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|Thirteen(Women of the Otherworld #13) by Kelley Armstrong|
We both nodded.
Odele patted our backs one with each hand and propelled us to the door. “Welcome to the team, girls. We’re about to make history.”
On the way outside, Odele explained step one of the plan: getting to the van that would take us to Atlanta. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as simple as walking out the door and climbing in.
“For one thing, as you may have noticed, we’re a little short on parking space here,” she explained. “We have cars in a public lot a block over, but these vans? Let’s just say they aren’t something we want to leave in a public lot.”
“They’re rolling command posts for the first wave of missions,” Jake said. “All our gear, our communication equipment, everything we’ll need in Atlanta.”
“Including the serum?” I said.
Odele shook her head. “That’s too valuable. It will be delivered separately, by Giles himself.”
“So where is the van?” Mom asked.
“In a warehouse here in New Orleans.”
Mom looked at me. That didn’t exactly narrow it down. All I could do was try to send a quick update text and trust that Elena and Clay could follow.
The five of us squeezed into a midsize car. I was in the back with Mom and Jake. I’d hoped to get a chance to text some details to Elena and Lucas, but Jake gallantly offered to take the middle spot and nothing we could say would sway him. Texting was out. Instead, we spent the ride retelling our story to Odele. In turn, she told us her background—a high-school teacher from Atlanta—and her supernatural type. She was a Tempestras, a storm demon, like Adam’s stepfather. Jake and Lori were both shamans. In a fight, then, Odele would be the one to watch.
I hoped for more details on the mission. Mom and I had no intention of actually going to Atlanta, but we were so close to hearing their plans that we couldn’t back out until we did. Yet we arrived at the warehouse without learning more.
I expected to go to the edge of town. Instead, we ended up just north of the French Quarter, in the Bywater district by the Press Street railroad tracks. There were warehouses here, very old ones, dating back at least a century or two, probably from when the wharf had been busier. A lot of them had been remodeled, replaced by lofts and funky galleries. But there were still sections of old warehouses. And that’s where we headed, taking a narrow road into a nest of warehouses that looked as if they might have been slated for demolition pre-Katrina. Now, since they’d been spared, they were left standing until the city could better support more lofts and galleries.
Another car was already there. The other half of the team. As we pulled over, Odele pointed to the three people waiting beside it. Will, a dark-haired guy in a leather jacket, was an Adtendo half-demon, which meant he had the power of enhanced hearing. Andi, a heavyset woman in her early thirties, was a necromancer. Peter, maybe a few years older than me, but already balding, was a magician. The only one with real offensive powers was still Odele. That realization helped me relax a little.
We parked and got out.
“New recruits?” Will said, striding forward. “What the hell is Giles doing giving us new recruits now?”
“We needed to replace Lance and Marg,” Odele said.
A few of the group shifted uneasily at the names. I was guessing those were the two who’d supposedly turned out to be Cabal plants.
“So replace them,” Will said, “with proven members of the group.”
“Sami here is an Aspicio. Giles feels she will be an invaluable addition to the team.”
“Her supersight plus your superhearing,” Jake said with a grin. “Gotta admit, that’s a great combo. And Bri is a witch. That adds something we didn’t have either.” He put his arm around Lori and turned to the warehouse. “There it is, folks. The first big step. Who’s ready? I know I am.”
It was a nice try, but Will wouldn’t be deterred. He demanded to know more about who we were and where we came from and what on God’s earth made anyone think we could be trusted. All perfectly valid questions, since no one had dug very deeply into our cover stories. Giles hadn’t even asked where we’d gotten our facts. Will had a right to be concerned. But one look at the faces of the others told me no one else cared. Giles said we were in, so we were in. When Will kept pressing for details, Odele shut him down. This was her mission. Giles put us on her team. That was all he needed to know.
We started toward the warehouse.
“I have the keys, so I’m driving, right?” Jake said. “And Lori rides shotgun?”
“Of course,” Odele said. “That will be much more comfortable for her, I’m sure.”
“Oh, that’s not why he’s asking,” Lori said, grinning Jake’s way. “He needs his navigator or we’ll end up in the Gulf. The guy has absolutely no sense of direction.”
Mom laughed. “I know someone like that.”
Lori looked back at her. “Has he ever gone for ice cream at the corner store and come back two hours later with a melted mess in a bag?”
“Hey, I wasn’t lost,” Jake said. “I knew the corner store didn’t have your favorite—”
I felt a spray of something on my face. Then Andi screamed, and something hit the back of my legs. I went down face first. As I fell, I tried to twist, but Mom landed beside me, her hand smacking the back of my head, as she yelled, “Down!”
Peter had dropped right in front of me. I looked over at him and for a second my brain didn’t register what I was seeing. There was something covering his face.
No, there was nothing covering his face. He didn’t have a face.
I touched my cheek and pulled back my finger. Blood. I’d been sprayed with blood. What kind of spell could—?
Lori fell to her knees, screaming and clutching her shoulder. Blood oozed from between her fingers. Jake dropped beside her.
“Get—!” Mom began.
Lori jerked forward, hands flying out. Red blossomed on her chest.
Not a spell. A gun. I looked around, but saw nothing, just us and the cars and a few buildings at least fifty yards—
“Sniper,” Mom whispered. “Stay down, baby. Please stay down. I cast a cover spell.”
“We need to get inside,” I said. “We can inch toward the warehouse.”
“Okay. Just stay on your belly. I’ll cast blur spells as we go.”
We started backing up. Jake was dragging Lori, screaming for someone to get help, call 911, anything. Mom’s hand tightened on my arm.
“You can’t help them,” she said.
I looked around. Andi stood there, looking dazed, even as another bullet whizzed by her. Only Will lay on his stomach, a few feet away, partially hidden by a rusted oil drum.
