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|Thirteen(Women of the Otherworld #13) by Kelley Armstrong|
So we stepped outside. Giles told us to stay put. Then he left. Which meant we were free inside the compound. That would be a whole lot more helpful if we hadn’t just left Jaz alone with Hope.
“Probably exactly what Jaz hoped for,” I muttered. “Now what?”
“You scout, I stand guard; we both listen.”
I nodded and took off.
As I headed down the hall, trying doors and popping my head in, I could hear Jaz through my earpiece, impersonating Scott, talking to Hope about how important she was, blah-blah.
“What the hell’s he playing at?” I said into my mike.
Then Jaz said, “Sounds like someone at the door,” though when I glanced back, I saw only Adam there, leaning against the opposite wall.
“Just a moment,” Jaz said. “I’ll see who’s—”
A thump and a hiss of pain from Jaz. I wheeled. Adam had leaped forward and was poised in front of the door, glowing fingers raised.
Inside, Jaz chuckled. “Seems you aren’t paralyzed with grief after all, Hope. Just playing possum. They’re fools for thinking otherwise.”
The scuffle of stockinged feet against the floor. The squeak of a mattress, as if Hope had retreated to the bed.
“Yes, I’m sorry for spoiling your attack,” he said. “You should have known it wouldn’t work on me.”
“Go to hell, Jaz.”
He laughed. “You know me so well that you can see right through—”
Another scuffle, this one louder, then Jaz’s voice. “I know you’re angry, but in your condition, you’re never going to be able to kill me.”
“I’m not trying to kill you. Just to shut you up.”
He laughed again. “Touché. I know you’re upset because of Karl. I think you’re better off without him, but that’s a discussion for another time.”
I muttered, “Bastard.”
Adam answered through my earpiece. “Did you really think he’d tell her Karl’s still alive?”
Inside the room, Jaz continued. “Right now, the important thing is you. You and the baby. It’s his baby. It’s all you have left of him.”
“You don’t give a damn about my baby, Jaz, so shut the hell up before I scream for help. If you’re here in disguise, that means they don’t know it’s you. One shout from me and you’ll be in the next cell.”
“Where I’d be completely unable to rescue you. You’re right. I don’t care about Karl’s brat. But you do, and I care about you, so if that baby’s welfare is going to prod you out of here—”
“Do I look like I need prodding? I’ve been waiting for my chance. If you’re going to get me out, then let’s get on with it.”
Another laugh, this one punctuated by the smack of a kiss—and the smack of a slap. Then another laugh.
“Guy doesn’t take a hint, does he?” I said as I got back to Adam.
“He’s just glad she has feelings for him. Hate is a feeling.”
“Yeah, he can just keep telling himself that, right up to the point where she successfully strangles him. I’ll be helping.”
Inside, we heard Jaz try the door. He rattled the knob.
“Locked you in, didn’t he?” Hope said.
“A problem easily fixed. Just give me a moment.”
He rattled it again, then whispered under his breath. “Open the door, guys.”
I clicked on my feed to his earpiece. “Once you tell her who’s opening it.”
He jiggled the knob again.
“Playing lone white knight isn’t going to fly,” I said. “She needs to know we’re here, so if things go wrong, she knows who she can run to—”
“Is Gordon still in there?” Giles rounded the corner. “He’d better not have touched her.”
“He just seems to be talking, sir,” Adam said. “I think he needs a few more minutes—”
“Too bad. The show is about to start. You two get back to your posts.”
Giles opened the door. “Ah, I see she’s up. Good. This will work better if she’s feeling more herself.” He turned to us. “Still here? Go in and bind her then.”
Giles handed us rope as we went in.
“I’m a big fan of yours, ma’am,” Adam said as he walked in. He stopped in front of her, his back to Giles, blocking his view. Then he lifted his glowing fingers and grinned. “A really big fan.”
It could have been the fingers, but I’ll bet anything it was the grin, so unmistakably Adam. Hope nodded quickly and dropped her gaze.
“Thank you,” she said.
I went behind her to tie her hands. Adam tried to block Giles, so I could whisper to her, but Giles said, “Her feet, Smith. Get her feet,” and Adam had to bend.
Damn it. I’d wanted to tell her Karl was alive. That wasn’t possible, though. So I bound her hands. I didn’t dare do it too loosely. Sure enough, when we finished, Giles checked. I had left her a little wiggle room. Would it be enough if she needed it? I didn’t know.
Giles pulled a wheelchair from the corner and we loaded Hope onto it.
“Good,” Jaz said. “She’s all set. Now, I just need about twenty minutes to prepare—”
“You’ve had all the time you’re getting. Your audience awaits.”
“Er, no, I can’t just—”
“You aren’t ready?” Giles turned, his face coming close to Jaz’s. “Then maybe you should never have left. I don’t need your theatrics, Gordon. Just get in there and perform.”
Jaz argued. Even I tried, carefully interjecting a suggestion that maybe they could compromise and give him ten minutes.
“I don’t believe anyone asked you,” Giles snapped at me. “Now get back to your post.”
“Sorry, sir, I didn’t mean—”
“I’ve told you to get back to your post twice already, Walker. Now get back there.”
“Sir?” Adam said. “I understand you need people on the doors, but I really wanted to watch—”
“Back to your posts!” Giles roared.
A group heading into the meeting room stopped to stare. The oldest was a guy I recognized as one of the leaders from when Giles kidnapped me.
“Is there a problem, Giles?” he asked.
“Nah,” Adam said. “Sorry. We just got a little carried away. Hoping we could watch the show from down here. But I guess someone needs to stand guard …”
Giles pushed Hope’s wheelchair away, taking Jaz and leaving us standing with the other man.
The man waited until Giles was gone, then whispered, “We do need all the guards on the floor, but there’s the video feed in the back room. Just wait until Giles has gone.”
