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Fated 02 severed, p.8
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       Fated 02: Severed, p.8

           Sarah Alderson
 

  ‘I’m on Evie’s side,’ she heard Lucas say before she could figure out how to finish her sentence.

  Cyrus’s eyes darted to Lucas. ‘Hmm,’ he said, ‘that’s not what I hear. I hear you’re one of the Brotherhood. And let’s see, that would mean you and her aren’t on the same side at all. It would make you and her sworn enemies, wouldn’t it? Oh, and us.’ He shrugged, rolling back his shoulders, his hand reaching for his knife and pulling it free from its sheath. ‘So maybe we should ready ourselves for a fight to the death.’ He spread his legs wide, pointing his knife at Lucas’s throat. ‘Your death that is.’

  Chapter 16

  Lucas made no move to counter him. His hands stayed by his sides. ‘I have no allegiance to the Brotherhood anymore, nor to the Hunters,’ he said in a voice that sent a shudder up Evie’s spine. ‘I have no fight with you.’

  ‘Is that because you’re scared?’ Cyrus said. ‘Sounds to me like you’re scared.’ He jabbed the knife in Lucas’s direction.

  Lucas didn’t flinch as the blade grazed the air in front of his cheek.

  ‘I think I’ll have the upper hand,’ Cyrus taunted. ‘You’re probably tired after this latest killing spree. And it’s also three against one. Sure you don’t want to give up now? I’ll make it nice and painful if you do.’

  ‘Three against two actually,’ Evie snarled, taking a step forward and closing the distance between her and Lucas.

  Cyrus hopped back, the knife dropping, regarding her with an expression that made her want to wipe it off his face with her fist. ‘You’re half trained, so I hear,’ he said. ‘You didn’t get your first kill yet unless any of these are yours, which I’m doubting.’ He pointed to the corner, ‘So why don’t you just stand to one side and observe how it’s done?’

  If it wasn’t for the fact he was holding a knife Evie was sure he’d have patted her on the head. ‘And then,’ he continued, ‘we’ll sit you down and set you straight on the rules of being a Hunter. First one, thou shalt not get confused over which side you are on.’ He turned to Ash, ‘Ash, do you remember the second rule?’

  ‘Thou shalt kill members of the Brotherhood and not sleep with them,’ Ash offered.

  ‘Yeah, that joke’s kind of wearing thin,’ Evie interrupted. ‘And by the way, just so you know,’ she said, looking back at Cyrus and pointing her thumbs at her chest, ‘full power.’

  Gratifyingly, his eyes grew round and his mouth gaped open for half a second. But then he recovered and the sneer was back in place. ‘OK, pleasantries are over.’

  Evie caught the flash of steel in the corner of her eye as the girl unsheathed her sword.

  ‘One last kiss goodbye?’ Cyrus asked, pointing his knife between them.

  Evie stared at him, eyes wide. ‘Whoa, are you not even going to listen?’ she asked. She felt Lucas move ever so slightly, shifting himself an inch to the right, blocking her with his shoulder. Would he fade? Would he move for Vero first or Cyrus? She could probably outpace Cyrus, duck fast enough to avoid Ash’s first kick or punch, but then what?

  She didn’t have time to process any further. Cyrus took a blindingly fast leap forward, bringing his knife to Evie’s chin. She looked down. Lucas had moved too in the same instant. He was standing against her side, holding his own blade low, the tip pressed against Cyrus’s stomach. She glanced up. Vero had raised the sword above Lucas’s head executioner style.

  ‘Checkmate to us I think,’ Cyrus said softly. ‘Now listen to me,’ he said, dropping his gaze to Evie. ‘If you want protection you can come with us now. Your boyfriend, however, is one of them. And what’s rule number three, Vero?’

  ‘Kill all unhumans,’ the girl answered flatly.

  ‘Jesus,’ Evie said, bringing her hands quickly to Cyrus’s chest and pushing him hard. He fell backwards a few steps. ‘This is not Fight Club,’ she yelled. ‘You can break a rule for Chrissake.’

  He squared his shoulders and came back at her, ‘Says the master.’

