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       Severed, p.25

           Sarah Alderson
 
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  She was doing everything in her power not to think Lucas’s name. Not to picture where he might be right this instant, above them somewhere. Had he managed to kill that Shadow Warrior on the roof? What if Issa had failed to see something? Evie tried telling herself that everything so far had gone exactly as Issa had foretold and surely that was a good sign. That had to mean that Lucas was fine. And, besides, she was sure she would feel it if he wasn’t.

  She stared at the way through and took another small step towards it. She thought about asking Cyrus for the shadow blade he’d taken from her. She hadn’t figured she would need it – but what if? She almost laughed at herself.

  She could sense the others getting restless behind her but none of them wanting to call it. Was she supposed to turn around and offer some last words of regret or forgiveness or farewell? No. The last thing she wanted to see before she died was Margaret’s face. She wouldn’t mind seeing Cyrus’s – she might be able to draw some reserves of courage from seeing him. But Issa had said she should just walk and she shouldn’t look back, so she stayed squinting straight ahead of her at the Gateway she was supposed to walk through. No, not supposed to, she corrected herself, that she had to walk through.

  OK. She lowered her head. One step. Two steps. She could reach out and touch it. She lifted her hand. Her fingers grazed the edge of the light and she turned her head away, blinded by a spray of golden sparks. A tingling feeling shot up her arm as if she’d touched a live wire. She took a deep breath, filling her lungs full, and held it as if she was about to free dive a thousand metres. Then she closed her eyes.

  ‘Evie!’

  Her eyes flew open, the breath exploding out of her. She wasn’t supposed to turn. She was supposed to keep walking. But a hand closed around her wrist and she was spun around.

  Cyrus was holding her, gripping her hard now by the shoulders. He stared at her for a few seconds, his expression fierce, then without a word he placed his hands on either side of her face and pulled her towards him, bending his head at the last minute and kissing her on the lips.

  He let her go just as suddenly as he’d kissed her, his hands falling to his sides. Evie gasped in a smoke-filled breath of air. Cyrus was watching her intensely, his breathing unsteady. ‘Don’t ever let anyone tell you chivalry is dead, OK?’ he said hoarsely.

  ‘What?’ she asked, her own voice husky.

  ‘I’ve led a charmed life,’ Cyrus answered, a rueful sad smile playing on his lips.

  Evie shook her head, still not understanding, and then she saw it. She saw it suddenly, in the flash of fear that glanced across Cyrus’s eyes even as he grinned at her and turned away.

  Evie raised her hand, grabbing for his arm, but he was too fast. Her palm grazed the Scorpio scar on his back, and then he was gone. Cyrus had stepped through the Gateway instead of her – and all that remained of him was a black fading outline standing out against the curtain of light in front of her. And then there was nothing left of him at all, not even the memory of his shadow. He was simply gone. Evie was staring at a brick wall. The light had vanished. The room was empty. The way through had closed.

  Margaret’s howls spun in her head and Vero’s cries split the air and darkness threatened to swallow her whole.

  Chapter 46

  Lucas caught her as she fell, crashing to his knees, holding her. Nothing else registered – the noise, the screams, sirens and alarms were all just white noise. The only thing that he registered was that Evie was alive. That he was holding her in his arms, touching her. That it was all over. And she was still here.

  ‘Evie,’ he whispered her name, burying his face in her hair, feeling her breath shallow and warm against his neck. ‘Evie,’ he said again, taking her face in his hands. She opened her eyes slowly and the whole world rushed into them – the blue dark as indigo. He felt the scream inside her head, tearing through her, could hear it echoing in his own skull.

  ‘Lucas.’ She whispered his name as if she didn’t quite believe it was him kneeling in front of her, holding her. As though she was scared that she was dreaming. Her hand hovered just above his skin, almost too afraid to touch him.

  He clasped hold of her fingers and she let out a gasp, then fell against him, holding him tight. After a few seconds she glanced up at him. Tears were sliding down her face.

  ‘How … how did … what happened? I thought I was supposed to be the one to close it?’ she asked.

