Fated 02: Severed, p.4Sarah Alderson
He didn’t answer her that. No one answered in fact. Everyone had fallen silent and suddenly the only noise Evie could hear was the waterfall rush of blood in her ears. She shrank further back into the shadows, holding her breath, waiting, wishing she could turn invisible like Lucas.
Finally she heard Jamieson mumbling something and under the cover of his mumble she started tiptoeing quickly towards the bedroom.
She closed the door behind her, turned around and let out a scream.
’Jesus!’ she said, clutching a hand to her heart and falling back against the door.
Lucas was standing in the centre of the room, arms crossed over his chest, fixing her with a cool stare. He’d showered. His hair was brushed back from his forehead in wet streaks and he was wearing a faded black T-shirt and a pair of dark sweat pants.
‘How did you …?’ she stopped. She understood. He’d done his turn-invisible, slink-into-the-shadows and pass-her-in-the-hallway trick. Damn it. So he knew she had been eavesdropping. Was he angry? She couldn’t tell. She took a step towards him and then stopped. She didn’t want to get too near. It would put her off. Just looking at him was putting her off. Even through her tiredness, even with her heart still beating as though it could see a finish line up ahead, she couldn’t help but register how much she longed to be in his arms. Proximity would only make saying what she had to say harder.
‘You can’t do this,’ she blurted. ‘Flic’s right. It’s insane. It’s like she said – if the prophecy is marked, if it’s meant to happen, then there’s no need for you to be involved. It will happen with or without you.’
Lucas regarded her for a long moment, his head tipped slightly to one side, then he took a step towards her, his hands coming to rest lightly on her shoulders. ‘Do you want me to stop?’ he asked in a neutral voice, his eyes locked on hers. ‘Do you want me to walk away?’
She drew in a breath and tried to drop her gaze but it was impossible – he had her hypnotised with those slate-grey eyes of his. ‘No,’ she said, shaking her head. ‘But Lucas, that’s just me being selfish – worse than selfish.’ She swallowed down the wedge of guilt that had got stuck in her throat. It didn’t budge. ‘I just don’t want to do whatever this is I’m doing alone.’
‘You won’t have to,’ he said, his lips so close to her own that it made her lose her focus. ‘I made my choice and you’re it.’
Her stomach dropped away, whether through relief or something else she couldn’t tell.
‘Even if you sent me away I wouldn’t go,’ he continued, his hands tightening on her shoulders. ‘Ever since I first saw you there’s been something holding me to you. I don’t know what. And I don’t fully understand it. All I know is that I couldn’t walk away now even if I wanted to. I told you before that I would do whatever it took to keep you safe, that I would fight whoever was trying to hurt you – human or unhuman, demon or monster – and I will.’
‘But what if …?’ she stuttered before falling silent. All she could hear in her mind was Flic telling Lucas that he was going to get himself killed.
Lucas’s fingers squeezed her tighter. ‘I’m not going to die,’ he said in such a low voice it came out as a growl.
Evie took a deep breath. ‘Lucas, if there’s a chance,’ she said, ‘even the smallest chance, that by fulfilling this prophecy you’ll get hurt then I don’t care how marked this prophecy is, I don’t care whether every damn Sybll in the world tells me it’s going to happen, I won’t let it.’
He didn’t say a word. He just considered her, his face inches from her own, their breathing running in unison.
‘OK,’ he finally said.
‘OK,’ she repeated, hearing the wobble in her voice. ‘Glad we’re clear about that.’
Slowly he drew her into his arms, pulling her close until her head was buried under his jaw. She felt his lips press against the top of her head, could hear his heart beating loud and strong beneath her ear. She pushed back suddenly so she could look at him again.
He wasn’t smiling. But then neither was she. She studied him – the iron cast of the shadows under his eyes, the paleness of his skin under his tan. He took her hand and led her to the bed. She sat down beside him, their shoulders brushing.
‘So, the way through?’ she asked. ‘I didn’t want to give your sister any more reason to shoot me her Gorgon stare, so I didn’t ask earlier, but what was Jamieson talking about when he mentioned the way through? Is it the same thing Issa was talking about – this Gateway?’
