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|Thirteen(Women of the Otherworld #13) by Kelley Armstrong|
He wasn’t at the houseboat, though. Nor was he at the courthouse. Eve had gone there to find the justice building shut down. The guard on duty had muttered something about magical wards needing repair, just regular maintenance. Which was bullshit. Afterlife court was closed because the higher powers were racing around commandeering forces to put out fires both on earth and in the afterlife. But they weren’t telling the shades that their world was on the brink of war. No, that wouldn’t do at all. Just pretend everything is fine. And if you see a monstrous beast racing down Main Street, it most certainly is not a hell-hound that escaped its dimension. Er, but you should probably notify demon control anyway.
Eve walked into the bedroom and looked around. Their bed was made, the sheets drawn drum tight. Kristof had grown up with maids and cooks and housekeepers, and though he’d happily shed all those trappings after his death, he kept his world here just as neat and orderly as if he still had staff.
Eve wiped her sword on the gazillion-count Egyptian cotton sheets. For a moment, they were smeared with a satisfying rainbow of blood. Then it evaporated into the white cotton. She sighed and sheathed her sword.
“Fine, I’ll leave a proper note.”
She conjured paper and a pen.
Heaven and hell are being torn asunder as angels and demons battle themselves and each other. In the living world, supernaturals continue to barrel toward a war between those who want to reveal themselves to humans and those who know such a revelation will destroy all we hold dear. The veil between the realms grows thinner with each passing moment as we plummet toward catastrophe.
Hope all is well with you.
Hugs and kisses,
She’d just finished when she heard a patter behind her and wheeled to see … nothing.
Another patter sounded on the polished hardwood floor and she looked down to see a white rabbit. It rose on its hind legs.
“Eve Levine,” the rabbit squeaked. “Mighty daughter of Balaam, lord of darkness and chaos. I prostrate myself before you.”
The rabbit attempted to bow gracefully, but its body wouldn’t quite complete the maneuver and it flopped onto its belly. When it looked up at her, its pink eyes glowed with an unearthly light. Eve concentrated hard and a second shape superimposed itself on the rabbit, that of a toadlike lump with jutting fangs and eyes on quivering stalks. She blinked and the bunny reappeared.
“Nice choice of form, imp,” she said.
“I considered a kitten, but that seemed unwise when meeting a dark witch.”
“Witches don’t kill cats. Especially not witches who’ve been recruited to angelhood.” She grasped her sword and lifted it. “Rabbits, however? Rodents. Vermin. Nothing in the manual against that.”
The rabbit backed up. “Please, my lady. Balaam has a legion of imps scouring every dimension for you. He is most eager to speak to you.”
“Is he? And what could my lord demon father want from me?” She gasped in feigned surprise. “Wait … Does it have something to do with this big reveal I’ve been hearing about?”
“Yes, yes!” The rabbit thumped a back leg with excitement. “You have heard of the glorious plan, then? After centuries of hiding, supernaturals have finally found the willpower to reveal themselves and take their rightful place as rulers of the human world.”
The rabbit leaped up. “I knew you would agree. You will help your father, yes? You will join the fight here and you will persuade your earthbound daughter to do the same.”
“Savannah?” Eve tried to keep her voice calm.
“Of course. She is a mighty spellcaster. Mighty indeed. And very well connected in the supernatural world. Lord Balaam has approached her himself, but she has refused his generous offer.”
“Balaam went near my—” Eve stopped short as her sword glowed blue, infused with her fury. But the rabbit-imp didn’t seem to notice. She took a deep, steadying breath. “Foolish girl. Of course I’ll speak to her. She listens to her mother. First, though, you’ll need to tell me everything you know about my father’s plans, so I can properly explain them to her.”
The rabbit told her everything and she thanked it most graciously … then lopped off its head, which flew into the hall at the very moment the houseboat door opened. A tall, broad-shouldered figure filled the doorway. As Kristof Nast stepped in, the rabbit’s head bounced off his polished Italian loafers.
