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  • Home > Kelley Armstrong > Women of the Otherworld Series > Thirteen (Page 10)     
    Thirteen(Women of the Otherworld #13) by Kelley Armstrong
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    “Okay, we’ll rest first, then call a cab and get a real hotel,” Jaime said. “There, we have a plan.”

    “Well,” Mom said, “as much as I hate to argue with my elders—”

    “Hey, no age jokes. You’re only two months younger than me.”

    “Mmm, did I mention I paid a visit to the big ol’ hall of records in the sky? Seems there’s a slight discrepancy in your accounting.”

    “If there is, blame my mother. I never lie about my age. I never give it unless necessary, but I never lie about it either.”

    When Mom didn’t respond, we looked over to see her holding Jaime’s cell phone.

    “Hey, how’d you get—?”

    “Shit, these have changed a lot in a decade,” Mom said. “Don’t worry, I won’t send dirty text messages to Jeremy. You do enough of that anyway.”

    “I never—”

    “Ghost, remember? I can see you even when you can’t see me.” She paused. “That doesn’t sound good. Let me clarify that I never stick around when it goes beyond texting.” She pushed a few buttons. “I wonder how many heart attacks I could cause by calling up a few folks, reminding them that they owe me favors?”

    “They’d think it was Savannah.”

    “Damn.”

    “Back to the topic at hand,” I said. “We can’t rest—at least not for long. That’s what Mom was about to say before she got distracted by the shiny twenty-first-century technology.”

    “Oh, yes, we can rest.” Jaime reclined on the bed and shut her eyes. “Look, I’m doing it right now. It’s so relaxing. You guys should try it more often.”

    “We—”

    “—just escaped a bomb, incarceration, a werewolf, a hell-beast, a sorcerer, and Eve’s really sharp sword. We have earned a break. Or I have. You guys can play along.”

    “We need—”

    “Does it involve running? Fighting? Slaying? Uh-uh. Not for the next”—she checked the bedside clock—“six hours.”

    “One.”

    “Five.”

    “One.”

    My mother laughed.

    Jaime glowered at her. “You think that’s funny. Of course, you do. You raised her.” She turned to me. “Four and a half.”

    “Two.”

    “Fine. Two hours. During which time we will do or say nothing—”

    “We need to discuss what happened and plan our next steps. If you want to rest instead, I’m sure a few blankets will make the bathtub very comfy.”

    “Fine. Talk.”

    *

    We started by piecing together what happened at the police station. Or a reasonable guess, based on what we knew. Medina had been working for the Supernatural Liberation Movement, sedating supernaturals and ultimately delivering them to the laboratory, where they’d become guinea pigs for the vaccine. Then sorcerer dude inserts himself into the equation. Either he wriggles his way into SLAM or he takes out Medina’s usual drug supplier. He gives her drugs that will agitate the supernaturals in custody, making them everything from ill to crazy to psychotic.

    Why? Well, that was the first of many questions. He hadn’t seemed surprised by the reactions to the drugs. Why would a supernatural intentionally cause a scene that risked humans discovering our powers? Sure, that’s what SLAM ultimately wanted, but this wasn’t the kind of “reveal” that made us look like peaceful and productive members of society.

    Whatever the reason, he gives Medina the drugs. Then she picks us up following a call from SLAM. He finds out. And he decides this would be a really, really good time to try that new spell he’s been working on. Use Jaime and me to lure my mother, then conjure her into the world of the living.

    Why?

    “An angel is always handy,” Jaime said. “Even in a fight between demons. Especially if you’re also half-demon yourself. Eve gets hit up by more influence peddlers than any politician.”

    “I can see that,” I said. “With Balaam leading the pro-reveal

    side, even I’m useful. He made a personal appearance a few days ago.” I turned to Mom. “Turns out the reveal movement is harboring a couple of his lackeys. A real nice brother-sister duo named Sierra and Severin. Ice half-demons with a talent for torture. Balaam had them hold me hostage so he could propose an alliance.”

