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       Fated, p.1

           Sarah Alderson
 
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Fated


  Also by Sarah Alderson

  HUNTING LILA

  And, coming soon . . .

  LOSING LILA

  For Tom Arnold,

  an amazing writer as well as an amazing brother

  Simon Pulse and its colophon are registered

  trademarks of Simon and Schuster UK Ltd

  First published in Great Britain in 2012 by Simon and Schuster UK Ltd, a CBS company.

  Copyright (c) 2012 Sarah Alderson

  This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.

  No reproduction without permission.

  All rights reserved.

  The right of Sarah Alderson to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

  www.sarahalderson.com

  Simon & Schuster UK Ltd

  1st Floor, 222 Gray's Inn Road, London WC1X 8HB

  Simon & Schuster Australia, Sydney

  Simon & Schuster India, New Delhi

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

  A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

  PB ISBN: 978-0-85707-434-8

  eBook ISBN: 978-0-85707-435-5

  Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon CR0 4YY

  www.simonandschuster.co.uk

  www.simonandschuster.com.au

  "It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves."

  William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (Act I, scene ii)

  Contents

  Prologue

  1

  2

  3

  4

  5

  6

  7

  8

  9

  10

  11

  12

  13

  14

  15

  16

  17

  18

  19

  20

  21

  22

  23

  24

  25

  26

  27

  28

  29

  30

  31

  32

  33

  34

  35

  36

  37

  Acknowledgements

  Prologue

  'Her name is Evie Tremain. She's seventeen years old. She lives in Riverview, California. Now go and kill her.'

  The stillness in the room erupted as chairs scraped the floor. There were a few hushed whispers, a stifled laugh and then the door slammed shut, cutting the noise off like a guillotine.

  Lucas stood slowly, taking his time. He didn't notice that the others had left the room, or that Tristan was standing by the window watching him. All his attention was focused on the photograph he was holding in his hand.

  It showed a girl - dark-haired, blue-eyed - looking straight at the camera. It was a close-up. He could make out the shadows her lashes were making down her cheeks. A strand of hair was caught like a web over one eye and in the corner of the shot he could see her hand, reaching up to brush it away. Her lips were slightly parted, like she'd been sighing just at the moment the lens snapped shut. Her expression was . . . Lucas paused. He wasn't sure what her expression was. She looked unhappy, or maybe just pissed off.

  She was a Hunter, though, so what did he expect? And this one had a history that would make anyone unhappy. Or pissed off.

  'Is something wrong?' Tristan asked.

  Lucas looked up from the photograph, then glanced over towards the door, realising that he was the only one left in the room. He looked back at the older man.

  'No, nothing's wrong,' he answered quietly.

  'Well, you'd best get going then,' Tristan said, his eyes not leaving Lucas's face. 'You don't want to miss out on all the fun.'

  Lucas looked down once more at the picture of Evie Tremain, feeling momentarily ambivalent towards her. Then he scrunched the photograph up into a ball and dropped it on the floor. It didn't matter what lay behind that expression because soon nothing would. She was just another Hunter to be dealt with. Next week or next month there would be another. And then another. And dealing with Hunters was what the Brotherhood did.

  Lucas didn't look back at Tristan but he could sense his eyes burning into his back as he left the room.

  Moving away fast down the corridor, Lucas realised he could no longer hear the others. He was faster than any human - he knew because he'd had to outrun them many times - so it didn't take him long to reach the basement garage.

  There was just one ride waiting for him. Caleb and Shula were sitting in the front seats, the engine revving, the back door flung open.

  'Come on!' Shula yelled. 'What's keeping you? There's a Hunter to kill and the others are going to beat us to it!'

  Lucas smiled and shook his head, ducking into the back seat and slamming the door shut.

  He let his head relax back into the seat and watched the speedometer climb as Caleb slammed the Mercedes out of the underground garage and onto the highway. Lucas stared out of the window. This stretch of highway was always quiet, but at night it was more so - there were only a few factories and gas stations for at least twenty miles in each direction. The Mission was a good base for the moment. Tristan had chosen well.

  'She's pretty.'

  Lucas turned his head. Shula was leaning across from the front seat, waving the photograph of Evie in his face. He grunted and went back to looking out of the window.

  'Think she'll put up a fight?'

  Lucas looked back at Shula. She was studying the photo intently, as though she could will it to life. Her raven-black hair was spilling over her shoulders, her skin glowing freakishly in the green dashboard lights. He almost smirked. Shula tried so hard to fit in and yet here she was looking as unhuman as a Shapeshifter midshift.

  He smiled softly. 'Let's hope so.'

  Shula grinned back, then kicked her legs up onto the dash and spun the volume dial on the radio to high.

  1

  Evie Tremain was so busy inspecting the minuscule amount of change that had been deposited on the table, in the midst of a lake of ketchup next to the pile of dribbling plates, that she didn't immediately notice the man who had taken a seat at the table behind her.

