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       Fated, p.21

           Sarah Alderson
 
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  'Evie!'

  They broke apart, Evie looking around at the sound of her mother's voice shouting down from the kitchen above. She smoothed back her messed-up hair, wrapped her arms around herself to cover the blood on her T-shirt and shoved the bloodied knife from the sink underneath a pile of tools.

  'Evie!' her mother called again. 'What's all that noise? Is that you down there?'

  Evie could feel her cheeks burning, her lips starting to throb. 'It's just me, Mum,' she finally called out, sounding as if she'd just returned from a sprint around the block.

  The door to the kitchen opened and her mum peered down into the gloom. 'What on earth are you doing down there?'

  'Just looking for something,' Evie answered, still catching her breath.

  'Well, there was an awful lot of banging and crashing. And it's very early. Honestly it's not even six o'clock,' her mother said, peering over Evie's shoulder at the tools scattered on the concrete floor. 'What a mess you've made.'

  'Sorry,' Evie replied, holding her bandaged arm behind her back, hoping that Lucas had hidden himself on the other side of the room, well out of her mother's line of vision. If she saw him bare-chested and bloody, down here with a load of power tools dangling from their hooks, she'd wonder what was going on.

  'Did you find what you were looking for?' her mother asked, looking suspiciously at Evie.

  'Yeah, I found it,' Evie answered with a small smile. 'I'll be up in a second.'

  'How you found anything without the light on I have no idea,' her mother said, turning her back.

  Evie waited until she'd gone and then turned around, grinning. 'That was close,' she said, the words instantly trailing away to nothing.

  Because the room was empty.

  Lucas had vanished.

  31

  Evie smacked her fist against the door, almost putting it through the glass. Finally Victor appeared, strolling across the store, pausing to brush some lint off one of the velvet chairs. He finally unbolted the door and opened it.

  'You're early,' he said, glancing at his watch.

  'Where were you?' she demanded, pushing past him into the store.

  'I was out the back sorting out some new deliveries,' Victor answered, looking her up and down. 'I think you'll like them.'

  'No. I mean last night,' Evie snapped. 'I almost got killed.'

  Victor had crossed to one of the rails and was fingering his way through the hangers. 'I know,' he murmured.

  Evie did a double take. 'Excuse me?'

  Victor glanced up at her. 'We were there,' he said. 'We were watching.'

  Evie stared at him, uncomprehending. 'I'm sorry?'

  'We were there,' Victor repeated.

  The words sank in. She felt a wave of nausea churn her stomach. 'What, all of you?' she asked, her voice raising. 'You were what? Cheerleading? Eating popcorn? Firing up the grill? What the hell?'

  Victor made no comment, he just looked up at her with a bemused expression on his face, waiting for her to finish.

  'I needed you,' she said.

  'No you didn't,' Victor answered. 'You managed, didn't you?'

  Her mouth fell open. 'I almost died.'

  He shrugged. 'But you didn't.'

  'Only because Lucas--' She stopped abruptly. 'Hang on. You let him go out there. You let a human fight an Unhuman? You stood there and watched him do your job? You told me you - we - were here to protect humans. How could you do that?' Her voice was shaking.

  Victor crossed to one of the chairs and deposited himself in it, one ankle resting over his knee. 'Evie,' he said, looking at her pityingly.

  'What?' she spat.

  'Have you really not figured it out yet?'

  'Figured out what yet?' she yelled. 'That you're a psycho?'

  'No,' Victor answered calmly. 'That Lucas is one of them.'

  'One of who?'

  'The Brotherhood.'

  He may as well have taken one of the crossbows and shot her through the chest. The blow sent her reeling backwards, her ribs crushed. 'What?'

  Victor's eyes were marble hard. 'He's an Unhuman,' he said with a trace of a smile. 'The worst of them. He's a Shadow Warrior. Well . . .' he paused, 'half.'

  'He's what?' she heard herself asking.

  'He's half Shadow Warrior, half human. And he's a member of the Brotherhood.'

  The ground seemed to drop away. She had to put her hands on the back of the chair to keep herself from spinning into the abyss that had torn open in front of her.

  'I hate to be the one to break it to you,' Victor said.

