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|The Reckoning(Darkest Powers #3) by Kelley Armstrong|
Gordon kept talking, leading Derek into the next room. Derek shot me a look, annoyance mingled with frustration. When I opened my mouth, though, he shook his head. We were stuck. Again.
“Are we going?” Tori whispered, returning with Simon.
Gordon eventually called us all in. He’d known my aunt and Tori’s mom, so now he wanted to get to know us a little better, too. Yesterday, we’d all have been thrilled with the chance to make a good impression and prove we were normal kids. Now, it was just creepy, giving our life stories to a guy who might be ready to kill us if our powers proved as uncontrollable as he feared.
After the meeting, they all decided to stay for dinner, and there was no way for us to get out, not all four of us with our backpacks.
“Can we leave them behind?” I asked. “We’ve got money. What if-?”
“Tori?” Andrew called. “Could you give me a hand with dinner?”
“Um, actually…” she began.
Andrew popped his head around the corner. Seeing all four of us clustered in the hall, he frowned, then forced a smile.
“Am I interrupting something?”
“Just making plans for a breakout,” Tori said.
My gut twisted, eyes widening.
“We were hoping to sneak off for ice cream after dinner,” she explained.
“Ah.” Andrew ran his hand through his hair, looking uncomfortable. “I know you kids are tired of being cooped up here-”
“Developing serious cabin fever,” Tori said. “Plus, my housekeeping wages are burning a hole in my pocket. We’ll be careful, and we’ll be back before dark.”
“I know, but…No, guys. Sorry. No more going out.” He tried for a smile. “We’ll be leaving for Buffalo tomorrow and I promise we’ll stop for ice cream on the way. Now, if I can get your help, Tori…”
He led her away.
“He knows,” Simon said as we sat in the games room, pretending to play Yahtzee.
“It sure feels that way,” I said. “But maybe we’re just paranoid?”
We both looked at Derek.
He shook the dice onto the table a few times, deep in thought, then said, “I think we’re okay. We’re just nervous.”
“We want out so it feels like they’re blocking us.” Simon exhaled and tried to settle into his seat, fingers drumming his leg.
“We should wait until tonight,” Derek said. “Head to bed, then go after Andrew when he’s asleep. The others will be long gone by then, and that’ll buy us more time-no one will realize he’s in trouble until morning.”
“Makes sense,” Simon said. “Question is, are we going to make it that long without going nuts-”
He stopped as Derek cocked his head, then pivoted toward the door.
“Trouble?” Simon whispered.
“Um, yeah, they’ve all got them. So-”
“They’re that way.” Derek pointed left. “I’m hearing a muffled ring from the front door, where they left their coats.”
“Okay, still not-” Simon shot up straight. “Cell phone. Dad.” He scrambled up. “Where’s the number?”
Derek held the paper with the number just out of his reach. “Cool it.”
“Okay, okay.” Simon took another deep breath, forcing himself to relax. “Cooled?”
Derek handed it over.
I hung back, again reluctant to intrude, but Derek motioned me along. As we neared the front door, he waved Simon ahead, whispering that we’d stand guard while he called.
“So what’d you think of that book Andrew is editing?” Derek asked.
I gaped up at him. Very attractive, I’m sure.
“Talk to me,” Derek whispered.
“Right. Sorry. It’s…good so far. I-”
“No signal,” Simon hissed, peeking around the corner.
“Move around,” Derek whispered back. “Andrew’s been using his.”
While Simon did that, I pretended to talk about the book, which wasn’t easy when I hadn’t read so much as a single line. So I blathered on with general comments about pacing and style, until Simon peeked again, waving frantically, phone at his ear as he mouthed “It’s ringing!”
Derek motioned him back behind the corner, then told me to keep talking. I did, though I couldn’t help hearing Simon.
“Dad? It’s me. Simon.” His voice cracked and he cleared his throat. “Fine. Well, okay.” Pause. “He’s right here. With me. We’re with Andrew.” Pause. “I know. We’re trying to-” Pause. “No. Not Andrew’s. It’s a safe house. Belonged to a guy named Todd Banks. Big old-Dad? Dad?”
Derek strode off, motioning for me to stand watch.
“Signal,” Simon whispered.
Derek started to say something, then swung around the corner, gaze fixed down the hall. Sure enough, a second later, I heard footsteps.
“Guys?” Andrew. “Dinner.”
“Coming!” I called.
“Let me try-” Simon began.
“No,” Derek said. “I need to erase the outgoing call. Get in the kitchen with Chloe. We’ll phone again from the service station tonight.”
Everyone picked at dinner, forcing down only enough to make it look good. Derek kept whispering for us to eat, fill our stomachs, but he barely finished himself, too busy straining to hear the ring of the cell phone, worried his dad might call back and expose us.
He didn’t. From what I’d heard of their dad, Derek got his cautious streak from him. Where a normal person would automatically call back after being disconnected, I suspected their dad would look up the number first and something about it-like Gordon’s name attached to the listing-had stopped him.
He wouldn’t try calling Andrew, either. The fact that Andrew hadn’t told him we were with him spelled trouble. He wouldn’t make contact. He’d just come looking for his boys.
Had he heard the part about us being in Dr. Banks’s house? Did he know where that was? If so, would he come for us too late, get captured trying to save his sons after they’d left?
I reminded myself that the service station was only a fifteen-minute walk away. We could warn Mr. Bae before he tried anything. Unless he was close enough to the house to come for us before we left…A nice thought, but I knew we couldn’t count on it and probably shouldn’t even hope. We had a plan. We’d get out safely, find Mr. Bae, and with his help rescue Aunt Lauren and Rae.
