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|Thirteen(Women of the Otherworld #13) by Kelley Armstrong|
As Jaz droned on, Adam and I listened to Lucas’s updates.
Elena and Clay had made it into the stairwell. They’d disabled the guards without raising the alarm. A twenty-man tactical team had now entered the garage. Elena and Clay were approaching the final security point, where they’d take out the last—
Another voice came in behind Lucas’s, muffled, talking fast, urgency bordering on panic.
“What’s going—?” I began.
Lucas cut off the comm link. I glanced at Adam.
“It’s okay,” he murmured. “A minor hiccup. He doesn’t want us overhearing and panicking.”
Great, but silence only made me panic all the more.
I glanced back at the video screen. Jaz was lighting candles on a table. Lighting them very slowly, reciting gobbledygook about dark and light forces and balance. Giles stepped forward and offered to help with the lighting, but Jaz waved him aside, saying he had to do the ritual alone.
“Lucas?” I whispered. “Anyone? What’s going on?”
Sierra glanced back at me. “If you two keep whispering, I’m going to kick your asses out.”
“Sorry,” Adam said. “Just getting impatient.”
“Severin? Sierra?” A voice crackled over a radio left on the table. “We have a breach.”
“Shit!” I said, leaping to my feet and forgetting, for a second, to use my guy voice.
Sierra didn’t notice. She scrambled up and grabbed the radio. “Sierra over. Repeat.”
“They’ve breached the compound. It’s a Cabal. Or all the Cabals. I don’t know.” The young man’s voice rose as he spoke.
I slid up behind her, as if trying to hear better. Adam followed.
“Cool it,” Sierra said. “Have you activated the doors?”
“We’re doing that now,” said the guy on the radio. “The van was driving up, and they saw dozens of them, and they called it in, but then the Cabal guys saw them and opened fire and they’re dead. They’re all dead!”
“Okay, you need to—”
I grabbed the radio and backpedaled as Adam leaped between me and Sierra.
“Relax,” I said, emulating Sierra’s bark. “You need to relax. Everything’s under control. This is all part of the plan. Do not interrupt Giles.”
A screech of pain. I looked up to see Adam grappling with Sierra, his fingers glowing. Severin had jumped from his chair. It crashed to the floor.
“What’s—?” the voice on the other end began.
“Hold your fire,” I said. “Everything’s under control.”
I snapped off the radio as Severin ran at Adam. I cast a binding spell. It didn’t work. I could feel the power surge, but nothing happened. The room was warded. Our glamours had stayed intact. Apparently we just couldn’t cast in a warded area.
I lunged at Severin. His fingers latched onto my arm. I felt a blast of cold. Then agony as my flesh began to freeze. I managed to punch him in the stomach hard enough to make him let go. Then I kicked his feet out from under him and—
A grinding noise across the room stopped me. I looked over to see a steel door sliding over the entrance into the auditorium.
Back at the laboratory in New Orleans, when they sounded the alarm, they’d sealed off the infirmary with a solid steel door, one Jeremy’s strength and Adam’s fire couldn’t breach.
I ran. There was still enough of a gap to get through—
Severin grabbed my leg. He yanked me down. Then he held me there, fingers biting in, the cold so excruciating that I howled.
Adam stopped grappling with Sierra and threw her aside. He dove at Severin and caught his leg.
“Let her go,” he said, his voice a rumble, eyes glowing.
Severin gasped. He could feel the fire blazing. He didn’t let go, but as Adam wrenched at him, feeling returned to my leg, fire melting ice.
I kicked Severin off and hobbled to the door as Lucas came back on the comm link, telling me they were now in the building.
The steel door was closed. I glanced at the video. Inside, the audience had heard the doors sealing.
“For your protection,” Giles said smoothly. “Mr. Scott is just about to begin the ritual.”
He must know what had happened, but he wasn’t letting it interfere with his summoning. I quickly updated Lucas.
Adam and Severin were on their feet, facing off. Sierra bore down on them. I leaped in her way and let my glamour fall.