  Evie let out a growl of annoyance. Why had they even bothered trying to find these people?

  ‘Look,’ said Cyrus, raising his knife again and pointing it at her. ‘Give me one reason why we shouldn’t kill your boyfriend over there. Come on. The dark scowling face is reason enough in my book.’

  She could have sworn she heard the sound of Lucas’s eyes narrowing to slits.

  ‘Come on, just one reason,’ Cyrus repeated, ‘and it better not include the words love, eternal or soul.’

  ‘Whatever you might have heard,’ Evie spat back, ‘this is not about love.’

  Even as she said it she was aware of the projection of her and Lucas on the wall above them. It had faded in the blinding UV lights but she could practically feel the hearts bleeding onto their heads.

  ‘Ah, ah, ah – you used the love word. I warned you. Vero,’ Cyrus barked. Vero stepped forward, the sword still raised above her head.

  ‘We’re trying to close the realms for good,’ Evie blurted, holding one hand up to avert the blade, her other hand reaching desperately for Lucas before he could fade or do something rash like kill the girl first. Another massacre wasn’t what was needed right now.

  Cyrus did a double take, holding up his hand to still Vero. ‘And how are you planning on doing that exactly?’

  ‘She’s the White Light,’ she heard Lucas say behind her.

  Vero dropped her sword with a bang to her side. Cyrus took an unsteady step back and Ash exhaled loudly. Evie stared at them all. She wasn’t sure what to make of their reactions. They’d obviously heard of the prophecy though. Vero was looking at her like she was a ghost, as if she could see all the way through her. Why was she looking at her like that?

  ‘Is it true then?’ Vero asked in a shaking voice.

  Evie glanced at Lucas. He was staring at her too. The anger from earlier seemed to have dissipated.

  ‘Yes,’ she answered, ‘it’s true.’

  Vero turned to Cyrus. ‘Risper said it might be true.’

  Evie drew in a sharp breath. Risper. That’s who Vero reminded her of. She looked just like Risper.

  ‘If Risper was right, if she’s this White Light – it’s the prophecy,’ Vero continued, turning back to Evie, her face now bright with excitement. ‘She’s the one who’s going to sever the realms.’

  ‘So are you going to help us or not?’ Evie heard herself snap, suddenly tired of hearing the word sever. And the word realm for that matter.

  Cyrus regarded her for a long moment. ‘You need our protection,’ he finally said. It wasn’t a question. It was a statement.

  ‘Yes.’

  ‘Lover boy can’t manage it by himself?’ he asked, cocking an eyebrow at Lucas.

  ‘We’ve got half the realms after us,’ she answered through gritted teeth, ‘in case you hadn’t noticed.’

  ‘We need to find the rest of the prophecy – we need to know how to close the way through,’ Lucas cut in.

  ‘But we don’t know where to look,’ Evie added.

  Ash coughed and then cleared his throat. ‘Cyrus, what about your mum?’ he asked. ‘Won’t she be able to help?’

  Cyrus frowned. Then he looked Lucas and Evie up and down one more time, his eyes coming to rest finally on Lucas. Lucas looked straight back at him through heavy lids, his shoulders locked with tension.

  ‘Let’s get one thing clear,’ Cyrus said after a beat, sheathing his knife with a dramatic flourish. ‘We are not joining you. It’s the other way around.’ He strode off, pausing briefly to look over his shoulder at them. ‘And, Romeo and Juliet, just so you know – I’m in charge.’

  Chapter 17

  The one called Cyrus, the one who couldn’t take his eyes off Evie, the one who thought he could actually fight a Shadow Warrior and win, was beginning to really irritate Lucas.

