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       Severed, p.2

           Sarah Alderson
 

  Jamieson’s face turned ashen. He turned slowly to look at Lucas. ‘You killed …?’

  Lucas dropped his gaze to the floor.

  ‘It wasn’t really him,’ Evie burst out. ‘I mean Lucas didn’t actually kill anyone.’ ‘Tonight,’ she added under her breath, remembering Caleb. He had killed Caleb but that had been a couple of nights ago.

  ‘Well, who did kill them? You?’ Flic asked snidely. ‘You’re not even fully trained are you? Do you even have your full power?’

  Evie bit her lip and took a deep breath. ‘No,’ she admitted in a whisper. Lucas’s sister seemed to know a hell of a lot about her. Evie threw a worried glance at Lucas to see whether he was thinking the same thing, but she was distracted by Flic suddenly taking a step towards her.

  ‘Because of you,’ Flic said, pushing right up into Evie’s face so that Evie could make out the yellowy-gold rim at the edge of her irises, ‘my brother is now being hunted down by every unhuman in a seven- realm radius.’

  Evie’s gut tightened.

  ‘How did you know about Evie?’ interrupted Lucas. ‘How did you know that she’s a Hunter? How did you know about …,’ he paused, glancing briefly in Evie’s direction, ‘us?’

  ‘How do you think I knew, Lucas?’ Flic snarled.

  Lucas’s eyes widened slightly. ‘She’s here?’ he asked, dropping his voice, his eyes darting over Flic’s shoulder.

  Evie glanced between them, trying to work out who they were talking about. Who did Lucas think was here? And then, as if on cue, she heard a girl’s soft voice.

  ‘Hello Lucas.’

  Evie spun around as Jamieson edged aside, revealing a girl with hair like sheet lightning falling over one shoulder, reaching almost to her waist. But it was her eyes that Evie was drawn to. They were huge – unhumanly huge – two pale-blue discs in the white oval of her face.

  She was a Sybll. Evie knew it immediately. This girl in front of her could see the future. That’s how they knew all about her, and about Lucas being on the run with a Hunter. This girl standing in front of her had seen them coming.

  ‘Hi Issa,’ Lucas finally answered, his voice taking on an uneven tone.

  The girl gazed at him for a few seconds, her face as blank as a corpse, but then her eyes flew to Evie, and Evie could have sworn she saw a shudder run through her before she quickly looked back at Lucas. Did Evie really look that bad? Or was it that she had seen something? Something coming? Was that how it worked? God, she realised she really didn’t know a lot about unhumans. So much for Victor’s training. She hadn’t even thought to bring the book with her which contained all the information the Hunters had gathered on unhumans over the years. It was still at her house, hidden under the bed. All she knew for certain was that she was standing in a narrow hallway surrounded on all sides by demons who she was theoretically supposed to kill.

  And it looked as if they’d like to do the same to her, except without the theoretical part.

  ‘Flic, let them stay,’ Jamieson said. ‘Issa can warn us if anyone’s coming. Let’s find out what’s going on at least,’ he added when Flic made no sign of relenting.

  Flic pressed her lips together in a gesture that reminded Evie of Lucas and then she exhaled loudly. Without a word she strode past all of them and into the room at the end of the hallway. Jamieson turned to them and with a shrug of his shoulders gestured for them to follow her.

  Evie hesitated, convinced now that they’d be better off leaving, but Lucas’s hand was suddenly in hers and he was shooting her a pleading look and she was just too tired to argue. The last of her adrenaline had leached away and she didn’t think she would be able to even make it back to the car. So she trudged after Flic into the living room.

  Jamieson crossed straight away to a beanbag in the corner of the room and flopped down onto it, his eyes darting from Lucas and his crimson-spattered clothing to Evie in her strapless cocktail attire. She watched his eyebrows rise as he took in the state of the dress and her bare legs and feet streaked with blood and mud. She shuffled uncomfortably, aware of how badly she wanted to shower and change into something clean.

  There was a sofa against one wall covered in blankets and a small coffee table in front of it scattered with magazines and empty cans. The room was lit by several floor lamps and some candles sat on the windowsill. Flic moved straight to the window and pulled down the blind. Issa stood quietly in the centre of the room – a marble statue, dressed all in black, her gaze glued to Lucas.