  Sure he did. Evie found her voice. 'No,' she said, shaking her head, 'that's impossible. He can't be.'

  'Why can't he be?' Victor suddenly snapped.

  Evie stared at him blankly. 'Because . . .' She couldn't finish the sentence. He couldn't be one of them. He was - he was . . . Her face burnt at the memory. The taste of him - she had kissed him, had felt his heart beating beneath her hand, had traced her fingers across his body, wrapped herself up in him, lost herself in him.

  And he was one of them? He was a demon? It was impossible.

  'Why can't he be?' Victor repeated. 'Because you fell for him?'

  She turned on Victor, furious, rage pulsing through her body. 'You knew? How long have you known?'

  'Since he arrived in town.'

  Evie blinked, her fingers tearing through the fabric of the chair she was holding on to. 'Whoa, hold on. You let him move in with my mum, with me, knowing he was one of them?'

  'Yes.'

  'Why?' she screamed. 'How did you know he wasn't going to kill us?' She couldn't keep the hysteria out of her voice.

  'I let it happen, Evie, because you needed to learn the first lesson.'

  She frowned at him, thrown. What was he talking about? What lesson?

  'Do you even remember what I told you?' Victor said suddenly, springing up from the chair, standing right in front of her so she had to tip her head right back to see him. 'I told you to trust me,' Victor said. He shook his head, disappointed. 'You never trust me.'

  'You give me no reason to,' she answered through gritted teeth.

  Victor's voice softened. 'I'm just trying to teach you the lessons that will keep you alive. The second lesson I taught you, which you also failed to listen to, was not to trust anyone else.'

  It had been a lesson? He'd let a Shadow Warrior move into her house, just to teach her a lesson? He'd let her believe that Lucas was someone she could trust, had stood by and allowed Lucas to--

  She closed her eyes. And was immediately bombarded with images, memories, sounds - jumping in front of her eyes. Lucas's sullen expression when he'd first arrived, all the things he'd said about growing up in Iowa, about his parents dying, about having to leave someone he loved, probably some Shadow Warrior in another realm - maybe even another member of the Brotherhood. The way he was there in the woods so fast, appearing out of nowhere, the way he'd lifted her so easily onto the branch of the tree, his smile - always tentative, unsure. The thin traces of scars across his body.

  The way he kept disappearing.

  She swallowed hard. It was all a lie. All those secrets hidden, buried deep but still visible in his eyes - this was what he was hiding. It all fell into place, crushing her beneath the weight of it.

  It was the worst pain she'd ever felt. Worse than the sting of the Scorpio's tail, worse than the acid burn of that Mixen's skin, far worse than finding out about Tom and Anna. She wanted to edge into the abyss and let it swallow her down. She wished she was still floating at the bottom of the pond, oblivious to this.

  'Why do you think he was here, Evie?' Victor cut through her jumbled thoughts.

  'I don't know,' she said under her breath. A wave of shame drenched her.

  'He was using you, trying to get close to you to find out what you knew, how we trained you.'

  She cast around in her head for something that she might be able to use to refute what Victor was saying but came up with nothing.

>   'You cannot trust anyone.' Victor hammered the point home. 'You cannot get close to anyone. Do you understand me?' His voice was a slap. Evie's head flew up. 'It's your weakness, Evie. And it will get you killed.'

  She blinked back tears, fought the sob that was building in her chest. A thought finally occurred to her. 'But Lucas went out there. He fought him. I saw. Why did he do that?' She looked up at Victor desperately. 'I don't understand. If he's one of them, why did he do that?'

  Victor raised an eyebrow. 'You saw? You saw him fight Caleb?'

  'No, I didn't see that, but I saw him come back. He was hurt. There was blood all over him.'

  Victor stepped towards her. 'What if it was all a deceit, Evie?'

  She flinched.

  'It's all been a game, Evie. He wanted you to fall in love with him. It was part of his plan - to get close to you. To make you trust him.'

  No. She couldn't believe it.

  'How do you know this? How could you?' she asked, shaking her head.

