like this would happen again, even if it meant he had to take us away from the others and handle the Edison Group alone.
He called Margaret and told her to get over to the house. He didn’t care if it was four A.M., this wouldn’t wait until morning. He couldn’t get hold of Gwen, but he left the same message.
Next, we got Simon and Tori up, me talking to Tori, Derek to Simon. I was quite happy not to have to face Simon just yet.
I told Tori what happened. Or a version of it, balanced between conveying the seriousness of the threat and not freaking her out. Derek and I also hadn’t told Andrew everything because we didn’t want to freak him out. In our version, Derek hadn’t completed his Change. Everyone was already worried enough about him without us admitting he was now a full-blown werewolf. We also hadn’t admitted that Liam was dead, saying Derek had just knocked him out, then Ramon called it a draw and carted his friend away.
Derek wanted all of us to pack our bags and run. I knew that’s what he wanted because it’s what I wanted, too. It wasn’t an option, though. Not yet.
If anything, tonight had only opened another window on the danger lurking beyond our castle walls. I suppose it’s dramatic to say we were under siege, but that’s how we felt.
In a movie, we’d set out, braving Ramon and Russell and the Edison Group assassins. Those who refused to leave the castle would be branded wimps and cowards. But there’s a reason people do stupid things in movies-no one wants to watch a bunch of kids pace and bicker and angst as they wait for the adults to come up with a plan. We didn’t much like it either, but for now, we were stuck with it.
ONLY MARGARET SHOWED UP. While Andrew said Gwen must be at her boyfriend’s, cell phone off, I could tell he didn’t like that. Had she been in on the scheme to get rid of Derek? I hoped not.
If we expected the same outrage from Margaret that we’d gotten from Andrew, we were disappointed. But she was upset and concerned. Good enough for now.
When I came out of the shower, I found a piece of paper shoved under the door. It was a pictogram message from Simon, like the one he’d left at the warehouse. It started with a ghost as the salutation-meaning me-and closed with a cloud of fog and lightning bolt-meaning him. As for the message itself, it was a little more complicated than the last one, and it took me a while to work out.
The first symbol was a piece of paper with “I bequeath…” across the top. The second was the letter U. Then the number 4. Then two hands, one putting something in the other’s palm. Then the musical note “mi.” Will you for ____________________ me?
I stared at the two hands, trying to figure out the missing word until a loud sigh came through the door.
“Either the answer is no or my drawing sucks.”
“Hold on.” I quickly dressed and opened the door. Simon was leaning against the wall.
“So?” he said.
“I’m having trouble with one part.” I pointed to the hands.
“Give,” he said.
“Ah.” I read the note. “Will you for…forgive me?” I looked up at him. “I think that’s supposed to be my question.”
“No, you did the right thing. You realized it wasn’t what you wanted, and you said so. I’m the jerk who stomped off and left you alone in the forest. I’m sorry. Really sorry.” He paused. “So…are we okay?”
Relief made my knees wobble. “We’re okay. But I am sor-”
He held up a hand to cut me off. “I can’t get mad at you for confirming something I already suspected. I gave it a shot. It didn’t work out. I’m not going to say I’m fine with that, but…” He shrugged. “I like you, Chloe. And it’s not a girlfriend-or-nothing kind of like, so I’m hoping we can skip the we-tried-dating-and-it-blew stage and jump straight back to where we were, if you want that.”
“I want that.”
When we got downstairs, Andrew was gone. We figured he went to confront Russell, but Margaret, left behind on babysitting duty, wouldn’t confirm that. Was this how it would be? Left on the sidelines while the grown-ups took action? I hoped not.
Simon and I found Derek in the kitchen. Simon wanted to grab an apple and head someplace so we could plan our next move, out of range of the adults, but Derek handed him his blood tester and insulin pouch, then got bacon and eggs out of the fridge. Simon sighed and Derek gave him a look.
“I hope you don’t expect me to make that,” I said.
Now it was my turn to get the look.
“I’m just saying…”
“Not all of us grew up with live-in housekeepers,” Derek said.
“I don’t need breakfast,” Simon said. “We have to talk.”
“About what?” Derek said.
“Um, getting out of here?” he said. “Someone tried to kill you. Both of you.”
“And the only thing new about that is that it wasn’t the Edison Group,” Derek said, “who are probably also on our trail, waiting for us to do something stupid like run away again.” He put bacon strips in the frying pan. “We’re staying. At least until we know what they plan to do next.”
“I want to summon Royce,” I said.
Derek jerked his head around fast enough to cause whip-lash. “What?”
“I want to contact Royce. If I’m lucky, I’ll get his uncle or cousin instead, but it’s more likely that it’d be Royce, and we’ll have to deal with that. We need to know what happened here, and we need to know it fast.”