Lucas nodded. ‘Yes. It’s how unhumans get here. How, all unhumans travel into this realm. The way through. Some people still call it the Gateway.’
She couldn’t help but snicker. ‘The Gateway? What does it look like?’
‘I’ve never seen it. I’ve never been through it. Tristan explained it to me once as a break in the fabric of the universe.’
Her eyebrows rose another inch.
He laughed gently. ‘Imagine it like a rip in a blanket.’
‘And what’s on the other side of that rip?’
‘The Shifter realm. And from there, there are other Gateways through to the other realms.’
‘How were they made – these rips?’
Lucas drew his shoulders up and then let them drop, shaking his head, ‘No one knows. They’ve just always been there.’
‘What are the Shadowlands like?’ Evie asked next.
Lucas frowned, his gaze dropping to the floor. ‘They’re wastelands – barren, wild. It’s a place where the sun never seems to rise or set. Permanent dusk. It’s nothing like here. There are no cities or houses to speak of. It feels like waking up on the dark side of the moon – everything’s in shadow, freezing cold.’ He shuddered, then looked up at her, ‘It’s the most lonely I’ve ever felt.’
Evie took a long, slow breath. ‘You’ve been there?’ She shook her head. ‘When?’
‘The accident that killed my mother.’
Evie stared at Lucas’s hands gripping the edge of the bed. She reached out and placed her own hand over his.
‘I was thrown clear when the car flipped. I don’t remember it clearly – I was in the car one second and then I was gone. I think I must have passed out because the world wasn’t spinning and I wasn’t in the car anymore, I was somewhere else. And I knew, it was funny, I knew straight away that it was the Shadowlands, as if a part of me deep inside recognised it as home.’
He was staring straight ahead at the door, his eyes glazed. Evie’s hand tightened around his. ‘You must have been terrified.’
A small frown line appeared between his eyes. ‘Yes, I was scared. It was just a desert as far as the eye could see, and so cold and so grey, and I was completely alone. But I wasn’t afraid of that. The only thing I was scared of was not being able to find a way back. I was only there a minute – maybe less – but it was the most scared I’ve ever been.’ He broke off again, his jaw tensing. ‘And then I was back. Just like that, without any warning. I was lying on the ground – in some wet leaves, the taste of earth in my mouth.’ He closed his eyes. ‘The car tyres were still spinning, which is how I knew I hadn’t been gone long. I crawled. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t get up, so I crawled. And my mum was …’ He broke off and swallowed and Evie realised she’d been holding her breath. ‘I sat there and I held her hand and I watched her die.’
Evie squeezed her eyes shut. When she opened them again Lucas was staring at the door opposite. She reached a hand up and brushed her fingers softly along his jaw. ‘You came back,’ she whispered. ‘You didn’t stay there. You’re meant to be here, in this world. This is where you belong.’
He looked puzzled for a moment. Then he lifted his hand and pushed a loose strand of hair out of her eyes and tucked it behind her ear. With a sigh he pressed his forehead against hers. ‘We have to find a way of closing the way through,’ he said. ‘Mending the tear so to speak. I can’t imagine what else it means when it says severing the realms.’
‘It’s not going to be as simple as stitching it shut is it?’ Evie eventually asked, trying to break the tension.
He didn’t answer her. He didn’t need to.
‘Do you think Issa will find anything useful out?’
He shrugged, ‘I hope so.’
‘Was she your girlfriend?’ The question was out of her mouth before she could stop it.
Lucas tensed beside her. ‘If you want to call it that,’ he said. ‘We were briefly involved. It was never serious. It never is with a Sybll. When they can foresee your every move, your every word before you’ve even thought it, it kind of kills the romance. But for a time, yes, we were together.’
‘So you broke up with her?’ she asked, swallowing.
‘Not exactly. She saw it coming. That’s why she left me first.’
‘She saw what coming?’
Lucas paused for a long time before speaking. ‘You,’ he finally said. ‘I think she saw you coming.’
