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Fated 02 severed, p.17
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       Fated 02: Severed, p.17

           Sarah Alderson
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  ‘Not here, Cyrus,’ Margaret snapped.

  Evie bit back the smile.

  ‘OK, so the plan is to what? Get to Evie’s house, break in, find this book and then what? Hope to whichever divinity is on our side that the answer’s in it?’

  ‘It is in it,’ Margaret hissed, glancing up to read the interstate signs, then swerving hard across two lanes of traffic.

  Cyrus contemplated his mother with narrowed eyes. ‘Well, I sure as hell hope you’re right about this book, because though there is no questioning my skill, I’m not that confident of my chances of emerging unharmed against an army of five thousand unhumans. And if the answer isn’t there then …’

  Margaret cut him off. ‘We’ll close the Gateway before they can come through. OK? Stop panicking.’

  Cyrus bolted upright, affronted, ‘I’m not panicking. I don’t panic. Ever. I’m just cautiously expressing my concern.’

  Evie stayed quiet. Cyrus might not be panicking but she sure as hell was. They had just passed the first sign for Riverview and her heart rate had rocketed. She unlocked her fingers from her T-shirt and started flexing and unflexing them, trying to remember the way Lucas used to stroke her palm to get her to relax, then trying to take deep breaths when that failed. She repeated silently the words that Lucas had whispered to her: It was all going to be fine. In a few hours they’d be back together, they’d have the book, they’d know what they needed to do and this whole nightmare would be over.

  She sank down into her seat as they turned onto Main Street, though she didn’t expect to see any traffic or people about. This was a country town: people went to bed with the sun; there was nothing whatsoever in the way of nightlife. She glanced warily out of the window anyway. Last time she’d been here, which felt like centuries ago rather than just a few days, she and Lucas had left a pile of dead unhumans behind and Victor trussed up like a stuffed pork loin in his own store. But gazing out on the deserted street, painted eerily chiaroscuro under the streetlights and reminding her of a Hopper painting, it was hard to imagine that a demon massacre had occurred right here.

  They cruised past Joe’s diner and Evie stared in the dark windows remembering the night she’d served Victor – the same night the Brotherhood had showed up to get her and she’d been outed by Victor as a Hunter. It felt strange to think that once upon a time she’d been a waitress. Now she was a demon slayer slash walking prophecy. How was that for a career move?

  She turned her head quickly to look at the boutique on the other side of the road which Victor had set up as a cover. Though he’d employed her as a shop assistant, in reality he’d been training her to fight. The stock room had functioned as a weapons training room. The mannequins Evie had dressed in couture were still in the window, plastic limbs splayed in surprise as if they couldn’t believe the sign hanging on the door announcing that the shop was closing down. Evie wondered if the weapons were still laid out in the back room or if Victor had taken them.

  Margaret paused at the next intersection, looking at her for directions. Evie pointed her left. They drove for a few minutes, passing her ex-boyfriend Tom’s house. His bedroom light was still on. She tried to picture him. Was he talking on the phone to Kaitlyn Rivers like he’d once done with her – in hushed whispers under the covers so that his mother couldn’t hear? Was he safe? Would the Elders send anyone to hurt him? Or threaten him? The knots twisted in her gut. How was she supposed to protect everyone she’d ever been close to? She kept staring at the house over her shoulder, checking the shadows, trying to sense if anything lurked in them, until she noticed Cyrus narrowing his eyes at her in suspicion.

  ‘So,’ she said, turning back to Margaret before Cyrus could ask anything or start jibing her. He already knew enough of her business. ‘Um, Mrs Locke, you’ve been researching the Hunter family all this time?’

  ‘Mmm,’ Margaret murmured in response, keeping her attention fixed on the road.

  ‘What were you trying to find out exactly?’ she asked innocently.

  Margaret licked her lips and swallowed. ‘I was trying to find out how this all began. Why the Gateway first appeared, I wanted to find out more about the Hunter family.’

  ‘And did you? Find out anything, I mean?’

  ‘Yes,’ she answered. ‘I found out plenty.’

  Evie waited for her to continue but she didn’t. ‘And?’ Evie finally had to ask.

  ‘And I’ll tell you later,’ Margaret snapped. ‘Which way now?’

