The reckoning, p.33
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       The Reckoning, p.33

         Part #3 of Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong
Page 33


  Simon laughed. “Doesn’t mean we don’t know how to drive. Dad let us start last year, bombing around empty parking lots. ”

  “That’s a few minutes at the mall, not eight hours on the highway. ”

  Derek grunted, as if to say it’d been no big deal, though I’m sure it couldn’t have been easy.

  “We took Andrew’s truck,” Liz said. “After we found…After Derek found his…Well, you know. We probably weren’t far behind you. I helped navigate. ”

  “How’d you communicate?”

  “Paper and pen. Amazing inventions. Anyway, once we were in Buffalo, I led him here. We couldn’t figure out a way in and he got stressed and apparently that”-she waved at him-“is what happens when a werewolf gets stressed. By then, the garage door was open, some staff guy bringing in a car. He took one look at Derek and decided it was time for a new job. ”

  Noises sounded in the hall. Liz went to check it out. Behind me, Derek’s flank twitched. I rubbed it absently, the muscle jumping under my fingers. Then I asked the question I’d been dreading since Aunt Lauren first found me.

  “Rae’s dead, isn’t she?” I said. “Dr. Davidoff said she was transferred, but I know what that means. The same thing it meant with Liz and Brady. ”

  The look on Aunt Lauren’s face at that moment…I can’t describe it, but if I had any doubt about how much she regretted the role she’d played in all this, I saw it as I mentioned their names. For a second she said nothing. Then she jumped, like she’d been startled.

  “Rae? No. Rae isn’t dead. Someone broke in and took her. They think it was her mother. ”

  “Her adoptive mom?”

  Aunt Lauren shook her head. “Her birth mother. Jacinda. ”

  “ But Dr. Davidoff said she was dead. ”

  “We said a lot of things, Chloe. Told a lot of lies, telling ourselves it was better for you all, but really, just because it was easier. If Rae thought her mother was dead, she wouldn’t ask for her. From everything I heard, though, they think that’s who-”

  Derek’s flank twitched again. I glanced down to see a muscle spasming. Another started in his shoulder. When he caught me looking, he growled, telling me it was nothing, just ignore him and pay attention.

  As Aunt Lauren talked, I rubbed the muscle in Derek’s shoulder and he leaned against my hand, relaxing. I knew it wouldn’t help. He was ready to Change.

  “We need to get going,” I said. “I’m going to call Liz. ”

  She raced through the boxes before I even finished summoning her. Tori’s mom had joined the SWAT team in the next room. Apparently, Derek hadn’t hurt her as much as I might have hoped. She was nursing a killer headache…and a killer grudge. Derek was to be shot on sight-shot dead, not tranquilized.

  Reinforcements from a Cabal satellite office were on the way to help sweep the building with manpower and spell power. They were determined to find us before this St. Cloud guy arrived.

  “We’re going to have to make a run for it,” I said. “As soon as it’s quiet-”

  Derek convulsed, nearly throwing me off him.

  “Someone doesn’t like your plan,” Tori said. “And just when I was thinking how nice it was that he doesn’t have a voice. Won’t keep him from arguing apparently. ”

  “That’s not it,” I said as Derek convulsed again. “He’s Changing back. ”

  “Can it wait, because-?”

  Derek’s whole body spasmed, all four legs shooting out, a back claw nicking Simon, a front paw swatting Tori. They both leaped out of the way.

  “I think that’s a no,” Simon said.

  “We need to clear out,” I said. “As you can tell, this requires room. And it might not be something you want to see. ”

  “Tell them I second that,” Liz said. “I caught a glimpse, and that was enough. ” She made a face and shuddered.

  I shooed them out, then turned to Derek, lying on his side, panting. “You’ve done this alone now, so I guess you don’t need-”

  He caught my jeans leg between his teeth, pulling gently, his eyes asking me to stay. I told the others I was, and said if they heard any sign that the SWAT team was searching this hall, they were to get out-all of them.

  “We aren’t leaving you two,” Simon said.

  Derek growled.

  “He’s agreeing with me,” I said. “For once. You have to go. With any luck, they’ll presume that means Derek and I are someplace else. ”

  Simon didn’t like it, but he only grumbled for Derek to hurry.

