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|Thirteen(Women of the Otherworld #13) by Kelley Armstrong|
“Yes. And you didn’t, because as much as you pretended otherwise, there was a bond between us. You were loyal to Jeremy, but I was the one who understood you.”
“Huh. Well, I’d disagree, but I know one person who does understand me.” He looked up as Elena climbed off Malcolm.
“Thank you, darling.”
Malcolm smirked and started getting to his feet. A left hook from Clay knocked him back off them. Clay grabbed Malcolm before he could regain his footing.
“Do you know why he didn’t kill you all those years ago?” Elena said. “Because Jeremy would know Clay did it for him and he’d feel guilty. But Jeremy’s not here now. And he already thinks you’re dead. Which means I should thank you. Because today I get to give my husband a gift that’ll last me through a whole lotta anniversaries.”
Clay grinned. “And he appreciates it.”
“Good, but as much as I’d love to let you savor the moment, we are mid-escape here.”
“Don’t worry. This will be quick.”
He ducked Malcolm’s swing and threw him across the room. Malcolm bounced back fast, but now he was the one who was winded and battered from fighting. One look at Malcolm had given Clay all the energy he needed.
“Maybe quicker than I thought,” Clay said as he waited for Malcolm to recover from the next two blows. “This isn’t the fight I always imagined.”
“He’s old,” Elena said.
Malcolm snarled and ran at her. Clay tripped him, but Malcolm managed to keep his balance and get out of the way as Clay charged.
“If you want a proper fight, Clayton, let me go,” Malcolm said. “Challenge me later. Neither of us is in top form right now. You won’t get any glory from this bout if no one knows I’m still alive.”
“Glory?” Clay shook his head. “I don’t give a shit about glory, Malcolm. Have you forgotten that?”
“You care about your reputation. I know what you did—”
“Everyone knows what I did. That was the point. I only care about my reputation if it keeps my Alpha and my family safe. I won’t be keeping them safe if you walk away. I let you do that twenty-five years ago. I’m not doing it again.”
He charged. Malcolm feinted, but Clay managed to land a blow that sent him to the floor. As Clay bore down on him, the door burst open, and two guards ran in, guns drawn.
Savannah lifted her hands in a spell.
“Don’t do that, miss,” the man in front said. “We’re not going to stop you from leaving, but we do need that werewolf.”
Elena glanced over at Clay. She wanted to tell him not to listen, just go ahead, finish Malcolm off. For Jeremy’s sake, they had to kill Malcolm and never let Jeremy know he’d been alive. But when Clay glanced toward Malcolm, the guns swung his way.
“Please,” the guard said. “I don’t have any quarrel with the Pack, but I was sent to get this one. I need you to walk away.”
“Do you?” Elena said, meeting the man’s gaze. “What if you came in and he was already dead?”
“Then I’d have to explain why I didn’t stop you. And the men who left him here would have to explain why he wasn’t better secured. He’s valuable Cabal property, ma’am. I’m going to insist on this.”
When she looked over at Clay, he shook his head. He was right, of course. As leader of this mission, her priority was keeping him and Savannah safe.
“Later,” Clay murmured. “We’ll handle this later.”
He walked over to where Malcolm still lay on the ground. “Now that I know you’re alive? I won’t rest until you’re not. Remember that.”
Only two guards tried to stop us as we made our way out of Nast headquarters. The rest pretended not to notice us. One even distracted his comrades so we could sneak past.
In the immediate aftermath of Thomas’s death, the staff had turned to Josef, the senior high-ranking Nast. But as the shock passed and news of what happened spread, many must have been reconsidering that. Sean was heir, meaning he was now CEO, meaning it might not be wise to stop his sister from fleeing the building. Especially now, when word had spread that I really was his sister.
The moment we’d cleared the building and any cell blockers, Elena’s phone started vibrating. It was Lucas. We ducked between two vans in a nearby lot and she passed it to me while we caught our breath.
“We’re out,” I said. “And you?”
