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|The Reckoning(Darkest Powers #3) by Kelley Armstrong|
Derek strode past, awake now. He twisted the knob and, again, the lock snapped. He yanked the door. It didn’t budge. He pulled harder, making the hinges groan.
“It’s spell-locked,” said a voice behind us.
We turned as Andrew stepped through the stairwell doorway. Simon’s fingers flew up for a knock-back spell. Derek wheeled to charge. Andrew swung his hand toward me. Sparks flew from his fingers. Simon and Derek both stopped.
Andrew gave a wry smile. “I thought that might work. Simon, you know how this goes. I’ve got a spell all set to launch. It only takes a word to finish it.”
“Wh-what kind of spell?” I whispered, hypnotized by those sparks jumping at me.
“Lethal,” Andrew said.
Derek growled. A real growl, so wolflike it made the hair stand up on my neck.
Off to the side, Tori mouthed something at me. I couldn’t make it out, but guessed she was warning me she was going to cast.
“No,” Derek said, the word still almost a growl. His gaze was fixed on Andrew, and I thought he was talking to him, but then his eyes slid Tori’s way. “No.”
“Listen to Derek,” Andrew said. “If he thought there was any way of getting to me before I launched this spell, he’d do it himself. Tori, move in front of me, please, so I can see your lips. Simon, sit on your hands. Derek?”
I glanced over at Derek. His gaze was riveted on Andrew, eyes blazing, the muscles in his jaw taut. Andrew said his name again, but he didn’t seem to hear, fists clenching and unclenching at his sides.
“Derek,” Andrew said, sharper.
“What?” Another growl passing as a word.
Andrew flinched, then caught himself and squared his shoulders. “Turn around.”
Derek only glowered. Then he tilted his head and I couldn’t see his expression, but something in it made Andrew draw back, just a little. His Adam’s apple bobbed. He tried to straighten again, tried to meet Derek’s gaze, but couldn’t quite manage it. His fingers flexed, sparks jumping as they faced off.
“Derek?” I whispered. “Please. Don’t do this.”
He started at the sound of my voice, breaking eye contact with Andrew, and the second he did, his expression changed, the wolf drawing back, Derek returning.
“Do as he says,” I said. “Please.”
He nodded and slowly turned to face the wall.
“Thank you,” Andrew said. “I’d hoped to avoid this, but I guess I underestimated the dose. I don’t want to hurt you, Derek. That’s why I knocked you out. I don’t want to hurt any of you. I’m here to protect you. I always have been.”
Simon snorted. “Yeah, sure you don’t want to hurt Derek. You asked those werewolves to kill him painlessly, right?”
“I didn’t try to kill Derek.”
“No, you hired someone to do it. You’re too big a coward to look him in the face and pull the trigger. Or maybe it was the mess you were worried about. I know how much you like your clothes. Bloodstains are such a bitch to get out.”
“We found the emails!” Simon jumped to his feet, then at a look from Derek, stopped and lowered himself to the floor again. “We know you were in on it.”
“Yes, I was in on the plan to hand Derek over to the Pack. That’s what you found, isn’t it? Nothing about me giving them permission to kill him. That was entirely Russell’s doing. Our plan was to turn him over to the Pack. Tomas and I learned everything we could about them until we were satisfied they wouldn’t kill a sixteen-year-old werewolf. They’re like any other organized group of supernaturals-a place for their race to learn how to control their powers and live in the human world. A place where they can be with their own kind.”
I looked over at Derek, bracing myself to see a glimmer that said that’s what he wanted. But he only stared at the wall, his gaze empty, emotionless.
“That’s what I think is best for you, Derek,” Andrew said. “Werewolves belong with werewolves.”
“And sons belong with fathers,” I said quietly.
Andrew stiffened. His gaze shot to mine, wary.
“We found those emails, too,” I said. “You kept their dad away from them.”
A pause. Then, “Yes, I did. And there’s a reason.”
