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|The Reckoning(Darkest Powers #3) by Kelley Armstrong|
I wanted to do something, anything, but Derek saw me and shouted for me to get back. Then one of the men in a suit hit him with a spell, knocking him forward before his dad slammed an energy bolt into the guy. I stayed where I was, knowing that as much as I wanted to help, I’d only put everyone else in danger trying to protect me.
The building continued to shake, weakened walls and ceiling cracking. White dust rained down, enveloping everyone, and I could catch only glimpses through it, snapshots of the action.
Tori facing off with her mom.
Liz running toward Mrs. Enright, a broken plank in her hand.
The guard lying unconscious under everyone’s feet.
Derek tackling the main suit, his dad and Simon taking on the other.
Aunt Lauren standing over Dr. Davidoff, gun at the back of his head.
Then, with an earsplitting crack, the ceiling gave way. Huge chunks of plaster and broken wood crashed down. Boxes and crates and filing cabinets toppled through from the attic. The ceiling kept ripping and cracking, and I looked up to see it splitting right over my head. Derek shouted. He hit me, knocking me to the floor and pinning me beneath him as the rest of the ceiling collapsed.
When the hall finally stopped rumbling, I heard Mr. Bae calling for Derek.
“Here,” Derek said. “With Chloe.”
He moved off me and helped me up. I rose, coughing and blinking. I could make out Simon and Mr. Bae safe in the room where we’d hidden earlier.
“Tori?” I heard Liz saying. “Tori!”
I squinted and moved toward her voice; Derek still gripped my arm, staying close. Liz was hunched over Tori.
“Tori!” I yelled.
She lifted her head, brushing a hand over her face. “I-I’m okay.”
As she got up, I looked around frantically for Aunt Lauren. Then I saw her, stirring under a pile of rubble between me and Tori. I leaped forward, but Derek pulled me back.
“Stay there, guys,” Mr. Bae said. “Tori-” He paused and when I looked over, he was staring at her, like he’d only just seen her now, really seen her.
“Dad?” Simon said.
Mr. Bae shook off the surprise and said, slowly, “Tori? Head toward me. That ceiling doesn’t look good.”
I glanced up. Broken timbers and huge pieces of plaster swayed overhead. Boxes teetered on the edge.
Tori looked around. The guard and two guys in suits were almost buried under the rubble. Dr. Davidoff lay on his stomach, not moving. Beside her lay another body-her mother, her eyes open, staring up.
“Ding-dong, the witch is dead,” Tori said. She swayed. Then she made a weird, strangled hiccupping noise, shoulders hunching. “Mom…”
“Tori? Hon?” Mr. Bae called. “I need you to come over here, okay?”
“Aunt Lauren,” I said. “She’s caught-”
“I’ve got it,” Tori said, wiping her sleeve over her face. She bent and started pulling pieces off my aunt.
A plank flew up from the pile behind Tori. Dr. Davidoff’s eyes were open, mentally guiding it. I opened my mouth to scream a warning and Liz raced to grab it, but it swung down, hitting Tori in the back of the head. She fell face-first to the rubble. Aunt Lauren scrambled up, pushing the last pieces of plaster aside. Then she stopped. Dr. Davidoff rose behind her, gun pressed to the back of her neck.
Liz grabbed the plank he’d hit Tori with, but he saw it move and said, “No, Elizabeth.” He swung the gun toward Tori. “Not unless you’d like some company in the afterlife.”
Liz dropped the wood.
Dr. Davidoff moved the gun back to Aunt Lauren. “Pick that board up again, please, Elizabeth, and move in front of me, so I can see where you are.”
“Now, Kit, I’m going to give you five minutes to take your boys and go. The modifications appear to have succeeded with Simon. As strong as Derek is, he seems normal for a werewolf. Another success. Chloe and Victoria are the problems, but I assure you, they’ll be well cared for. Take your boys and-”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Derek said. “Not without Chloe.”
He stiffened, like he expected me to argue, but I barely heard them talking. My blood roared in my ears, stomach churning, knowing what I had to do, fighting to get past every instinct that screamed against it.