“She’s right.” Simon met his brother’s gaze. “You know she is.”
Derek’s jaw worked as he chewed that over. Finally he said, “On one condition. No Tori. The last thing we need is her whipping a fireball at Royce.”
I went upstairs to get Tori down for breakfast. I took her into our confidence and asked for her help by keeping Margaret busy and letting us know if Andrew showed up. She’d have rather come to the summoning, but she seemed okay with that.
After breakfast, we decided to do the summoning in the basement-far from Andrew, without the dangers of the roof. And, I’ll admit, Simon and I were eager to get a look down there.
For the first time in my life, I walked into a basement and shivered only from an actual draft. It was exactly as Derek had described it-two big rooms full of stored stuff and a small workshop. Simon joked about secret passages, but Derek squelched that idea.
I did my usual thing-closed my eyes and knelt. I could imagine Dr. Banks from his photo. Austin was tougher, because I kept seeing his bloodied body, and that didn’t help me relax. So I mainly focused on Dr. Banks, concentrating to the point where I could sense that inner alarm ready to go off, saying it wasn’t safe to go farther.
“Nothing,” I said.
“Are you sure?” Simon said. “You twitched.”
“Try it again,” Derek said.
I did, and still nothing happened, but Simon said, “Yeah, that was a definite twitch. Your eyelids moved, like you saw something.”
The next time I tried, I did feel it, a little spark that made me flinch. I sighed and shifted.
“Take your time,” Simon murmured. “No one’s going anywhere.”
I summoned, fighting the urge to crank it up another notch. There was a spirit present. I felt that same hyper-awareness that I did with bodies, like I was straining to hear a voice too faint for my ears to detect. Goose bumps speckled my arms.
“I want to take off my necklace.”
I braced for a fight, but Derek only nodded. “Lift it over your head slowly, and keep it in your hands for now. See if that makes a difference.”
I closed my eyes and grasped the necklace.
I jumped, then looked from Simon to Derek, but I knew it wasn’t one of them.
“She’s back,” I said. “The woman.”
When I summoned again, the sensation returned, stronger now, and it took all my willpower not to ramp it up and yank the spirit through.
“Careful,” the voice whispered.
My goose bumps rose higher.
“C-can I see you, p-please?” My voice wavered. I cleared my throat and tried again, but still stammered through it.
“Chloe?” Derek said.
I followed his gaze to my hands. They were shaking. I clenched the necklace and took a deep breath.
“Is it your aunt?” Simon asked.
I shook my head. “No. I-” I was about to say I didn’t know who it was, but I couldn’t get the words out. I knew who this was. I just didn’t dare believe it.
“Listen, baby…Have to listen…”
Listen, baby. I knew who called me that. I knew this voice.
“WHAT?” SIMON SAID, SHIFTING forward. “Your mom’s here?”
“No.” I shook my head sharply. “She’s not. I-I-I-” I took another breath and clenched my shaking hands. “I don’t know why I said that.”
“You’re exhausted,” Derek said.
“What if it is?” Simon said.
I caught the look Derek shot him, telling him to be quiet. Still, he asked me, “If there’s a ghost there, do you want to keep trying?” He met my gaze. “It probably isn’t her.”
I closed my eyes. I wanted this to be my mom. From the day I’d learned I could speak to the dead, I’d been pushing this possibility from my mind as hard as I could. Even thinking about talking to her made my chest tighten.
But I was terrified, too. My mom was a distant, cherished memory. She was hugs and laughter and everything good about my childhood. Thinking of her was like being three years old again, curled up on her lap, completely safe and loved. But I wasn’t three anymore, and I knew she wasn’t the perfect mom of my memory.
My mother had put me in this experiment. She’d wanted a child so badly that she’d enrolled in the Edison Group’s study. Yes, they’d told her they would fix the side effects that led to her brother’s death. But still, she’d had to have known she was taking a risk.
“Chloe?” Simon said.
“S-sorry. Let me try again.”
I closed my eyes and forgot all of that. If it was my mother, I wanted to see her, no matter what she really was, no matter what she’d done.
So when I summoned, I allowed myself to picture my mother, to call her by name.
“-hear me?” Her voice came again, so soft I could catch it only while I was concentrating. I pulled a little harder.
“What’s not safe? Summoning you?”
Her answer was too weak to make out. I opened my eyes and peered around, searching for any sign of a ghost. To my left, I caught a shimmer, like heat rising off the floor. I held my necklace out for Derek.
“No!” the voice said. “…put it…not safe.”
“But I want to see you.”
My chest clenched. “P-please. I just want to see you.”
Derek gave it back. I lowered it over my head, but resumed summoning, stronger now, pulling-