  Aunt Lauren stayed after they’d gone. “If anything happens, you’re coming with us, Chloe. Derek can look after-”

  “No, he can’t. Not like this. He needs me. ”

  “I don’t care. ”

  “I do. He needs me. So I stay. ”

  We locked gazes. Again, a look passed through her eyes, surprise and maybe a little bit of grief. I wasn’t her little Chloe anymore. I never would be again.

  I walked over and hugged her. “I’m fine. ”

  “I know. ” She hugged me back, fierce and tight, then left to join the others.


  DEREK’S CHANGE CAME FASTER now and maybe a bit easier-no vomiting this time. Finally it was over, and he fell onto his side, panting, shaking, and shivering. Then he reached for my hand, holding it tight, and I entwined my fingers with his, shifting closer and using my free hand to brush sweaty hair from his face.

  “Whoa,” a voice said, making both of us jump. Simon stood in the entrance to our corner, a pile of fabric in his hands. “You really need to get dressed before you start that. ”

  “I’m not starting anything,” Derek said.

  “Still…” He held out the stack in his hands. “Dr. Fellows dug up some hospital greens for you. Get dressed and then…whatever. ”

  “We weren’t-” I began.

  “Have you still got my note?”

  I nodded.

  “Give it to him. ”

  I pulled the folded page from my pocket and handed it to Derek. When he was busy with it, Simon let the smile fall from his face as he studied his brother.

  “Is he okay?” he mouthed.

  I nodded. I passed Derek the scrubs as he refolded the note, then turned away to let him dress.

  “We good?” Simon asked.

  “Yeah. ” Derek lowered his voice.

  A squeak of shoes as Simon turned to go. Derek called him back, grunting with effort as he rose, his bare feet padding over. A short, murmured conversation. Then the slap of Simon smacking Derek’s back, and his footsteps retreated.

  A whisper of fabric as Derek dressed. Then a hand on my waist, a light touch, tentative. I turned and Derek was right there, his face above mine, hands sliding around me as I tilted my face up-

  “What the-?”

  We both jumped-again. Tori stood there, staring at us, Simon behind her, grabbing her arm.

  “I told you not to-” Simon began.

  “Yeah, but you didn’t say why. I sure didn’t expect…” She shook her head. “Am I the last one to know everything around here?”

  Liz raced in. “What’s going on?”

  “Derek’s ready,” I said. “We need to move. ”

  We had one gun, one werewolf, one poltergeist, one supercharged spell-caster, one not-so-supercharged spell-caster, and one perfectly useless necromancer, though Liz was quick to remind me that she needed me to relay her words.

  Our plan, though, involved something much simpler than a supernatural showdown. We were falling back on the advice Derek’s dad had given him for dealing with a significantly stronger opponent: run like hell.

  While Liz watched the operations room, we’d try to make it to the exit door. If we failed? That’s when the gun, werewolf, poltergeist, and spell-casters would come into play.

  According to Liz, there were five people in that room-Mrs. Enright, Dr
. Davidoff, the head suit, his assistant, and one SWAT guard. They seemed to be staying put, manning the war room while the employees searched. Every now and then, one of those employees would pop in for an update or orders. We just had to pray that didn’t happen during the few minutes it’d take us to get to the door.

  As we coordinated a what-if plan of attack, Derek stood beside me. Aunt Lauren kept giving us weird looks. We weren’t doing anything to earn them, but she kept glancing over and frowning.

  Finally she said, “Derek? Can I speak to you?”

  He stiffened and glanced at me, as if to say, What does she want?

  “W-we don’t have time to-” I began.

  “It’ll just take a second. Derek? Please?”

  She waved him across the room. Tori and Simon were arguing about spells and Liz was in the hall, so no one else noticed. Aunt Lauren said something to Derek. Whatever it was, he didn’t like it, his gaze shooting to me as he scowled and shook his head.

  Was she telling him to stay away from me? I could hope that today she’d seen he wasn’t dangerous, maybe even seen how I felt about him, but I guess that was too much to hope for.

