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|Thirteen(Women of the Otherworld #13) by Kelley Armstrong|
“I … see. I suppose Jeremy thinks that’s clever, leaving Clayton as de facto Alpha while not antagonizing those who wouldn’t want him leading the Pack.”
I opened my mouth to say that wasn’t the case, but Adam shook his head. If this guy knew so much about the Pack—and had superhearing—that meant he was a werewolf. An old-school mutt. Meaning it was best to keep issues of equality out of the conversation.
“And your name?” I said.
“Miguel Santos,” he said.
“I thought—” I began.
Then I stopped myself, as I struggled to recall the names of the Santos family who’d been Pack members. I had a decent knowledge of Pack history. After so many summers at Jeremy’s estate—Stonehaven—I’d been permitted to read the Legacy.
Jeremy had been challenged for the Alpha position by his father, Malcolm, a brutal son of a bitch who’d been backed primarily by the Santos family. There were two Santos brothers, one of whom had three sons. Two of those sons and their uncle had been killed in the fight for Ascension. The father and youngest son left. That son—Daniel—had led an uprising against the Pack years later. Daniel had been killed, meaning the only living Santos from those days would be his father. The age seemed about right, but his name was Raymond, and I was sure I’d heard that Raymond—like Malcolm—had died years before Daniel.
Our neighbor didn’t jump in with an explanation, just quietly waited as I worked it through.
“You weren’t Pack, were you?” I said.
“Only as a child. I left at sixteen. After that, I was on the cusp of membership twice. Malcolm Danvers wanted me back in, but I was … undecided. I spent a few weekends with my brothers—Wally and Raymond—many years ago, when I was considering joining. So I know Clayton and the current Alpha.”
“Yes. Not the woman, though. That was after my time. I do recall hearing a rumor that Clayton had bitten a mate.” He chuckled. “I should have known it was true. Where other wolves whine about being lonely, he solves the problem. Not what I’d want— I never understood the whining myself—but I take it he’s happy?”
“A mate, children, an Alpha-hood to come, if unofficially. Yes, he must be happy. I’m glad to hear it. I was always fond of the boy. I’ve heard rumors through the years. He has quite a reputation, which I was glad to hear, too. I always worried, with the influence of …” He paused. “I wasn’t as fond of the current Alpha. I mean no disrespect, as he seems to be a friend of yours. He just wasn’t … my sort of man or my sort of werewolf. Not like Clayton.”
I bristled at the insult to Jeremy, but I couldn’t hold it against the guy. He seemed a typical werewolf—all muscle and testosterone. To them, someone like Clayton was a real werewolf, if they overlooked his PhD and cozy domestic life. Jeremy was too cerebral. But even those types would have to grudgingly agree that the Pack was thriving. Growing now, having overcome internal division and external attacks. A solid and unified force, undivided since Jeremy’s Ascension.
Naysayers would credit Clayton as the true power in the Pack, a claim that made him laugh. This mutt Miguel might not like Jeremy much, but he’d like him a whole lot more when Jeremy used his influence to get him out.
Cabals weren’t allowed to hold American werewolves captive. If they committed a crime, they had to be turned over to the Pack for punishment. Which, all things considered, might not have been in Miguel’s best interests. But whatever he’d done, it must have been at least twenty years ago if he didn’t know Elena. Jeremy would probably decide he’d been punished enough. Either way, he’d get Miguel out.
I slept a little after that, curled up against Adam, with his arm over me. When we woke up, new bottles of water had been pushed through the opening, along with extra blankets, as if they’d just realized there were two of us. They’d replaced the bucket, too.
In the faint light from the corridor, I could see that some of Adam’s bruises were already fading. His ribs ached, but he insisted they were cracked not broken. Our neighbor wasn’t the only one with enough fighting experience to recognize the signs.
Miguel noticed we were awake and chatted with us for a while. It was an oddly normal conversation, like being on an overseas flight, occasionally talking to the guy beside you, but mostly just doing your own thing.
