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Fated 02 severed, p.19
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       Fated 02: Severed, p.19

           Sarah Alderson
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  She felt like she’d known the truth all along. The disquiet in the car with Margaret made sense now. The problem – the complicated question that had had them puzzling over it for days – now had a solution. And a fairly simple one at that. And, really, why was she even surprised? When Victor had revealed to her she was a Hunter and explained what that entailed she’d realised pretty fast that her life expectancy had shrunk. She’d always known that everything was going to end badly eventually. Or maybe not badly, but definitely sooner than she would have liked.

  She stared at Lucas out of the corner of her eye, the muscles of his arms rigid as he spun the wheel, his expression a rigid mask of suffering, a muscle pulsing angrily in his jaw. She wanted to reach over and brush his hair back from his forehead, stroke away the worry lines creasing his brow. She didn’t want to make him feel this much pain. More than anything she wanted to pull his face towards her and feel his lips against hers. She felt so much love and so much longing for him in that instant that it made her clutch her arms around her body in an effort to contain it all. If she had to die, she was doing it alone. Lucas would live. She wasn’t going to drag him any further into this fight. If they kept running from it he would die. She drew a deep, jagged breath. That was the deal she would make. Her life for Lucas’s. It made it easier to think of it in that way.

  Lucas parked outside Flic’s apartment block and, taking Evie’s hand, led her back to the apartment. Evie walked in silence, distracted, occupied with planning. Lucas had no idea what was going through her mind. If he even suspected, he’d no doubt force her back into the car and drive non-stop until they hit the Atlantic and even then he’d probably try to keep going.

  They stood as they had started – dishevelled, exhausted, on the run from Hunters and with nowhere else to turn. Only the clothing had changed. No more blood-spattered ball gowns. And this time Lucas didn’t lean nonchalantly against the doorpost with a roguish smile on his face. He stood side by side with her, his fingers laced tightly through her own, as though he was scared to let her go, his smile replaced with a tight-lipped glower.

  Flic opened the door wearing only a T-shirt. This time she looked genuinely surprised to see them. Her eyes were a burnished gold colour – she wasn’t wearing her contacts, which meant that she hadn’t been expecting them and that therefore Issa wasn’t around.

  ‘What are you doing here?’ Flic hissed, her eyes darting down the corridor behind them. ‘Goddamn it, Lucas.’ She ushered them inside, then bolted the door quickly behind them.

  ‘We know how the way through has to close,’ Lucas said once she’d turned back to face them.

  ‘Well, why aren’t you out there closing it then?’ Flic shouted. ‘It’s what you wanted, isn’t it? And don’t tell me you’ve come here for help because you can …’

  ‘No,’ Lucas interrupted, silencing her with a look. ‘The prophecy says that the White Light has to …’ He paused, unable to finish the sentence, then drew a breath and began again, ‘to close the way through, to seal it and sever the realms – it says she has to walk through the Gateway.’

  Flic blinked at him. ‘Well, that doesn’t sound so hard. What’s the big deal?’

  ‘Apparently a sacrifice is called for,’ Evie explained. She watched Flic’s eyes grow round as she finally figured it out.

  ‘Did Margaret show you the prophecy?’ Lucas suddenly demanded, pulling Evie around to face him, his fingers pressing into her shoulder blades. ‘Do you remember the exact words?’

  ‘Um,’ Evie said, going blank. She shook her head, trying to shake the memories back into place, but she was distracted and confused by the look on Lucas’s face – by the fear clouding his eyes. She’d never seen him look so afraid. Or so lost. Not even when facing down the Brotherhood.

  ‘Maybe they have it wrong,’ Lucas burst out. ‘Maybe it’s not talking about you at all. Who knows for certain? I mean, it doesn’t mention you by name.’

  ‘The giver of life. It said something about the giver of life. That’s me. Evie – it’s what my name means. It’s talking about me.’

  ‘I think we established a while ago the prophecy is talking about Evie,’ Flic said, shooting looks between them both. ‘So let me get this straight. This guy Victor and all the other Hunters – rogue and official – all know about Evie having to walk through the Gateway to close it?’

  Evie nodded. Lucas stayed silent.

