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       Darkest Powers Bonus Pack 2, p.1

         Part #3.40 of Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong
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Darkest Powers Bonus Pack 2

  Darkest Powers Bonus Pack 2

  Facing Facts



  by Kelley Armstrong

  Table of Contents

  Darkest Powers Bonus Pack 2

  Table of Contents

















  Originally published in Enthralled

  As I lay on my back, gasping for breath, I began to suspect that Tori enjoyed our self-defense lessons a little too much.

  "Come on, Chloe, get up," she said, dancing around me.

  "Actually, I think I'll stay down here. It's safer."

  Simon walked over. As he helped me up, he whispered, "Watch her face. She telegraphs her moves."

  He was right. By keeping an eye on her expression instead of her hands, I managed to evade her twice and bring her to her knees once. Then she flicked her fingers and I went flying into a tree.

  Simon sighed. "No powers, Tori. You know the rules."

  "I don't like the rules."

  "Surprise, surprise."

  "Seriously. We're training for real world confrontations, right? In the real world, if we're attacked by some Cabal goon, we're going to use our fighting powers."

  "But Chloe doesn't have fighting powers."

  "Sure she does. She has a poltergeist. Well, when Liz is around. And when she's not, Chloe has the awesome power of zombies at her fingertips." Tori waved at the woods behind our rented house. "Go raise a dead bunny. It can nip my ankles while I'm throwing you down."

  "And infect you with the bite of a rotting corpse?" I said.

  "That would be bad." Simon turned to me. "Go for it."

  As Tori flashed him the finger, I grabbed her arm and flipped her, then danced back before she could retaliate.

  "Are you blind, ref?" she said to Simon. "Call that."

  "Nope. Distraction is a valid--" He glanced behind me. "Hey, Dad."

  I turned as his father--Kit--walked over.

  "Sorry to interrupt your lessons, guys, but I need to speak to Tori."

  As he led Tori into the house, I stared after them. Was he about to drop the bomb that was going to explode what remained of Tori's old life? She already knew her mother was dead. Now she was about to discover that her dad wasn't her real father. Kit was.

  It had been a month since the four of us--Tori, Simon, Derek and I--had been reunited with the guys' dad and my aunt Lauren. A month since I'd seen Kit look at Tori for the first time, and known, from his expression, that he'd heard the same rumor I had. But he'd said nothing. Not to her or to Simon.

  I'd begun to think maybe he wasn't going to tell them. Maybe he didn't believe it. Or maybe he'd wanted to confirm with DNA first, and now he had the answer.

  When they'd left, Simon walked over. "We'd better cut the lesson short. Somehow I don't think Derek would appreciate me wrestling with his girlfriend on the back lawn. As much as I hate to suggest homework, your aunt's going to expect us to have that biology project done by tomorrow."

  We headed to the old farm-house. Two weeks ago, Kit and my aunt Lauren had decided that, if the Cabal was coming after us, they weren't hurrying. Kit wasn't surprised. While the scientists who'd genetically modified us had been eager to get us back, the massive supernatural corporation that funded them--the St. Cloud Cabal--knew Kit would keep our powers in check. So, they could bide their time, which meant we could rent a place and try living like normal people for a while.

  As we reached the house, I heard a vehicle and glanced over, hoping to see our van. When a truck drove past, I felt a pang of disappointment, but I told myself I could better support Tori post-bombshell if Derek wasn't around.

  Derek is Simon's adopted brother and the guy I'm dating, though we have yet to go on what you'd call a real date. That's not Derek's fault. While we're on the road, we're pretending to be a blended family, with Kit and Aunt Lauren as our parents. That means I can't be seen at the movie holding hands with my supposed step-brother.

  Derek grumbles that it's not like we'd be blood relatives, but Kit says it would still call attention to us. We can't take that risk. So while Derek and I can go out together, we have to keep a foot apart, like those old-fashioned dances where teachers would walk around with rulers. On the plus side, because Derek's a werewolf, we always stay in places near a forest. Derek and I spend time alone "walking" in the woods. A lot of time, actually.