He’d heard rumors that something was going on. I gave him the basics. If he had an opinion about supernaturals revealing themselves, he didn’t give it.
Adam and I also played games. When we’d unfolded the extra blankets, we’d found a pack of cards tucked inside. Did they give them to all prisoners? Or did we have a sympathetic guard out there? Someone who knew who I was and liked Sean? We hoped so.
There were other things I wanted to talk about. Personal things. I got the sense Adam felt the same, from the looks he’d slant my way when he thought I wouldn’t notice. But neither of us said anything. It wasn’t the time. Or the place. Especially with our neighbor listening.
So we played cards. And chatted. And curled up under the blankets together to rest.
When a guard came again, hours later, it wasn’t the same one. He wasn’t even wearing the same uniform, just standard-issue Nast security garb. When he approached our cell, he lifted a finger to his lips before we could speak, then waved us over close to the bars.
“Sean sent me,” he whispered. “He doesn’t dare come himself—his uncle has men watching for him. He’s in Miami with Bryce. I’m going to take you to him.”
When we hesitated, he said, “Sean says you both owe him now and that means he’s never riding Trixie again.”
Adam laughed. Trixie was an old nag at a ranch we liked in Colorado. The last time we were there, they’d sold the horse Sean usually rode, and he’d wanted to flip coins to see who had to ride Trixie. We’d refused. It wasn’t something anyone else would know about.
The guard unlocked the door. “Hurry. Captain Kaufman is waiting for you.”
As we stepped out, a voice floated from the next cell. “You’ll remember me, won’t you?”
“I will,” I said and stopped at his cell. “I’ll tell Jeremy you’re in here. He’ll do something about it.”
Miguel had moved back into the shadows. But as dark as this place was, my eyes had grown accustomed to the dim light, and I could see him plainly. Judging the age of a werewolf is a tricky thing. The man in the cell looked about the guard’s age—late forties, early fifties. His dark hair was barely shot with silver. He was an inch or so shorter than me, broad-shouldered with a muscular build. Blue eyes, but an average blue, nothing outstanding. I supposed he would be considered good-looking for his age, but I found it hard to see that, because I knew who this man was. Not Miguel Santos.
“Did I mention I used to spend summers at Stonehaven?” I said.
His lips twisted in a sardonic smile. “I find that hard to believe, my dear. The Pack does not—”
“They don’t like outsiders. A twelve-year-old friend of the family isn’t so bad, though, as long as she knows her place and treats them with respect. That’s one thing Clay made sure I knew. Treat Stonehaven and everyone in it with respect. I screwed that up once.”
“We need to move,” the guard whispered.
I continued, “There’s this bedroom, see. A locked bedroom. It’s the twins’ room now, but when I was growing up, it was always locked and when I asked what was in it, everyone changed the subject. So one day I used an unlock spell and broke in. Clay caught me. Gave me proper hell. But he did tell me whose room it was. He didn’t really need to, because I saw photos in that room and I figured it out. Do you know who I saw in those photos?”
The man said nothing, but his gaze settled on me and in that gaze I saw something colder than any glower from Josef Nast. It took me a second to find my voice. When I did, I leaned against the bars and whispered, “I saw you. And no, Malcolm, I will not tell Jeremy you are here.”
I asked the guard—Curry as he introduced himself—if my mother was down here. He said no, and he didn’t know where she was, but that Sean’s men were searching for her.
He led us down the corridor into an empty room with chairs and desks and an ancient refrigerator and microwave.
“The guards?” I whispered.
“Only one on duty. He was called from his post.”
I arched my brows. “It’s that easy?”
“To call him from his post, yes, because even if a prisoner does manage to get out, there’s no place to go except up—straight into Nast headquarters.”
“Seriously? We’re in the basement? How do they hide this?”