“Twenty minutes ago,” I heard Adam say in the background. “Where the hell were you?”
“Adam was concerned,” Lucas said.
“So I hear. We ran into … a werewolf Clay knew from years ago. There was a fight.”
Lucas didn’t ask for details. He knew that any mutt we bumped into would take advantage of the opportunity to fight Clay, and he’d have no choice but to stop and defend himself.
“Can you put Elena on?” Lucas said. “They have a car, and we all need to get to it.”
I handed over the phone. Elena gave Lucas directions as Clay started moving us along.
“We’re not telling Jeremy about Malcolm,” he said when Elena hung up.
Elena didn’t answer. When I glanced over, she was just walking, carefully scanning the road.
“I’m talking to you, Savannah,” Clay said. “Elena doesn’t need to be told that.”
“We aren’t telling Karl either,” she said. “Malcolm’s resurrection is staying between us.”
“Why not Karl, though?” I asked.
“Because I don’t want competition over who gets to kill the bastard,” Clay said.
“Malcolm killed Karl’s dad when he was about fifteen,” Elena explained. “Not a fair fight, if the rumors are true.”
“Mutt hunt,” Clay said as he checked around the next corner, then waved us onto the sidewalk. “Malcolm and the Santos men used to track down and kill mutts, even if they were staying out of trouble, minding their own business. Karl’s lucky he got away.”
“I think Karl blames himself for what happened,” Elena said. “But it’s not the kind of thing you can ask him about. He doesn’t need this now, though.”
We got to the car just before the others showed up, then we drove to Bryce’s condo. I’d never been there, not surprisingly given that until two days ago, Bryce and I hadn’t been on speaking terms. Sean had keys, also not surprisingly. He figured it wouldn’t be under surveillance, since the Nasts knew Bryce was in Miami, too sick to move. We could hole up for a bit and decide our next move.
From the outside, the building was exactly what I would have expected from Bryce. Very Nast. Ultramodern, with BMWs and Mercedes filling the lot, and probably more MBAs in the halls than in the Harvard School of Business. Not one of those professionals, bustling to or from work, said a word to us.
Walking through the door to Bryce’s place, though, was like walking into an entirely different building. It was painted in greens and rusts and oranges, oddly natural shades for a guy who snarked about the camping and hiking trips Sean took with Adam and me. The furniture was all chosen for comfort, big chairs and deep sofas. There were books, too, shelves stuffed with them. Along with stacks of music. Stacks covered in dust. Bryce had been a music student before our dad died. It was hard to remember that now.
Sean and I settled onto a couch in the living room. Clay and Elena had gone into Bryce’s home office to call Jeremy, and then the twins. Lucas was on the phone to Paige. Adam was hanging back, pretending to check out the artwork on the walls in the hall, giving me a moment with Sean.
The kitchen—which I could see through the living room door—was the only place that seemed to have escaped Bryce’s redecorating. It was all spotless white and gleaming black and glistening stainless steel, like something off the cooking shows Paige watched.
“Kitchen doesn’t get a lot of use, I see,” I said. “Seems all three of us got the take-out gene.”
My voice startled Sean. He looked at the kitchen, as if replaying what I’d said. Then he shook his head.
“Bryce cooks. He’s really good at it. He used to say he was going to be a chef one day. Dad took us over to France when Bryce was twelve, so he could go to a cooking school there for our vacation. Granddad …” He paused. Cleared his throat. “Granddad gave him shit for it. Said Dad was filling Bryce’s head with nonsense, but you know Dad. Anything we—” His voice cracked. “Anything we wanted. As long as we were happy.”
I put my hand on his arm and leaned against him. He hesitated a moment, then hugged me, his face pressed against my hair, and I could feel him shaking.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered. “I’m really, really sorry.”
He took a deep breath and spoke to the top of my head. “I hated what Granddad did to you and I hated how he treated Bryce, but he was still …” Another deep breath. “I saw other sides of him. Better sides.”
I sat up and met his eyes.
“I hope he went someplace …” He shook off the thought and cleared his throat. “It was good seeing Dad. Really good. I wish Bryce could have been there.”
I nodded, and leaned against him again, as he seemed to struggle to be happy about that part, to find some good in this hellish day. He couldn’t quite manage it. Seeing our father, only to lose him again, had hurt, like me with Mom.
Sean straightened suddenly. “Bryce.” He got to his feet and started for the hall. Lucas came in, Adam behind him. Sean said, “I need to be the one who tells Bryce about Granddad.”
Lucas nodded. “I thought you’d want to. I already told my father that, though I believe he’d presume the same. Bryce woke up about an hour ago, but they’ve put him back under.”
“Put him under?” I said.
“Medically induced coma,” Sean said. He drew in a deep, ragged breath. “He’s not doing so well, Savannah. I need to get back to him.”
“Me, too. I mean, not that he wants to see me—”
“He does. But I should go now, even if only for a day.” He needed to stake his leadership claim with the Cabal. But his brother came first. He always would.
“We’ll go to Miami right away,” Adam said. “Is the jet here?”
“It is,” Lucas said. “You should go soon.”
“You aren’t coming back?” I said.
“Not yet. I need Adam to stay here, too.”
“What? No.” Adam stopped as he’d been about to sit beside me. “Sorry, Lucas, but whatever’s going on, I need to sit this one out. I’m in rough shape.”
“He is,” I said. “Those bruises aren’t all from today. The guards who arrested him beat the crap—”
Adam cleared his throat.
“Sorry. There was a fight. His ribs are cracked. He needs a break.”
“Never thought I’d hear that,” Sean said, managing a smile.
Adam looked abashed, muttering that he’d be fine in a day or two.
There was a moment of silence. Adam squirmed. I did, too. We both wanted to go back to Miami so we could have some time alone together. Under the circumstances, it was selfish, and we knew it. Finally, with an apologetic look my way, Adam said, “Lucas, if you really need me …”
“I do. I’m sorry. I don’t need you to fight, just to get us into some difficult places.”
Adam looked up. “If you need me to disintegrate doors when you’ve got werewolf strength and unlock spells, we’re talking heavy fortifications.”
“We are. Also multiple points of entry and multiple security systems.” He turned to Sean. “When Bryce woke up, he told us where he thinks they’re holding the Dahl boy.”
Larsen Dahl was the clairvoyant toddler whom Bryce had helped the liberation movement kidnap. Bryce been trying to infiltrate the group by giving them something they wanted so he’d be able to gather information. He’d been planning to take Larsen back and then give the info to the Cabal. Giles had seen through the ploy, though, and Bryce’s “reward” had been that shot they’d injected him with.
Getting the boy—and his parents—back was a priority. Equally important was the chance to take their captors hostage—they might be able to answer some questions about the movement. I offered to help, too, but Lucas said no, that I really had been through enough. They needed me back at headquarters to explain everything. And for another reason: they needed me there to keep me safe, because as far as a faction of the Nasts was concerned, I’d just murdered their CEO.
Thomas and Josef had hoped to somehow overthrow the Cortezes by putting me on trial with false evidence. How? As Sean said, it was likely just a step in a long plan. It didn’t matter now, because Balaam had twisted their plot to his own advantage.
The murder of Thomas Nast would drive the Nast Cabal into chaos when it could least afford it. Since Balaam had pretended he’d done it to save me, I became the scapegoat. Make me—Lucas Cortez’s ward—the scapegoat and you ensured there would be no alliance between Cabals to fight the liberation movement. Put Sean on the run with me, and you further divided the Nasts, rendering the biggest Cabal impotent in the face of this threat.
Such an elegant play. A move truly worthy of a lord demon. I’d be whole lot more impressed if I wasn’t at the heart of it.
We left shortly after that. The Cortezes had moved the jet to another regional airport, not yet being monitored by the Nasts.