  'Why else would a member of the Brotherhood, the only one with a personal score to settle, move in with a Hunter?' He lowered his tone. 'Think about it, Evie. It doesn't take much to figure it out. And you fell for it so fast. You didn't sense him. Not even in the cornfield.'

  She screwed her eyes shut. He was there? No. No. No.

  'He was playing you the whole time. Biding his time until he had everything he wanted and then he would have killed you.' Victor paused. 'He would have tried, at least. We would have stopped him.'

  She wanted him to shut up. She wanted to turn his voice off. If he didn't shut up right this instant she was going to scream. She needed to get out of here, get away from Victor. She turned around, focusing on the door and on making her way towards it without tripping over.

  'He's gone, Evie,' Victor called out. 'But he'll be back. And this time you'll be ready.'

  She turned slowly around. 'For what?' she asked, her voice sticking in her throat.

  Victor walked around her, stood barring the door. 'When he comes back you're going to kill him,' he said.

  'I can't - what are you talking about?' Tears started rolling down her cheeks.

  'Evie, it'll be you or him. Don't you want revenge? For your parents? For what he's done to you? You're a Hunter after all,' Victor said. 'That's your legacy. It's what you do. It's what we all do.'

  'But he's a Shadow Warrior.' Evie finally managed to speak. 'How can I kill him? You said it was almost impossible.'

  Victor smiled. 'But you can get close to him, can't you? Haven't you already?'

  Risper's arrows shot one by one into her heart. Her whole body shuddered at the memory of Lucas's body pressed against hers, his hands stroking up her back, his lips running up her throat.

  'Why not betray him like he's betrayed you?' Victor asked, leaning closer.

  She shook her head softly. 'I can't.'

  Victor straightened up. 'You can. You will. You have no choice.'

  She frowned at him. Hadn't he once told her she did have a choice?

  'Your first kill, Evie,' Victor said. 'That's what gives you your full power. You never asked about that this whole time - you were never curious about how you'd gain your power - but it's by killing your first Unhuman, Evie.'

  She froze.

  'If you'd managed to kill the Scorpio the other night then you'd already be feeling it. That's why we didn't interfere. We wanted you to make the kill. And if you had you'd be strong right now - no more weakness, no more uncertainty. As it is, you get another chance when Lucas comes back. You're going to be the first Hunter to kill a Shadow Warrior - besides me, that is.'

  32

  Lucas pulled through the gates just as the sunrise was setting the roof of the Mission alight. Joshua would be going to ground. It would be safer this way, in case he had to fight his way out.

  The amulet seemed to burn his skin as though it knew he'd broken his oath and was determined to brand him. He had stopped at a darkened store in a town just outside of Riverview, broken in and taken some clothes, leaving the cash in the register. The lacerations on his chest and shoulder were smarting under the starched cotton.

  He stalled the engine and sat in the car, listening to the engine cool, wondering if inside he'd find Tristan waiting for him, knowing of his betrayal. Grace must have seen. Had she told Tristan?

  Had Shula? And Neena? She had been part of the deceit - did that mean she knew too?

  He had one chance and he had to play it. He couldn't afford to blow it.

  The door to the Mission burst open and Shula came tearing down the steps, flying across the drive, her face pale and sickly in the dawn. He climbed out the car and walked towards her. She faltered and stopped in front of him.

  'Where's Caleb?' she demanded.

  'I don't know,' he answered truthfully. Somewhere his body was lying in the Scorpio realm, hopefully in the middle of nowhere.

  'He didn't do it, did he?' Shula spat into the dirt.

  Lucas frowned. 'Do what?' he asked innocently.

  Shula looked up at him, calculating, her bottom lip quivering with anger. 'She's still alive,' she said. Her brown eyes narrowed. 'Why are you here?'

  Lucas brushed past her. 'To see Tristan,' he said, walking across the gravel towards the Mission.

  He gathered from her silence that Tristan was home.

  One foot after the other, his heart starting to hammer, his feet echoing across the tiles, not trying to hide.

  Tristan was waiting for him, pouring himself a whisky from a crystal decanter with his one good hand. Lucas double-checked just to make sure it was really him this time and not Neena. It was. He nodded at Lucas when he appeared in his doorway and indicated the dark wooden chair opposite.