“Eve?” he said, peering at his feet as she walked into the main cabin. Then he saw her and smiled. “If there are decapitated rabbit heads flying, there’s only one explanation. Eve is back.” He stopped as he saw her expression. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s Savannah,” she said. “She’s in trouble. Well, bigger trouble. We need to—”
Light flashed. Kristof disappeared. The houseboat evaporated and Eve found herself in another dimension, surrounded by misshapen beasts, Trsiel at her side, her sword still in hand.
“Oh, hell,” she muttered as the beasts charged.
I led my half brother Bryce away from the rubble of the exploded lab, ignoring his protests, and ignoring Adam, who was sticking close and wincing every time Bryce coughed. I couldn’t blame Adam for worrying. The Supernatural Liberation Movement had injected Bryce with something called a “vaccine against mortality,” which sounded lovely, until you figured out that meant it contained DNA from vampires, zombies, and god only knows what other creatures the gang had rounded up for their experiments.
So I really didn’t want to catch whatever Bryce had either. Before we’d escaped, the woman who’d injected him had suggested it was transmittable. I had to trust they weren’t crazy enough to make it easily transmittable. And if they were? Well, then, I was already screwed. The only way out of the lab had been to drop into a pit of water connected to an underground sewer. Bryce was so weak he’d almost drowned and I’d had to help him. I’d stopped short of giving him mouth-to-mouth when he woke on his own, but we’d had plenty of contact. So I could be infected. But that was a concern for later. Right now, I was just happy to have survived, especially when the whole place had come down on our heads as the liberation movement blew up their own lab.
I’d never been so glad to be tramping—wet, smelly and dirty—down a New Orleans alleyway. Or to see Jeremy Danvers, the werewolf Alpha, or Jaime Vegas, his necromancer girlfriend. Or Adam. Most of all Adam.
Bryce might be my half brother, but I’ve known Adam since I was twelve. Bryce? Well, let’s just say we aren’t close.
“We’ll turn onto the road up here,” Jeremy said. He was scouting the way, limping from the blast. “We should be far enough from—”
He stopped and tilted his head, werewolf hearing picking up something we couldn’t. When he frowned, Adam moved up beside him and whispered, “Trouble?”
“I can hear a police radio. They’re looking for two men and a woman seen leaving the blast site.”
“Two guys covered in dust and bruises?” Adam said. “And a girl who looks like she went swimming in a sewer?”
I looked down at my soaked clothing. The only unscathed one was Jaime, who’d been blocks away when the building went up.
Jeremy said, “Anita Barrington set off an alarm, meaning there will be members of the reveal movement looking for all of us. You’re going to need to hole up until Jaime finds us clean clothing. I’ll go with her while she does.”
“I’ll be—” Jaime began, then cut herself short. As a necromancer, she had no innate defensive skills. As a forty-seven-year-old on the celebrity circuit, she didn’t have any acquired ones either: All she usually had to deal with were hecklers. “I need backup, but I don’t think it should be you,” she finally said to Jeremy. “Bryce needs a guard with superhearing and super-strength. I just need someone to watch my back. Savannah can do that. She isn’t battered and bruised. Her jeans are black and won’t look wet from a distance.”
Jaime gave me her jacket—a cute leather one that we’d bought on a trip to Milan. It was a little short—she’s five-five and I’m nearly seven inches taller—so on me it looked fashionably cropped. With the help of her brush and scarf, we tied my wet hair back and I stopped looking like a drowned rat, even if my sneakers sloshed with every step.
We found the guys a quiet spot to wait. Then we set off.
The Supernatural Liberation Movement. I gave them a vowel and called them SLAM. Their mission was to reveal the existence of supernaturals to the human world. There was a very good reason we hadn’t done this already—because it was stupid. Every time the world found out about us, heads rolled—our heads. Even if we could argue that this wasn’t the Middle Ages anymore, we weren’t just different in gender, skin color, religion, sexual orientation, or any other equality issue. We had powers. Often deadly powers that gave us an advantage over humans. You can bet your ass we wouldn’t be welcomed with open arms … except maybe by military research facilities.