  Evie inched closer to Lucas. In the flickering glow of the lights he didn’t seem so pale but, standing this side of him, Evie could see the dried trickle of blood running down his neck and the two scabs where Joshua had sunk his fangs in. She shut her eyes trying to erase the image that flashed before her, but it remained there, as though seared with a branding iron onto her retina. She didn’t think she’d ever manage to successfully rid herself of that one.

  ‘You saw us coming?’ she heard Lucas ask.

  ‘Yes,’ Issa answered. ‘I’m still connected to you, Lucas.’

  Evie’s eyes flew open.

  ‘And you’re sure no one followed them?’ Flic asked.

  Issa frowned briefly before stepping around Flic and taking hold of Lucas’s hand. Evie tensed beside him, watching.

  Issa’s eyes suddenly glazed over, the blue turning milky-white. Lucas stood stock-still, not breathing. After a few seconds Issa’s eyes flashed open. ‘You can relax,’ she said, turning her back and walking to the sofa. ‘You’re safe for the moment.’

  ‘But they’re coming?’ Lucas asked, his voice sounding strained. ‘You see them coming for us, don’t you?’

  ‘Yes, they’ll come,’ Issa answered, dropping down onto a cushion.

  Evie stared at her, biting her lip. You didn’t need to be a psychic to know that.

  Chapter 3

  Lucas saw Evie’s face pale. Her eyes, the colour of deep ocean, were locked on Issa. For a second his mind flew back to the Mission, remembering another Sybll standing in front of him, clutching his arm. You die because of the choice you make, Grace had told him.

  Except he hadn’t died. He was still here. Even though he’d made the choice to turn his back on the Brotherhood and on his oath, he was still alive. Which made him wonder whether fate was so set in stone and whether Sybll always got it right.

  ‘Sybll predictions don’t always come true, Evie,’ he said to her softly, shooting Issa a warning look.

  Evie turned to him. She looked fragile all of a sudden and unsteady on her feet. He fought the urge to pull her towards him. The last thing he needed to do was give Flic any more reason to lash out – she was already simmering dangerously. And he was acutely aware too of Issa, standing there, observing them both silently. He hadn’t expected to ever see her again, least of all here. The last time they’d been in each other’s company – the time he’d said goodbye – hadn’t exactly been one to store in the memory bank.

  Evie was still staring up at him, her body tensed and her chin held high. She was trying to show she was unafraid. But he could hear her heart beating as rapidly as it had done back when they were cornered in the alley. The front of her dress was torn at the hem and there was a bloodied handprint stamped across her collarbone. He kept glancing at it, wanting to wipe it away. It was unsettling, as if an invisible demon was trying to strangle her.

  ‘Tristan told me that Sybll sometimes get it wrong. That things can change according to the choices we make,’ he said, trying to reassure her. ‘Think about it,’ he added. ‘Wouldn’t they have sent more than just the Brotherhood to kill you if they’d been able to foresee what was going to happen? We wouldn’t be standing here now if Sybll got it right all the time.’

  Evie chewed her lip, contemplating what he’d just said. She didn’t look that convinced.

  ‘It’s true,’ Issa said.

  Lucas looked at her, startled. He hadn’t expected Issa to back him up on this one.

  ‘We don’t see everyth
ing,’ she said. Was that a pointed look she threw his way before she turned back to Evie? ‘I only catch glimpses. To see someone’s future it helps to be near them or touching them. Or to be connected to them in some way.’ Another look in his direction, which made him turn his head and start admiring the cushions strewn along the back of the sofa. ‘And even then,’ he heard Issa sigh, ‘Lucas is right, things do change according to the choices that people make.’

  That one was definitely aimed at him. He took the hit. He deserved it.

  ‘OK, enough about Sybll shortcomings,’ Flic interrupted. ‘Are you going to tell us what the hell happened?’ She was leaning against the wall by the window, her arms still crossed, shooting daggers at him and something altogether more lethal at Evie. It had been a year since Lucas had seen her. She hadn’t changed one bit. She was still sharp as a shadow blade. And just as unforgiving. He was only glad that she hadn’t answered the door armed with one.

  ‘Yeah, I’d like to hear what happened, so I know what may or may not be coming,’ Jamieson added, winking at Issa.