“Sure there is,” Simon said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “Let me guess. Our dad is really an evil Cabal sorcerer. Or an Edison Group double agent. Take your pick. He’s a bad, bad guy who’d kill us if he got the chance.”
“No, Simon,” Andrew said, his voice softening. “Your dad is the best father I know. He gave up everything-his career, his friends, his life-to go on the run to protect you. He refused to join our group because it could endanger you. His priority is you two, not taking down the Edison Group. He would never let me take you back to that lab to help stop them. If I called, he’d take you-all four of you-and run. He’ll tell me to stop the Edison Group without you.”
“Not a bad idea,” Tori said.
Andrew shook his head. “If Kit takes you kids, then you’re safe. If you’re safe, then my people have no motivation to disband the Edison Group. I’ve been trying to convince them to do this for years, and now they’re ready to act, but only if there’s an immediate threat. If you’re gone, they’ll return to monitoring. And that’s if they decide to let you go with him.”
“Why wouldn’t they?” Simon said. “Takes us off their hands.”
“For many of them, that’s the least of their worries, falling far behind their concern over the threat you pose to the supernatural world at large. If your dad comes…” He shifted, hand flexing, the spell wavering for a split second before surging again. “I hope that Russell acted alone when he told those werewolves to kill Derek and Chloe, but honestly…I don’t know.”
“Nice friends you’ve got there.”
“Yes, some of them are my friends, Simon, but most are like other members of a club. We share one interest, nothing more. That interest is protecting our world. For me, that means shutting down the Edison Group. For some of them-”
“It means shutting down us,” I murmured.
“Don’t listen to him, Chloe,” Simon said. “He’s a liar and a traitor. If these people are so worried about us, why are they leaving us alone with just you to watch us?”
“They aren’t. That’s why I had to stop you before you set foot out that door.”
Simon laughed. It wasn’t a nice laugh. “Right, because they’re lurking in the dark, waiting to slam us with energy-bolt spells. No, wait, that’s you, isn’t it?”
Andrew lowered his fingers just a fraction, like he wanted to retract the threat. “Yes, they’re there, Simon. Not right outside the door, but close enough, guarding the escape routes. Because that’s exactly what they fear most. That you’ll escape. That you’ll run to humans and expose us. Or you’ll lose control and expose us. You ran from Lyle House and you ran from the Edison Group. What’s the first thing you’ll do if you get a whiff of trouble? You’ll run and-”
Derek lunged. He hit me in the shoulder and knocked me to the floor, landing on top of me. His body jerked, like he’d been hit with the spell, and I let out a yelp, struggling to get up, but he held me down, whispering, “I’m okay. It’s okay,” until the words finally penetrated.
I lifted my head to see Andrew caught in a binding spell as Simon hurtled to his feet. Simon tackled him and wrenched his hands behind his back. Derek got up to help. He pinned Andrew.
“Y-you’re okay? He didn’t hit you with a spell?” I said, walking over, knees wobbly.
“Yeah, he did.”
Andrew lifted his head. “And, as you can see, it was the nonlethal energy bolt. I said I don’t want to hurt you, Derek. I wouldn’t have hurt Chloe, either. I only needed you to listen to me.”
“We listened,” Derek said. “Simon? I think I saw rope in the workshop. Chloe? Stay here. Tori? Cover Simon, in case there’s anyone else in the house.”
DEREK HAD MORE QUESTIONS for Andrew. He asked about that night at Andrew’s cottage. Andrew admitted he’d been part of the plan to stage his kidnapping and impersonate the Edison Group. The whole thing had been a setup-even giving us the opportunity to snatch a radio so we could hear about his “escape.” They’d set themselves up as our rescuers, so they could take us into protective custody.
Simon came racing in and threw down a length of rope. “His cell phone. We can call Dad. Check his pockets.”
“It’s in the nightstand by my bed,” Andrew said. “And it’s useless. Reception has been cutting in and out and it’s been out all night. I think someone’s using a blocker on the house.”