Sierra glowered at me. “You stupid little bitch. Haven’t you learned your lesson about interfering?”
“Yes,” I said. “I learned that I owe Balaam some payback for his interfering at the Nasts. Starting by taking out two of his faithful servants before they can interfere.”
“Do you have any idea how pissed off he’s going to be?” Severin said.
“Yeah, we do,” Adam said. “But my father’s just as pissed off with him, so we’ll let the two of them duke it out.”
They turned to Adam. His glamour was gone, too, and he lifted his glowing hands.
As Sierra rushed me, I rushed her right back. That caught her off guard, and she checked herself, giving me time to plow into her and knock her flying. As she came back swinging, I remembered her fight with Clay, her pattern, the simplistic moves.
Well, at least you were doing something useful, I imagined Clay drawling.
I ducked her first blow. Dodged her second. Caught her third. Two out of three ain’t bad. Of course, it would have been even better if, by that third, she wasn’t so furious that it felt like being hit with an ice-blast ray. My shirt absorbed some of the cold. It flash froze, actually, a big chunk at the shoulder shattering. One glance at that hole—and imagining my skin there instead—made me a whole lot more careful. And a whole lot more angry.
I got in a kick followed by an uppercut. That knocked her down. As she scrambled up again, I hit her with a solid kick. She flew back. I jumped on her, grabbing her forearms before she could touch me. Severin saw his sister down and stopped fighting Adam, coming for me instead. A punch stopped him. Adam made sure he stayed stopped. He didn’t even bother disarming his ice-powers, just grabbed both his hands. There was a sizzle, like water on a griddle. When he let go, we had one melted ice-demon. His powers would take a while to recharge. A long while, I hoped.
Severin may have been a decent fighter. Maybe even as good as Adam. But he relied too much on his powers and when they were gone, he reacted a lot as I had. He was thrown off his game—distracted and unable to gather himself for a real fight. Adam bound him. Then he melted Sierra’s ice and we tied her up with her brother.
“You know Balaam’s going to set us free,” Sierra said.
“Funny. He hasn’t yet,” I said. “I think he’s given you two enough chances.”
“Never,” she said. “He’ll come for us.”
“And your point?” I said as I eased back. “That we should kill you?”
“No, her point is that’s it’s not too late to fix this, Savannah,” Severin said. “Balaam is going to win. Whether you win, too, depends on whether you’re on his side. You still have a chance. Join him and—”
I silenced him with a gag.
Eve strode up the steps to the afterlife courthouse, with Trsiel right behind her. The guards moved in to tell her it was closed. Then they saw the sword—and Trsiel—and knew she wasn’t coming to look for her lawyer lover this time. They parted to let them through.
“Ukobach?” she said as they passed.
“Cell 24-D,” one of the guards replied. “Is there anything we can—?”
“We’ve got it.”
Trsiel slowed to murmur his thanks. Eve shook her head. Precious time wasted, not just on the civilities, but on what always followed—the guards practically prostrating themselves because a full-blooded angel deigned to speak to them. At least they realized he was a full-blood. Some didn’t. It was his own fault really. He wore his sword on his back and dressed in casual, modern clothing. If you missed the faint glow of his skin, there was no sign he was an angel until he spoke and that melodious, compelling voice gave him away.
As Trsiel extricated himself, Eve continued down the hall. Past the courtrooms. Take a left. Down the stairs. A right. Another left. Trsiel caught up. By now they were past all the guards, so Eve snapped the blur spell and Kristof appeared beside them. While they could have insisted he be allowed in, bringing a lawyer would have signaled that they were up to something.
“There’s 24-D,” she said, gesturing at a cell. “But we really want …”
“Thirty-two-B,” Kristof said. “They’re holding Raim in 32-B.”
The guards would never have let them in if they admitted they were here to see Raim. He was an earl in Lucifer’s court. Several angels had “rescued” him as he was being interrogated by Balaam’s demons, who were certain he knew where his liege was hiding. He was now being held as a prisoner of war, mostly so neither side could use him to find Lucifer. The Fates would prefer that particular lord demon stayed out of this fight.