  When Derek did come back, he'd want to go for a walk, to relax after grocery shopping with my aunt. It'd been her idea. She'd joked that since he ate most of the food, he should help her get it. Derek had resisted. His dad had taken him aside and said he should go, show Aunt Lauren he wasn't as scary as she thought.

  I could have used Derek's super-hearing right now, though. While Simon hunted for his notes upstairs, I eavesdropped on Kit's conversation with Tori, trying to hear if it was the bombshell. But I couldn't pick up more than the murmur of his voice.

  Then, "No!"

  "I'm sorry, Tori. I know this isn't--"

  "No, okay? You're wrong. You're just . . . wrong."

  The door flew open. Tori barreled out, not even noticing me as she ran for the back of the house. Kit came after her, then stopped short when he noticed me.

  "You told her?" I asked.

  He nodded. As his gaze flitted in her direction, hurt glimmered in his eyes.

  "I'll talk to her," I said.

  He hesitated, like he wanted to be the one to do that, and he should be, except he didn't know her well enough yet, and right now, he was the last person she'd want to speak to. After a moment, he nodded and said, "Bring her back to talk to me, if you can."

  Simon was thumping down the steps as I hurried past.

  "Tori's upset," I said. "I'll catch up with you later."

  "Simon?" his dad called. "I need to talk to you, too."

  As Simon turned to follow his dad, I paused. He was about to get a shock of his own, finding out Tori was his half-sister. Should I stick around for him? No. Simon wouldn't be thrilled, but it was Tori who'd need me.

  I found Tori hidden behind a huge, old oak. She brushed her arm across her eyes and snapped, "What?" then took it down a notch and said, "Sorry, I'm not good company right now. Better go hang with Simon for a while."

  "He's talking to his dad."

  She hesitated, then realized he'd be getting the same news she had. Her shoulders slumped and she leaned forward, clutching her knees, face resting on them, hiding her expression.

  I lowered myself beside her. "I know what Kit said."

  "He told you?" She looked up, then scowled. "He shouldn't. It's a mistake, and if he goes around telling everyone . . ." She swiped her damp cheeks. "It is a mistake."


  "What? You think it's true? Duh. Obviously, Kit is not my real father. Do I look Asian to you?"

  She was right. Kit was Korean, and you could see that with Simon, even with the dark blond hair he'd inherited from his mother. With Tori, it wasn't so obvious. Her coloring was right--skin tone, dark hair and dark eyes--but all fit for Caucasian, too, and she looked Caucasian. That's why I'd dismissed the rumor when I first heard it. But that was before I met Kit. When I saw him, I knew it was true, because there's more to "looking like" someone than race.

  Should I play along? While I was tempted to, I knew what she'd want. The truth.

  "The demi-demon in the lab saw what your mom did," I
said. "She didn't have an affair with Kit, though. It was in-vitro fertilization."

  "Oh, well, that makes it so much better. She didn't cheat on my dad. She just had another man's baby and passed it off as his."

  "She was . . . ambitious. You know that."

  "So it wasn't enough to genetically modify her witch daughter. She had to double the dose, give me a sorcerer for a father. Not like that was liable to blow up in her face. Wait, sorry, blow up in my face, because whatever's wrong with me, as far as she was concerned, it was my fault, and now she's not even around to blame, because she's dead."

  I thought of that. Of Diane Enright's death. Of what happened next.

  When I flinched, the look she turned on me was so fierce I almost flinched again. "Don't think of that, Chloe."

  "I wasn't--"

  "Yes, you were. Dr. Davidoff was holding a gun to your aunt's head, and you raised my mothers zombie, which killed him. She killed him. Not you."

  Yes, but she had been under my command. I gave the order.

  I'd started staying up late every night, reading or writing until I was so tired I fell straight to sleep, too exhausted to lie there, worrying. That didn't stop the dreams, though. Dreams endlessly replaying that scene, showing me all the ways it could have gone differently. All the ways I could have avoided killing Tori's mother.

