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  • Home > Kelley Armstrong > Women of the Otherworld Series > Thirteen (Page 16)     
    Thirteen(Women of the Otherworld #13) by Kelley Armstrong
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    His voice went shrill. “You promised to protect me from the Cortezes.”

    “No, I said I could. Not that I would.”

    “You bitch!” He started to leap up. One wrist-flick of the sword and he sat back down. “You set me up.”

    “Just returning the favor. Savannah?”

    “I’ll get some rope.”

    We had to settle for extension cords and electrical tape, but they did the job. Then I called Lucas and told him where Toby was. They’d have a lot of questions for him, questions better answered in Cortez custody. That’s why Mom played the angel card—an excuse to have the Cortezes take him even after he’d fulfilled the bargain. Of course, since she had the big, glowing sword, she didn’t need an excuse, but that wouldn’t have been fair. In my mother’s world, playing fair is important, even if her definition of it is a little malleable.

    When we got back into the car, I said, “We need a disguise.”

    Mom looked over, brows lifting.

    “Either we disguise ourselves or we have to leave a trail of bound and gagged supernaturals in our wake,” I said. “Which could be appropriate, considering half the supernatural population of New Orleans seems to be eyeball deep in this shit. But the next person who recognizes you might escape before they’re in our sights.”

    “Not in my sights,” she said. “I have superhuman vision, remember.”

    I gave her a look.

    “Yes, I take your point,” she said. “I don’t disguise easily and I suspect you don’t either, but I may have a solution. I’ve picked up a few tricks on the other side. Let’s just hope they work.”

    The trick was a modified glamour spell. The normal one allows the caster to take on the appearance of another person, but it only works if the target expects to see that other person.

    Mom’s “modification” was actually an older version, predating the spell we used, and didn’t require expectation to work. I’d heard of it before. Even seen it in a grimoire—an old spellbook—at Cortez headquarters. But it required that most troubling of special ingredients: human sacrifice. It took an average of a hundred iterations for a witch to master the spell. Even the Cortezes hadn’t taught anyone to use it since before Benicio’s time. The cost-benefit ratio was just too high.

    Fortunately, Mom had learned the spell to help her celestial bounty-hunting duties, which meant no body count—there’s no way of killing someone in the afterlife. So Mom could cast the spell without a corpse. Or she could in the afterlife. Here? She wasn’t sure. Also, it was difficult to test, because even after she cast the spell, she looked the same to me. So we accosted a few unsuspecting passersby, which left some people in New Orleans wondering about the crazy women asking what color their hair was.

    But the spell had worked. We’d glamoured ourselves based on two photos from Glamour, appropriately enough. We picked the two most average looking young women in its pages, which still meant we were well above average. As for clothing, we outfitted ourselves in jerseys, sneakers, and jeans. Two students, pretty but nonthreatening.

    *

    We almost missed Amanda. When we arrived, she was leaving, gym bag in hand. She looked to be in her early thirties, with soft features and sleek, shoulder-length ash-blond hair. She was dressed stylishly and conservatively, in slacks, boots, and an Oxford shirt. Put a crop in her hand and she’d look ready for a day of riding. Horses, I mean. Not the kind of riding she apparently did for a living.

    I strode up behind her, and said, “Um, Amanda? Amanda Griffin?”

    She turned. Looked me up and down, expressionless. “Yes?”

    “Um …” I wiped my hands on my jeans. “Sorry, I—I’m just a little nervous. I’m Brianne White. I go to Delgado with my friend here, Sami. Someone gave us your name and, uh …”

    Her brows arched. Amused. “If you’re looking for a little college experimentation, honey, I can give you some names. That’s not my thing.”

    “Experiment—?” I let out a high-pitched giggle. “Oh, no. Not that. I mean …”

    Mom leaned over and whispered to me.

    “Oh, right. Okay.” I cast a nervous look around, then lit a light ball in my palm.

    “Ah, I see,” Amanda said.

