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  • Home > Kelley Armstrong > Women of the Otherworld Series > Thirteen (Page 50)     
    Thirteen(Women of the Otherworld #13) by Kelley Armstrong
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    “And if you don’t do it now, it’ll get harder to do it later,” I said.

    “I know. Bite the bullet. Take the risk.”

    “It’ll be fine.”

    He shrugged, and I could tell by his expression that he thought I was being as hopelessly optimistic as he’d been about reaching a settlement with Josef. I disagreed. Sure, he might lose a few employees, but for most his sexual orientation wouldn’t matter, and even if it did, they’d be working for him, not marrying him. He’d proven himself as a company leader for years. He’d continue to do so, whether he led the Nast Cabal or half of the Nast Cabal.

    His cell phone buzzed. He looked down at it and sighed.

    “I really need to take this,” he said.

    “And I need to run a few errands of my own,” Adam said.

    “I’ll be back soon.”

    “Take your time,” I said. “Looks like it’ll be a long night.” They left. I picked up my magazine. I was still on the first article when a groan from the bed had me leaping up.

    Bryce was grimacing. He tried to lift his hand, but it was tied down.

    I clasped his fingers. Before I could speak, he croaked, “Water.”

    I lifted my water bottle to Bryce’s chapped lips. He drank, then opened his eyes. I texted Sean fast, then turned back to Bryce.

    “Hey,” I said.

    He frowned. “Savannah?” He tried again to lift his hand. Then he looked over to see the bindings. “Wha … ?”

    I undid them. “Sorry. Doesn’t look good, does it? Waking up tied to a bed with me here. I didn’t kidnap you, if that’s what you were wondering. I’m guessing everything’s a little fuzzy but—”

    “No.” He blinked. “Yeah. It’s fuzzy. But I remember. The lab. The experiment. The explosion. The pit.” He paused. “I owe you.”

    I shrugged.

    His gaze moved to the cast on my arm. “What happened?”

    “Not much. I killed Giles. Broke up the reveal movement. Got your antidote. Fought Balaam and sent him back to hell.”

    A faint smile. “All by yourself?”

    “I may have had some help.”

    The smile grew and he started to say something, but just then Sean ran into the room, out of breath.

    “Hey, bro,” Bryce said.

    Sean walked over and embraced him. I started backing out of the room, but Sean caught my arm and pulled me over.

    “Welcome back from the dead,” he said to Bryce.

    “Actually, it was the undead. But it felt like dead. Still feels like dead.” He made a face and reached for my water bottle. I handed it to him. He took a drink, then asked, “Did they find Larsen and his parents?”

    “They did. We’ll discuss that later. I’m sure you’ll have to make amends, but I think you’ve already been punished enough.”

    “I’ll make amends,” Bryce said. He turned to me. “Lots of them.”

    FIFTY

    I headed upstairs, looking for Adam. He wasn’t in the archives and wasn’t answering his cell. I popped my head into the lounge where I’d last seen Lucas. The sofa was back in place. And occupied. Lucas sat at one end, Paige curled up against him. They were both sound asleep.

    We’d barely returned from Indiana before Benicio started using the events of the last week to persuade Lucas that it was time for him to take his place in the Cabal. Not as reluctant heir. Not as part-time executive. As CEO. He’d led the charge to avert the biggest threat our world had ever faced. He’d proven to all that Benicio’s crusading bastard son could indeed hold the reins of the most powerful Cabal in the country. Now was the time to seize the opportunity for a smooth transition.

    To his credit, Lucas didn’t laugh. He didn’t turn and walk out either, as he would have a few years ago. There was work to be done in the aftermath of this averted disaster. Small fires to be extinguished before they flared up. But he insisted his place was in Portland, running the agency with Paige. He’d do what he could here, then go home with us. Benicio had him for another week. After that, well, the teleconference equipment at the Cabal was top-notch. They’d manage, as they had for the last few years.

    Would Lucas ever become CEO of the Cortez Cabal? Maybe. In time. But Benicio was still healthy and there were supernaturals out there who needed Lucas, protector of the underdog, more than they needed Lucas, Cabal CEO.