“The room behind the auditorium, right?” I said, remembering it from my first visit.
“Exactly. But if he catches you …”
“It wasn’t your idea.”
The man smiled and clapped a hand on my shoulder. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a show to catch.”
One good thing had come of my scouting—I’d found an empty, unlocked room. Once inside, Adam closed the door and I spell-locked it.
“Lucas?” I said. “You’re there, right?”
“Yes,” he said through my earpiece. “I just didn’t want to distract you. I heard everything. We’re coming in.”
“I’m sorry. We—”
“There was nothing you could have done differently. The main thing is that we have you and Adam inside, and Jasper is with Hope. While I don’t trust him to hand her back to us, I do trust him to keep her safe.”
“I don’t think the guards inside the garage were replaced.”
“They weren’t, which gives us a buffer. With any luck, we can disable the outside two and get in before anyone notices.”
“We can take out the girl at the door.”
“No, she’s been replaced by two armed guards.”
“It doesn’t matter. I want you and Adam in there. Go to the room with the video. Watch from there. That’s backstage, is it not?”
“It is. We’ll be behind Giles and Jaz.”
“Good. Once the guards are taken out and our men are in place, you and Adam will go in and take down Giles.”
I nodded. “With any luck, once Giles is in custody and the kids in the audience realize they’re surrounded by Cabal tactical goons, they’ll surrender.”
The backstage door wasn’t locked. As I pushed it open, I saw the room wasn’t empty either. A young man and woman sat on a single chair. Even from the back of their heads, I recognized them.
Sierra turned first. “Private viewing room, chumps. Get back on duty.”
I finally remembered the name of the guy we’d just spoken to. “Chris told us to watch from here, in case you two need help.”
“Fine,” Sierra said. “Sit down and shut up then.”
We eased into the room. Adam closed the door behind us. There were plenty of chairs to choose from. Sierra was on Severin’s lap.
They’d pulled their chair right in front of the screen. That meant we had a lousy viewing angle, but it also meant we could sit behind them while whispering to each other.
We didn’t do much whispering. We were both too busy listening to the Cabal’s progress through our earpieces. It was frustrating as hell, watching Hope on the video feed and knowing we couldn’t help. But the cavalry was coming.
Giles’s plan was to threaten Hope and bring her daddy running. It was a scene I’ve watched in plenty of movies. The classic demonic sacrifice. A gorgeous young woman bound to a table, knife poised above, her dark curls spilling artlessly, her amber eyes wide with horror and glistening with tears as she writhed against the ropes. Torture porn with a black magic twist.
Or that’s what I imagined.
That wasn’t what Giles did at all. Probably because the woman in question wasn’t a nubile young virgin. She was a heavily pregnant woman that many of the audience likely felt they knew, the witty True News reporter who’d kept them laughing as she kept their secrets safe. Did they really want to watch her writhing on a table, a knife poised over her huge belly? Of course not. So Giles kept her in the wheelchair, wearing a loose dress to make her condition less obvious.
First, he assured his people that no harm would come to Hope.
“Lucifer will not allow it,” he said. “This is his oldest surviving child. His first grandchild. We have already seen how the lord demons will interfere to protect their offspring. If a lord demon will kill Thomas Nast for his granddaughter, Lucifer will move heaven and earth to protect his own. He may wear the guise of a demon, but he is an angel. Cast out from heaven, yet pure of soul. Merciful and good.”
Really? Did Giles believe that? Did anyone here believe it? Yet I could see the first row of the audience on the screen and I could tell by their faces that they did. They wanted to, so they did.
“Remember who Lucifer is. The fallen angel. The angelic turned demonic. He was cast from heaven because he questioned. Because he does not see black and white, and for that reason, he has bowed out of this fight. He cannot be sure which side he belongs on, nor which side is right. He has been burned before, so he shies away from the fire.”
I had to admit the guy was good.
“What we are doing today is not threatening Lucifer. That would be blasphemy. No, what we do is exactly what we have been trying to do for weeks. Invite him to a meeting. Give us the chance to show him why we are the right choice for all—mortal, demonic, celestial. He has not heeded our invitations, so we must take this regrettable measure. Once he has come, though, there will be no threats. No disrespect. We will explain our position and he will see our truth. Lucifer will join our cause.”
A thunderous round of cheers and applause. It was bullshit, of course. No demon or angel would interpret this as anything but blackmail. Yet the lie was enough for them to sit quietly as Jaz took center stage and prepared for the summoning.
Lucas’s voice came over my earpiece. “We’re in the garage now. We managed to successfully reroute the external video to show images from an hour ago, covering our entrance. The two outside guards have been disabled. We’re going to use glamour spells to allow Elena and Clayton to impersonate them and attempt to breach the next security point.”
Less talk, more action, I wanted to say. But when Lucas is stressed, Lucas explains. So I kept my mouth shut until he finished, then whispered, “Sounds good.”
I clicked on the feed into Jaz’s earpiece. “Compound breached. Stall.”
He said nothing, but I thought I heard a derisive snort. No one needed to tell him to stall. Rushing wouldn’t help Hope and it wouldn’t help him.
“Before I begin …” Jaz said. A rustle of impatience rolled through the audience. “What I am about to attempt is very dangerous, to myself, to Giles and to Ms. Adams. So I will need your complete attention and silence. Also, I know there are fellow necromancers in the room. I must warn you …”
Don’t try this at home, kids, was the gist of his message. That and making it clear that what he was doing was not a standard necromantic ritual, and therefore would not resemble any they were familiar with. In other words, covering his ass so he could pull off a bullshit fake rite, and drag it out as long as possible.
I hate giving bad guys credits for ingenuity. Hate it more when I find myself mentally taking notes.