  Lucas studied the boy lounging on the beanbag. He was a Shapeshifter. Easy to tell; the scent of him and the extra-fast heartbeat gave it away. Lucas normally didn’t have a problem with Shapeshifters. Neena was a Shapeshifter and the only member of the Brotherhood he actually liked, apart from Grace. He felt a sudden sharp pain in his side as if someone had twisted a knife into his gut. He still didn’t know what had happened to either of them – whether he should even be thinking about them in the present tense. He shook his head. He needed to focus. There was nothing he could do for them now. And everyone in the room was looking at him expectantly.

  He took a deep breath. ‘I was sent to kill Evie.’ No one said a word. He continued, ‘The Brotherhood had been looking for her for a long time. Seventeen years to be precise.’

  ‘Why?’ Flic interrupted, staring Evie up and down, her top lip curling in a sneer.

  ‘She’s the last full-blood Hunter,’ he answered. And she’s the White Light, he thought to himself. He carried on before Flic could say anything more. ‘We were ordered to kill her before she could gain her full power – before she was fully trained and had made her first kill,’ he said, watching the reaction from the others as he spoke.

  Jamieson had drawn himself up to a sitting position, and was leaning forwards, resting on his elbows and studying Evie as though she was an exotic beast. Issa was perched ramrod straight on the sofa, as motionless as she was expressionless. Flic, he noted, had finally stopped scowling. Now she was frowning at him.

  ‘The first time we tried to kill her we failed,’ Lucas went on, remembering the attack behind the diner and how Evie, still a stranger to him then, had fought back, surprising them all. He remembered Shula lunging towards Evie and how he’d darted forwards and pushed Evie out of the way. Later he’d tried to kid himself that he had only saved Evie from Shula’s acid grasp so that he could kill her himself. Except here she was standing next to him, still alive, and here he was, ready to do whatever it took to keep her that way. Killing her had never been an option. It had just taken him a while to figure that out. He realised he’d stopped talking mid-sentence and that the others were sitting there hanging on his words, waiting for him to finish.

  ‘Tristan sent me back to Riverview to spy on Evie and the other Hunters who were training her,’ he said, leaving out the part where he had convinced Tristan to let him go, arguing that as he was half-human he’d be able to pass undetected. ‘So I did,’ he said, glancing at Evie out of the corner of his eye. ‘I spied on her and watched her train.’ He paused, swallowing uncomfortably, ‘Until one day Tristan told me time was up and I needed to kill her.’

  ‘And?’ Flic demanded, hands on hips. ‘What stopped you?’

  Lucas frowned, not sure how to answer in a way that wouldn’t have his sister launch a round of expletives at his head.

  ‘He couldn’t do it,’ Issa said softly, before he could open his mouth.

  Lucas shrugged. It was an answer. And it was the truth. At least, as much truth as he was prepared to tell them. He didn’t expect Flic of all people to understand. And besides, it was something that he himself couldn’t even put into words. How could you describe a feeling that made every other feeling and thought fade to nothing? How could he explain the reason he’d chosen to walk this line, even though it would inevitably lead towards his death, when it wasn’t reasonable? It was just a need that ran so deep, that owned him so completely, that no other action was conceivable. There was Evie and there was keeping her safe. And there was nothing else in between. If such a notion had come from anyone else he would have told them they were insane and to seek psych treatment. So he could understand Flic’s fury. But there was nothing he could do about it.

  ‘That doesn’t explain why the rest of the Brotherhood are dead,’ Flic shouted.

  ‘The Brotherhood turned up just as we were leaving,’ Lucas carried on quietly, ‘and we had to fight our way out.’

  ‘You got bitten?’ Jamieson asked, pointing to Lucas’s neck.

  ‘Yes,’ Lucas said, his fingers reaching instinctively to the puncture wounds there. At the time it had felt as if two sharpened, acid-coated needles had been shoved deep into the vein. ‘But I’m fine. I wouldn’t have been if Evie hadn’t been there,’ he added, glancing at her. She raised her eyes and he saw the shadow of a smile pass across her lips.