    “That son of a bitch.” Mom’s sword wobbled beside her, glowing bright blue. “I heard he’d spoken to you, but taking you hostage—”

    “Um, Eve?” Jaime said. “Can we hold off on threatening a lord demon? Even if he is your father?”

    “So he contacted you, too?” I said. “Or tried?”

    Mom hesitated.

    “It’s okay,” I said. “I’m a big girl. I’m used to being second choice. And also being kidnapped as a way to get to you.”

    Her expression made me regret saying that.

    “I’m sorry, baby,” she said. “I know you’ve gone through hell because you’re my daughter. I never intended that.”

    I shrugged. “Honestly, the cost-benefit ratio comes out in my favor. I get a lot of mileage out of being your daughter and only the occasional threat on my life. Even that’s just in the last week or so. Which I suspect isn’t coincidental.”

    “It’s not. The Fates have always been able to keep this angel gig a secret. If that’s not the case anymore, something’s broken down.” She paused. “Actually, lots of things have broken down. It’s hell over there. No joke intended.”

    “The movement,” I said. “It’s got the demons divided, and that’s rippling through everything, isn’t it?”

    “Not just the demons. The angels are split, too. The ascended ones, at least.”

    “Are they supernaturals?”

    “Most, but the divide isn’t along those lines. Some—former human and supernatural—think exposure is the best thing for everyone. Others, like me, think it’ll be a catastrophe. So it’s chaos, with the Fates and everyone else trying to keep order and doing a damned poor job of it. Balaam has had imps and demi-demons out for weeks, scouring the dimensions trying to find me. I’ve been slaughtering them left and right. But a full-blood angel saw me talking to one. Next thing you know, the rumor’s circulating that I’m a double agent for Balaam, which is what a lot of them believe anyway.”

    I remembered what Kimerion said. “They think you helped Leah escape, don’t they?”

    Jaime sat up. “Seriously? Oh, yes, you freed the bitch who tried to kill Paige, so she could go back to earth and give it another shot. Maybe take your daughter out, too.”

    “According to their theory, I wasn’t really all that upset about what Leah did with Paige. Considering Leah was working for Kristof, I probably had a hand in it so he could get custody of Savannah easier. Later, I came to feel a little bad about Leah getting a raw deal. So I agreed to free her for Balaam, to help this liberation movement, with her promise that she’d stay away from Savannah. When she reneged on the deal, I dragged her back to her hell dimension before she could tattle.”

    “They believe that?” I said.

    “In the angel corps, the ascendeds keep tallies of souls retrieved. Like notches on our swords. Trsiel”—she glanced at me—“my partner, keeps another tally for me. Enemies made. By this point, the lists are about equal. And I’m very, very good at my job.”

    She pulled her feet up to sit cross-legged on the bed. “The Fates know it’s bullshit. But an angel was involved with Leah’s escape. They know that, too. So they put me on the case, also knowing I’m pissed off and eager to clear my name. All this means that there are multiple reasons why this sorcerer might have brought me over. Maybe he wanted an angel for the fight. Or he wanted an angel for a hostage. Or he wanted Balaam’s daughter. Or I was getting too close to finding out who freed Leah. Main point for now? He did bring me over. We need to find out who this guy was, which isn’t going to be—”

    I held up a wallet. “Dead sorcerer guy’s wallet, complete with ID.”

    My mother smiled. “Smart girl.”

    “I’m a licensed PI, Mom, even if I do spend more time behind the reception desk than in the field.”

    “All right then,” Mom said. “You and I can take showers, and then we’ll hit the road. Jaime? You just keep on resting. You don’t need to wash that blood out of your hair. It’s red anyway. And I’m pretty sure that isn’t puke—”

    Jaime was in the bathroom, slamming the door, before she finished.

    Mom grabbed the motel stationery and started writing. As soon as the shower started, she set the paper on the nightstand, got off the bed, and slung her sword onto her back.

    “Let’s go, baby.”

    “But …” I glanced at the bathroom door. “Oh.”

    “Yes, we’re ditching the diva. I’d say she’ll kill me later, but I’m pretty sure that’s not possible, and even if it is, I’ll only end up back where I was this morning.”