For a long time he watched her sleep. Watched the rise and fall of her breathing. She was quiet now. Earlier she’d been dreaming, calling out Risper’s name, calling out for him too. He’d held her tighter, reassuring her with words whispered in her ear and his arms wrapped tight around her, that he was still there, until her body had relaxed and she’d fallen back into a deeper sleep.
He lay in the bed beside her, one arm wrapped around her and the other hand wrapped tight around the hilt of his blade. He couldn’t sleep. His mind kept turning over the events of the last day and night, running through them again and again, trying to figure out how he could have played things differently, thinking of what Evie had told him about Neena and how she had died. He couldn’t stop picturing the scene, trying to fathom why Neena had sacrificed herself so that he and Evie could escape.
The dawn had come and gone, the sun had arced across the sky and fallen low once more. Long mauve shadows were stretching themselves across the room, like fingers trying to enfold Evie in their grasp. Lucas moved, positioning himself so that they fell on him instead of her. She moaned lightly in her sleep. Her hair was falling in a dark tumble over her face. It reminded him of the picture he’d first seen of her, with a strand of hair caught like a spider’s web over her eye.
He brushed it away. She looked like a normal teenage girl sleeping peacefully before waking up to a world where the only horror might be a looming exam. Well, not normal, he thought, she was far too unusual – too striking looking – for an adjective like normal to describe her, and even if she wasn’t a Hunter there would still be something marking her as different, something that stood her apart from her peers. It was partly her eyes, Lucas thought. The flare of challenge within the blue. The defiant way she always stood with one hip jutting forward and her chin slightly lifted. The way she took on the world expecting it to back down and not the other way around. He smiled to himself. Then slowly eased himself out of the bed and, checking once more that she was still sleeping soundly, he crossed to the door and left the room.
Issa was back. He’d felt her return a few minutes before. She’d been gone an entire day. He hoped she’d managed to find something out in that time because they needed to move soon. The Elders were probably right this minute sat in a meeting in the Shadowlands discussing how to retaliate, lining up Shadow Warriors and sending them through the Gateway to find him and Evie and to kill anyone who stood in their way.
Lucas walked into the living room. Jamieson and Issa were sitting on the sofa. Flic was standing with her hands on her hips, tapping her foot impatiently.
‘Finally,’ she said, when she saw him. ‘Did you sleep well?’
The inference in the word sleep didn’t pass him by. He ignored it. ‘Yes. Evie’s still sleeping.’
Flic’s mouth was set in a grimace. ‘Well, you need to wake Sleeping Beauty. It’s time to go.’
He ignored her again and instead turned to Issa. ‘Did you manage to find anything out?’ he asked.
She looked up at him from the sofa, her long blonde hair hanging in a twisted rope over one shoulder. ‘I couldn’t find anything out about the prophecy. No one knows where the other fragments are.’
Lucas studied her, trying to tell if she was lying. After all, the Sybll had no interest in the fragments being found. They were content to let fate play out while they sat and watched from the sidelines. Was Issa playing him?
‘Tell him what you did find out though,’ Flic urged Issa.
He saw the wary look pass across Issa’s face. She cleared her throat. ‘The Sybll are all seeing one thing,’ she said softly.
A static charge leapt through Lucas’s body. He knew from the way Issa was looking at him, with her lips pressed together so tightly that they were bleached as white as her skin, that whatever the Sybll were seeing wasn’t something good.
‘What?’ he asked Issa, his body tensing in apprehension. ‘What are you seeing?’
‘An army. We’re all seeing an army, Lucas. Coming through into this realm. To find her.’
It took him a while to find his voice. ‘An army?’ As he said the words, he suddenly remembered what Tristan had told him the last time he’d seen him – that the Elders had wanted to send an army to hunt down Evie.
‘Yes. They’re not recruiting a new Brotherhood,’ Issa said. ‘This time they’re recruiting an army.’