  'Ev,' Joe called.

  She looked up at the sound of her boss calling and saw him indicate the table behind. She pocketed the change and spun around, remembering to plaster a smile onto her face as she did so.

  'Good evening, what can I get you?'

  The words died on her lips. The man at the table was staring right at her, evaluating her like she was discounted meat in the freezer section, his gaze travelling up and down her body. Evie shifted her weight onto one hip, resting her hand on it and waited for some eye contact.

  Not another one. She sighed to herself. And he was old enough to be her dad, which was really quite gross. She raised an eyebrow and waited until the man lifted his gaze to meet her own.

  'Can I get you something?' she asked, offering him a tight smile.

  He sank back into the booth, seemingly unembarrassed at having been caught checking her out.

  'Yes, please, I'll have a soya decaff grande latte,' the man replied, without taking his eyes off her face to read the menu.

  Evie paused, hand still on hip, wondering whether she should bother pointing out that the menu had just one option for coffee. Filter. Always caffeinated. She didn't. She bit her lip, took the pencil from behind her ear and scribbled on the pad: 1 x coffee.

  'Coming right up,' she
said brightly, and turned on her heel.

  She flipped the order down on the counter and Joe took it, peering at her scrawl. Then he reached for the coffee pot sitting on the hot plate behind him.

  'Was he giving you any trouble?' he asked, tipping his head in the soya latte customer's direction.

  Evie glanced over her shoulder. The man was looking out of the window now. He was about forty she figured, maybe older. Black, with a goatee. He was wearing a solid chunk of gold on the little finger of his right hand. Evie noticed only now she looked at him again that he was dressed kind of weirdly for round here. She looked closer.

  The last time anyone had worn a suit in town had been at her dad's funeral, almost a year ago. And this man was actually wearing a three-piece suit, complete with a cherry-red cravat that frothed at the neck, making it look like someone had stabbed him in the jugular. Apart from that, though, the suit kind of worked on the man. Or, rather, the man worked on the suit. She wasn't sure how.

  'Do you want me to serve him?'

  'Huh?' Evie turned back to face Joe.

  'I saw the way he was looking at you,' Joe said. 'Do you want me to serve him?'

  Evie smiled as she took the cup of coffee from Joe's hand and slid it onto a tray. 'No, I got it. I need the tips, anyway.'

  'Things can't be that bad, surely?' Joe asked. His grey moustache tightened around his lips like a caterpillar undergoing some kind of metamorphosis.

  'Nope. I just want out of here - you know that, Joe.'

  Joe pulled a face. The kind of face that Evie was sick of seeing. She grabbed the tray before he could say anything else and carried it towards the man at the table.

  'One decaff latte,' she said, lowering the tray. 'Grande,' she added, looking at the little cup Joe had given him. At the same moment the door opened and Evie's attention swung towards it. The coffee cup slid sideways.

  She heard Joe shout for her to watch out at the same time as she saw the boy in the doorway's eyes widen. Evie's arm shot out, rescuing the coffee cup as it bounced off the edge of the tray. She held it in mid-air, watching as the coffee stilled itself.

  She placed it down carefully on the table. 'Sorry about that,' she murmured, glaring over her shoulder at the guy still standing in the doorway.

  'Good reflexes,' the man said.

  'Huh, yeah,' Evie muttered, backing away towards the counter. Joe was there, watching her with that look on his face again. She shrugged at him. He scowled over the top of her head at the boy in the doorway, before turning his back and starting to wipe down the counter.

  Evie took a deep breath and pushed a loose strand of hair out of her face. She tried to tell herself to stay calm but she could already feel the heat rising in her lungs and scorching up her windpipe. She could feel her pulse quickening with the usual endorphin hit of rage.

  She turned furiously to face the boy, catching him just as he was about to speak. 'What?' she demanded, cutting him off.

  The boy shut his mouth and took a step towards her. He glanced around. The coffee shop was empty at this time of night, apart from the guy in the weird outfit. She was thankful. The whole town had already had their noses smashed up against the windows of their business. She didn't need any more witnesses to what had happened between the two of them.

  'What do you want? I'm working,' Evie hissed.

  'I know. I'm sorry,' the boy began, then stopped, staring down at his feet.

  Evie huffed impatiently, aware that her hands were curled into tight fists at her sides.

  'I just wanted to talk,' the boy said.

  'I have nothing to talk about,' Evie said, studying him, realising that her voice was shaking. If he looked up, if he looked at her with those hangdog brown eyes of his, if she allowed herself for one moment to feel sorry for him, then she would hate herself later. She turned her back on the boy and moved over to an empty table to clear the cups and plates.

  She started stacking, aware that the boy had crept up behind her and was now hovering by her shoulder. She put the stack of cups down carefully on the table and turned to face him. 'Tom, I'm working. Please leave.'