  ‘Keep going straight,’ Evie said, thrown by the older woman’s tone, ‘then take a left at the end of the road. My house is the last one on the right.’ Evie leant forwards, her heart now in her mouth, gazing at her neighbours’ familiar houses. She’d taken Margaret a slightly roundabout route, so she had to drive past Jocelyn’s place. The porch light was on, though the rest of the house was buried in darkness. Was Jocelyn holding up her end of the bargain? Was she looking after her mum?

  Half a mile further on, they came to Evie’s house. Margaret cut the engine and cruised to a silent stop at the edge of the road, pulling onto the grass verge. Evie stared at the old Victorian house. The lights were all out, even the porch light, which her mother normally left on to welcome visitors. Evie scanned the windows upstairs – her own bedroom under the eaves, her mother’s at the far end. The curtains were drawn in both rooms. The house didn’t look welcoming. For the first time in Evie’s life it looked threatening.

  Chapter 29

  Evie eased open the door and stepped out into the night, the first leaves of fall crackling under her feet. A thin wedge of moon lit the driveway, though beneath the cover of trees at the edge of the plot total blackness lay. She hesitated for a moment, trying to gauge her surroundings, at once so familiar but at the same time now alien. She scanned the area. She couldn’t feel any unhumans. Her heart was beating fast, the blood pounding in her temples, and her hearing was so acutely tuned that she could hear the mournful hoots of an owl down by the river and some rustling in the long grass in the orchard behind the house. But her senses weren’t pricking, so she knew it wasn’t an unhuman or even a human. It was just an animal.

  ‘Do you remember where you left the book?’ Cyrus asked. He had appeared beside her, his hand casually brushing her lower back.

  ‘Yes,’ she answered, looking up at the darkened windows, ‘it’s upstairs in my bedroom, under the mattress.’

  ‘That’s original.’

  She started walking up the drive, the crunch of the gravel sounding as loud as buckshot. Cyrus hurried to keep up. Margaret seemed to be staying in the car, which was fine by Evie.

  ‘Is your mum home?’ Cyrus asked under his breath.

  Evie frowned up at the darkened windows, her pace slowing. ‘She should be,’ she whispered back. But now he’d asked the question she realised that was what was bothering her. Her mum’s car wasn’t there. There was only Evie’s old truck, parked by the side of the house.

  ‘If she’s there, don’t wake her up, OK? Let’s just get the book and leave,’ Cyrus murmured.

  Evie turned to him, her eyes narrowing to slits. She needed to see her mum. Cyrus could shove his advice where the sun didn’t shine. ‘I need to warn her …’ she started.

  ‘What are you going to tell her?’ Cyrus hissed through the darkness. ‘Run, the apocolypse is coming? This is not the moment for reunions, hysterics and explanations to family,’ he said, taking hold of her by the elbow. ‘Call her later and tell her you need her help. Tell her you need her to come and get you because you’ve been abandoned by lover boy in Alaska or somewhere else a thousand miles from here. That’ll get her out of town. Well away from any trouble that comes looking for you.’

  Evie snatched her arm free and scowled at Cyrus in the darkness, watching the old oak tree slash angry shadows across his face. She bit her tongue and strode off down the driveway. He had a point. Turning up in the middle of the night with Cyrus in tow, when she’d only skipped town three nights ago with Lucas, wasn’
t exactly going to be an easy one to explain to her mother. But no way was she ever going to admit to Cyrus that he was right.

  On the front porch she pulled up short, her hands hovering at her sides. Cyrus bounded up the steps and drew up alongside her. ‘What is it?’ he asked. ‘I don’t feel anything. There’s no one here.’

  Exactly, she thought to herself. Where was her mother? She turned the door handle. It was locked. Her stomach clenched in panic. The front door was never locked. She turned and started heading around to the back door, Cyrus jogging to keep pace with her. On the back porch Lobo’s bed lay empty. The panic trebled.

  ‘What? What is it?’ Cyrus asked, a note of worry creeping into his voice when he saw the expression on her face.

  ‘Lobo,’ Evie said, pointing at the dog’s empty bed and water bowl. ‘The dog’s gone.’ She reached for the back door. It fell open.