    “Someone has to—”

    “Lucas has already sent a local operative. That’s what I was doing with her phone earlier—texting the motel address to him. Now come on.”

    “Just a sec.”

    “We can’t—” She began.

    I grabbed Jaime’s cell phone. “We may need this.”

    Mom smiled. “That’s my girl.”

    The Cabal operative was due to arrive in five minutes. We were to meet him at the corner, where we could keep an eye on the motel until he arrived.

    We didn’t speak until we got there. Then Mom said, “I don’t like tricking her either, Savannah.”

    “I never said—”

    “I can see it in your face. Yes, I would have rather just told her to stay behind, but as much as she bitches about staying out of the action, she’d never have agreed.”

    “And if she came she’d be likely to get hurt. So it’s better for her if we leave her behind.”

    “Exactly.”

    “And her lack of offensive powers means she’s not much help in a fight, which means she’d just be an extra person to look after.”

    She exhaled. “Do you want me to deny that, Savannah? I won’t. My main concern is her getting hurt.”

    I checked my watch, then eased back under the shade of a tree, in case Jaime decided on an uncharacteristically short shower and looked outside for us.

    “You don’t agree,” Mom said.

    A bubble of panic popped inside me. Of course I did. I always agreed with my mother. She knew best. She took care of—I took a deep breath and silenced twelve-year-old Savannah.

    “I … agree in principle, but I wouldn’t have handled it the same way.”

    “Good,” she said, so emphatically I jumped. “You aren’t a carbon copy of me, Savannah. I don’t want you to be. I want you to be your own person. In this case, I stick by my decision. We agree to disagree. And we push on. Unless you want to …”

    She nodded back toward the motel.

    I shook my head. “It’s done now, and I’m guessing that’s the Cabal guy’s car turning the corner.”

    The car did belong to the man Lucas had sent for Jaime. He was a typical operative, a completely unassuming guy who could probably win an Ultimate Fighting title with one hand tied behind his back. We checked his ID—Lucas had texted Mom his details. He’d also sent us a code phrase, which the guy repeated.

    The operative didn’t ask our names. Didn’t display an iota of curiosity, except when he noticed the glowing sword on Mom’s back. Even then, all he did was blink. Mom said, “We’re ditching our friend to go to a Dungeons and Dragons convention.” He didn’t even smile. Jaime was going to love this guy. And love us all the more, not only for deserting her, but for forcing his company on her.

    He left. We waited until he reached the motel door, then took off before the fireworks began.

    JAIME

    Jaime stood under the shower, eyes closed, letting the steaming water massage her neck and back. It might be a cheap motel, but apparently, midday, no one was using the water and she got all the hot water she wanted. And she wanted a lot. Even after twenty minutes of scalding, she swore she could still feel blood and filth in every pore.

    She was not, as she always admitted, cut out for a life of adventure. Not unless it came with rich food and soft beds and perfumed baths. And Jeremy. After four years together, he was the key ingredient in her life, even if it did mean the occasional morning spent, drugged and sick, on a dirt-and-pest-encrusted prison cot.

    Thinking of that cot, Jaime emptied the rest of the mini shampoo bottle on her head. As she lowered her hands, she noticed dried blood deep under her long nails. With a shudder, she scraped it out and tried not to think of where it came from. When that failed, she played the “what I’ll do when all this is over” game, which had gotten her through many an ordeal in the past. Jeremy had made her play it just last evening when she had been feeling helpless sitting around Cortez headquarters as everyone else raced off to action.

    Italy, Jeremy suggested. A week in an Italian villa, just the two of them. Maybe more than a week, if they could both swing it. That was usually the sticking point—their own schedules and responsibilities, Jaime’s career and Jeremy’s Alphahood. But they never complained or wished things could be different. They weren’t kids. They’d built their own lives before they’d met and they still led them, taking advantage of any time when those lives could intersect—which made them feel like kids sometimes, ducking out on their responsibilities to play hooky together. Those interludes would grow more frequent when he stepped down as Alpha, and someday maybe they’d even live together, grow old together. But for now, this worked, and you don’t mess with what works.

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