  'OK.' Tom nodded. He was close to her, almost brushing arms with her. 'But later, after work, can we talk then?'

  She glanced up at the clock over the counter and saw that Joe was looking sideways at her, concern splashed all over his face. God, it was like living in a goldfish bowl without even a stone or some fancy plastic plants to hide behind.

  'Tom, why would I want to talk to you? You killed my best friend. The best friend you were also seeing behind my back. Or had you forgotten?'

  Tom took a step back, his face crumpling. 'Ev, it was an accident.'

  She took a step back. 'Oh, so you weren't driving?'

  Tom swallowed hard. It was a strangled sound. Evie hesitated for a second but all the anger and the hurt dammed behind the smiling waitress routine rushed to the surface. It made her cheeks and jaw ache; it made her whole body ache, until she felt like her muscles had calcified from the effort of holding everything she was feeling inside.

  She stared now into Tom's familiar brown eyes, measuring the reaction her words had caused, thinking how strange it was that once upon a time she had run her hands through his hair, linked her fingers through his, had kissed him and thought it was possibly the best feeling in the world.

  It was strange because now she hated him.

  She drew in a breath. 'She shouldn't have even been in the car.'

  Tom dropped his eyes to the floor again. Evie felt the anger subside like a break in the storm. She was suddenly overwhelmingly tired. She just wanted to not have to go through this scene every day like she was living on repeat.

  She wanted to have someone wipe her memory clean. But seeing as she wasn't likely to get hit on the back of the head and wake up tomorrow with amnesia, the only alternative was to get the hell out of this small town filled with small-town people where the gossip about her and Tom had kept the knitting circle busy for so long they had knitted enough blankets to see the Salvation Army through a nuclear winter.

  She wanted to be able to walk down the street among strangers - people who didn't know her and who didn't look at her with crinkled eyes and tilted heads and ask her how she was doing with that strange inflection in their voices that made her want to scream until she was hollow.

  She wanted out. So she picked up the stack of cups, walked past Tom and set them on the counter. She kept her back to him until she heard the door jangle behind her.

  'You all right?'

  Evie looked up. Joe was standing in front of her, his face folded into a frown.

  She sighed. 'Yeah, I'm fine. I just . . . you know, I'm just sick of him apologising, as if an apology can ever make up for what he did.'

  Joe nodded, taking the tea towel from where he'd flung it over his shoulder and starting to wipe the counter. 'That kid's sure got some guilt to live with.'

  Evie glared at Joe. 'Well, he should be living with it in jail.'

  Joe pressed his lips together and nodded non-committally. 'This one's sure taking his time,' he said, changing the subject and nodding his head at the man in the red cravat.

  Evie shot a glance over her shoulder. The man was still looking out of the window. 'Listen, if you want me to lock up, I've got it,' she said to Joe.

  'Are you sure, Evie?' he asked, taking the cups and placing them one by one into the dishwasher below the counter. 'Don't you have a home to get to?'

  'No, it's OK. I need as many hours as I can get.' She shrugged.

  'Still planning on leaving town, then?' Joe asked with a sigh.

  Evie considered his face before answering. He reminded her of her father, the same ridge-lined face and deep-set eyes, the same soft tone and silvering hair.

  'Sorry, Joe,' she said finally. 'I've got to get out. Only bad stuff happens here.'

  Joe nodded slowly. 'I hear you,' he said. 'Listen, if you get any trouble from this one,' he indicated the man drinking coffee, 'then you just
call me.'

  Evie smiled at him. 'I've got it, Joe. I can take care of myself.'

  'I know, I know,' Joe said, reaching for his jacket on the peg behind him. 'One thing your father did right was seeing you could take care of yourself.'

  'Just one thing?' Evie asked, smiling, her eyebrows raised.

  'Oh, you know what I'm saying,' he mumbled. 'Your father was a good man, Ev Tremain.' He paused a moment. 'And speaking as his best friend I know that he'd be real proud of you.'

  Evie's stomach muscles contracted violently, forcing all the air out of her lungs, and leaving her feeling like she was underwater, drowning silently. She swallowed twice and tried to smile at Joe. He reached over and patted her hand before leaving.

  When she heard the clang of the door, she reached forward, resting her palms on the counter, and took a deep breath and then another. She pushed her hair back out of her face and straightened up before turning around with a smile.

  'Can I get you anything else?' she asked the man at the table by the window.

  He was looking straight at her, as though he'd been watching this whole time. Her back straightened and her shoulders tensed.

  The man's face suddenly split into a wide smile. 'Just the check,' he said.

  Evie ripped a page off her pad and went to place it in front of him, then hovered by the table with her arms crossed over her chest.

  The man rummaged for his wallet, then drew out two crisp ten-dollar bills. He dropped them onto the table and Evie frowned before looking up. The coffee only cost a dollar something.

  The man caught her eye. 'Sounds like you could use the extra tips,' he said.

 
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