Kristof leaned over, his hand brushing hers, voice dropping.
“We’ll get back to Indiana as soon as we can.”
She nodded and gave his hand a quick squeeze. They’d been helping Lucas and the others at the compound when the message came. One of Kristof’s informants told him that Raim was being held in the afterlife cells. Trsiel had offered to handle it alone, but interrogation really wasn’t his thing. Years spent working with Eve meant he was fine with sneaking Kristof into the cells or lying about their destination, but getting information from Raim could require a little more deception than his nature allowed. So they’d zipped off, alerting Jaime to call them back if there was a crisis.
Eve opened the door to 32-B. Inside, it looked like little more than a closet. An empty closet.
“Ready?” she said.
Kristof nodded. “Right behind you.”
“I’ll wait here,” Trsiel said, taking up a position outside the door. “But you call me in if you need help.”
Eve took a deep breath, then stepped into the cell. Light flashed, stuttering like a broken bulb. Her stomach lurched as the ground disappeared beneath her feet. Then came a jolt as she touched down so fast her knees buckled. Damn dimensional jumps. They were jarring at the best of times, but the ones into the dimensional holding cells were the worst, as if the Fates didn’t want to spare decent magic on mere prisoners.
Someone shrieked. Eve gripped her sword and looked around. Everything was still bright white. Another shriek—one of laughter, not terror.
Eve blinked hard as she took a few cautious steps forward. The light dimmed and she could make out what looked like a dining room. Folding tables had been added to extend the seating to twenty. Unmatched tablecloths, but it didn’t matter because every inch of them seemed covered with plates or food. Enough food for an army of imps. Turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce …
The table was jam-packed with people, too. Residuals—ghosts who weren’t really there, just replaying on a loop. At least twenty adults, talking and bickering and laughing, a dozen kids racing around, a dog following them, barking.
“Thanksgiving,” she murmured.
“Torture, that’s what it is,” a voice rumbled.
“Plenty of people would agree with you.” Eve stepped forward and pointed to a teen, his face contorted with pained boredom as an elderly aunt peppered him with questions. “I’m sure he would.”
“I’m glad you are amused,” the voice replied. “Have the Fates forgotten that the torture of war criminals is a serious offense?”
“I’m pretty sure the infliction of Thanksgiving isn’t covered under the Geneva convention.”
She peered around. The demon was nowhere to be seen. Not surprising, really. On these planes, they rarely took form. But Raim was here. She could feel the hot wind of his presence rushing past.
“The noise never stops,” Raim said. “They talk and talk and talk. Except when they’re shouting. Or shrieking. Or …” His voice quivered, as if he was shuddering. “Laughing.”
“Hey, be glad you didn’t get the dimensional holding cell down the block. It’s a circus. With mimes.” She took another step. “Do you know who I am?”
“Eve, Daughter of Balaam. So your father finally swayed you to his side?”
“Nope, I’m still on my side, as usual.”
A soft chuckle, cut short as he said, “If you’ve come to find my liege, I’ll tell you what I told your father’s minions. I don’t know—”
“Yes, you do. And you’re going to tell us.”
“Or what? You’ll make the dog bark louder?”
“No. If you tell us, and we find Lucifer, we’ll help you get out of here.”
“A prison break? How charming. Will you dig the tunnel? Or is that the Nast’s job.”
“It’s a joint effort. We can’t break you out, obviously. But if you tell us where to find Lucifer, Kristof will present and defend your case, free of any chits or charges. I’ll speak on your behalf, make up some story about how you helped me on a previous case blah-blah. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s better than anything else you’ll get.”
“And in return, I’ll hand over my liege lord?” He laughed. “Not likely, mortal.”
“Kristof and I only want to speak to him. That will go in the contract. We’ll tell no one else where he is. We’ve come to you and put forward a case that made you decide this meeting was in your liege’s best interests, so you agreed, under very strict conditions. You can tell him that we tortured you into confessing.”