  Lucas couldn’t give her an answer. He just shook his head. He’d fought his way past two more Shadow Warriors and a handful of Thirsters, had leapt down the stairs, burst into the room and all he’d seen was a blinding flare of light and Cyrus silhouetted against it. And then he’d watched the light fade to nothing. He hadn’t been in time.

  And yet it didn’t matter. Evie was still here. And he didn’t understand how or why, but for the moment he didn’t need to. He reached a hand and touched Evie lightly on the cheek, wiping away a tear with his thumb.

  ‘How could Cyrus do that?’ she asked, staring at the wall, her face pale, her lips ashen.

  ‘He’s like you.’

  Lucas turned his head. It was Vero speaking.

  ‘He was like you,’ she corrected herself, her voice breaking as she fixed Evie with a dark-eyed stare. A trickle of blood ran like a fat red worm from her temple to her jaw. She was holding her elbow as though it might be broken.

  ‘What do you mean he’s like Evie?’ Lucas asked.

  ‘Cyrus was a child of two warriors too. A pure Hunter.’ Vero’s shoulders were shaking as she said it and Ash put his arm around her and kissed the top of her head, closing his eyes as he did. It was only then that Lucas became aware that Margaret was kneeling on the ground, keening to herself as she rocked back and forth, her hands clutched to her chest.

  ‘How?’ he asked, guilt pulling at his insides, even as his grip on Evie tightened.

  ‘His father was a Hunter.’

  ‘Who?’ Evie asked in a stunned whisper, ‘Who was his father?’

  ‘David. The man who was training your parents and Victor and Margaret.’

  A long, otherworldly cry erupted out of Margaret’s chest, silencing them all. Lucas stared at her, fighting the urge to shove Margaret against the wall and demand to know how she could have let them believe all this time that Evie was the one, that she was the one to be sacrificed, when all along it had been Cyrus. But as he got to his feet all the anger evaporated out of him. Margaret had only been doing what he himself had been trying to do – protecting the one she loved. He understood Margaret far better than he wanted to and the anger was washed away by a torrent of pity he knew she would hate if she ever became aware of it.

  ‘How long have you known this?’ he demanded in a quiet voice, turning back to Vero.

  ‘Just since last night,’ Ash answered for her. ‘Victor told Cyrus who his father was. I think when you and Evie ran off, Victor thought he had a second shot at it. And Cyrus agreed. He was going to close it by himself – and then Evie showed up and volunteered.’

  Lucas turned back to Evie. She was still kneeling on the floor, staring at the wall, tears dripping onto her lap. Her arms and hands were covered in red welts. He dropped to a crouch in front of her, feeling the ache in his broken rib, and put his hands on her shoulders, turning her gently to face him.

  ‘Evie,’ he said, ‘come on, let’s go.’

  He helped her to her feet, putting his arm around her waist and leading her past the others, past Margaret who was still collapsed and rocking back and forth on the floor. Evie hesitated. She looked like she was about to say something to Margaret but then she decided against it and let Lucas lead her through the hole where the door had once been and where the costume hire sign lay smoking and twisted on the ground. They crossed to the elevators.

  ‘No, not the elevator,’ Evie whispered.

  Lucas led her up the stairs, halfway up pausing to look back, hearing Vero and Ash making their own way across the bomb-blasted basement towards
the stairs. Vero was helping Margaret stagger up the stairs, while Ash was clinging to the banister, his face contorting into a tight grimace with every step.

  When they reached the atrium with the sunlight bursting through, Evie shuddered.

  ‘It was never me,’ she said in a whisper. ‘The White Light, the prophecy. It wasn’t me.’ She shook her head. ‘It never was. All this time …’ She broke off.

  Lucas didn’t say anything.

  ‘Everything I’ve done, every time I didn’t think I had a choice, that wasn’t true,’ Evie mumbled, her eyes scanning the lobby. ‘I always had a choice. My parents were right after all.’

