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Fated 02 severed, p.14
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       Fated 02: Severed, p.14

           Sarah Alderson
 
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  ‘How did you and Lucas get together anyway?’ he asked, looking up at her. ‘Match dot com? No, let me guess – unhuman hook-up dot com?’

  ‘Ha ha,’ she answered. ‘No. He was sent to spy on me, then to kill me.’

  Cyrus snorted through his nose. ‘Wow, what a cliché. He came to kill you and fell in love with you instead.’ He threw her a cringe face. ‘This could be a film script for a movie with one of those sparkly vampires in.’ He kept shaking his head and laughing and she felt her teeth grinding in response. ‘How romantic,’ he went on. ‘Stupid, but romantic. I’ll give him that. So you fell for the Shadow Warrior?’

  Evie didn’t answer. She just continued to glare.

  Cyrus carried on undaunted. ‘OK, I’ll grant you he’s not bad-looking – not that I swing that way mind. He has the whole haunted-angst face that you girls seem to dig so much, but how’d you fall in love with him?’ He paused, resting his hands on the counter. ‘Are you sure you are in love? Because, you know, sometimes the feeling we get around unhumans – that whole palpitation, faster heartbeat, clammy hands – that has been known to be confused with feelings of lust and, er, love. It happened to me once. I thought I liked this Shapeshifter chick.’ He shrugged. ‘Turns out I just wanted to kill her.’

  Evie exhaled loudly, trying to keep hold of the small piece of calm still left inside her. ‘No, it’s not just my instincts firing whenever he’s around.’ She smiled tightly. ‘Trust me, I didn’t feel this way about the Scorpio I put a knife through.’

  Cyrus pulled a face, ‘OK. But I really want to know what you see in him because, between you and me, I’m not seeing a whole lot of sparkling personality.’

  ‘You haven’t even spoken to him.’

  He laughed. ‘And you spend your time together speaking, do you? Not locking lips and other demon body parts? What are those like by the way?’

  The nostril flare again. She couldn’t control it. ‘I am not about to explain our relationship. Least of all to someone as shallow and obsessed with sex as you.’

  ‘Hey, I’m not shallow,’ Cyrus answered, scowling.

  ‘He saved me.’

  He raised an eyebrow. ‘As in bibles and dunking in the river?’

  ‘No. He saved my life. More than once.’

  Cyrus walked around the counter, his head nodding knowledgeably. ‘Oh, so it’s some sort of survivor guilt thing you have going on. I get it. Adulate your rescuer. Knight-in-shining-armour syndrome. It all makes sense now. You know, I think there’s psych treatment you can get for that.’

  Evie closed her eyes and breathed out slowly. ‘No,’ she said, ‘I don’t mean it that way. He saved my life, yes, but only when I didn’t want it saving. He brought me back. And I think he was the only person who could have brought me back – made me want to carry on.’

  Cyrus had actually stopped talking. And stopped mocking. He was staring at her with a serious expression on his face, the half-smug, half-droll smile gone.

  ‘I hate fate,’ she continued. ‘I hate what it’s doing to me. I hate the fact I feel like I have no choice in any of this. Everything just seems to happen to me, whereas everyone else gets to choose. But I accept it because that same fate brought me Lucas.’ She drew in a breath. ‘Maybe that was the trade. And if I did have the choice – to go through all this again or just carry on being Evie Tremain – if I could choose to be or not be this thing in the prophecy – I think I’d choose it all again, just to get the chance to know him.’

  Cyrus still didn’t say anything. His eyebrows were raised so high they were almost meeting his hairline. No doubt he was struggling to get his head around the concept of love. It must have confused his brain cell.

  ‘Does that explain it?’ she asked.

  He took a moment to answer. ‘I guess. But love as you call it is just an infatuation. It doesn’t last.’ The mocking smile reappeared. ‘Also, not clever to be infatuated with someone who’s probably going to die.’ He checked his watch. ‘Is probably already dead, in fact.’

  The anger lashed through her body. ‘Are we done here?’ she asked, turning on her heel and heading for the door.

  She heard his footsteps follow after her. ‘Yeah, sure. Who wants to talk about love anyway when we have demons to kill?’ He brushed past her and reached to open a locked closet by the side of the door. ‘Weapon up,’ he announced, throwing the doors wide.

  The air emptied from Evie’s lungs in one long exclamation. The view in front of her made Victor’s collection of weapons seem like a kitchen utensil display for Barbie’s dream house.

