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       Fated, p.23

           Sarah Alderson
 
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  He wasn't Lucas. That boy was gone - he had never existed in the first place. This was who he really was - as sure as she was now the girl in the mirror.

  'You want to kill me? You should have done it while you had the chance,' she spat.

  His lip curled into a mocking smile, his shoulders tensed. Then he flew at her. She felt herself ram the wall behind, her head smash against the plaster. She cried out and his hands dropped away instantly.

  She didn't stop to figure out why. She brought her arm up and smashed her elbow into his chin, knocking him backwards. 'You used me,' she shouted as he stumbled back. 'You lied to me. I trusted you.' She moved towards him, the knife held up.

  He laughed even as he wiped away the smear of blood from his lips. 'You were so easy to fool,' he laughed.

  She felt herself flinch at his words - tried not to show it. 'Isn't this the point when you disappear?' she screamed. 'Go on, try it. I'll sense you.'

  Lucas weighed her, still smiling as he edged backwards towards the storeroom.

  'Was it part of your plan?' she asked, advancing on him. 'Making me fall in love with you?'

  She saw something in his eyes. A flash of surprise. His guard dropped. She switched the knife into her left hand and threw a punch with her right, just like her father had taught her. Her fist connected with his jaw and his head flew backwards. He crashed into the doorway and she could have sworn she saw the trace of a smile appear on his lips before his face blanked again.

  His hands were at his sides. He was making no effort to fight back. And she realised she wanted him to. She wanted him to fight back. She needed him to.

  'Why aren't you fighting?' she yelled.

  He spat some blood to the floor, looked up at her through his lashes, calculating something. She saw him take a deep breath and then, quicker than she could think, he had her pinned against the wall, his hands locked around her forearms. She struggled uselessly, suddenly understanding how strong he was - his hands were hard as steel - and the panic started to invade. She twisted her head right to left, catching the blinking red light of the security camera. How late would Victor leave it before stepping in? No. She'd already answered that question.

  Lucas's face was shoved up close to her own, his lips drawn back over his teeth in a snarl.

  She let out a cry as his fingers tightened on her arm, the long gash made by Caleb ripping open under the gauze bandage. She felt the blood start to gush red-hot down her arm.

  He let her go immediately, as though she might contaminate him, and stepped backwards, his eyes filled with such pain, for a moment she thought she must have impaled him on the end of the knife without realising it.

  She glanced down. The knife was still in her hand.

  She looked back up, and before he could come at her again, she launched herself at him with a blood-freezing scream.

  He did nothing. He didn't attempt to sidestep her or even hold his hands up to block her. He didn't fade or disappear or whatever it was Shadow Warriors did. He just stood there and let her come.

  He flew backwards, landing on his back with a crunch. She landed on top of him and pressed her knees against his chest, holding him down with the weight of her entire body, her arm flattening hard against his throat. She felt his ribcage rising and falling fast beneath her. But he made no effort to struggle. He just lay there, breathing fast, his eyes locked on hers - almost daring her.

  She brought the knife up. He kept his gaze on her face, not looking at the knife, and there was an expression there that she couldn't read properly. It was like he was urging her to do it. Like he wanted her to do it. Her breathing was matching his own, coming fast and jagged. They stared at each other and for a split second the new Lucas vanished and he was just Lucas again - the human version. His face lost the mask - or it slipped for the briefest of moments - and as it did so she felt the familiar head spin as though gravity had been turned off. Her stomach flipped and she wanted to collapse on top of him and feel his arms come around her and pin her tight. She swallowed it away. It wasn't real.

  He closed his eyes.

  She hesitated, then lifted some of her weight off his throat. 'Why have you given up?'

  He opened his eyes and the mask was back on - his face twisted in a cruel smirk. He laughed. She pressed her knee down harder until it turned into a cough.

  'Too scared to actually do it?' he managed to say through the crush. 'Can't you kill an Unhuman? The Unhuman who killed your best friend?' He laughed again. 'What kind of a Hunter are you?'

  She frowned at him. 'Anna?'