“It’s not just a basement.” Curry opened a door and ushered us into a long hall with rusty pipes overhead. “Do you smell the water? Best construction in the world can’t make this place any drier. Ninety-five percent of folks up top don’t know these cells exist. Another four percent were told it was closed down twenty years ago. That’s what Sean heard, too.”
“He never checked?” Adam said. That seemed odd for Sean. At one time, yes, he preferred to bury his head in the sand. That had changed, though.
“He probably did,” Curry said. “I know I did. But the old doors are all sealed. They made a new one. A hidden door from the processing room. Prisoners go in to be processed and sent to one of the prison complexes and then …”
“They’re misplaced,” I muttered. “Through a chute in the floor.”
“Something like that. Point is—” He opened another door and led us into what looked like a storage room. “The only way out is right through the middle of security central. And there’s no way to bribe or disable that many guards.”
“So how will we—?”
As we walked into the room, Captain Kaufman stepped from behind a wire rack stacked with boxes. He extended his hand. I shook it and introduced him to Adam.
“You did meet,” I said. “But you were unconscious at the time.”
“My apologies for that,” Kaufman said. “Those men weren’t part of my team. That isn’t how we do things.” He waved toward the cells. “This isn’t how we do things.”
“It’s how Josef Nast does things. And I’m betting Thomas knows this place is down here, too.”
Kaufman shifted uncomfortably. Even if he was loyal to my brother, he wouldn’t disparage the man who was still in charge.
“Just get us out of here,” Adam said.
Kaufman and Curry led us into more storage. No metal racks and neat wooden boxes here. This was a hole in the ground, stuffed with rotting crates and stinking of dead rats.
“Let me guess,” I said. “There’s a secret passage in here, right through the sewers.”
Kaufman flicked on his vest light. Curry did the same. I started to cast a light-ball spell then stopped. I could see fine by their lights.
Kaufman stopped in front of a door. A big, metal door, right there, plain as day. Beside it, a security scanner was set into the concrete wall.
“That’s a lousy secret hatch,” I said.
“It’s not a secret. Not to anyone who works down here.”
Kaufman took my hand and pulled it toward the box.
“Fingers outstretched please, Miss Nast.”
My hand went into the box. A mechanical whir. Something tapped my thumb. Then—
“Yow!” I yanked my hand out. My fingertip was bleeding. “If it requires virgin blood, you’ve got the wrong girl.”
Kaufman just stood there, ramrod straight, watching the door. I glanced at Curry. He was puffing softly, anxiety building to panic as we waited for …
Another whir. Then a clank. A green light flashed over the door. Kaufman grabbed the handle. As he glanced back at me, his gaze went to Curry, who looked ready to piss his pants with relief.
“I’m sorry, sir.” Curry looked at me. “I’m sorry, miss. I didn’t mean … I’m sorry.”
Kaufman pulled open the door as Adam murmured, “Nast blood.”
I shot him a puzzled glance as we walked through.
“The door lock,” Adam said. “It’s some kind of DNA reader.”
“It’s an escape route for the family,” Kaufman said as he prodded us along.
A door that would only open to those with Nast DNA. That’s why Curry had been worried. He hadn’t been certain I really was Sean’s sister, only that Sean himself believed it.
Speaking of which, “So there’s an escape route for the family that my brothers don’t know about? That doesn’t help them, does it?”
“They’d be told if the situation required it,” Kaufman said.
Yes, but it proved where Thomas Nast’s priorities lay. Better to keep the top-secret jail a top secret from anyone who might argue against it, even if that meant possibly denying his grandsons access to an emergency escape.
On the other side of the door, lights flicked on automatically as we walked. God forbid a Nast should need to carry a flash-light. Or learn a witch’s light-ball spell.
There was no stench of dead rat here. No dripping concrete walls or mud floor either. It wasn’t exactly a state-of-the-art jetway, but it was clean, sterile even, a long metal tube with railings on either side as the floor gradually sloped upward.