  Lucas shut the door behind him and went and sat down. Tristan sat before him, enthroned on a larger chair with an ornately carved back. He rested his glass on the table and eyed Lucas for a few seconds. He wasn't wearing his contacts and his yellow irises gave him a jaundiced look. Lucas held his gaze, unblinking.

  Eventually Tristan spoke. 'Shula tells me that I might have reason to suspect your loyalty to the cause, Lucas.'

  Lucas kept his voice even. 'And you trust Shula?' he said softly.

  Tristan cocked his head to one side, examining him. 'Should I trust you?'

  'Shula has an ulterior motive,' Lucas answered quickly.

  'Oh yes,' Tristan sighed, 'and what might that be?'

  'She admitted she had feelings for me and . . .' he hesitated, his eyes dropping in embarrassment, 'I rejected her.' He looked back up at Tristan who was staring at him with a curious smile on his face. 'You know how Shula reacts when she doesn't get what she wants.'

  Tristan raised an eyebrow sardonically, seeming to find some amusement in Lucas's tale, though whether he believed it or not wasn't clear.

  'So you've no idea where Caleb's got to, I take it?'

  Lucas shook his head. 'I was in Riverview. Shula came to get me and told me you were waiting. It was all a ruse so that Caleb could go back and kill Evie. The Hunter, I mean.'

  Tristan's eyes flashed at the sound of her name. 'And I take it when you got back to Riverview there was no sign of Caleb?' he asked.

  'No,' Lucas answered. Images of Caleb's slick hands pulling feebly at the knife hilt sticking out of him flashed before Lucas, but he kept his face neutral.

  Tristan stared at him for several seconds and Lucas wondered if he could somehow see the images too, could read his mind.

  'Foolish boy.'

  Lucas's stomach tensed. He got ready to spring up.

  'He disobeyed my orders,' Tristan continued. 'And that's what happens when you disobey orders.'

  Lucas sank back into the chair again, taking a surreptitious deep breath.

  'I've just had to spend a very uncomfortable day in the Shadowlands,' Tristan said, raising his glass and knocking back the amber liquid inside, 'trying to convince a roomful of Elders that I know what I'm doing - that this last batch of recruit
s will be able to handle one little girl.' He yelled the last three words and Lucas flinched inwardly.

  'And now I have to go back to the Scorpio demons and tell them their last offering wasn't up to scratch and please can they supply another one - preferably one a little more open to following orders.'

  He stood to refill his glass. 'You know, after the last battle there was very little choice - hence the ignorant baby Thirster and the frankly irritating Mixen in our midst. It's hard to find volunteers for something which is fast becoming seen as a less than glorious career.'

  Tristan took another swig and slammed his glass down onto the desk. Lucas heard a crack. 'Damn Scorpio! If she did kill him, which I have to assume she did,' he paused and seemed to be studying Lucas even harder, 'then she'll have her full powers now, which wasn't exactly what I was hoping for.'

  Lucas stayed quiet as Tristan took his seat once more.

  'And you, Lucas,' he shook his head, 'I've had to explain all about what you were doing there, explain how it was all part of a master plan to bring down the Hunters from the inside. I gave them that little speech about moving with the times, about adapting - and you know what? They were all for sticking with the medieval. So what have you learnt? Because when I go back there I need something good.'

  He focused his needle-sharp eyes back on Lucas. 'All this time in Riverview, living with a Hunter, and what has been the point? You told me you could get close to her, learn their secrets. What have you learnt? Anything? Because the Elders are getting bored. And, frankly, so am I. Tell me something, Lucas, anything.'

  'There are three other Hunters protecting the town as well as Victor,' Lucas said, speaking quickly.

  Tristan rested his chin on his linked hands, looking bored.

  'There's a prophecy,' Lucas hurried on. 'Maybe from a Sybll.'

  Tristan rolled his eyes. 'The White Light. Yes, yes, we know about that.'

  Lucas faltered. 'You know about it?'

  'Yes, we know it,' Tristan snapped impatiently. 'But the prophecy is in fragments and no one knows for sure who it's talking about or when it will even happen. Damn Sybll, about as useless as a Thirster with no fangs.'

 
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