The summoning, p.31
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       The Summoning, p.31

         Part #1 of Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong
 
Page 31

 

  As the silence stretched, I knew I should say something. If he'd told me he was a half-?demon, I'd be peppering him with questions, and when I didn't now, my silence damned him as something different than us, something less natural, something… worse.

  “So what… happened back there? You were, uh…”

  “Changing. ” He stepped to the right, leaning out for a better listen, then pulled back. “It's not supposed to start until I'm at least eighteen. That's what Dad thought. Last night, the itching, the fever, the muscle spasms—that must have been a warning. I should have figured it out. ”

  His head tilted as a breeze fluttered past. He took a deep breath, then shook his head. “No one I recognize. ” He pointed to the back of the yard. “We'll climb the back fence, go through that way, and loop around. Hopefully, they'll have driven off by then. ”

  We dashed over the rear fence, and through the next yard to the drive. Derek scanned the street, looking and listening and, I guess, sniffing, then waved me across the street. We slipped into the first yard and continued heading east, cutting through yards.

  When we reached the road, I saw the car he'd been talking about. It was a silver SUV, a block down. The headlights were off, but someone stood at the driver's window, leaning in, as if talking.

  “We'll have to make a run for it,” Derek said. “Hope they don't notice us. ”

  “You think they're looking for us?”

  “No, but—”

  “Then if we run, it'll look suspicious. ”

  “It's three-?thirty in the morning. We're going to look suspicious anyway. ” He looked at the car for a moment. “Fine. But any sign of trouble? Follow my lead. ”

  “Yes, sir. ”

  Forty-two

  WE CLIMBED THE FENCE under a weeping willow, letting its branches and shadows hide us. Then Derek positioned me on his left, away from the car. From this distance, they'd only see what looked like a grown man and maybe a woman beside him.

  “We're going to walk and talk, okay? Normal couple, late night walk. Not hiding anything. ”

  I nodded, and his hand closed around mine. We moved quickly to the sidewalk, then slowed as we cut to the curb.

  “Okay, talk,” he murmured.

  “So when you… change…”

  A short laugh, this obviously not being what he'd had in mind. But I was keeping my voice low, and if I couldn't hear them talking, they wouldn't hear more than the murmur of my voice.

  “You change into . . . ” I struggled to think of the right word for the image that came to mind—a Hollywood werewolf, half human, half beast.

  “A wolf. ” He steered us to the left, away from the car.

  “Wolf?”

  “You know. Large wild canine. Commonly seen in zoos. ”

  “You change into… ? But that's not—” I stopped myself.

  “Physically possible?” Another short laugh. “Yeah, my body was screaming the same thing. No idea how it works. I guess I'll find out later. Much later, if I'm lucky. We're heading for the street to the left. The factory is just up—”

  He stopped short, turning sharply at the same moment that the headlights from the idling car flicked on. His hand tightened around mine and he broke into a run, dragging me along.

  “They spotted us,” he said.

  “But they aren't looking for us. ”

  “Yes, they are. ”

  He yanked my arm, propelling me toward the next yard. As we neared the fence, he grabbed me around the waist and threw me over. I hit the ground on all fours, leaped up, and ran for the nearest cover—a metal shed.

  Derek dove in behind me and, for a moment, I just stood there, leaning my blazing cheek against the cool metal, gulping the icy air. Then I straightened.

  “How—?”

  “I heard them say 'It's them' and 'Call Marcel. ' ”

  “Marcel? Isn't that Dr. Davidoffs name?”

  “Yeah, and something tells me it's not common enough to be a coincidence. ”

  “But how—”

  He clamped his hand over my mouth and I tasted dirt. He leaned down to my ear. “They're circling the block. I hear voices. They must have the windows down, listening for us. ”

  But who were they? Where had they come from? Simon and Rae hadn't been gone more than forty minutes. How had they gotten here so fast?

  “Tori,” I whispered.

  “What?”

