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|Thirteen(Women of the Otherworld #13) by Kelley Armstrong|
Now, if some guy had said to me “Hey, come watch me summon Lucifer and threaten to kill his daughter and his first grandchild,” I’d have caught the next plane heading in the opposite direction. But these were regular supernaturals, and they had no more experience with demons than your average human. They didn’t know any better.
“When is this demonstration supposed to take place?” Benicio asked.
“As soon as possible. But he has to give people time to get to the compound. He was talking about doing it tomorrow night if they got her tonight.” He paused. “Or I guess it’s tomorrow already. Tonight, then. After people have had time to arrive.”
“And this compound? Where is it?”
That’s where Brett—like Roni—was a lot less helpful. Only select members knew the location. The rest only knew that they flew into the Indianapolis airport, were picked up in a van, and were driven out into the countryside for a couple of hours.
“We can try contacting Kimerion again,” I said. “Or even Asmondai. A demon will be able to find it.”
“No, they won’t,” Brett said. “Giles knew demons and deities would get involved and interfere. He chose a location they can’t find. He can summon them there, but they can’t locate it on their own.”
There was nothing else he knew that might prove useful, so we left him then, to the ministrations of the Cabal medical team.
When we stepped out with Benicio, I asked Adam. “Do you know what kind of locations he’s talking about? Ones that demons can’t find?”
“I have some ideas—” He stopped. “Demons and deities. That would cover demons and demi-demons, demi-gods, angels, and presumably anything higher up the celestial hierarchy. But there are other entities. Lower spirits.”
“Which we have no way of communicating with,” I said. “I’ve summoned elemental spirits by accident, but they don’t speak.”
“Whether they’re even sentient is in question,” Adam said.
“There are older entities that might try to pass on a message, but don’t really know how.”
“They would be limited to old languages,” Benicio said.
“Their knowledge of even those might not be sufficient to communicate coherently.”
“Hope’s message,” I said. “Someone was giving us directions.”
“Directions” was pushing it. The spirit had done exactly what you’d expect from a being that doesn’t have a lot of experience communicating with humans. He’d given lots of details that were useless until you plugged in the theory that the place was in or near Indianapolis and had magical properties that would keep out trespassing major entities. Then you could start plucking out the geographic references and making sense of them.
Benicio called the entire research department in early, along with a few people from HR, and put them to the task of finding all staff—from janitors to managers—who’d lived in Indiana.
By seven, the research wing was busier than I’d ever seen it. The employees weren’t thrilled to be dragged out of bed so early, but they were a bit happier when they found a gourmet breakfast buffet waiting for them, and a lot happier when Benicio promised them all three paid days off for the inconvenience, plus bonuses for anyone bringing him useful information.
I hoped Adam qualified for those bonuses, because he showed up the Cabal’s entire team. He focused on sites that supernatural historians called “spirit blocked.” In other words, sites that higher order spirits were said to be unable to locate.
Most were on ley lines and other geographic locations that humans think have special powers. They don’t. But like ordinary humans, supernaturals hold a mishmash of beliefs, human and otherworldly. So they, too, often seek out these “special” spots to conduct powerful rituals. Maybe out of honest belief or maybe like clutching a rabbit’s foot while picking the lottery numbers—you’re pretty sure it’s not going to help, but it can’t hurt.
Now if your average person is asked to locate the nearest ley line, he’s going to have some trouble. Same with supernaturals. So there are about a hundred “hot spots” that get passed along among practitioners. When supernaturals flock to these sites and conduct rituals for a century or two, mystical or not, you’re going to screw with the mojo of that place. It becomes spirit-blocked, which is great, because then you don’t have to worry about unwanted guests. Which means the places become even more popular.
There were six spirit-blocked sites within a four-hour drive of Indianapolis. With that list, and staff familiar with the areas, plus researchers analyzing satellite photos, we soon found our spot.
Karl was out of surgery. He’d survived, but now the surgeon was saying it would be a miracle if he made it to noon.
After she left, Clay said, “Bullshit. You know what she cares about? Same thing everyone else here cares about. One, impressing the boss. Two, not pissing off the boss.”
“They do appear to be erring on the side of caution,” Jeremy said. “Extreme caution. Before you arrived, I tried to get more details of his injuries. I may not be a doctor, but she knows I understand the terminology. She stayed vague, which suggests his condition wasn’t as bad as she feared before she started operating.”
“She just doesn’t want us to know that,” I said. “If she says the bullet wounds weren’t critical, and he dies, she’s in trouble. If she pretends he’s at death’s door and she saved him, she gets a big bonus.”
“Either way she’s motivated.” Adam glanced toward the ward. “Is Karl still sedated?”
Jeremy nodded. “He should wake in an hour or two, but I’m considering asking them to keep him under until we have news. Preferably good news.”
“Yeah,” Clay said. “He wakes up and Hope’s gone? He’s not staying in that bed. I wouldn’t.”
“He’ll kill himself going after her,” Elena said. “I say keep him under.”
Jeremy nodded. “Agreed.”
Elena drew Clay aside for a moment. She whispered something to him, and he whispered a response, and then she stepped back to us, turning to Jeremy.
“I’m not going to Indiana. Karl should have someone here who knows him, to speak for him if things go wrong. As Alpha, you need to lead the rescue. As Alpha-elect, I should stay with Karl.”
“No,” Jeremy said. “You’re more capable of taking an active role in the field. You’ll go in my stead.”
Elena shook her head. “I don’t bring any skills that Clay doesn’t have. You do. If Hope’s in an underground compound, your kitsune powers are going to be a lot more useful than my nose.”