  'Yes,' he said with a smile. 'I watched her die.'

  She lowered the knife, easing her arm off his throat entirely. 'No, you didn't.'

  She felt him tense beneath her.

  'Why are you lying?' she asked, noticing that she was no longer afraid, that the panic had subsided leaving only a stillness inside her, an alertness that hadn't been there before.

  'Do it,' Lucas growled beneath her. 'What are you waiting for?'

  She scrambled back off him, leaving him lying there, and stood. 'No,' she said.

  He jumped to his feet. 'You have to do it,' he said, his voice urgent - panicked even.

  'Why? Because it's what you want?' She backed away.

  What was going on? Why did he want her to kill him? Assisted suicide wasn't exactly what she'd expected in her first showdown with an Unhuman. A part of her brain tried to process that if he was begging her she should just do it - it would be done. She would have her power. But she couldn't - she stepped backwards, putting space between them instead.

  'Evie,' Lucas said, and she looked up, surprised. His voice had changed - it was the soft, low voice he used on Lobo, the same one she imagined he used to calm horses and get them to do his bidding. She could feel herself edging forwards with the knife pointed straight at him, but she dug her heels in and tried to tune him out.

  'Do it!' He was suddenly right in front of her, covering the space between them so fast he was a blur. He grabbed hold of her wrists and pulled them towards him and she felt the knife slice through cotton and press against bone, against the softer resistance of flesh. He had it poised in the space between two ribs. 'They'll be coming for you soon. This is your only chance to beat them.'

  She looked down at the knifepoint, horrified, tried to yank it back, tried to wrestle her wrists from his grip, but he wouldn't let go. A trickle of blood blossomed red against the white of his shirt.

  She cried out.

  'Do it!'

  Both of their heads flew up. Lucas's grip loosened momentarily and she pulled the knife clear, stumbling back away from him.

  Victor stood in the doorway.

  'Do it!' he yelled again at Evie.

  'No,' Evie said, looking between the two of them, edging further away from both of them. 'What the hell is going on?'

  Victor took a step forwards. 'He wants you to kill him, Evie. Do it or I will.' He unsheathed a knife that, apart from the iridescent gleam and engraving around the hilt, looked like something that might be used for skewering hogs. He tossed the sheath to the ground.

  Evie burst between the two of them, stretching out her arms so that Victor couldn't get past her. 'No,' she yelled. 'You're not touching him.'

  Victor stared at her, stunned. She swallowed, just as stunned as he was. She didn't know what she was doing. Why had she gone from trying to kill Lucas to trying to save him, all in a matter of minutes?

  'Evie,' Victor said with a sigh. 'He wants you to kill him, so kill him. Does it matter why?'

  'Yes,' she answered. 'It does, frankly. When was the last time a Shadow Warrior asked you to kill him?'

  She turned towards Lucas who was standing, head bowed, fists curled, shoulders rising with each breath.

  'I'm ordering you--' Victor's voice bellowed.

  'Shut up,' she yelled right back at him. 'I am done with following your orders. I'm done with listening to you. I'm done with trusting you. Right now the only person I trus
t is myself. And my instinct.'

  'Evie,' Victor said, his voice dropping low, conciliatory. He even managed a curt smile.

  'No,' she shouted. 'You told me in one of your little lessons that evil prospers when good men do nothing,' she said, cutting him off. 'But you were wrong. Evil prospers when good men don't think for themselves or act for themselves. Well, I'm thinking for myself. I don't choose this life. I'm not going to be like you.'

  'You don't get to choose your destiny, Evie,' Victor roared. 'It's been chosen for you.'

  She squared her shoulders. 'You're wrong,' she said. 'I do get to choose. That's what my parents meant. I get it now.' She shook her head. 'They meant for me to know that I always had a choice in who I was.' She paused. 'That's what they were trying to tell me. They were telling me that I didn't have to be a Hunter. That I could choose not to be. They said I should always remember what I mean - and for ages I couldn't understand what they were talking about, there was a comma, but it was in a weird place. But I figured it out. They were talking about my name - what it means - Evie - it means Giver of Life, did you know that? I looked it up. They meant for me to choose to be Evie, not a Hunter, not a bringer of death.'