  Derek makes me talk about the dreams, pointing out the logical flaws in my alternate scenarios, insisting I'd done what I had to. It should help. It doesn't, because I can't help but think there had to be another way.

  "So, apparently, my mother is dead and my dad isn't my dad," Tori continued. "And the guy I was crushing on? My half-brother." She blinked. "Oh God. Simon." She looked like she was going to be sick. "That's just . . . That's just . . ."

  "It's not that bad," I hurried on. "Derek says it'd be kind of natural, because you guys share the same genetics, so what you were attracted to wasn't really Simon but, well . . ."

  "Myself? Oh, yeah. That's better. " She paused. "Derek? When did you discuss this with--? Wait, you said the demi-demon mentioned it? Back at the lab? How long have you known, Chloe?"

  "I, uh . . . heard rumors, but it wasn't until the demi-demon said it was true--"

  "And you didn't tell me?"

  "I, uh . . . I didn't think it was my place."

  "It's your place if you're my friend, which is what I thought." She glowered at me and in that glower I saw genuine pain. "My mistake, huh?"

  She got up and started to storm off. When I ran after her, she hit me with a knockback that send me flying into the tree, hard enough that I slid to the ground and sat there, dazed, for a moment before looking up to see her a quarter-mile down the road.

  I glanced back at the house, checked my pocket for my cell phone, then ran after her.

  I really needed more exercise in my life. Long walks and self-defense lessons weren't compensating for a lifetime spent opting out of sports because I was always the smallest kid on the team. I could point out that, before embarking on my current career path to Zombie Master General, I'd planned to become a screenwriter/director, which didn't require an active lifestyle. But then I look around at my comrades-in-genetic-modification: Derek the science whiz, Simon the artist and Tori the computer geek, all of them disgustingly athletic, meaning I have no excuse. Also meaning that when Tori wanted to leave me in the dust, she did.

  Predictably, Tori headed for town, most likely the mall on the outskirts. I was close enough to see the parking lot when my phone barked. Derek's ring tone. Not my idea--Tori set it up when she programmed my phone. I figured it's not like Derek would ever hear it and it is fitting. If he ever finds out, I'll just pretend I didn't know how to change it.

  Speaking of barking . . .

  "Where the hell are you?" he snapped when I answered.

  "You're back? Good. So how was--?"

  "You're not here."

  "Because I'm supposed to be waiting by the gate?"

  "You know what I mean. Simon said you went to talk to Tori, but you're not on the property, so I'm really hoping you're with her."

  I glanced at Tori's back, a half-mile away. "Kind of."

  "She took off, didn't she? And you went after her, knowing you aren't supposed to leave the property unaccompanied."

  "Tori needs--"

  "Tori can look after herself."

  "And I can't?"

  A growl. He knew better than to answer. Despite my lack of defensive superpowers, I've gotten myself--and Tori--out of plenty of scrapes. Sometimes, knowing you don't have the skills to fight can be a bonus. With Tori, overconfidence equals lack of caution and, yes, as Derek would say, common sense.

  "I'm just going to talk to her," I said. "I'll bring her home--"

  "No, you'll come back. Right now. That's an order."

  "Well, in that case . . . No."

  A louder growl.

  "Seriously?" I said. "An order? Has that ever worked?"

  He grumbled something I couldn't hear and probably didn't want to.

  "I'm not kidding, Chloe. Stop running, turn around and--"

  "I'll be back as soon as I catch her. 'kay? Bye."

  I hung up and turned my phone on vibrate.

  I used to think that once we started going out, Derek would change. When I admitted that to Tori, she'd nearly laughed herself into an aneurysm and gave me a lecture on the stupidity of expecting to change a guy. Maybe I didn't have her dating experience, but I knew you don't date someone because you think you'll change him. That wasn't what I meant. I liked Derek the way he was. I'd just kind of hoped getting closer would mean landing on the sharp side of his tongue less often.