  ‘What’s your slaying item of choice?’ Cyrus asked, indicating the rows of weapons with a flourish of his arm. ‘Flamethrower? Grenade? Gun? Arrow? Saw blades?’ He picked up a pair of hardwood sticks linked by a chain, ‘Nunchuckers?’

  Evie was struck dumb by the rows of weapons – some she didn’t even know the names of.

  ‘Or do you prefer to just beat them to death?’ Cyrus asked. He reached inside and took hold of two Zippo lighters, shoving one into his back pocket and throwing her the second. Next he grabbed hold of a small bottle of lighter fluid and pushed it into one of the pockets on his utility belt. Finally, his fingers wavered over the nunchuckers and something that looked like a club with spikes in it, which had probably last seen action during a Viking invasion over a thousand years ago.

  ‘Want to try this?’ he asked, handing it to her.

  She shook her head. ‘I don’t need a weapon.’

  He nodded with respect. ‘Oh, so I was right about the beating to death? Nice.’ He put the club thing back in the closet.

  ‘I’m already armed,’ she said in answer, holding Lucas’s blade up.

  ‘Can I see it?’ Cyrus asked, reaching a greedy hand towards it.

  She passed it to him slowly. Cyrus took it, weighing it carefully in his palms. His face was childlike, filled with Christmas-morning-sized awe. He was practically cradling the thing like a premature baby.

  ‘Cuts through Thirster skin like it’s paper. Hell, this could cut through diamonds, never mind Thirster hide,’ he said in reverentially lowered tones. Then he looked up sharply at her. ‘This blade – this is a very special thing. It comes from the realms. You know that?’

  She gave him a look. Of course she knew that. ‘It belonged to Lucas’s father,’ she said, holding out her hand for it. ‘He gave it to him, just before he died.’

  Cyrus took one last, loving look at it, running his thumb along the flat, knowing that if he did the same along the edge he’d lose the whole digit. Evie took it carefully, sheathing it in the case that Lucas had left behind.

  Cyrus had turned back to the closet and was rummaging for more weapons. Evie took a breath. ‘Who’s your father?’ she asked.

  Cyrus turned around with a bemused smile on his face. ‘Wow, straight to the point, aren’t you? What’s it to you anyway? Are you worried my mum might have done the deed with another Hunter? Say, your dad? Is that what you’re worrying about? That we’re related? Because we can get a blood test if that’s the only thing holding you back. Third cousins once removed works for me though.’

  She bit her lip. ‘Listen, let’s get something straight right now,’ she said, holding his gaze firmly. ‘I will never – not in a million years, not until hell freezes over, not until your ego shrinks to the size of the Buddha’s, not until the day I die – ever sleep with you. Or kiss you. Or even like you. Are we clear now? Just answer yes or no.’

  Cyrus licked his lips, then walked past her, ‘We’ll see.’

  Her mouth fell open as she stared at his back. ‘God, do you ever stop?’

  ‘Nope,’ he answered with his back still to her, ‘just ask Marcy.’

  ‘Darcy! Her name was Darcy! Oh my God. I am going to kill you. I am seriously going to kill you.’

  He turned around, smirking. ‘You could try. But I think you’ll find it’s easier to kill an unhuman – a Shadow Warrior even – than it is to kill me.’

 
; She drew in a deep breath and then another. ‘So, who is he then?’ she demanded, determined not to let him throw her off track again.

  ‘Who?’ Cyrus asked.

  ‘Your father.’

  He sighed loudly. ‘I don’t know who my father is. My mum told me it was someone outside the Hunters. Some random guy she met one night. Shocking, right? Under age and illegal in the state of California. Tut tut, mum. But hell, at least she chose someone with superlative genes.’

  Evie frowned.

  ‘Why the face?’ Cyrus asked. ‘Were you hoping that I might be another pure-blood like you? Sorry to disappoint. But your dad was already with your mum by then and I think you’ll find Victor’s black and I’m not, so no need to do a DNA test there. I’m sorry. I bet you were thinking that would get you off the hook, but no. Hook.’ He drew the shape of a hook in the air and then pointed at her. ‘You. Still on it.’

  They were standing like that, Cyrus pointing at her, when Vero and Ash walked in. Evie blinked. She hadn’t felt them or heard them approaching. She was too easily distracted these days. She needed to focus.