  She knew it even as the words formed on her lips. If only she'd figured it out sooner. It was the only thing that made sense about that cryptic message and the wonky grammar.

  'You can't,' Victor said again, as if those words refuted everything he'd just heard. As if two words uttered by him would be all it took to make her change her mind.

  She raised her eyebrows. 'I can't what? Walk away?'

  Victor snorted through his nose. 'You want to know what happened to Margaret - the girl from your book?' he asked. 'The one with the line slashed through her?'

  Evie stayed silent.

  'She tried to walk away too. Tried to.' A smile curved his top lip.

  Evie's eyes widened as she took in the meaning of what he was saying.

  'So did your parents.'

  She stared at him, not following. She sensed Lucas behind her. A shift of his body. She felt the words finally sink in.

  Victor laughed. 'They tried anyway'

  She froze, her muscles locking, her breath seizing.

  Victor spoke with a curious smile. 'You would think they would have heeded Margaret's lesson. But like you, they weren't too good at learning what was best for them.'

  Her breath started to come in shallow gasps as though Victor was choking her. He was just observing her reaction with a small smile.

  'I was ordered to kill them, Evie, because they wanted to take you and hide you. They didn't care about the prophecy.'

  She couldn't answer, couldn't move. She remembered Jocelyn saying how they had died protecting her from something very bad. The something very bad standing right in front of her. Not the something very bad standing behind her, head still bowed.

  'So you're going to run off then, are you?' Victor asked mockingly. 'Try to make it on your own? Without your full power? With the instincts of a child? You can't run from me, Evie.'

  Evie stared at him. She had been right - he was totally psycho.

  Then she spoke, her voice sounding braver, surer, than she felt. 'You won't kill me,' she said, tilting her chin at him. 'You think I'm the White Light - you can't kill me.'

  Victor's face tightened, his mouth drawing into a grimace. 'Where will you go? Who's going to protect you?' he sneered.

  'I will.'

  She turned at the sound of his voice. Lucas was staring at Victor. His eyes were blazing, his face set into a mask of fury. She flinched.

  'You?' Victor threw back his head, hit by an uncontrollable spasm of laughter.

  'I've been doing a better damn job of it so far than any of you,' Lucas answered.

  Evie narrowed her eyes. What was he talking about?

  She saw a blur out of the corner of her eye and turned. Victor was lunging towards Lucas, blade or skewering knife or whatever it was raking the air in a sweeping arc. But she was in the way. She twisted sideways, bringing her knee up at the same time, slamming it hard into Victor's crotch, felt the softness of flesh and his weight as he crumpled, even as the blade came slicing down towards her.

  She was thrown clear, and stumbled backwards, arms flailing. When she found her footing and turned, Lucas had Victor flat on the ground. The blade was somehow in his hands, pressed against Victor's neck, and a thin, red line was bubbling against the steel.

  35

  'Don't!' she screamed.

  Lucas looked up at her, his eyes blazing. She could see the fury in his face and she watched the red line on Victor's neck grow thicker, the bubbles start to fizzle against the blade. Lucas's knuckles were as white as Victor's eyeballs, which were rolling like ping-pong balls in his head. He flailed his arms but Lucas was straddling the bigger man, kneeling on his forearms.

  'Don't,' she said again, pleading.

  Lucas's shoulders dropped. He moved the knife an inch away from Victor's neck but kept his weight pressing down on Victor's chest and arms.

  Victor gargled something.

  Lucas looked back at him and, without a second's grace, smashed his elbow hard into Victor's temple, knocking him out.

  She stared at Victor's lolling head as Lucas stood slowly, the knife Victor had been holding dangling at his side.

  'Who are you?' she asked, her eyes finding his face, searching for something she might recognise.