  Cyrus stepped quickly past her into the kitchen, flicking the light switch as he went. A howl sent him jumping backwards. Evie pushed past him, dropping to her knees, holding her arms out wide as Lobo leapt towards her, pressing his muzzle into her shoulder. She grabbed hold of him by the scruff of the neck and buried her face in his fur.

  ‘Lobo,’ she whispered, ‘good boy, where’s mum?’

  The husky dog whined and pawed the ground. Evie sat back on her haunches, her fingers carefully stroking the back of Lobo’s neck where Shula had acid-burnt him. The skin beneath the fur seemed to be healing.

  ‘There’s a note.’

  Evie looked up. Cyrus was reaching for a sheet of paper lying on the kitchen table. She was on her feet in the next second, snatching it out of his hands.

  Evie, in case you choose tonight to come home, I’m at Joe’s. I’ll be home in the morning. Mum x

  Evie stared at the note. What the hell? Joe? And her mum? She reread the note. Joe? Evie’s old boss, Joe? She blinked a few times trying to clear her head and the visions now occupying it. Since when had her mum been sleeping over at Joe’s? Was this a recent occurrence?

  Cyrus put his hand on her shoulder, ‘So your mum’s getting some, huh?’ he asked.

  Evie crumbled the note into a ball and spun around, her cheeks blazing but words choking in her throat.

  ‘Look, call her later,’ Cyrus said, his smile fading. ‘Send her and this Joe guy on a mission to get you from Alaska.’ He grabbed her by the elbow once more. ‘Come on, we need to find this book.’

  Evie yanked her arm out of his grip and walked through into the hallway. She ran up the stairs, Cyrus following right behind. She opened the door to her bedroom slowly and stepped inside, switching on the light. Her mum had tidied her room. She almost didn’t recognise it. The closet doors were visible for once, not buried under an avalanche of clothes. All her books had been piled on her desk neatly alongside a half-written paper. She felt a momentary stab of guilt as she realised that school was due to start back in a few days – about the same time that the army of unhumans was due to come by looking for her. How was that for timing? But at least she would have an excuse as to why she hadn’t finished the paper.

  She felt Cyrus nudge her and dropped to her knees in front of her bed, sticking her hands under the mattress and rummaging. She spread her arms wide, sweeping the bed slats. Then, when she found nothing, she dropped to the ground and peered beneath the bed to see if the book had fallen to the floor.

  ‘Did you find it?’ Cyrus asked impatiently.

  She wriggled out from under the bed. ‘It’s not there,’ she said, jumping to her feet.

  Cyrus pulled the mattress off the bed and upended it against the wall.

  ‘Hey,’ she yelled, but her voice died away in the face of the dust and the obvious lack of book.

  ‘Damn it,’ Cyrus shouted, taking the words out of her mouth. ‘Are you sure it was there? You didn’t hide it in your underwear drawer or somewhere else?’

  Evie shook her head, at the same time turning to the dresser and pulling the drawers open. She started rifling desperately through her clothes. ‘No, no, it’s not here. I put it under the mattress. I know I did. If it’s not here, then someone’s taken it.’ Had her mum moved it when she tidied the room? That had to be the only explanation. She turned to the desk and knocked over the pile of books stacked there, looking for the familiar leather-bound cover among them – but nothing. Cyrus had moved to the dresser and was rooting through her underwear drawer. She shoved him roughly aside and his cry of protest almost drowned out the squeak of floorboards.

  The two of them spun towards the door. The bottom stair creaked again as someone shifted their weight. Evie’s senses went into overdrive. It was a Hunter. That feeling she had whenever she was near Cyrus or any of the others was getting more obvious to her now. It wasn’t exactly the magnetic attraction that Cyrus had claimed it was; it was more like someone was pulling an invisible string attached to her sternum. There was a tug that made her want to draw nearer, to find out who was tugging at her.

  ‘It’s just my mum,’ Cyrus said, pushing Evie aside and starting to tip the contents of her drawers onto the floor.

  Evie stayed staring at the door, her hand instinctively reaching behind her, her fingers closing around the hilt of Lucas’s blade. The door opened and she drew the knife with a speed that caused blue sparks to shower over her and make Cyrus swear and leap around.

  A man stood towering in the doorway. Evie took one glance at him before bringing the blade up with a snarl.