  ‘Hey Ash’, Cyrus said, ‘these are for you.’ He threw the nunchuckers towards him. They cut through the air making a whirring noise. Ash caught them in his left hand and tucked them into his pocket.

  ‘Vero, how are you doing?’ Cyrus asked.

  Vero glared at him, her dark eyes liquid poison. ‘I’m fine,’ she said through gritted teeth. ‘What have you got for me tonight?’

  ‘Well, tonight, Vero,’ Cyrus answered, ignoring her glare, ‘I thought maybe you’d want to vent some of your anger on a Thirster or six, so I have thoughtfully coated these arrow tips in Mixen acid for you to use with your crossbow and I am packing a litre and a half of lighter fluid with which we can have ourselves a nice flame-grilled Thirster barbecue.’

  A cold smile appeared on Vero’s face as she leant forward to inspect the arrows, which were lined up on the kitchen counter in a plastic container of sorts. Acid-proof obviously, Evie figured. Vero was wearing a black lace dress accessorised with several studded leather cuffs. A black onyx necklace made up the ensemble. So far she’d avoided looking in Evie’s direction, which suited Evie just fine. Vero looked so like Risper that it was unsettling to stare at her for long.

  ‘You sure you want to do this, Vero?’ Ash suddenly asked.

  She spun around to face him. ‘Am I sure I want to go out and kill some bloodsucking piece of …’

  He held up both hands in a defensive gesture. ‘OK, point taken.’

  ‘See how we’re all driven by revenge, Evie?’ Cyrus butted in.

  She turned to look at him. He was slinging a crossbow over one shoulder. ‘It’s quite the motivator. Ash getting revenge for his friend. Vero for her sister.’ He let out a satisfied sigh. ‘Revenge makes the world go round.’

  ‘I thought that was supposed to be love,’ Evie replied dully.

  ‘No, you heard wrong. It’s revenge. It’s what keeps us going when we’ve given up on love.’

  ‘What do you have to revenge?’ she asked angrily.

  He frowned for a moment and then he looked up at her as if he’d just had a revelation. ‘Good point. Nothing I guess. Not yet anyway. Maybe I’m just getting revenge now for a future wrong, in case I can’t get it later.’

  ‘Sound reasoning.’

  ‘Where are we going?’ Ash asked, opening the grille to the elevator.

  ‘The Tipping Point’s closed for the foreseeable future while the under-realm gangsters in charge try to find more doormen. Apparently the last two were total failures.’ Cyrus pressed Evie and Vero ahead of him into the elevator. ‘I thought we could hang out near to the way through. Pick on some unsuspecting newbie.’

  ‘Where is the way through?’ Evie asked, turning around to face him.

  A broad smile crossed Cyrus’s face. ‘Ahhh, you’ll see. It’s too good.’

  They stocked the Prius’s trunk with all their weapons and climbed silently into the car, Vero and Ash sliding into the back before Evie could get in. She weighed up the options and decided that lying in the trunk next to the crossbow and poison-tipped arrows was preferable to sitting next to Cyrus in the front. But he was holding the door open for her expectantly. She eyed the trunk longingly before climbing with an audible groan into the passenger seat.

  Cyrus jumped into the driver’s seat beside her and rammed the car into reverse, spinning them out of the warehouse and onto the street. Evie glanced down at his wrist, seeing the tattoo on the inside of his forearm clearly for the first time. It was an owl. She smiled in amusement. An owl? That was deeply hardcore.

  ‘What’s the tattoo for?’ she asked, trying to suppress the smirk.

  He glanced quickly at her before his eyes flew back to the road. ‘The owl’s a silent hunter. It hunts by night and it sees everything.’

  ‘Why’d you not just get a tattoo of a Sybll then?’ she asked.

  He turned to look at her and she gripped the dashboard as they weaved dangerously into oncoming traffic. Cyrus righted the car’s trajectory, shaking his head. ‘Among most cultures, the owl is considered a bad omen, portending death,’ he said, after a moment’s pause. ‘And I am portending the death of many unhumans tonight.’

  The smile disappeared from Evie’s face.

  ‘Bring it on,’ she heard Ash mutter from behind her.

  Chapter 25

  Cyrus took a sudden turn and drew the car into a parking lot next to a burger drive-thru. Evie glanced out of the window in confusion and then looked back at Cyrus.

  ‘What are we doing here? Is this where the way through is?’