“I’m not taking your word for it,” Simon said.
“I don’t expect you to.”
Sure enough, we couldn’t get reception. Even sneaking onto the roof didn’t help.
So Andrew was telling the truth about that. But what about the rest of it? Were his people really out there, waiting and watching? Or was this just another lie to keep us from running?
We bound and gagged Andrew and put him in the basement. Then we talked.
Not surprisingly, Tori wanted to make a break for it. Simon agreed. Neither wanted to be stuck here a moment longer than necessary. We should run and, if caught, as Tori said, “What are they going to do? Shoot us?” Problem was, that might be exactly what they’d do.
We didn’t think Russell had acted alone. Had it been him and Gwen? Or more? How many people in this group secretly would be happy to see us dead-a convenient solution to the dilemma of our inconvenient existence.
Even if they didn’t want us dead, if all four of us were caught sneaking through the woods with our backpacks, there’d be no question of what we were doing. We’d lose our chance to get away.
So, one of us should go. But who? Derek was the most likely to be killed if caught. Tori might roll her eyes at the suggestion we were in mortal danger, but she wasn’t volunteering either. And Derek wouldn’t entertain the idea of either Simon or me going.
We argued. Then we split up, Derek and Simon going downstairs to try to get more information from Andrew, and Tori deciding to keep searching Andrew’s laptop, to see if there was anything there that we’d missed, something that might support or refute his claims.
As she searched, I knelt and tried to summon Liz. She’d be the perfect solution to this problem-she could zip out unnoticed and see if anyone was guarding the house. I was careful to picture her clearly and call her name, so I wouldn’t accidentally summon Royce or Dr. Banks. There was someone else I’d love to contact-my mom-but I couldn’t think about that. Even if I got her, I doubted I could hold her here long enough to search for us.
So I called Liz. And called and called, and didn’t feel so much as a twitch.
“Derek with you guys?”
I jumped. Simon walked in. I got to my feet.
“I thought he was with you,” I said.
“Nah. He made me test my blood sugar, and I grabbed a snack, but when I came back, Andrew was alone.”
“I’ll help you look.”
I found Derek on the roof, looking, listening, and sniffing for signs of anyone guarding the house.
“Oh, this is a great idea,” I said. “The guy they’re most likely to shoot is standing on the roof, giving them a perfect target.”
“They won’t see me up here.”
When I gave him a look, he sighed, like I was making a huge deal out of nothing, then sat and said, “Okay?”
“I don’t think it’s safe for you to be up here.”
“Just a few more minutes.” He took off his coat and held it out beside him. “Sit down here, between me and the chimney. It’s safe.”
“It’s not me I’m worried about.”
“How do you know that? They could have night vision goggles, sniper rifles…”
The corners of his mouth twitched and I braced myself for “You watch too many movies.” He didn’t say it, but I knew he was thinking it.
“You’re not coming inside, are you?”
“I will. Just sit down. I want to talk to you.”
“And I want you to come in. We can talk there.”
“I don’t smell anyone out here. I think Andrew’s lying.”
“Please, Derek? Come inside?”
“In a minute.”
I turned and walked away.
I hoped he’d follow. I knew he wouldn’t. He didn’t.
“Found him,” I said, meeting Simon in the upstairs hall. “On the roof.”
“The roof? I suppose you told him he’s an idiot.”
“I asked him to come down. He won’t.”
“Because he thinks it’s the right thing to do. The right thing for everyone else, that is. One day he’s going to get himself-” Simon ran his hands through his hair. “I can talk to him. I can yell at him. It just doesn’t get through. He’s not suicidal. It’s not that he doesn’t care if he lives or dies. It’s just-”
“Not a priority.”
“Not if it interferes with protecting us. He can argue that’s the wolf, but those two werewolves you met weren’t throwing themselves in the line of fire to save each other, were they?”