Jeremy looked uncomfortable, as he always did when someone brought up that side of his heritage. “They didn’t help when you were trapped in an underground cell, and I’d really rather—”
“Elena’s right,” Jaime cut in. “We know the place is warded, and that was the problem when Elena was captured, too. Maybe your powers will work this time; maybe they won’t. Point is that it can’t hurt to have you there.”
“So it’s settled,” Elena said. “Now, please go. In order to keep Karl calm when he wakes up, I really need good news.”
Three hours later, we were in the middle of freaking nowhere.
“It’s not nowhere,” Adam said as we paced outside the crumbling farm house the Cabal had declared mission headquarters. “It’s Indiana.”
“It’s a cornfield,” I said, waving my arms. “Even the people who lived here had the brains to bail.”
“The land is owned by a farming conglomerate,” Adam said.
“The farmers sold their fields—”
“I’m venting,” I said. “Not looking for a lesson in modern agriculture.”
“Believe me, I feel your pain. And I’m going to do something about it.”
He pointed past the tent they’d set up as a base. There was a decrepit shed twenty feet away. I glanced around, then cast a quick blur spell over us. When we were behind the shed, Adam caught me up in a big hug. I hugged him back, and waited for phase two. When it didn’t come, I pulled back to look him in the face.
“We’re hugging,” I said.
“Were you hoping for something else?”
“Um, kinda. Yeah.”
He grinned and kissed me. A smack on the lips that lasted about two seconds.
I glowered at him.
He laughed. “Personally, I’m with you on the whole distraction idea, but I have a feeling it’s going to be about three minutes before someone notices we’re gone and phones us, which really isn’t going to help the frustration issue.”
“So this is the best I can offer, as lame as it might be.”
“It’s not lame,” I said and put my arms around him, buried myself in his neck, and closed my eyes, listening to the slow beat of his heart, the tension sliding from my back as he rubbed it.
“I was sure I heard them.” Paige’s voice drifted over.
We disentangled fast, but it was too late. Lucas was right there, with Paige behind him.
Lucas looked from me to Adam. His gaze stayed on Adam.
“We were …” Adam began.
“I can see what you were doing.” Lucas’s voice was so cool I shivered, but it wasn’t me he was staring at.
“There’s a conference call,” Paige said. “Trouble with the Boyds. We’d like Adam to help explain a few things.”
“It’ll be under the tent,” Lucas said. Then to Paige. “I should—”
They exchanged a look, and he walked away, ramrod straight. I felt like I was fifteen again, caught letting a guy in the house while they were out. From Paige, I’d gotten a long talk about personal safety and the expectations that could be raised by inviting a guy into an empty house. From Lucas? Silence. Disappointment, I think, but confusion, too, as if he really had expected better of me. Smarter of me.
“Shit, I’m sorry,” Adam said to Paige when Lucas was gone. “I’m really sorry.”
Paige had her arms crossed, but she didn’t look angry.
“That was stupid,” Adam said. “Really stupid.”
“Not arguing,” she said.
I stepped forward. “It was just a hug.”
“Oh, that’s not the issue,” Paige said. She jerked her thumb at Adam. “He knows the issue.”
Adam glanced at me. “I should have told them about us. Responsibility fail. Big responsibility fail.”
“Again, not arguing,” Paige said.
“I could have told you guys, too,” I said.
Adam shook his head. “This one should have come from me.” He looked at Paige. “I am sorry. Savannah and I talked, and we agreed you should know. We just … with everything … we hadn’t gotten to it. I know you’re not going to be happy about the whole thing—”
“I never said that. He’s the one who’s not going to be happy.” She gestured at Lucas, now disappearing into the tent. “I told him it was coming. He thought I was ‘misreading the situation.’ Pfft. After eight years, you think he’d know enough to trust me on that sort of thing, and to accept that as brilliant as he is, he has absolutely no emotion-reading skills whatsoever.”
She smiled at Adam’s expression. “What, you didn’t think I’d figured it out? How long have I known you? I can even tell you when things changed. Last year. After Savannah saved your butt on that that demi-demon case in Ohio. Am I right?”
“So you knew and didn’t tell me,” I said to Paige.
“Of course I didn’t tell you. I figured it would happen when you were both ready. If that took a few years, well, given the age difference, that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. This is fine, though. The maturity gap isn’t that big.”
“Thanks,” Adam muttered.
She grinned at him. “You’re welcome. You’re still in deep shit with Lucas, and I’m not fixing that for you. This isn’t the time to fix it, but making a start wouldn’t be a bad idea.”
He loped off.
Paige put her arm around my waist as we followed. “Happy?”
She squeezed me. “Good.”
I glanced over. “Lucas is not so happy.”
“He’s just worried you’ll get hurt. Adam doesn’t have a good track record—or any track record—at committed relationships. But I know Adam wouldn’t start this if he didn’t plan to give it his best shot. He wouldn’t dare.”
“Too much to lose. Friendships, his job …”
“Sure. But he also knows I have developed a very nice repertoire of spells. All of which I’ll use to kick his ass if you get hurt.”
I laughed, and we walked toward the tent.
SLAM’s compound was some kind of old bomb shelter, surrounded on all sides by a couple of hundred feet of rocky, fallow ground. Beyond that? Cornfields. Thousands of acres of cornfields owned, as Adam said, by some conglomerate that largely seemed content to just let it grow. And had also been content, I guess, to sell or lease the shelter and the surrounding patch of land.
All this meant that we had no obvious way of getting in. There was a road … which ended at a twelve-foot electrified fence. The fence had a gate, but since we’d started monitoring, it had only opened twice. Once when a van left the garage, another when one arrived. Young guys with machine guns had met the vehicles, made everyone get out for a search, then let them go inside the garage. Presumably, the bomb shelter entrance was under it, but there was no way of getting close enough to use heat scanners and see how many people were guarding the entrance.