  She looked up at Lucas with a confused expression. He looked away. The whole time he’d believed the prophecy was about Evie. He’d believed it because he had needed a reason for why he was so compelled to save her, even before he really knew her. And the prophecy had given him that reason. He’d been the one to convince her she was it, even back when she was ready to quit. He was the reason she was here. And the realisation of that was almost worse than the feeling he’d had when he thought he’d never see her again. He could barely look at her, was too afraid that any second she’d figure it out and would wrench herself from his arms. A part of him almost wanted her to. But when he dared to look back at her she was smiling at him with such softness and hope in her expression that the fear backed off.

  Evie walked across the atrium, past the piles of ash and blackened walls. The doors they were heading to were thrown open just as they reached them and a dozen firefighters rushed past them yelling.

  ‘Get out! Get out of the building! Can’t you hear the alarm going off?’ one of them shouted.

  ‘Come on, let’s go,’ Lucas said, urging Evie through the doors, and darting a nervous glance towards the elevators. It would only be minutes before they started finding body parts and scorched remains. It would be better if they were long gone before then.

  They fell out into the sunlight, tripping down the steps, blinking in the glare and deafened by all the fire trucks and blasting sirens. His first instinct in sunlight was always to look for the shadows, to know where he could fade without being seen but Lucas didn’t do that this time. He didn’t want to fade ever again. He started to weave his way through the crowd, needing to step into where the sunlight was broadest, wanting to get Evie away from whatever else might still be lurking.

  They were past the fire trucks, two blocks down, holding each other tight, still too stunned to really talk about what had just happened, when without warning, Evie was suddenly torn from his arms.

  Lucas spun around, leaping without thinking at the man who had Evie by the arm and was dragging her across the sidewalk. It was Victor. He’d appeared out of nowhere and with his one good arm was holding Evie against his broad chest, a knife pressed to her heart.

  Lucas was between them in the next instant, his elbow coming up and jabbing at Victor’s shoulder, over the wound he’d made earlier. Victor let go instantly grunting with pain, the knife clattering to the sidewalk. Evie danced out of his way.

  ‘It’s done. It’s done,’ Lucas shouted, glancing around to see if anyone was watching. The street was crowded but all the attention was on the burning building.

  ‘What do you mean?’ Victor asked, glancing at Evie.

  ‘Cyrus,’ Vero said, appearing behind Victor. ‘Cyrus closed it.’

  Victor spun around. Seeing Vero, Margaret and Ash standing bloodied on the sidewalk, he faltered. ‘Cyrus?’ He looked at the Bradbury building and seemed for the first time to notice the firemen bustling in and out of the entrance and the fire trucks lining the street.

  With a scream, Margaret launched herself without warning on Victor, pummelling his chest. ‘It’s your fault,’ she yelled. ‘You told him! You told him.’ She collapsed sobbing to the ground. ‘I could have saved him,’ she cried.

  Lucas took Evie’s hand and pulled her backwards, glancing nervously at the crowd building up on the sidewalk and now starting to stare in their direction.

  ‘Evie, don’t turn your back on me. You can’t just walk away!’

  Evie took a deep breath and, still clutching Lucas’s hand, turned to face Victor.

  ‘The fight’s over, Victor. The way through has closed. It’s done.’

  Victor stared at her open-mouthed and then, quick as lightning, he strode towards her. ‘There are still unhumans in this realm to kill. We don’t stop until the last one is dead,’ Victor hissed, staring at Lucas.

  ‘It’s not my fight anymore,’ Evie growled. ‘I would have given my life, Victor. Now, I just want it back.’

  Victor opened his mouth, then shut it once more.

  Evie started walking backwards, tugging Lucas with her as she went. Lucas cast one last look back at Victor. It was strange. He no longer felt any kind of anger towards him. He didn’t need revenge and the loss of that feeling was unexpected. Revenge had been such a part of him and of his existence for so long that he’d feared its loss would change him irreversibly, would empty him of all feeling, but what it did do, which he’d never anticipated, was carve out a new space inside him, which filled all at once with hope as clear as glass and with a lightness that could have lifted him off the ground. The past didn’t matter any more. Not now he had a future – one that he could choose freely.

  Chapter 47

  Through the crowd gathered on the sidewalk Evie thought she saw a familiar white head and behind it two more familiar figures, one dark-haired and moving furiously, shoving people aside, batting them like flies, the other shimmering wildly. They were sprinting towards them. It was Flic and, following just behind, Jamieson and Issa. Evie tugged on Lucas’s arm and pointed.