  “Tori found out about our escape. That's why she was so quiet. She didn't give up; she was—”

  “Doesn't matter. They're heading down that road,” Derek said, pointing. “Come on. ”

  He prodded me in the opposite direction.

  “The factory is at the end. We just need to make it that far. Run on the grass—it's quieter. "

  We raced along the strip between the sidewalk and the road, our shoes slapping the driveway pavement, then silent on the grass between. We were three houses from the end, the factory looming, when Derek let out a curse. Within three strides, I knew why: there was an eight-?foot-?high chain-?link fence around the factory parking lot, and the gate was padlocked.

  “Up,” he said.

  I grabbed the links and started to climb. He tried to boost me, but I waved for him to forget that and follow. I was almost to the top when the side of the factory lit up in two circles of light. I glanced over my shoulder. The SUV's engine roared as it accelerated.

  “Go, go, go!” Derek whispered.

  The car slammed to a halt, brakes squealing. I flipped over the top and started scrambling down. Beside me, Derek crouched on the fence top, then jumped. He landed square on his feet and wheeled as the car door was flung open.

  “Jump! I've got you. ”

  I was already halfway down, but I let go. He caught me and spun me around onto my feet with a push toward the factory.

  “Derek! Chloe!”

  It was a woman's voice. I kept running, but had to glance back, hearing my name. A small gray-?haired woman gripped the links. A stranger.

  A man hurried around the front of the car. He carried a long, dark object, and as he lifted it, my heart stuttered.

  “Gun!” I shouted, still running.

  Derek glanced over at me, eyes wide.

  “They have a—”

  He tackled me just as something whooshed past. We slid into a pile of wooden pallets. They clattered down around us, bouncing hard off my back and shoulders. I scrambled up and dove behind the next stack, then ran, hunched over, until we reached the factory wall.

  We raced along the north side and ducked into a delivery dock bay. Derek pulled me behind a rusted metal bin.

  “Th-?they sh-?shot at us,” I whispered, barely able to get the words out. “No. I m-?must have—A radio maybe. Or a cell phone. I made a mistake. ”

  “You didn't. ” He twisted, reaching around his back.

  “B-?but they sh-?shot at us. They tried to kill us. Th-?that doesn't make any sense. ”

  He plucked something from the bottom folds of his T-?shirt. A long narrow metal tube with a pointed end.

  “It caught in my shirt. It nicked me, but it shouldn't matter. It'd take a lot to knock me out. ”

  “Knock you out?” I stared at it. “It's a tranquilizer dart?”

  “I think so. Never seen one outside a nature show. ”

  But we weren't animals. People didn't hunt kids with tranquilizer guns.

  “I d-?don't understand. ”

  “Neither do I. Point is, they want us back. Bad. All the more reason to keep going. ” He dropped the dart and moved past me to the edge of the bin and inhaled, making no effort to hide it now. “Simon's here. He's not close, but he's been past recently. ”

  “You can find him?”

  “Yeah. Right now, though, I'm going to trust he can look after himself and worry about us. He'll lie low until he sees you. We should find a place to do the same
until they move on. ”

  He strode to the delivery doors, but they were locked and solid, the handles on the inside. I crept along the bin and scanned the factory yard.

  “It looks like a warehouse back there. You mentioned something about that Friday? That it'd make a good place to hide?”

  He glanced over my shoulder. “That one's too near the factory to be abandoned. ” He studied it. “But it'll do for now. I should be able to break in. ”

  He surveyed the yard, then he hustled me along the dark wall, and we dashed across to the warehouse. A sharp wrench on the door and we were inside.

  Derek was right: it wasn't abandoned. It was packed with rolls of steel, giving us lots of hiding places. I had to move slowly, feeling my way and following in Derek's tracks, testing each footstep for noise.

  When we'd gone about twenty paces, he found a crevice and wedged us inside. We barely got in when a voice outside boomed.

  “Derek? I know you're here. It's Dr. Davidoff. ”

  I glanced at Derek, but he had his head turned toward the voice.