I RETREATED TO MY room at nine. Tori was there, engrossed in The Count of Monte Cristo. She didn’t do more than wave until she finished her chapter. We talked for a while. Nothing important. Just talk, struggling to stay calm as we prayed for time to speed up. We were almost there, though. Just a few more hours…
Derek said Andrew never went to bed before midnight. If we wanted to get him after he was sound asleep, that meant waiting until two.
To my surprise, I fell asleep, so soundly that I didn’t hear the alarm on the watch Derek had given me earlier. I woke to Tori shaking me with one hand, while trying to shut off the alarm with the other.
I yawned and blinked hard.
“Running away after you’ve barely slept in a week isn’t a great idea,” she said. “Luckily, I anticipated this.”
She popped open a can of Coke and handed it to me.
“Not as good as coffee,” she said. “But I bet you don’t drink coffee, do you?”
I shook my head as I gulped it.
“Kids,” she said, rolling her eyes.
The door flew open, Simon rushing in.
“Excuse me?” Tori said.
“It’s Derek,” he said to me. “I can’t wake him up.”
We ran from the room. Derek was still in his bed, sprawled, the sheets draped onto the floor. He lay on his stomach wearing only his boxers.
I shook his shoulder. My fingers were cool from the soda can, but he still didn’t move.
“He’s breathing,” Simon whispered. “He just won’t wake up.”
Tori walked toward the bed. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her give Derek a once-over.
“You know, from this angle, he doesn’t look too bad,” she said.
I glared at her.
“I’m just saying…”
I leaned over Derek, calling him as loudly as I dared.
“Personally, I’m more a running back girl myself,” Tori said. “But if you like the linebacker type, he’s-”
My glower shut her up.
“You’re in my light,” I said, waving her aside.
“Do you know first aid, Chloe?”
I shook my head.
“Then you’re in my light. Scoot.”
I let her through. She checked Derek’s pulse and his breathing, saying both seemed okay, then leaned down to his face.
“Nothing weird on his breath. Smells…like toothpaste.”
Derek’s eyes opened, and the first thing he saw was Tori’s face inches from his. He jumped and let out an oath. Simon cracked up. I madly motioned for him to be quiet.
“Are you okay?” I asked Derek.
“He is now,” Simon said. “After Tori jump-started his heart.”
“We couldn’t wake you up,” I said. “Tori was making sure you were okay.”
He kept blinking, disoriented.
“I have a Coke in my-” I began.
“I’ll grab it,” Tori said.
I turned back to Derek. He was still blinking.
“Yeah.” He mumbled, like he was talking through marbles, then made a face and cleared his throat.
“How do you feel?” I asked.
“Tired. Must have been sleeping hard.”
“Like a rock,” Simon said.
“Do you feel groggy?” I asked.
“Yeah.” He made a face again. “What’d I eat last night?”
A chill ran through me. “Does your mouth feel fuzzy?”
“Yeah.” He swore and pushed himself up.
I grabbed the Coke from Tori as she came back. “He’s been drugged.”
“Drugged?” Simon paused only a second, then said, “Andrew.”
“I’ll grab our bags,” Tori said. We’d taken them to our rooms last night, worrying they’d be found in the closet downstairs.
I got Derek’s as he chugged the rest of the Coke.
“Andrew brought us sodas last night, before bed,” Simon said as he took his bag.
“And he said which one was Derek’s?”
“He didn’t need to. Mine’s always diet.”
I looked at Derek as he wiped his hand over his mouth. “Are you going to be okay?”
“Yeah. Just let me get dressed.”
Why would Andrew drug Derek? Were they coming for him tonight? Or had our paranoia been well placed and the group knew exactly what we were up to? Either way, our best fighter was out of commission.
“I’ll stay with Derek,” I said. “Simon, can you cover Tori and get to Andrew’s room?”
He glanced at Derek for confirmation. Derek blinked hard, focusing, then managed a slurred, “Yeah. Do that.”
“But be careful,” I said. “There’s a good chance Andrew’s not in his bed.”
They came back ten minutes later.
“He’s not here,” Simon whispered.
“There’s no sign of him anywhere,” Tori said. “The truck’s outside, but there aren’t any lights on in the house.”
“And his shoes are gone,” Simon said.
“Meeting someone,” I whispered. “Someone must be here to take Derek, and Andrew’s outside with him, trying to figure out how to do this.”
“Or he’s been taken,” Tori said.
Derek rubbed his face, then gave his head a sharp shake. “Forget Andrew. Let’s just go and be careful.”
Simon threw Derek’s arm over his shoulders, despite his brother’s protests. I carried Derek’s bag as well as my own; Tori had Simon’s.
We peered down the dark hall. Derek sniffed. The last trace of Andrew was old, meaning he hadn’t come upstairs since delivering the sodas. Derek stood at the top of the main staircase and listened, then shook his head. No sounds from below.
We headed for the stairs at the back of the house, the narrow ones we’d found earlier, probably for servants once upon a time. It was one area Tori hadn’t cleaned-nor had anyone in years, apparently, and I had to cover my nose and mouth so dust didn’t set me sneezing.
When we reached the bottom, I was in the lead, Tori right behind me, and Simon helping Derek at the rear. The stairs ended at a door. I turned the knob slowly, trying to be quiet. It twisted partway, then stopped. I pushed. The door didn’t budge.
Tori shouldered past me and tried. “Locked,” she whispered. “I thought you guys-”
“Checked all the doors last night,” Simon said. “We did. It was open.”
“Move,” Derek mumbled, his voice still thick.
We squeezed aside. He wrenched the knob and the lock snapped, making me wince at the noise.
The stairs opened into a dark, low ceilinged room. An old pantry or something. Tori flicked on her flashlight. The room was filthy and empty-another reason no one used these stairs. This time, she was first to the door. I knew what she’d find even before she announced it.
“Seriously?” Simon whispered.