    “Right. So, we’re new to town and we heard about this … stuff going on, and this guy we met, Shawn Roberts, he said you could—”

    “Don’t lie, Bri,” Mom whispered. When I looked over, she leaned in and mock-whispered. “She can check on that. Tell the truth.”

    “Okay. Right.” I wiped my hands again. “So Roberts wouldn’t tell us where to find you, but he sent us to this guy named Toby. He didn’t want to help us either. But then Sami …” I cast a knowing look at Mom. “She kinda … convinced him.”

    “I’m sure she did,” Amanda said. “And I’m sure it wasn’t hard. Look, girls, whatever you heard—”

    “We know about the Supernatural Freedom—”

    “Liberation,” Mom whispered.

    “Right. Supernatural Liberation Movement. They recruited a couple of our friends who go to UCLA. Our friends want us to join, but we’re not sure if it’s a good idea.”

    “It’s not,” Amanda said.

    I exhaled. “Whatever you’re doing, we can help. Sami here, they say she’s a Conspicio, but we think she’s an Aspicio. She can do the X-ray vision thing.”

    That stopped Amanda in her tracks. She waved to the wall of the building. “That’s the super’s apartment. Look inside and tell me what she’s doing.”

    Mom walked over and cleared a peephole. “I don’t know where ‘she’ is, but there’s a guy inside. About three hundred pounds, surfing porn, wearing only his—no, I don’t think he’s wearing anything.”

    “That’s good, right?” I said. “I mean, not about the naked guy, but Sami’s power. It would be useful, right?”

    Amanda shrugged, but her eyes glittered. “And the blinding power?”

    “I can cause temporary blindness,” she said. “It only lasts a few minutes, but it’s handy.”

    “I bet it is.”

    “I can help, too,” I said. “I know witch and sorcerer magic up to the third level, and it usually works.”

    A dismissive nod my way. Amanda laid a hand on Mom’s arm. “How about I skip the workout today and treat you girls to a drink. There’s a nice little place down the road. Very private.”

    THIRTEEN

    I got a text from Elena while we were still walking to the bar. Their plane had landed and they were ready to take over as Mom’s bodyguards. I texted back to say we’d made contact, and I needed to play this through.

    Amanda led us to a neighborhood pub, already dark inside and reeking of hops. We took a booth in the back and Amanda explained the situation. If I were her I’d have gone with a whole lot less detail for potential recruits. But that’s what happens when you launch a revolution with no previous revolutionary experience. It all seems like a grand, adventurous game. You’ll be cagey, of course, because it’s top-secret stuff. But when you have a reason to spill—like trying to woo an Aspicio half-demon to the cause—you’re happy for the opportunity to prove how terribly clever you all are.

    Amanda’s group was anti-SLAM. I’d suspected that because Roberts had switched the drugs, but to be honest, I couldn’t see the advantage of feeding stimulants to werewolves—for either side.

    Now, as Amanda explained it, I understood … they were idiots. Their scheme only proved I was right about their lack of experience with this whole revolt business. I’m sure the plan made sense to them, but to anyone who’s seen the dark side of supernatural life, it was a very, very stupid idea, guaranteed to go horribly awry.

    See, the plan was this …

    “Controlled outbursts of supernatural activity,” Amanda explained. “This SLM group is trying to persuade supernaturals that coming out of the closet is a good idea. But it’s not. We know that, don’t we?”

    Mom and I nodded.

    “The problem is that a lot of supernaturals aren’t so sure. They think of how much simpler and better life would be if they didn’t have to hide their nature, and they tell themselves humans wouldn’t react that badly. I mean, the Inquisition is over.”

    We nodded again.

    “But our argument is that humans wouldn’t be less frightened of witches and half-demons than they were in the past. As it stands, they simply don’t believe we exist. If they knew otherwise, it would be just as bad as the witch-hunts. Telling supernaturals that doesn’t do any good, though. They need demonstrations.”

    “Controlled outbursts of supernatural activity,” Mom said.

    “Exactly. You may not be aware of this, but SLM is operating in New Orleans. Heavily operating. We heard they’ve been using supernaturals in law enforcement to arrest and sedate other supernaturals. Then they take them to a facility where they brainwash them.”