  A knot of tension pulsed in Flic’s jaw. She pressed her lips hard together and winced. ‘So, am I right in saying that now you have every Hunter as well as every unhuman in the realms after you?’

  Neither Lucas nor Evie said a word.

  Flic crossed her arms over her chest and glared at them both. ‘And you decided to come here?’

  Chapter 33

  Lucas watched Evie go down the passageway. She was moving too slowly. Everything was moving too slowly, as if each second was being stretched on a rack. She disappeared into the bathroom and he turned impatiently back to the door, dimly aware that Flic was standing there watching him, her eyes narrowed with fury.

  ‘Why did you come here?’ she asked.

  ‘I thought Issa might be able to help us. I need to figure out how to keep Evie safe.’

  Flic rolled her eyes. ‘Issa isn’t here.’

  What had he been thinking coming here? How in all the realms had he let Evie convince him? He should have headed east immediately. Now they’d have to backtrack. He wasn’t thinking straight. Hell, he wasn’t thinking in any direction – he needed to get it together.

  ‘Can I borrow your car?’ he asked Flic.

  Flic stared at him, her eyes growing wide. ‘How are you going to outrun an army of unhumans in an old Ford Cortina?’

  Lucas swore. And once more Grace was in his head – you won’t ever be in time to save her. He wanted to smash his fist into the wall, yell, throw something … Instead he started pacing, anxiously eyeing the bathroom door, feeling Flic’s gaze tracking his every move, as grating as claws raking against his skin.

  ‘Why are you doing this?’ Flic hissed. ‘Yesterday you were all about shutting the way through, you couldn’t stop going on about it needing to happen, and now little Miss Hunter’s changed your mind. She just needs to click her little fingers and you jump to attention, blade at the ready.’

  He didn’t have time for this. ‘I still want it shut, Flic. It’s the right thing, just not this way. There has to be another way.’

  Flic rolled her eyes. ‘There isn’t time, Lucas, for you to figure out that there isn’t.’

  ‘If it was Jamieson?’ he said, struggling to keep his voice low. ‘Is that what you would do? Would you just give up on him? Or would you fight until your last breath to try and save him?’

  Flic stared right back at him. ‘What do you think I’m doing, Lucas?’ she asked. ‘I’m trying to save him and you.’

  His shoulders slumped.

  ‘If she doesn’t do it,’ Flic said, taking a step towards him, ‘have you thought what will happen to the rest of us? To this realm? Not just to Evie but to every damn human? There’s an army coming through, Lucas, or did you forget? They’re not going to make nice with the humans. I hear the revelation law has been suspended. It’s going to be a bloodbath.’

  ‘Shhh,’ Lucas said, raising his hands and shushing her, ‘Evie doesn’t know the rumour about an army.’

  ‘She doesn’t know?’ Flic shrieked. ‘You didn’t think to tell her that this whole realm’s going to be turned upside down while an army of unhumans searches for her?’

  ‘No, she doesn’t need to know.’

  ‘Yes, she does,’ Flic spat. ‘It’s not a rumour, Lucas. She could stop it from happening.’

  ‘The Hunters can stop it. The Elders couldn’t even recruit enough unhumans to the Brotherhood. This army will be a handful of Thirsters who’ve been dragged from their realm – they’ll be easily taken out. The Hunters can deal with them. That’s their job.’

  Flic stayed sil
ent, glowering at him, her jaw set.

  ‘I’m sorry, Flic,’ he said, shrugging. ‘I know you don’t understand and I’m not asking you to. There’s a reason I can’t just accept this.’ He bowed his head, staring at the ground. ‘And it’s not just about loving her, it’s something else – it’s as if my life is marked in the same way as hers. Something’s making me fight for her, something bigger than me. I just don’t know what or why yet. I can’t give up on her – it’s like asking me to stop breathing.’

  He looked up and saw Flic was blinking rapidly, fighting the tears. He’d never seen Flic cry. Not even when their parents had died. He resisted the urge he had to reach out a hand and place it on her shoulder, knowing she’d only swipe it away if he tried. For a brief instant he saw their mother in the expression on her face. Their mother who had lived in perpetual fear and worry for her two unhuman children. It had etched lines into her face even when she was not much older than they were now. He saw it clearly for the first time from Flic’s perspective. He was all the family she had left and he was choosing Evie, a Hunter, over her. And, though he hated himself for it, he couldn’t choose differently.