So why was this movement gaining traction? First, the majority of supernaturals are not as tuned in to our world as I am. Through the Cabals and my connection to the interracial council, I had the advantage of seeing things from a global and historical perspective. Second, there are a lot of disaffected supernaturals out there, especially young ones who don’t understand why the hell they shouldn’t flaunt their abilities. For most of my twenty-one years, I’d have agreed with them—I had power, so I used it. All these young supernaturals needed was a man with a plan. And they found him in Giles Reyes—AKA Gilles de Rais—a charismatic leader who’d convinced them that a bunch of unusual events in our world—including me, a sorcerer/witch hybrid—fulfilled some kind of prophecy that declared it was time for the big reveal. It didn’t hurt that Giles claimed he was really a fifteenth-century French nobleman who’d stumbled on immortality and had, after centuries of experimentation, found a way to grant it to all his followers. That was the “vaccine” he’d given Bryce. I thought of my brother, who was ready to keel over. Apparently it hadn’t quite been perfected yet.
Now, because of us, Giles’s vaccine had been destroyed before it could be perfected. He was going be pissed. I really wished I could stay to see that, but we had places to go, things to do, a world to save.
When police cars zipped past, sirens wailing, Jaime caught my arm and gestured wildly, laughing, as if sharing a juicy bit of gossip.
We were nearly to the commercial district when a police cruiser whipped around the corner, cut us off, and slammed on the brakes.
“Play it cool,” Jaime whispered.
I hadn’t planned to do anything else.
“Hey, guys,” Jaime said as the officers—a slender, middle-aged woman and a stocky young patrolman—climbed out of the car. “We heard the sirens. What’s going on?”
“A bomb was detonated a few blocks over.”
“Seriously?” Jaime’s eyes rounded as she scanned the rooftops. “Where? I have a blog, and if I could get photos, that would be—”
“Um, bomb, Jaime?” I cut in. “Normal people run the other way.”
“Because normal people don’t have a Twitter feed with a hundred thousand followers.” She took out her cell phone and propped up her shades. “Do you know the address? I can foursquare it now, then tweet photos after we get there.”
“We are not going to a bomb site—we are going to your interview.” I turned to the officers, mouthed, “Hollywood,” and rolled my eyes.
“Can we see some identification?” the woman asked.
“Absolutely,” Jaime chirped, then giggled. “But the date of birth is between us, right?”
Gotta say this—Jaime has the ditzy C-lister routine down pat. The male officer seemed ready to hop back into the car, but his partner insisted on the ID.
Jaime showed her cards and offered to send autographed eight-by-tens. She explained who she was—Jaime Vegas, renowned spiritualist, as formerly seen on the Keni Bales Show and more. The male cop said he’d heard of her and that his sister-in-law would love a signed photo.
“That’s … an interesting way of making a living,” said the female officer—Medina, according to her badge. “You’re free to go on to your interview, Ms. Vegas. It’s your friend here who needs to come with us.”
“What?” Jaime screeched. “No. She’s not my friend. I mean, yes, of course you are, dear.” A pat on my arm. “But she’s my publicist. I need her for the interview.”
“Then you’ll have to reschedule, because she’s coming with us. She was seen entering the bombed building before the blast, then leaving it shortly after.”
“Wouldn’t I need to have left before the bomb, considering I’m still alive?”
Medina’s look warned me not to be a smart ass. “We just want to speak to you.”
“Then speak here.”
“Miss, we have multiple eyewitness reports. That’s enough to arrest you on, but we’d like to give you the chance to talk to us first. Provide some insight into your co-conspirators.”
“Co-conspirators?” I waved at Jaime. “This is the only person I’ve been conspiring with today. Does she look like a criminal mastermind?”
“You were seen in the company of two men.”
“Two?” Jaime swatted my arm. “Oh my God, you’re so selfish.”