    Not exactly …

    “We need to find that facility,” she said. “We’ve located an office they’re using for local recruitment, but it’s not the laboratory.”

    “So they do have an office in New Orleans,” Mom said. “That’s what our friends said. It’s on Gray Street, isn’t it?”

    She shook her head. “McNally. But that’s just for training. We need the lab. We’re getting close, though. In the meantime, we managed to get one of our people to replace the drug courier. He has provided an officer with drugs that will lower inhibitions instead.”

    “Making supernaturals more likely to use their powers,” Mom said.

    Amanda beamed. “You catch on quick, honey. So, as we speak, there are a few imprisoned supernaturals who are going to decide they really don’t want to be imprisoned and forget that they shouldn’t use their powers to escape. We’re about to see some serious fireworks.”

    Oh, they’d gotten fireworks. And when they realized it, they’d understand just how stupid it was to “plan” a supernatural outburst.

    Next Amanda asked about us. We expanded on our fake bios, chattering away until her cell phone rang.

    “Hey,” she said as she answered. “I was just thinking of you. I’ve got two new recruits here and I wanted to swing by and intro—”

    She paused. Her face screwed up, like she’d heard wrong. “What?”

    Another pause. Then, “Holy shit. You—” She swallowed. “You’re joking, right?” A pause. “No, of course you wouldn’t. But are you sure? Maybe Roberts—”

    She blinked. Sucked in breath. Then she listened, just listened, her gaze blank, head nodding, and murmuring “okay, okay” under her breath.

    “Toby?” she swallowed. “Are you—?” She caught herself this time. “Sorry, sorry. So Roberts is dead and Toby was seen being loaded into—” She caught herself again as she looked up at us, feigning shock as we listened in. “I’ll be right there.”

    She stood, pawing through her purse for cash, murmuring, “I have to leave.”

    “Is something wrong?” I said, rising, too. “Maybe we should—”

    Mom caught my hand under the table, and squeezed tight enough to stop me midsentence. I stood my ground, giving her a look. Amanda was too flustered to notice. Mom shook her head. I glowered at her, but didn’t trust a privacy spell. So I sat waiting until Amanda was out of earshot.

    “We should go with her,” I said. “I can talk her into taking us along. They’ll be distracted by this. It’ll be easy to get information.”

    “Yes, but we don’t need it. This chapter of their movement is about to implode and they’ll be too busy picking up the pieces to escort recruits to a new chapter.”

    “But—”

    “She told us where to find these SLAM people. That’s what I need to do right now. Infiltrate them while they’re busy cleaning up a big mess of their own. And find out exactly what they’ve given Bryce.”

    I swallowed. “Bryce. Right.” I nodded and stood. “Let’s go.”

    She caught my hand again. “I’d like you to go to Miami. Elena and Clayton are here now. They can watch my back.”

    I stiffened at that. As my mother, she wanted to shuttle me off to safety, even if it meant she might be taken back to the afterlife before we could see each other again. And yet, from her expression, so carefully blank, I knew she was hoping I’d refuse. That I’d give her a reason why I should stay.

    So I said, “I know these people. They took me captive. I’ve met the leader and all the key players. You need me with you.”

    She shook her head. “I can manage, baby. You’d be safe in Miami. It’s what they’d want. Paige, Lucas, Adam …”

    “I’ll call them from the car,” I said. “I won’t fight them to stay, but I’m not leaving unless they insist.”

    She hesitated, then nodded.

    As we walked to the rental, I checked my phone and found a message waiting from Adam. Just one line: Would love to talk.

    I stared at that message. Just four words that could mean only “Hey, I’m bored, give me an update!” Except that when Adam did mean that, it’s exactly what he wrote. This was different. This was … “MORE personal” isn’t the right phrase. Adam has been part of my life since my mother died. He’s been my friend for years. I’ve told him things I’ve never told anyone else and I think he’s done the same with me. It’s always been personal. But this … it seemed different.

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