  Chapter 34

  Lucas was talking to Flic, who looked like she was on the verge of tears. For a moment Evie froze, watching them. Then Flic looked over Lucas’s shoulder right at Evie, her eyes burning yellow fire. Evie pulled her shoulders back, took a deep breath and continued towards them. Lucas had turned too now, was looking at her as if she was about to break. Did it look that obvious?

  ‘Lucas,’ Evie said in a rush, pulling herself together, ‘I think I just dropped my mum’s wedding ring down the drain.’

  His gaze dropped straight away to her hand. Then he nodded once. ‘I’ll get it, don’t worry,’ he said, heading towards the bathroom.

  The second he vanished into the bathroom Evie turned to Flic. ‘I need your help,’ she whispered, darting a glance over her shoulder, making sure Lucas was well out of hearing range.

  Flic turned on her heel and strode into the kitchen. Evie followed after her, finding her standing up against the kitchen counter with her back turned.

  ‘Flic?’ Evie said.

  Flic looked over her shoulder. ‘I’m not going to help you,’ she snarled.

  ‘You don’t even know what I’m going to ask,’ Evie said, closing the kitchen door.

  Flic whipped around and flew across the room, backing Evie against the wall. ‘You say you love my brother? Well, if you loved him you wouldn’t be doing this! He’s going to die if he keeps trying to protect you …’

  ‘No, he’s not,’ Evie answered calmly.

  ‘Yes he is. Issa saw it!’

  ‘She saw what?’ Evie asked, reaching a hand to steady herself against the counter.

  ‘Lucas dying,’ Flic spat, ‘trying to protect you. You don’t need to be a Sybll with big eyes to see that. Or that thousands of other people will die too, unless you close the way through.’

  Evie stared at her, speechless. Trying to fill her lungs was like trying to suck air through a crushed straw.

  ‘Lucas isn’t telling you the whole story,’ Flic hissed, eyeing the door and lowering her voice. ‘There’s an army – an army of unhumans coming through here – to this realm …’

  ‘I know,’ Evie cut in.

  Flic stared at her, startled, ‘You know?’

  ‘Yes,’ Evie nodded. She took a quick, unsteady step towards Flic, putting her hand on Flic’s arm, more to steady herself than to make Flic listen. ‘I’m not going to let him die. I swear to you. I’m going to finish this. And keep Lucas safe. But I can’t do it on my own. I need you to do something. That’s why I made him come here, rather than letting him head east.’

  Flic glowered at her, her yellow eyes pulsing hatred. Evie pushed down the anger that bubbled in response and started talking, watching Flic’s scowl slowly transform into a frown as she explained what she was planning on doing. She finished in a hurried whisper, hearing Lucas’s soft tread heading towards them. ‘Will you help me?’ she begged.

  Flic studied her. Her face had lost the disgusted look. Her eyes were wide. The hatred had muted into something less vicious. She nodded once.

  ‘I couldn’t find the ring.’

  They both turned. Lucas had appeared in the doorway. He shook his head at Evie. ‘I’m sorry.’

  Her stomach clenched. ‘It doesn’t matter,’ she answered, forcing a smile, her insides jittery all of a sudden. She saw the pain on his face and guilt cut a swathe through her.

  ‘Lucas,’ Flic said, sliding between them, ‘I think you two should stay.’

  Lucas opened his mouth to argue, clearly puzzled by her change of heart.

  Flic cut him off before he could say anything. ‘A few hours isn’t going to hurt. I’m going to go and find Issa. I’ll make her help you. And I’ll get you a car too. You guys stay here, get some rest, eat something. I’ll be back soon.’

  Lucas’s dark-ringed eyes narrowed at Flic, one brow arched in suspicion. He wasn’t buying it. Not two minutes ago she’d been practically throwing them out of the door. His gaze flew to Evie, the suspicion growing in the light of her nervous shuffle.

  He shook his head. ‘No, we need to go right now,’ he answered, reaching for Evie’s hand. ‘If Issa wanted to be here, she would be here.’