  ‘No,’ he grinned back at her, ‘it’s where the Double Cheese & Bacon burger and chocolate milkshake are. Want something?’

  ‘No, thank you,’ she said, shooting him a look which she hoped conveyed both disdain and boredom.

  ‘You need to eat something,’ he said.

  ‘That’s not food. That’s reclaimed cow testicles.’

  Cyrus threw open his door, ‘Cows don’t have testicles. Someone needs a biology lesson.’ He got out and slammed the door shut. Vero jumped out after him, enclosing Evie in the gloom of the car with a silent, brooding Ash for company.

  Evie cleared her throat, trying to break the silence that had descended. Cyrus had taken the keys, so she couldn’t switch on the radio. ‘Is he always like this?’ she asked.

  ‘Like what?’ Ash answered, sounding uninterested.

  ‘So annoying.’

  ‘Most girls seem to like it.’

  Evie undid her seat belt and twisted in her seat. The bright lights from inside the burger place were shining through onto the back seat, making Ash’s face gleam. His expression was stony as a rock face.

  ‘How long have you known him?’ Evie asked, determined to put a crack in it.

  ‘Two years,’ Ash answered, staring out of the window.

  Evie did a quick mental calculation. ‘How many do you need to kill before you’ve got your revenge?’

  Ash’s dark eyes flew to her, narrowing enough to make her shrink back against the dashboard. ‘Every single one of them,’ he said without any emotion.

  A few seconds passed. Evie tapped her fingers against the headrest. She thought about turning back in her seat and just sinking into uncomfortable silence but for some unfathomable reason she didn’t want to turn her back on him. ‘You’re a martial artist?’ she asked instead.

  ‘Let Wei,’ he answered, his focus still on something way more interesting outside the car. ‘Burmese kick-boxing.’

  She studied his profile. His nose looked like it had been broken a few times and he had a jagged scar running across his forehead up into his hair, which was thick and dark and cut short. ‘Where’d you learn that?’ she asked.

  He turned to face her. ‘My father.’

  ‘Must come in useful.’

  He didn’t answer. He stared at her blankly for a few seconds and then went back to looking out of the wi
ndow. Evie thought about getting out of the car and going to see about that burger. Eating reconstituted cow parts seemed preferable suddenly to trying to make conversation with the Dark Knight here.

  She decided to give it one last shot. ‘So, have you thought about what you’re going to do when this is all over?’ she asked. She cringed even as she said it, realising that she sounded like a school guidance counsellor talking to the kid who’s flunking out and has a snowball’s chance in hell of getting a job cleaning toilets, let alone of getting into college.

  ‘I don’t think that far ahead,’ Ash answered. ‘The Buddha teaches right mindfulness. Staying alert to the present. If you miss the moment, you miss life.’

  Evie choked on a laugh before quickly swallowing it down in the face of Ash’s unamused expression and the sight of his biceps. ‘You’re Buddhist?’ she asked.

  Ash’s eyes narrowed to thin slits, his mouth pursing into a tight knot, as though daring her to say just one more word.

  ‘Didn’t the Buddha teach non-violence?’ Evie asked quickly. ‘I’m pretty certain he said something about killing equalling bad karma. You might come back in your next life as a snail or something.’

  ‘They’re not people,’ Ash fired back. ‘They’re not human. They’re not even animals. They’re monsters. Killing them creates good karma.’

  Evie fell back on her haunches, the small of her back banging against the dashboard. Ash stared at her through the square hole of the headrest. She eyed him warily, mulling over her response. She knew he was daring her to answer him back. The words were swirling and gathering in her head but before she could get them out he spoke again. ‘It wasn’t humans who killed my friend,’ he said. ‘It wasn’t humans who killed Vero’s sister.’

  Evie pressed her lips together and clamped them shut. He was talking about Thirsters. But just because one type of unhuman happened to like murdering people that didn’t make them all monsters. That was like saying because some humans committed murder everyone on the planet deserved to die. And, OK, she couldn’t care less about wiping out all the Thirsters in the realms because it wasn’t like any of the ones she’d met so far were the vegan, meditating kind, and maybe she wouldn’t be shedding tears over any Mixen or Scorpio that got killed either. But what about Lucas? And Jamieson? They weren’t monsters. She had a moment’s pause as she considered which side of the divide she’d place Flic, before she shook her head. It wasn’t so easy to just dump them all into the same category and pull a metaphorical switch.

 
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