“We need to tell them to get inside,” I whispered.
“No, they’ll draw fire.”
I could pretend she meant if I tried to help, they could draw fire to us. She didn’t. It was like back in the jail, when Jaime and I let the witch—Keiran—leave, knowing she’d clear the way.
“Get inside!” I shouted. “It’s a sniper. You need to get in the warehouse.”
“No!” Will yelled. “In the cars. Get in the cars. We’ll be trapped in the warehouse.”
“A sniper can see you in the cars. You need to—”
“The cars!” he cut in. “Everyone in the cars.” He drowned me out and sure enough Odele and Andi started for the cars, Odele in the lead. Then a bullet took her out. Andi froze and looked both ways. She took one shaky step toward the warehouse.
“No!” Will yelled. “Andi, run for the cars!”
Damn it, he was going to get them killed. No time to argue. I didn’t see which direction Andi chose. We reached the warehouse door and Mom yanked me inside and slammed it shut.
Jake was already inside the warehouse, bent over Lori. I knelt beside her and felt for a pulse. There wasn’t one. I crouched there, staring down at her lifeless body, her swollen stomach. Jake was sobbing that we needed to call for help, someone had to call for help, his voice barely audible now, just repeating the same loop.
A car door slammed. Then I heard a shout, so hoarse I couldn’t tell if it was Andi or Will. A moment later, someone hit the warehouse door, as if falling against it.
“Let me in,” Will croaked. “I’ve been shot.”
Mom cut me off, shoving me behind the door. “Stay there.”
Will pounded now. “Open up! Damn you, open the door!”
I stumbled to the wall and plastered myself against it. I checked my cell phone. No service. Of course. Blocked, I was guessing. If you’re going to launch an ambush, you’re going to be smart enough to keep anyone from calling for help.
Staying behind the door, Mom opened it. She didn’t help Will in, just waited until he staggered through, then slammed it shut.
“I’ve been shot, you bitch,” he muttered, cradling his arm.
“That’s no reason to let the rest of us die with you. Not when you were the idiot who told them to get in the cars. I don’t hear an engine running. Can I presume Andi won’t be joining us?”
“They got her.”
“Shot through the car window, right?” I said as I cast a light ball.
He glowered. “Are you going to help me or do you want me to grovel first?”
“Neither,” Mom said. “Savannah? Get in deeper. I’m putting a perimeter spell on the door. Then we’ll need to scout for more entry points.”
“Savannah?” Will said. “I thought her name was—”
Mom snapped our glamour spells. Or I presume she did, because Will’s expression went from “what the hell?” to “what the hell?” in an eye blink.
“I know you,” Will said, staring at me. “You’re Lucas Cortez’s kid.”
Mom’s eyebrows shot up at that, but she only said, “Go deeper, Savannah. Now.”
I crawled back to Jake, ignoring Mom’s protests. I touched his arm. “She’s gone,” I said.
He shook his head, tears falling on Lori’s body. “Sh-she can’t be.”
“You know she is,” I whispered. “And you know she wouldn’t want you to sit here, waiting to get shot.”
“I don’t care,” he whispered.
I looked down at Lori and I thought of her in the meeting house, talking about a new life for their child. That’s all they wanted. All any new parents want, I suppose. Lori and Jake weren’t stupid. They weren’t evil. They were just two kids, not much older than me, in love, having a baby. They’d joined to secure the future of that baby, no matter how misguided that was, and now that child would never be born and I think, of everything that happened, all the tragedies I’d seen since I met Giles, this was the worst. The one that made me want to run outside and scream, “I don’t care what all of you want—look at what you’re doing!”
Instead I took a deep breath and told Jake, “She’d care. She’d want you to live. You know that.”
I took his arm. He let me lead him away.
If you’ve seen one warehouse, you’ve seen them all. Well, not exactly, but when you run with the crowd I do, you see a lot of abandoned or little-used warehouses. They’re the hideout of choice for supernaturals up to no good. This one looked like all the rest—a huge cavernous space filled with crap.
“You’re Savannah Levine,” Will said, following us as I pushed aside a box to clear a path. “You work for Lucas Cortez. He’s your guardian.”
“Savannah Levine,” Jake whispered, as if to himself. “Your dad is—was—Kristof Nast.”
“It’s bullshit,” Will said. “Your mom tried to scam the Nasts by claiming you were Kristof’s daughter.”
“Excuse me?” Mom walked out of the darkness, bow case in hand, the glow seeping through. “I didn’t ever claim Kristof was her father.”
Will gaped as she strode past him and Jake to catch up with me. “You’re … You’re Eve Levine?”
I looked at Mom. “I think that’s the first time you’ve ever been identified after me.”
“I’ve been dead too long.” She waved at a pile of refuse. “You boys crawl in there and hide, since you seem to be pretty much useless otherwise. Savannah and I will secure the building. They must be surrounding it now. Taking their time because we’re trapped.”
When Will opened his mouth, I expected him to say that’s why he’d advised against coming in here. Instead, he said, “So she’s not a Nast, right?”
“That isn’t exactly important right now, but because I hate being called a gold-digging slut, I’ll confirm it. She’s a Nast. Now hide.”
Will looked like someone had hit him in the gut. Mom waved for me to join her as we circled the perimeter.There weren’t any windows, which made it safer for us. We walked quickly along the walls, taking turns casting sensing spells. There was no one out there. Not yet. As Mom said, we were trapped, so they were taking their time closing the net.
Mom took her sword from the case and slung it on her back. “It won’t help against guns, but it’s easier than lugging it around.” She left the case on a crate. “Now, we need to figure out how to get a message to—” She stopped. “Cell phones. Have you called—?”
“No service. That’s the first thing I tried.”
“Right.” She shook her head. “I really have been dead too long.”