  ‘No, Flic’s right,’ Evie spoke up, snatching her hand out of his grasp. ‘I think we should stay. We’ve not slept in almost twenty-four hours. We need to rest.’ She slumped her shoulders and gave him a pleading look, ‘Please? I’m exhausted. I can’t fight if I’m tired.’

  His eyes were storm-laden and shifting as he paused awhile, scrutinising her as if he could read her mind. She forced herself to stand still and hold his gaze.

  ‘Listen,’ Flic said, clearing her throat behind them. ‘You’re my brother. I might never see you again. I can’t stop you from doing this, but I can try to help you.’

  Evie registered the look of guilt that flooded Lucas’s face. ‘If there’s any chance that you can change things,’ Flic pressed on, ‘then I want to help.’ She put a hand on Lucas’s shoulder. ‘Promise me you won’t leave until I get back.’

  Lucas frowned, then finally exhaled loudly, his teeth clenched. ‘Fine. OK. We won’t go anywhere until you get back. But hurry,’ he growled.

  Flic brushed past them, shooting Evie a warning look that made her shudder. She disappeared and a minute or so later they heard the apartment door slamming.

  Evie stood beside Lucas, her pulse quickening, listening to the hush descend and feeling Lucas’s tension like an undertow pulling her down. ‘So,’ she said, trying to smile, aware it probably looked like she was grimacing.

  He brought his hand up and stroked a strand of hair out of her eyes. She dropped her gaze, knowing full well he’d see through the deceit in her eyes as easily as if she’d spoken it. Just as he was about to say something she took his hand and silently led him to the room they’d stayed in before.

  He stood in front of the bed, then abruptly pulled his hand from hers and walked back towards the door. ‘I’m going to stay up and keep watch. You sleep,’ he said. She could sense the motion inside him – the effort it was taking for him to stand still, to stay in this place.

  ‘I don’t want to sleep,’ she said, feeling suddenly afraid. She stuffed her hands deep into her pockets and looked down at her feet.

  Lucas turned to her in the doorway. ‘You just said you wanted to rest. I don’t …’ He stopped abruptly.

  Evie took a tentative step towards him, her stomach falling away. ‘Hold me,’ she whispered.

  He hesitated, registering what she’d said. She watched the worry fade from his eyes and in its place a silent question form. But it was fleeting, there one moment and gone the next, the question apparently answered without needing to be voiced. He moved quickly, surprising her – was in front of her in just one stride, pulling her hard against his chest, kissing her in the next instant, cutting off her breath. O
ne hand was pressed against her waist, the other holding the back of her head so she couldn’t have pulled away from his lips even if she’d wanted to. Her hip bone jarred against his and she pushed closer, her fingers looping through the waistband of his jeans, pulling him towards her until his stomach was flat against hers.

  She heard the low moan escape as she caught his bottom lip between her teeth and bit down softly. His hold of her tightened and for the sweetest, most perfect of moments she forgot everything – everything she had committed to be and everything she had committed to do – she felt so completely safe and so sheltered, as if his promises were all true and he could hold all the darkness at bay so that nothing could ever come near her or hurt her.

  She pulled away from him for the brief seconds it took to tear her T-shirt off over her head with trembling fingers. She heard him take a breath as he glanced down, and he murmured something she couldn’t hear as he fell to his knees in front of her. His lips brushed the cool skin of her stomach leaving a burning shiver in their wake. He pressed his cheek against the hollow shadow of her hip and it felt to Evie as if he was trying to fade into her, become part of her, and she closed her eyes and wished with every fibre of her being that he could.

  When she opened her eyes he was looking up at her, uncertainty and desire and hope mingling in his expression, and she dropped to her knees level with him, taking his face between her hands, feeling the softness of his skin beneath the stubble along his jaw. He leant forwards and kissed her and she let her hands fall away so she could pull his T-shirt off. He hesitated and then raised his arms to let her tug it over his head, keeping his eyes steady on her the whole time. His skin was gleaming, almost too painful to look at, to have to memorise. Her fingertips wanted to trace him, etch him onto her own skin. She wanted to touch and taste every part of him, and knowing there wasn’t enough time made her heart sing with pain.

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