    I looked at them—my friends, my bosses, my foster parents—curled up on that couch. Then I smiled, backed out, and spell-locked the door.

    I was calling Adam again when I heard a familiar clicking of stiletto heels and looked up to see Jaime and Jeremy coming my way.

    “I thought you guys made your escape already,” I said.

    “We tried,” Jaime said. “I got stopped by a certain demanding master manipulator.”

    “Benicio.”

    “No, the Fates. They want me hanging around to act as mouthpiece for your mom while the Cabals clean up this mess. Which reminds me, she wants to talk to you. Your dad does, too. I think they’ve done some manipulating of their own with the Fates. You might get one last face-to-face before the veil closes completely.”

    “Ms. Vegas?” a young man hurried along the hall. “Mr. Cortez needs—”

    “I know, I know.” She turned to me. “Give me an hour.”

    “Wait, first, have you seen Adam?”

    “He was with Elena, I believe,” Jeremy said. “They’re …” He looked down the hall. “I’ll take you there.”

    Jaime smiled, squeezed his arm, then followed the clerk. Jeremy and I headed the opposite way.

    “So are you staying in Miami with Hope and Karl?” I asked.

    He shook his head. “None of us care to linger longer than we need to. Once Jaime’s done we’re joining the others in Russia.”

    That’s where Antonio and the rest of the Pack had relocated during the trouble here, taking refuge with the Russian Pack.

    Jeremy continued, “Taking a baby on an intercontinental flight doesn’t seem wise, especially with one parent still recovering from the birth and the other from near-death. But Karl wants Hope and Nita out of Miami, and Hope wants to go. Benicio will send us in the private jet with a doctor.”

    Apparently, then, Karl had resolved his issues with Elena. I’d never doubted it. He might like to play lone wolf, but now that he had a family, his first instinct was to take his wife and child to the safety of his Pack.

    “Are you going to be in Russia long?”

    He shook his head. “We’ll head home in a few weeks, if you’d like to spend some time at Stonehaven this summer. You haven’t done that in a few years.”

    “No, I haven’t. I think I’ll take you up on that.” I glanced at him as we turned the corner. “So, I guess with all this turmoil, you won’t be stepping down as Alpha anytime soon.”

    “Actually, I will. Elena’s ready. I already knew she was. She wasn’t so sure. But now there’s no question—she can do this.

    It’s time.”

    “Have you told her?”

    “Not yet. When I get to Russia, I’ll break the news. She’s ready to be Alpha.” His crooked smile grew, eyes sparkling. “And I’m ready to not be Alpha. Maybe get in a few adventures while I’m still young enough to enjoy them.”

    He rapped on a closed door. Elena called, “Come in!”

    I pushed open the door to see her with Clay, chairs pulled up to a desk, the twins on a huge monitor.

    “Savannah!” Kate yelled. “I see Savannah!”

    Kate scrambled closer to the camera, shoving her brother aside. As they bickered, I glanced at Jeremy. He’d stayed behind the door and was now retreating, motioning to Elena that he’d talk to the kids later.

    “Smart man,” she murmured.

    Logan had reclaimed his half of the screen and was leaning forward, frowning. “What’s wrong with Savannah’s arm?”

    I lifted the cast. “Broke it doing something dumb.”

    “Was it rock climbing?” Kate said. “You promised to teach us.”

    “I will this summer. I’m coming to visit after you get back.” Kate let out a whoop. “I wanna break my arm so I can get a cast and have everybody sign it.”

    “That’s stupid,” Logan said.

    She shoved him. “You’re stupid.”

    “Sorry,” I whispered to Elena as the twins tumbled out of sight. “I was actually just looking for Adam.”

    “Oh, he’s down the hall making some phone calls. I’ll take you.”

    “Yeah, run while you can,” Clay muttered. He leaned toward the screen. “Guys! You’ve got five minutes before bedtime. Do you want to know when we’re coming home?”

    “Now!” Kate yelled, popping up. “I want you here right now.”

    “They can’t teleport, dummy,” Logan said.

    “If you call her that again—” Clay was saying as we closed the door.

    “Kids getting bored?” I said as Elena led me away.

    “No, the guys are keeping them busy. They just want Mom and Dad to quit this crazy save-the-world nonsense and go camping with them this weekend.”

    “Gotta have priorities,” I said.

    We took a few more steps.

    “So I take it you’re not worried about Malcolm?” I said.

    She shook her head. “Another adventure for another day. We need a break and, last we saw, he was safely in Nast custody.” She pushed a half-open door. “And there’s Adam.”

    He turned and motioned to his cell phone.

    “Thanks,” I whispered to Elena. “Oh, and congratulations.”

    “For what?”

    I grinned. “You’ll find out.”

    I stepped into the office and eased the door shut as Adam got off the phone.

    “Ah, so that’s why you’ve been ignoring my calls.”

    “Ignoring … ?” He checked his messages. “Shit. I was on hold. Never even heard the beep.” He strode toward me. “Is it Bryce? Is he—?”

    I held up a hand to stop him. “Awake. The doctors checked him. He seems fine. I’m giving him some time with Sean. He needs to tell him about Thomas.”

    “Right.” He shook his head. “That’s a shitty thing to wake up to.”

    “Which is why I left them alone. So, I know it’s getting late, but I was hoping to talk you into a drink, if you’re done with work.”

    “Wasn’t working.” He walked to the printer, took off a couple of sheets, and handed them to me. “For you. A little ‘thanks for saving the world as we know it’ present. There’s a T-shirt coming, too, but it’ll take awhile.”

    “T-shirt?”

    “Yep. It says ‘I defeated Lord Demon Balaam and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.’?”

    I laughed. “I’ll count myself lucky if that is all I get. I’m still waiting for him to show up and use my hide for a shirt.”

    “He won’t. Too humiliating. Better to just blame Gilles de Rais for screwing up everything.” He waved at the sheets. “Now read.”

    I skimmed the first page. “Our ski trip to Switzerland?”

    “On my dime. And a very expensive dime it is, too. That place ain’t cheap. But you’re worth it. Just remember that when I ask you to come heli-skiing with me.”

    “I’m not doing skiing of any kind.” I lifted my cast. “Did you forget something?”

    “Did you check the dates on that reservation?”

    They were for two months from now.

    “Oh.”

    “Yeah, ‘oh.’ I figure that’ll give you time to recover.”

    “Time to find an apartment, too. I’m moving out as soon as we get back to Portland.”

    “Good. There’s a vacancy at my apartment.” He lifted a hand before I could speak. “In my apartment building, I mean. I know you’re not ready for cohabitation. You need to live on your own. At least for a while.” He put his arm around my shoulder and led me from the room. “Now, you mentioned buying me a drink?”

    “I don’t think I said—”

    “Yep, pretty sure you did. We might want to make it a double. Have you checked the office e-mail lately? Apparently, the world didn’t stop while we were busy saving it. Lots of work waiting.”

    “Lots of adventures waiting.”

    He grinned over at me. “Always lots of adventures waiting.”

    And so there would be. Things had happened in the last few weeks. Big things. Maybe even things that would ultimately alter our world. But one thing wouldn’t change. There would always be work to do, threats to defeat, adventures to be had.

    I wouldn’t want it any other way.

    A FINAL NOTE FROM KELLEY …

    Thus ends the Otherworld, with Savannah looking forward to a lifetime of adventures. It may seem an odd note to finish on, but this is how I’ve always envisioned the ending. I’m not sending the characters into their rocking chairs, to doze away their retirement years. I haven’t created a world where that is even possible. There is no final victory that could let them all live peacefully-ever-after. But as Savannah says, they wouldn’t have it any other way. Theirs is a life of threats and challenges and, yes, adventures. This is, for me, their happily-ever-after.

    Will readers ever share in those future adventures?

    Yes. I do have more stories to tell. And I will tell some of them in three anthologies of short fiction, the first to be published in 2014. I may even, someday, return to share a bigger story, when the time is right.

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