Dr. Davidoff’s eyes lifted to Derek. He frowned, assessing, then nodded. “So be it. I won’t turn down the opportunity to keep our only werewolf subject. Take your son, then, Kit.”
“I’ll take both my sons,” Mr. Bae said. “And Victoria and Chloe and Lauren.”
Dr. Davidoff chuckled. “Still don’t know when to cut your losses, do you? I’d think ten years on the run would have taught you a lesson. Think of everything you gave up, just because I wanted Derek back. I’m sure Simon would have been a lot happier if you hadn’t been so stubborn.”
“Stubborn’s good,” Simon said. “And it runs in the family. I’m not leaving until you give them up, too.”
Derek rubbed the back of my shoulders, mistaking the tightness for fear, not concentration. Simon cast an anxious glance my way as sweat poured down my face. I closed my eyes and focused.
“Go, Chloe,” Aunt Lauren said. “Just go.”
“That’s not how it works,” Dr. Davidoff said. “I can shoot you and Tori before Kit or Derek can take me down. Make up your mind, Kit. There’s a Cabal team on the way, if they haven’t already arrived. Cut your losses and go.”
A shape rose behind Dr. Davidoff. Derek sucked in a breath, then slowly released it and whispered under his breath, encouraging me. Simon and Mr. Bae quickly looked away so Dr. Davidoff wouldn’t turn around.
“You only have a few minutes, Kit,” Dr. Davidoff said.
“Pick up the gun,” I said.
He laughed. “Your aunt knows better than to dive for a gun ten feet away, Chloe.”
“Dr. Davidoff,” I said.
He frowned, mouth opening. Mrs. Enright’s corpse swayed. Her eyes met mine, rage-filled eyes.
She fired. Dr. Davidoff hung there, mouth working, hole through his chest. Then he dropped. I squeezed my eyes shut and released Mrs. Enright’s soul. When I opened them, Aunt Lauren was crouched beside Dr. Davidoff, fingers to his neck. His ghost stood beside her, staring, confused.
“He’s gone,” I said. “I-I see his spirit.”
Someone shouted. Boots clomped in the distance.
“We have to go,” Mr. Bae said. “Lauren-”
“Derek, grab Tori and follow me.”
We raced out the door just as shouts echoed behind us. Mr. Bae yelled for Simon and Aunt Lauren to get over the wall, as he boosted me and Derek carried Tori. I got to the top, then crouched beside Simon, the two of us helping Derek as Liz ran ahead, shouting the all clear.
As we climbed down, Mr. Bae stood atop the wall, ready to shoot spells at anyone who came out. But no one did-the rubble and the bodies slowed them down long enough for us to get away. By then, Tori was conscious and we ran, all of us, as far and as fast as we could.
MR. BAE’S VAN WAS parked a mile away in a shopping mall. He’d bought it a month ago, using faked paperwork, so it couldn’t be traced back to him, and it looked like he’d been living in it. He threw his sleeping bag and a cooler into the back, and we all climbed in.
I don’t know where we ended up. Pennsylvania, I think. No one asked. No one cared. It was a really long, really quiet drive. I was in the back with Aunt Lauren, and even though I noticed Derek glancing back at me anxiously every now and then, I soon fell asleep to the murmur of Simon and his dad in the front seat.
I woke up when Mr. Bae pulled into a roadside motel. He got two rooms and we split up, guys going in one, girls in the other. Mr. Bae said he’d order pizza for us all and then we’d talk. Aunt Lauren said not to rush. No one was hungry, and I’m sure the guys wanted some alone time with their dad.
Liz and Tori seemed to figure I needed alone time with Aunt Lauren, too. Liz took off, saying she was going to wander and she’d be back by morning. Tori said her stomach was queasy from the long drive, so she was going to sit outside for a while to get some fresh air. Aunt Lauren asked her to go behind our unit, so no one driving past could see her.
That’s when it really hit me: we weren’t going home, not yet anyway. And we’d have to get used to always thinking about stuff like that, about who might be watching.
I sat beside Aunt Lauren on the bed, and she put her arm around my shoulders.
“How are you doing?” she asked.