  As they got nearer Evie could see they were yelling something, but from this distance, with the fire alarm still blaring, she couldn’t make out what. And then it dawned on her. They were screaming Lucas’s name. They were yelling a warning to Lucas. She turned at once towards Lucas and the whole world slowed. Lucas was half-turned towards Flic, his expression moving from surprise to a frown, and then his hand slid from hers suddenly and he staggered sideways. Evie grabbed for his arm.

  ‘NO!’

  Lucas dropped his gaze to his chest and Evie followed it. Lucas’s black shirt was sticking to his chest. He pressed his hand against his abdomen and then lifted it away, palm outward.

  Evie stared at the blood lacing his fingers. Lucas’s eyes flew up to meet hers and they gazed at each other for several beats before Lucas took a half-step towards her and then fell. She caught him, sobbing his name, her knees smashing into the sidewalk as she broke his fall.

  ‘You should have killed me back when you had the chance.’

  Evie looked up. Victor was standing over them, his lip curled in a sneer. And then he vanished, backing off into the encroaching crowd.

  Evie blinked, her breathing coming thick and fast and choking. She started to stand, her fingers closing around Lucas’s shadow blade, when she felt Lucas tugging at her arm. She dropped back to her knees, letting the blade fall from her fingers and clatter to the sidewalk.

  The world was closing in on her. She ran her hands frantically over Lucas’s abdomen, pressing down hard, her fingers shaking, sticky and thick with his blood. She was sobbing, she realised, and she heard Lucas suck in a breath beneath her hands. She heard herself uttering prayers she’d never known she knew the words to, begging him to stay, pleading with him to hold on.

  Because he was fading, she could feel it. He was slipping through her fingers. She was losing him.

  ‘Lucas,’ she said bending over him, her hair falling in a curtain over their faces, shielding them from the others who were pressing in – Flic, Jamieson, Issa, their voices screaming over the top of her head, their hands tugging and pulling. ‘Don’t leave me,’ she whispered. ‘I need you. I choose you.’

  He reached a hand up and his fingers traced lightly over her lips. ‘Shhh,’ he whispered. His lips were bright red, the rest of him so pale.
So, so pale, almost translucent. He stroked his finger along her eyelashes. She closed her eyes for an instant and felt his hand fell away.

  Evie kept her eyes closed, squeezed them shut tight until she could see stars flying on the backs of her lids, until she thought her heart might burst out of her chest and explode into a million little pieces.

  Because she knew that Lucas was gone and if she opened them there would be nothing more to see.

  THE END

  LOOK OUT FOR THE THIRD BOOK IN THE FATED SERIES – SHADOWED – COMING SOON. TURN THE PAGE FOR A TASTER.

  Shadowed

  Chapter 1

  ‘Would he have become a murderer anyway? Evie?’

  Someone poked her in the back and Evie turned her head reluctantly away from the fogged up window and back to the classroom, suddenly aware of two-dozen eyes burning into her. Behind her someone was sniggering. Her fingers tightened instinctively around her pencil, which, without realizing, she was gripping in her fist as if it was a sharpened knife.

  Mr Fielder, her English teacher, was standing with his arms crossed over his chest, staring at her. ‘Evie, so nice of you to join us,’ he said with a tight, sarcastic smile.

  The sniggering grew louder around her. Evie forced her hand to relax, laying it flat on the desk.

  ‘I was asking about the three witches,’ Mr Fielder went on. ‘Did they really foresee Macbeth becoming King? Or did they just plant the idea in his head? Was it fate, or did he have freewill? Would you care to share your thoughts on the matter with us, Ms. Tremain?’

  Out of nowhere a laugh rose in Evie’s chest. She choked it down, feeling her stomach muscles tensing. She studied her hands, folded on the desk before her - noting how the Mixen acid burns had faded and now looked like freckles - and then, before Mr. Fielder could ask her another question about a subject he had no real understanding of, she was on her feet, knocking her chair over and sending the books on the desk behind flying.

 
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