  I should have known better. He did the same to Simon, who was not only his brother but his best friend. Derek spent the first five years of his life in a lab. No mother; no father; nothing even remotely like a family. That does stuff to you. Stuff that's hard to overcome.

  I had to understand, like Simon did, that Derek lashed out when he was worried about us. We're like the weaker members of his Pack, and he's always trying to herd us back behind him, where it's safe, growling and snapping if we wander off. That doesn't mean I need to let him get away with it. Just follow Simon's lead--understand he doesn't mean anything by it, but don't let him push me around either, and push back when he steps over the line. Like now.

  Right before the turnoff into the mall parking lot, there's an abandoned house. Once when we went to the restaurant across the road, Kit asked about it and the server told a story about how the dead owner's son didn't want to move back, but didn't want his family home razed for parking spaces either. After she left, Kit said the guy was probably holding out for more money and locked in legal battles with the developers.

  When I saw Tori running through the yard of the abandoned house, my heart did a double-thump. For necromancers, that's exactly the kind of place to avoid, in case there are ghosts in residence. For a genetically modified necromancer, who can accidentally raise dead rats and bats and other beasties, it's trouble, guaranteed.

  I rounded the house to see a broken window and no sign of Tori.

  Please tell me you didn't climb through that window.

  I called her on my cell. Voice mail picked up right away, meaning she'd turned off her phone. Great.

  I made my way through the waist-high weeds.

  "Tori?" I called. "You know I can't go in there."

  Which is why she is in there.

  "Tori?" I stepped toward the window. "Can we talk about what happened?"

  A flicker of movement. I glanced over to see Tori vaulting the back fence and running into the mall parking lot. Whew.

  I tore off after her.

  Finding one teenage girl in a shopping mall on a Saturday was like the proverbial needle in a haystack. That day, I swore half of the teen girls had short dark hair, white T-shirts and jean shorts. I was hurrying over to a promising one, when a deep voice behind me rumbled,

  "If you're looking for Tori, I think she's
a girl."

  My target turned. "She" had a short, scruffy beard. I stopped short and sighed as Derek walked up behind me, arms sliding around my waist. I leaned back against him and relaxed.

  "Thought I told you to come back," he said, leaning down to my ear. There was no trace of anger in his voice now.

  "Did you really expect me to listen?"

  Now it was his turn to sigh. "Always worth a shot."

  As people passed, they glanced over, and I remembered the rules and reluctantly stepped out of Derek's arms. He grumbled that his dad worried too much, and it wasn't like we knew people in this town anyway. It didn't matter. People were looking over because we caught their attention, and for us, that's bad.

  We caught their attention because, well, we kind of stand out. Derek's a foot taller than me and twice my size. I'm hoping for a growth spurt, but I figure he's just as likely to get one, so it won't make much difference. I'm tiny and makeup makes my skin break out, so I look young for fifteen.

  Derek's size means people think he's older than sixteen. He doesn't really look it, though. His skin has cleared up a lot in the last month, since his first Change, but it's not perfect. His lank, black hair usually looks in need of a wash, even if he showers twice a day. All this means he's learned not to tug me into back alleys for some private time, because someone's liable to call the cops.

  "Dad said he told Tori that he's her father," he said as we started walking. "He saw you guys talking by the oak tree. Then when I got home, you were gone."

  "She's upset."

  "Why? Her dad turned her over to her mother when she called him for help. I say good riddance. Now she has a real father."

  That was his way of looking at it. The best I could do was try to get him to see things from her point of view, even if he didn't agree with it. Now wasn't the time for that, though.

  "I screwed up," I said. "I let it slip that I'd known for a while."

  "Yeah, you shouldn't have told her that."

  I gave him a look. "That's not how I screwed up. I should have told her sooner. She considers me a friend."

  "Does she? Huh. Never thought friendship started with one girl locking the other--bound and gagged--in a crawlspace."

  "That was in Lyle House. Tori--"

  "--has changed? Right. Like when she left you behind to fight a gang of girls with knives, while she escaped."

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