  “Derek? I know you don't want to do this. You want to get better. You can't do that by running away. ”

  The voice was moving, as the doctor walked through the factory yard. Derek cocked his head, listening, then whispered, “Four—no, five sets of footsteps. All separate. Searching. ”

  Hoping we'd give ourselves away.

  “Derek? You know you shouldn't be out here. It's not safe. We've talked about this, remember? You don't want to hurt anyone. I know that, and you know you need our help to get better. ”

  I looked up. Derek's jaw worked, his gaze distant.

  “I could go,” he whispered. “Create a distraction so you can escape. Simon's around. You just need to find—”

  “You're going back? After they shot at you?”

  “Just tranquilizers. ”

  “Just? Just?” My voice rose and I fought to keep it down. “They're hunting us, Derek. Dr. Gill knows what I am. "

  “She knew. That doesn't mean they do. ”

  “Are you sure?”

  He hesitated, his gaze lifting toward the voice.

  “Derek?” Dr. Davidoff continued. “Please. I want to make this easy for you, but you need to make it easy for us. Come out now and we'll talk. That's it. Just talk. No disciplinary action will be taken and we won't transfer you. ”

  Derek shifted against me. Considering.

  “You can't—” I began.

  “If you don't come out, Derek, we will find you, and you will be transferred . . . to a juvenile detention center for kidnapping Chloe. ”

  “Kid—” I squawked.

  He clapped his hand over my mouth until I motioned I'd be quiet.

  Dr. Davidoff continued. “You already have a documented history of inappropriate behavior toward her. When the police see that, and hear our corroborating statements, you will be in a lot of trouble, Derek, and I know you don't want that. Even if she defends you, it won't matter to the police. You're a sixteen-?year-?old boy running away with a fourteen-?year-?old girl. ” He paused. “You do realize she's only fourteen, don't you, Derek?”

  I shook my head vehemently and whispered, “He's lying. I turned fifteen last month. ”

  Dr. Davidoff said, “To the police, it will be a clear case of kidnapping and interference, possibly even sexual assault. ”

  “Sexual—!” I squeaked.

  Derek's glare shut me up as effectively as his hand had.

  “It's your choice, Derek. Make this hard, and you'll only hurt yourself. ”

  Derek snorted and with that, Dr. Davidoff lost him. Prey on Derek's fears of hurting others, and he might be convinced to surrender. But threaten Derek himself? Like Simon said, it was a whole different matter.

  “Stay here,” he whispered. “I'm going to find a way out. ”

  I wanted to argue, insist on helping, but I didn't have his night vision. If I started stumbling around looking for an exit, I'd bring Dr. Davidoff and the others running.

  I stayed put.

  Forty-three

  AFTER A FEW MINUTES, Derek returned and wordlessly led me to the back wall, where a window had been broken. It must have been boarded over, but the board was now resting on the floor.

  “Hold on. ”

  He swept the broken glass from the lower sill, then laced his fingers into a step for me. As I crawled through, my sleeve snagged on a leftover shard.

  A nearby door banged.

  “Chloe? Derek? I know you're in here. The door was broken. ”

  I yanked my sleeve free, feeling a sharp sting. The shard tinkled to the pavement below as I scrambled through.

  I tumbled to the ground, recovered, and broke into a run, aiming for the nearest cover—a tarp over a lumber pile. I dropped and crawled under it, Derek shoving me in farther. I found a spot where the tarp tented and stretched out on my stomach. The moment I caught my breath, my upper arm started to throb, telling me the glass had done more than scrape my skin.

  “You're hurt,” Derek whispered as if reading my mind.

  “Just a scratch. ”

  “No, it's not. ”

  He grabbed my arm and pulled it straight. A stab of pain. I stifled a gasp. It was too dark to see, but the sleeve felt wet against my skin. Blood. He'd smelled it.

  He gingerly rolled up my sleeve and swore.

  “Bad?” I whispered.

  “Deep. Gotta stop the bleeding. We need a bandage. ”

  He released my arm. A flash of white, and I realized he was pulling off his T-?shirt.
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