  'I'm Lucas Gray,' he answered. 'I'm half Shadow Warrior, half human. I was a member of the Brotherhood. This man,' he nudged Victor's inert body, 'drove my mother's car off the road. I was in the passenger seat - I was just a kid. But I was thrown clear. I sat and watched her die. All because she dared to fall in love with an Unhuman.'

  Evie felt a kick to her stomach that made her flinch backwards.

  'And then seven years later he murdered my father,' he finished.

  She should have figured it. Now she understood. So they had this much in common then. Victor had made them both orphans.

  She drew in a breath. And everything else . . . ?' she asked.

  'Everything else was the truth,' he answered, his voice suddenly fierce.

  She weighed him carefully for a second. 'Did you kill the Scorpio demon?'

  'Yes.'

  'Why?'

  'Because he hurt you. And because he would have killed you if I'd given him another chance.' He was standing before her, his arms at his side, his eyes level with hers.

  'Were you there in the cornfield?' she asked.

  'Yes.'

  Her breath caught in her chest again. And the pond?'

  'Yes,' he answered, in the same steady, low voice.

  'Why did you save me? Why didn't you let me drown?'

  He seemed caught off guard. He paused, a frown line appearing between his eyes, a questioning smile forming on his lips. 'Don't you get it?' he asked.

  'Get what?' she answered.

  He laughed under his breath but kept gazing at her with those slate eyes of his. She tried to shake it off - the way he was looking at her. The same person had just shoved her against a wall and looked at her with hatred in his eyes. She couldn't make sense of it.

  'How can you not see?' he asked quietly, shaking his head.

  'See what?' she asked, unable to mask the irritation in her voice.

  'Who you are. What you are.'

  Her mouth dropped open, but then she recovered and pulled a face at him. 'But you came back to kill me.'

  'No,' he said, his voice rising. 'I came here so you could kill me. If I'd come back to kill you, believe me, you'd be dead.'

  She pursed her lips. 'Why? Why did you want me to kill you?'

  'Because it was the only thing I thought I could do to save you.'

  She snorted out loud. 'How would that have saved me?'

  'Betrayal makes you angry,' he said, 'I saw that with Tom.' He stopped and his eyes dropped to the floor, his foot nudged Victor's hand. 'I didn't plan the other night,' he said finally, lo
oking up. 'I never intended for you to . . . feel anything for me.'

  He dropped his gaze and she felt her own cheeks start to burn. Oh God, hadn't she admitted something earlier, during their fight, about loving him? Where had that come from?

  'I just wanted to make you think I'd betrayed you. I wanted you to have an easy fight. If you were angry enough I thought you could be provoked into killing me. Then you'd get your power.'

  She said nothing, her heart still busy pumping all the blood in her body to her cheeks. Her mouth had run dry, her tongue was paralysed.

  She looked up at him, something finally dawning. 'You would have died?' she asked, forming the words carefully. 'For me?'

  He held her gaze. 'Yes.'

  She could barely get the word out. 'Why?'

  'Because I believe in you.' He shrugged.

  She rolled her eyes. 'Please don't start with this whole White Light crap again. Even my parents didn't believe it.'

  'Well, I do. You don't see yourself as I do, Evie. You are it.'

  She continued to stand there, hands on hips, staring at him defiantly. She didn't want to be it. Did he still not see that?

  He took a step nearer. 'I've been saving your ass since the beginning.'

  'What--'

  He carried on. 'And back then I didn't even know why. I was acting purely on instinct. I had no choice in the matter. I kept telling myself I was coming back here so I could get close to you in order to kill you but it was a lie. This whole time, from the minute I saw you, I've been more interested in keeping you alive than in killing you.'

  She stared at him. There wasn't much to say to that.

  He took another step towards her, his voice husky. 'And now it seems you've decided not to fight,' he said, sounding both weary and faintly amused at the same time, 'so someone's got to do it for you.'

  He took a step towards her and the ground seemed to tilt.

  'I will fight anyone who tries to hurt you - human or Unhuman. Monster or demon. I'll do the killing. If that's what it takes to keep you alive.'

  She finally opened her mouth and discovered she hadn't lost the power of speech. 'No,' she said.

 
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