“What happened back there…At the lab…”
She didn’t finish. I knew what she meant-killing Dr. Davidoff. And I knew that if I mentioned it, she’d tell me I hadn’t actually killed him. But I had. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, only that Aunt Lauren wouldn’t be the person I’d talk to about it, because she’d only try to make me feel better, not help me work through it. For that, I’d need Derek, so I just said, “I’m okay.” Then, “I know I can’t go home right now, but I want Dad to know I’m okay.”
“I’m not sure that’s-”
“He has to know. Even if he can’t know about the necromancer stuff and the Edison Group stuff. He has to know I’m safe.”
She wavered for a moment, but seeing my expression, she finally nodded. “We’ll find a way.”
When I found Tori out back, she was just sitting there, like that night at the warehouse when her dad betrayed her. Sitting there, staring into space, hugging her knees.
This had to be so hard for her. The guys got their dad back, I got Aunt Lauren back. And Tori? She’d watched her mother die. No matter how horrible Mrs. Enright had been, no matter how much Tori had come to hate her, she’d still been her mother.
Tori wasn’t alone here. She still had a parent, a biological one anyway, but I was sure Mr. Bae wouldn’t be too quick to tell her. That would be too weird, like saying, “Sorry you lost one parent, but here’s a replacement.”
I sat down beside her.
“I’m sorry about your mom,” I said.
A short, bitter laugh. “Why? She was an evil, murdering bitch.”
“But she was your evil, murdering bitch.”
Tori gave a choked laugh, then nodded. A tear slid down her cheek. I wanted to put my arm around her, but I knew she’d hate that, so I just moved closer, bumping against her. She tensed and I thought she was going to move away, but then she relaxed, leaning against me. I could feel her body shaking as she cried. She didn’t make a sound, though, not even a whimper.
A huge shadow rounded the corner. Derek stepped out, head tilted to catch the wind. His lips twitched when he saw me, curving into a crooked smile.
“Hey,” he said. “I thought I-”
Tori lifted her head and wiped her eyes on her sleeve, and Derek shut up.
“Sorry,” he said gruffly and started to retreat.
“That’s okay,” she said, getting to her feet. “My pity session is over. You can have her now.”
As she walked away from us back to our room, Derek stood there, looking uncertain again. Anxious again. I waved for him to sit beside me, but he shook his head.
“Can’t right now,” he said. “Dad sent me to find you.”
I went to get up, but my foot was asleep and I stumbled a bit. Derek caught me and didn’t let go. He bent, like he was going to kiss me, then stopped.
Was he always going to do that? I almost teased him about it, but he looked so serious, I didn’t dare.
“Your aunt,” he said. “Did she say anything about your plans?”
Once more he leaned down to me, then stopped again.
“Didn’t she say anything? Like whether you’re going home or not?”
“I’m not. As long as that Cabal is still out there, we can’t. I suppose we’ll stay with you guys, if that’s what your dad has in mind. Probably safest.”
He exhaled, like he’d been holding his breath, and I finally understood why he was so anxious. Now that we’d escaped the Edison Group and were back with our families, he thought that meant we’d go our separate ways.
“I’m definitely hoping we’ll stay with you guys,” I said.
I slid closer, feeling his arms close around me, tightening. Our lips touched-
“Derek?” his dad called. “Chloe?”
Derek let out a growl. I laughed and backed up.
“We seem to get a lot of that, don’t we?” I said.
“Too much. After we eat, we’re going for a walk. A long walk. Far from every possible interruption.”
I grinned up at him. “Sounds like a plan.”
Speaking of plans, Mr. Bae had plenty. Over pizza he confirmed what I expected-we needed to go on the run again, this time from the Cabal.
“So everything we did back there, at the lab…it didn’t do any good?” I said.
“Probably only pissed the Cabal off,” Tori muttered.
“No, it helped,” Mr. Bae said. “The Edison Group won’t recover from this anytime soon, and it’ll take some time for the Cabal to sort through everything and plan a search. Fortunately, being a Cabal, they’ve got a lot on their to-do list, and we won’t be at the top. You’re valuable, and they’ll want you back, but we’ll have some breathing room.” He glanced at my aunt. “Lauren? Living on the run may not be what you had in mind, but I’m going to strongly suggest you and Chloe come with us. We should stick together.”