  ‘Looking for something?’ Victor asked.

  Chapter 30

  Evie stared at him – at the familiar purple cravat he was wearing and at the smug smile on his broad face. She saw him glance at the blade she was holding in front of her and hesitate for a moment on the brink of the doorway. He was clutching the book they were looking for in his right hand, holding it against his chest as though it was a bible and he was about to preach the word.

  Evie’s feet were rooted to the spot. She did a quick calculation. Victor was armed. There was a knife sheathed on his belt and he was probably carrying a gun too, despite his preference for the medieval. His frame entirely filled the doorway, eclipsing the light from the hall. There’d be no way around him. She weighed the knife in her hand. On the upside he made a big target. She could try throwing it and hope it hit home. But she remembered when she’d thrown a knife at him once before he’d actually caught the damn thing in midair and she didn’t want to risk losing the blade – given it wasn’t hers to begin with. Her only option then was to get past him somehow and to run.

  ‘Who the hell are you?’ Cyrus demanded, stepping suddenly in front of her and squaring up to Victor.

  ‘Victor,’ Evie said hoarsely. ‘It’s Victor.’

  ‘Victor?’ Cyrus asked, tipping his head to one side, taking in the bulk of the man in front of him. Evie caught the flash of metal in his hand and knew Cyrus had pulled his knife from his belt.

  ‘Cyrus!’ Margaret’s voice came as a warning yell. She appeared behind Victor’s shoulder and Evie watched in dawning horror as Victor shifted slightly to let her pass into the room. Her eyes darted between them both. What was going on? Hadn’t Margaret been running from Victor? Hadn’t he been trying to kill her? So what was she doing now treating him like he wasn’t standing right there in the room next to her, clutching the book they’d driven halfway across the state to find?

  ‘So this is why you ran?’ Victor asked, his eyes flashing to Margaret before returning to Cyrus. He studied him for several seconds. ‘He looks a lot like his father, don’t you think?’ he asked, raising his eyebrows in a smirk.

  Cyrus’s head flew up. ‘What’s he talking about?’ he asked through a clenched jaw.

  Evie stared at Margaret. What was going on? But Margaret was glaring at Victor, her face turning pale.

  ‘Where’s Lucas?’ Victor asked.

  ‘He’s not here. I got him out of the picture,’ Margaret answered.

  ‘What?’ Evie heard herself ask. She closed her eyes and t
hen opened them again, shaking her head at Margaret in disbelief. ‘You planned this? You knew Victor would be here?’

  ‘What’s going on?’ Cyrus asked, sounding every bit as confused as she was.

  Victor reached out an arm. ‘Evie, come with me,’ he demanded.

  She burst out laughing and took a step backwards, thrusting the blade out before her. ‘No,’ she said. ‘Are you kidding me? I’m not going anywhere with you. I wish I’d let Lucas kill you. I wish I’d killed you myself.’

  Faster than Evie had anticipated, Victor lunged, his fingers closing around her left wrist. She pulled backwards, her right hand swiping with the blade, slashing the top of his arm. The Shadow Blade sliced easily through his suit, drawing blood. Victor instantly let her go, staring at his arm in surprise as the blood started to drip to the carpet. He tugged at his silk cravat, pulling it free from his neck before wrapping it around his arm, the whole time keeping his eyes trained on her. Evie’s own gaze fell instantly to the thin red line against the front of his throat that had been hidden up until now. That was the scar from where Lucas had pressed his knife to Victor’s throat. As she stared at it, and Victor was momentarily distracted with tying a tourniquet, she took two small steps sideways, closing the space between her and the now-empty doorway.

  ‘She’s not going with you,’ Cyrus said, raising his voice. ‘She’s not going anywhere until you tell me what’s going on.’

  ‘Cyrus, it’s for the best,’ whispered Margaret.

  Cyrus shook his head. ‘For whose best?’ he asked. ‘No one’s going anywhere, least of all Evie, until you tell me what’s going on. Why did you bring us back here? I’m guessing it wasn’t for the book, was it?’

  Margaret shook her head. ‘No,’ she admitted.

  ‘There’s nothing about the prophecy in it, is there?’ Cyrus grimaced.

  ‘Give it to me,’ Victor demanded, turning to Margaret now and holding out his hand.

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