  He only vaguely remembered the sensation of falling, the pull from the shadows, the way it had felt dissolving into darkness. And then Evie’s weight on top of him, shocking him back, until he felt the hard ground beneath him once again. His face had been buried in her shoulder, and her hair, falling over them like a curtain, had almost blocked out the soft whisper of steel slicing through air above them.

  ‘Damn Thirsters,’ Jamieson said under his breath. ‘There’s more and more of them coming through.’

  Lucas looked up sharply, ‘What?’

  Jamieson stared at him in wide-eyed surprise. ‘They’re coming through in droves. You haven’t heard?’

  Lucas shook his head. At the Mission the Brotherhood had been cut off from everything, focused only on their training and on tracking down Hunters.

  ‘It’s making things really difficult for the rest of us,’ Jamieson went on. ‘We’re just trying to get by, you know, trying to keep a low profile, and they keep advertising the fact there are unhumans in town. It’s not good for the rest of us.’

  ‘Advertising how exactly?’ asked Lucas, simultaneously knowing and fearing the answer.

  Jamieson gave him another look, this time noticeably grimmer. ‘You know Thirsters – they’re not exactly fussy eaters. People are disappearing. Not just humans. There’s talk that they’re feeding on the rest of us too. Particularly Shapeshifters,’ he grimaced.

  Lucas nodded. Shapeshifter blood was reputedly the most sought-after blood in all the realms because of the way it tasted.

  ‘It’s not just Thirsters coming through. We’ve seen Mixen around too,’ Flic added, her nostrils flaring in disgust.

  ‘And one or two Scorpio. Though it’s harder for them to pass.’

  ‘Why are they coming here?’ Lucas asked, turning to Issa for the answer.

  ‘Why?’ Flic hissed, before Issa could speak. ‘Why do you think? Why are we all here? Because the Shadowlands suck. Because the Shapeshifter realm is being overrun by bloodsuckers who’ve drained their own lands dry and are after a tasty snack. Why wouldn’t they all come here? Scorpio can get into fights and actually win. Thirsters can eat whatever they want without getting banished. Mixen can get their freak on and no one bats an eyelid. Everyone’s so off their head in this town or so used to seeing crazy shit no one notices them. Who wouldn’t rather be here than stuck in their own realm? Even with all this going on, even with Hunters doing their damndest to exterminate us,’ she threw Evie a look, ‘even with Thirsters and Mixen and Scorpio running around like they own the place, I still choose here.’

/>   ‘Maybe everyone’s trying to get through while they can,’ Jamieson muttered.

  ‘What do you mean?’ Lucas asked.

  ‘There’s a rumour going around,’ Jamieson said, his eyes flashing nervously around the room. ‘People are saying that the way through is about to close.’

  Lucas felt Evie stiffen behind him. ‘What else are the rumours saying?’ he asked casually.

  ‘I don’t know. I think I heard something about some kind of prophecy? But if what you said just now about Sybll not being right all the time is true, then maybe it’s bull. Who knows?’ He shrugged again. ‘All I know is that it’s getting really crowded in this part of town. And going out at night’s starting to feel about as dangerous as walking naked through a crowd of angry, sexually frustrated Mixen.’

  ‘Aren’t Mixen always sexually frustrated?’ Flic remarked under her breath.

  ‘What else did you hear about this prophecy?’ Lucas asked, ignoring Flic and trying to keep the urgency out of his voice.

  ‘Nothing much really,’ Jamieson said, shaking his head. ‘It was just talk. I didn’t pay it much mind. I mean people are always talking about stuff – who’s fighting who, who’s bitten who, who’s been banished from the realms, who’s got connections among the Elders, who’s dating a Shadow Warrior …’ He tailed off, his eyes darting in Evie’s direction.

  ‘I heard something about a White Light.’

  Lucas turned slowly towards Flic.

  ‘Some Shifter at the club said she’d heard a Sybll talking.’

  ‘The White Light will come and will sever the realms,’ Issa suddenly whispered.

  Flic snorted, ‘What the hell does that mean? Sever the realms?’

  Lucas dropped quickly to his knees by Issa’s feet. ‘Issa, what else do you know about this?’ he asked.

  ‘What’s it to you?’ Flic demanded, moving invisibly to stand by his side. ‘Why are you so interested in this prophecy?’ Her eyes narrowed at him in suspicion.

 
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