Lucas shook his head. An army? That was impossible. The Elders had trouble recruiting one member from every realm to even make up the Brotherhood. That explained the barrel scrapings like Joshua whom he’d had to train alongside. There was no way an army was coming through. He narrowed his eyes at Issa, wondering whether she was lying in order to scare him, put up to it by Flic, who had fallen strangely silent. At the very least, Issa had to be exaggerating. An army? When had the last army been raised by the Elders? Five hundred years ago maybe? During the Shapeshifter rebellion? A thousand years ago when the Originals were culled?
‘How are they recruiting an army?’ he asked. ‘They couldn’t even recruit enough members for the Brotherhood.’
‘I’m just telling you what I’m seeing,’ Issa answered.
‘But if the prophecy is marked,’ asked Flic, ‘why are they bothering to send an army? It won’t change anything, will it?’
‘No. But that’s never stopped anyone from trying. That’s why we don’t get involved,’ Issa answered with a frustrated sigh.
Lucas continued to study her. She was staring innocently back at him, her enormous blue eyes clouding over as if she had cataracts. He wondered what else she could see. Could she see his future? Could she see where it intersected with Evie’s and the point at which it diverged? He fought the urge to ask. ‘Issa,’ he said instead, ‘I need to find someone – another Sybll. She was in the Brotherhood. She might be able to help. I …’
‘You mean Grace,’ Issa interrupted before he could even finish.
‘Yes,’ he said, realising she must have anticipated this question.
Issa shook her head. ‘She vanished around the same time that the Elders took Tristan.’
‘They took Tristan?’ Lucas asked, his stomach dropping. Tristan was the man in charge of the Brotherhood. The man who had trained him and ordered him to kill Evie. ‘What have they done with him?’
‘They banished him to the Thirster realm,’ Issa answered. And then, as she anticipated his next question, she added in a quieter voice, ‘They blamed him for what happened to the Brotherhood – to the others.’ She paused, ‘For your betrayal and for Evie escaping.’
Lucas was acutely aware of the three of them watching his reaction, so he blanked his expression. But all he could see now in his mind’s eye was Tristan, a Shadow Warrior, but a wounded one, banished to a land where he would be easy prey. Unless he found some allegiance with the Originals – the older Thirsters who no longer fed. There were worse fates, but right now Lucas couldn’t think of any. And it was his fault. He was the one who should
‘Look,’ he heard Flic say, ‘we need to get going.’
‘Where to?’ Lucas asked, trying to clear his head of the images that were now racing through it, trying to shake off the molten layers of guilt that were settling over him.
‘The Tipping Point,’ Flic answered.
‘It’s a club.’
‘And there’ll be unhumans there?’ he asked.
‘Oh yes,’ Flic answered with a slow smile. ‘You’ll have your pick. Last time a fight broke out between some Scorpio and some redneck Thirsters and the rogue Hunters arrived and broke it up quicker than a Shapeshifter can shift. Let’s just say the place is now a charred relic, as are the bodies of those unhumans.’
‘You don’t need to come with me,’ Lucas said. ‘It’s going to be dangerous. Just tell me where the place is.’
‘No. We’re coming,’ Flic snapped.
‘Issa says it’s fine,’ Jamieson added when Lucas opened his mouth to protest.
‘You’ll need someone to get you past the doorman,’ Flic said. ‘You can’t walk in there and show your face. You’ll have to stick to the shadows.’
‘Word’s out, Lucas,’ Jamieson said with a grin. ‘Everyone’s talking about the Shadow Warrior who ran off with the Hunter. You’re famous.’
‘And you have a price tag on your head.’
Lucas looked at Issa. She seemed vaguely amused. ‘How much am I worth?’ he asked.
‘Enough for me to reconsider family ties,’ Flic quipped, though Lucas wasn’t entirely sure she was joking.
‘Six figures dude,’ laughed Jamieson.
Lucas smiled grimly. ‘Let’s see if we can up that.’
Evie looked up at him when he walked in. She was crouched on the ground, her hair dishevelled and her hands buried deep in the pockets of the blood-spattered trousers he’d been wearing the night before.
Fated 02: Severed by Sarah Alderson / Romance & Love / Fantasy / Young Adult have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes