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|Thirteen(Women of the Otherworld #13) by Kelley Armstrong|
I looked over at him. “I am taking it seriously. I just … I’m fine for now. We’ll watch this space, okay?”
He nodded. Then he reached into his pocket. “It seems Adam is quite concerned that you’ll suffer separation anxiety, being away from your cell phone for too long. I’ve replaced it—again.”
“Thanks. I’ll try not to fall into a sewer or get kidnapped again.”
I opened the phone. There was already a text from Adam, checking in. I was about to text back when the elevator reached its destination. We stepped out onto the floor that housed the medical ward.
Sean arrived a moment later and caught up with us. “Is Bryce still unconscious?” he asked Benicio.
“Yes, but I can have them wake him if you’d like.”
Sean shook his head. “I’ll just sit with him.”
When we got to the room, though, the doctors were busy with Bryce and asked us to wait outside. I ducked into a nearby office to call Adam.
“Hey,” I said when he answered. “Did I catch you in the middle of a top-secret break-and-enter?”
“I wish. Everything’s moving slowly here. Very slowly. I’m getting plenty of rest. So what’s up there?”
“I have a six-foot-four shadow. I’m just glad it’s Troy. I like Griffin well enough but … you know.”
“Not exactly a sociable guy.” He hesitated. “But I’m glad you have someone. It makes me feel better.”
I could tell it didn’t really make him feel better. If Lucas was Benicio’s right-hand man, Troy was his left. To give me his most trusted guard when trouble was brewing? It said I was in more danger than I thought.
“I just hope he’s not going to follow me too closely after you get back,” I said.
“We’ll make sure he doesn’t.”
“About that. Us. The others … I don’t know how you want to … handle it. Should I talk to Paige? You talk to Lucas? Or are we going to see how things go first … ?”
“I should be the one to tell them. If they have a problem with it, they’ll want to talk to me. Their biggest concern will be you—that you’ll get hurt …” He trailed off and my heart started to thump.
“Still here. Just thinking that maybe we should hold off telling them.”
It thumped harder.
“Just for now,” he continued. “Until we’ve had a chance to talk.”
Really thumping now. “Okay.”
Sean popped his head in the door. “Anytime you’re ready.”
I said good-bye to Adam, and tried to push the call from my mind as I followed Sean into the hospital room.
When I saw Bryce, my gaze shot to Sean to gauge his reaction. All I saw was relief, meaning Bryce must not look any worse than he did last night.
Dead. He looked dead.
I’ve only been to a few funerals in my life. I avoided them growing up. It brought back too much; not just my mother’s death, but the thought that she’d never had one, that she didn’t even have a grave, that I had no idea where her body was.
As I got older, I went when my presence meant something to someone else. Like when Adam’s grandmother passed on. Or when Paige lost a childhood friend to cancer. Or when a cousin of Lucas’s died in a car crash.
This was like seeing my brother laid out in a casket. His tanned skin was sallow. His blond hair was combed wrong. His hands were folded on his stomach. His lips were unnaturally red, as if a mortician had applied lipstick.
Was he breathing? It didn’t look like it.
The first thing Sean did was fix Bryce’s hair.
“Hey, Bryce,” he said. “I’m back. I brought Savannah with me.”
I moved up alongside him and said hello. Sean talked a bit more to him, somehow managing to relate the last twenty-four hours with no mention of dungeons and sham trials, the death of our grandfather, and the utter devastation that had befallen the Nast Cabal.
When Sean stopped talking, we sat with Bryce for a minute. Then the doctor poked his head through the door, and instead of waving him in, Sean motioned him out of the room.
“But I’d like to hear—” I began.
“Out there,” he said.
We followed the doctor to the office where I’d called Adam. Sean explained to me that he’d insisted no one discuss Bryce’s condition in the room. Comatose patients sometimes could hear what was going on around them, and he wasn’t taking that chance.
“His condition is stable,” the doctor said. “At this point—”
“That’s all we can hope for,” Sean cut in, uncharacteristically impatient. “Yes, yes. I know. Until you know what it is, you can’t treat it.”
“We are making inroads,” the doctor said. “We’ve finally been able to analyze his DNA and pinpoint the modifications that were made.”
“Modifications?” I said. “To his DNA?”
Sean’s nod to me was curt, just short of “shut up and listen.” Then he caught himself and squeezed my arm. “Sorry. This is all new to you, isn’t it? Bryce’s genetic code has been altered. It sounds scary—it is scary—but we presume the changes are supernatural in nature. That’s what happens, for example, when a vampire is reborn or a werewolf is bitten. A makeover at the genetic level.”
“That’s what it is, isn’t it?” I said. “Vampire.”
“In part,” the doctor said. “It’s a hybrid, which is why it was so difficult to analyze. There’s also werewolf.”
“Werewolf and vampire?” Sean said.
“Yes, and a third strand, too. We’re … we’re still running tests on that. We have preliminary results, but I’m reluctant to say anything yet. Even if we are correct, we’ve seen no signs that it’s had any negative effect, despite what one might think—”
“Zombie,” I said. “That’s the third type, isn’t it?”
He hesitated, then nodded.
It wasn’t a lucky guess. We had known from Cassandra’s WWII run-in with Giles that his immortality experiments combined vampires with zombies.
The doctor hurried on, “But we’ve seen no signs of deterioration. The Boyd Cabal has been experimenting with zombie DNA for years, in hopes that it might unlock the secrets to immortality, and they’ve made some advances. We think some of their researchers were involved in this. It seems—”
He stopped and cleared his throat. “Mr. Cortez will want to explain all that. It isn’t my place. But I can assure you that your brother’s condition is stable. We are, however, going to keep him in the coma, while the DNA transformation continues. That seems … best.”
“What happened?” I asked.
The doctor looked over sharply. “I didn’t say—”
“Something happened when he woke up, didn’t it?”
The doctor looked at Sean with anxious eyes.
“Please answer my sister,” Sean said.
He hesitated, then said, “We are unfamiliar with the transformation process of a bitten werewolf. Fortunately we have someone here who has taken one through the Change successfully.”
“Jeremy Danvers,” I said. “With Elena.”
He hesitated. “Yes, sorry, I forgot you are acquainted with them. We are also fortunate that Mr. Danvers was in the building when your brother woke and with his assistance—”
“What happened?” Sean said.
“He began, uh …”
“Changing,” I said. “Into a wolf.”
“Not exact—” He cleared his throat again. “Mr. Danvers has only witnessed one initial transformation of a bitten werewolf, and that’s hardly a sample large enough for generalization—”
“It wasn’t a normal Change,” I said. “Something’s wrong.”
“I—I believe you should speak to Mr. Cortez about this. And to Mr. Danvers, who should still be available—”
“He is,” said a voice from the doorway. Jeremy stepped in. “I heard you were back. I need to speak to you both about Bryce.”
The doctor got out of there as fast as he could. Jeremy told us that Bryce had woken and started what looked like a partial Change. That was normal. As were the screams of agony that went with it, though Jeremy downplayed those for Sean’s sake. Bryce had been fevered to the point of delirium, also normal from Jeremy’s experience with Elena. What concerned him was the rate at which the Change came on.
“It’s happening faster than I saw with Elena,” he said. “It appears to be a mutated form of werewolf, as well. More similar to the Shifters the Pack encountered in Alaska.”
The Shifters were a small group of what appeared to be an evolutionary precursor to modern werewolves. Jeremy and the others Changed into wolves—real wolves. Those guys had been closer to the beastlike Hollywood wolfman.
“We were concerned about the damage the Change might be doing to his body,” Jeremy said. “I had them administer a sedative. It was then that he was able to tell us what he knew about Larsen Dahl.”
“So the moment he recovers from nearly changing into a wolfman, Benicio grills him about that?” I said.
Jeremy gave me a look. “I would not have allowed that, Savannah. Bryce offered the information. He didn’t seem to realize he’d started to Change.”
“Is that normal?”
“No. But none of this is normal.”
My cell phone bleeped that I had a message. Jeremy’s buzzed at the same time.
I checked mine, then looked at him. “Benicio?”
“He wants me to come up as soon as we’re done here, so I can debrief them and be debriefed.” I glanced at Sean. “He’d like you to join us, if you can.”
Paige met us heading into the meeting and gave me a rundown on everyone’s whereabouts. Lucas was still in L.A., of course, with Adam, Clay, and Elena. He’d be joining us by phone when he could. Aaron and Cassandra were dealing with trouble in Washington, where some moron had tried to expose a vampire. Jaime was here, but waiting for my parents to contact her, and wouldn’t be joining us. Hope was present, with Karl, who was worried sick, probably because Hope was still having disturbing visions while heavily pregnant. There were also assorted Cabal executives on hand. When I walked in, though, I noticed one conspicuous absence.
“Where’s Carlos?” I whispered.
“Putting out fires in New York,” Paige whispered back as we found seats.
“Benicio suggested it. Carlos’s men agreed. They’re convinced this is his opportunity to show his leadership skills.”
“What leadership skills?”
“Exactly. But they went along to prop up their straw man, and Benicio says together they’re competent enough.” She pulled out her chair. “So Carlos is out of everyone’s hair and may actually be doing something useful.”
That was one potential problem resolved. At the meeting, though, I realized it was only a drop in the bucket.
I thought I knew how bad things were getting. But I’d only seen what was right in front of me, a narrow slice of the chaos rolling over the supernatural world.
Benicio played us footage of some of the attacks made by the anti-reveal movement. A hell-beast had manifested in the New York subway system. Blurry video showed a subway train arriving at a crowded station. The beast appears. Only a few see it, but panic whips through the crowd. Someone says it’s a bomb. People are trampled. People fall onto the tracks in front of the oncoming train. Too many people fall onto the tracks, meaning magic is at play.
Hundreds of people claimed to have been there. Most, it turned out, hadn’t been within five miles. Reputable news sources were already writing it off as mass hysteria, at most some large animal loose in the subway. The exposure threat? Minimal … so far.
Then, in Nashville, during a rooftop wedding reception, two uninvited guests appear: a werewolf and a vampire. Not just any werewolf and vampire, but ones that—judging by the blurry cell phone images on the Internet—had been locked up and starved long enough to tip them into madness.
Neither the Pack nor the council recognized the wretches. From the babble caught on those tapes, they seemed to be speaking foreign languages. Caught outside the U.S. or lured in, held captive, starved, driven mad … and released on a rooftop filled with half-drunk wedding revelers with the exit doors barred behind them, a cell phone blocker cutting off all hopes of aid.
Bodies began hitting the pavement, party-goers so desperate to escape that they leaped to their deaths. By the time authorities reached the roof, all the guests and event staff were dead. The were-wolf and vampire were gone, too, leaving only cell phone videos of two disheveled and crazed “humans” ripping people apart.
“The group responsible hasn’t launched an attack in twelve hours now,” Benicio said after the cases had been presented. “We’ve captured three key members and they are undergoing interrogation. Another half dozen members have been detained. Still more have been stopped.”
He meant killed. No one needed the clarification.
“As most of you are aware, the Boyd Cabal has been working with us on this. They disabled one branch before it could act. The St. Clouds handled another, but after the death of Thomas Nast, they have cut off contact with us. We can trust, however, that they will continue their efforts.”