  I wanted to march over and interrupt, but before I could, Derek stopped arguing. He eased back, head bent, hair hanging forward, deep in thought. Then he gave a slow nod. She reached out and took his arm, leaning in to say more, her face taut with urgency. He kept his gaze down, nodding. I told myself he was just saying whatever she wanted to hear so we could get out of here, but I’ll admit I felt a lot better when he walked straight to me, rumbling, “You ready?”

  We stepped aside as Aunt Lauren got Simon and Tori.

  “Was she telling you to stay away from me?” I asked.

  He paused, then said, “Yeah. ” He squeezed my hand out of Aunt Lauren’s sight. “It’s okay. We’re good. ”

  We headed for the hall.

  Our biggest worry had been the loud click of the door lock, but Derek listened and motioned for me to open it while the men were talking. Then Derek took the lead, in case anyone came in through the exit door. I was behind him, Simon behind me, Tori and Aunt Lauren following.

  Those thirty feet seemed like thirty miles. I longed to bolt for the door, throw it open, and be gone; but we had to move silently, which meant excruciatingly slowly.

  We’d gone about ten feet when someone in the war room said, “We have a breach, sir. A perimeter spell. ”


  Derek picked up speed, just a little.

  “Hold on,” the man said. “It seems to be right outside-”

  “Chloe?” Aunt Lauren’s loud whisper floated through the halls.

  I spun to see her jogging the other way-toward the room where the Edison team and the Cabal guys were. She called my name again, like she was searching for me.

  My mouth opened. A hand clamped over it, an arm going around my chest, holding me still, Derek’s voice in my ear, whispering, “I’m sorry. ”

  “I think I hear them,” Dr. Davidoff said.

  “Chloe?” Aunt Lauren ran full out now, shoes slapping the linoleum. “Chloe?”

  She wheeled into their room and let out a yelp.

  “Hello, Lauren,” Tori’s mom said. “Lost your niece again?” She cast a binding spell, freezing my aunt. “I see you still have that gun. Let me take that, before you kill someone else. ”

  As I struggled, Derek waved for the others to keep going. I vaguely saw Simon and Tori pass me as Derek scooped me up and started for the exit, and I knew this was what Aunt Lauren had told him to do, what he’d tried to argue against. If there was trouble, she’d sacrifice herself to save us. His job was to get me out of there.

  I twisted my head to see Mrs. Enright holding the gun on Aunt Lauren, still frozen.

  “Time to rid ourselves of a very inconvenient-”

  “A gun, Diane?” a man’s voice called. “Guess your charm isn’t the only power you underestimate. ”

  A man stepped around the corner. He was about my dad’s age, a couple of inches shorter than Mrs. Enright, slender, with silvering black hair. He was smiling-and it was a smile I knew well, even if I’d never seen this man before.

  “Dad!” Simon shouted, skidding to a halt.


  MR. BAE LIFTED A hand, waving casually, like he’d walked in on us sitting around chatting. I struggled and Derek released me.

  “Hello, Kit,” Mrs. Enright said. She turned the gun on him.

  He tsk-tsked. “Is that really the impression you want to make, Diane? Prove to everyone here that a witch needs a gun to fight a sorcerer?”

  She lowered the gun and raised her hand instead, fingers sparking.

  “There,” he said. “That’s better. Now come on over and show me how much you missed me. ”

  She cast an energy bolt. Mr. Bae’s hand flew out and her bolt stopped short, exploding in midair. The guard advanced on Aunt Lauren, gun pointed, now that the binding spell on her was broken.

  Simon lunged forward, but his father motioned for him to run. Simon kept going. Derek caught his shoulder. He looked down at me, then from the door to his father, caught between the impulse to protect him or protect us.

  “Fight,” I whispered, and it was all I needed to say. Derek released Simon and pushed me toward the door. Tori locked the guard in a binding spell and yelled for Aunt Lauren to follow me. My aunt sprang up and grabbed the guard’s gun and hit him in the head with it as Derek plowed into Dr. Davidoff, sending him flying.

  Tori cast another spell, then another. I don’t know what they were, only that the walls started to shake. The cracks from earlier yawned wider. Plaster rained down.

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