  They had followed him back to his so-called hide-out. Though it was less a hide-out and more an apartment that a small child had been given free rein to decorate. It was downtown, in a warehouse no
t three blocks from the building The Tipping Point had occupied for the night. They had entered through a small metal door, crossed a dusty abandoned workshop, and taken a cranking goods lift to the top floor. The grille had pulled back to reveal a high-ceilinged loft space. Windows filled two walls. Exposed brickwork had been spray-painted with what Lucas assumed was an ironic attempt at graffiti art – at least, he hoped it was ironic. A kitchen took up one end of the space and an open doorway led through to a hallway that had several other doors coming off it. The floors were wood, sanded down and smooth underfoot, strewn with beanbags and items of furniture Lucas wasn’t sure were for sitting on or for eating off or just for looking at. An air-hockey table took up one corner of the room, a trampoline another. The ceiling was latticed by metal air vents and pipes, over which ropes had been slung, as well as several punch bags, making it look like an ape enclosure at a zoo.

  ‘Work-out space,’ Cyrus had said, nodding his head up at the ceiling when they walked in.

  Lucas hadn’t replied. He hadn’t said a word yet in fact. Sometime soon he thought he and Cyrus were going to have a falling out, so he was trying to restrain himself until that time came.

  Evie’s hand was still in his. He kept noticing the three rogue Hunters staring at them and their linked hands, as if something unfathomable, like a unicorn, had appeared in the room and they had to keep checking that it was real. The girl, Risper’s sister he’d figured, was the one to watch. Her dark eyes kept tracking to him every time she thought that he wasn’t looking. But he saw her. And possibly he was just suspicious but he wasn’t about to let his guard down where she was concerned. There was an edge to her that he was sure was lethally sharp and given the slightest provocation she’d strike. The boy Ash looked like a fighter – as in a real fighter – someone who would probably make him break a sweat, even while he was invisible. The boy had instincts, he could tell from the way he moved and the way he listened, his head pricking up at even the slightest sound that the others weren’t noticing. He was the quietest, the most contained emotionally too – hard to read. But Lucas didn’t sense any immediate threat from him. At least, not yet.

  He’d been wary at first of coming back with them, but what choice had they had? Flic and the others had disappeared without even a goodbye, and he knew that door was shut. There was no going back. He felt a momentary twinge of regret and maybe anger that it had ended that way with Flic but there was nothing he could do about it now. He and Evie seemed to have reached a tentative truce with these self-styled rogue Hunters. Not that he had any faith in it holding. Given the choice, he would have preferred to strike out on his own with Evie because now he felt like he was having to watch his back from every direction. But they needed to figure out the prophecy and fulfil it, and the only person who might be able to help them, other than Grace, who seemed to be missing in action, was Cyrus’s mother. Scorpio’s law, as they said in the realms.

  The three rogue Hunters were facing them. There were no invitations to make themselves at home or to take a seat. He waited, Evie brushing up against his side. She did it every so often, as if checking he was still there. His fingers tightened around hers. He was there.

  Vero was the first to speak. ‘You know my sister? Risper?’

  ‘Yes,’ Evie answered.

  The girl’s bottom lip trembled. She tried to hide it. ‘What’s happened to her?’ she asked.

  Evie swallowed audibly beside him.

  ‘She’s dead, isn’t she?’ Vero asked in a rush.

  Neither he nor Evie said anything. Evie made the slightest movement of her head. A nod.

  ‘How?’ Vero asked in a small, broken voice.

  Evie took a breath. ‘We were trying to get away from the rest of the Brotherhood. Risper was with us,’ she said quietly.

  Vero’s jaw tensed, her nostrils quivering. ‘What happened? What killed her?’ she demanded.

  ‘A Thirster.’

  For a second Vero stood there unblinking and they watched a landslide of emotions rush across her face. Evie’s hand started crushing his own. And then Vero turned her back, her shoulders heaving, and Ash stepped forward in the same instant to catch her. She fell against him sobbing, her head buried against his chest. His arms wrapped around her, and Ash half carried her out of the room, murmuring to her softly as they went. Her cries reverberated in the high space long after they’d left.

  Cyrus stalked over to the window, pausing to kick the sofa on his way. He rested his head against his fist and leant against the glass.

  ‘So they’re sisters,’ Evie finally said.

  Cyrus turned to her slowly. ‘Twins.’

  It was the first time he wasn’t wearing a smirk on his face.

  ‘Oh, God,’ Evie murmured.

  ‘It wasn’t your fault,’ Cyrus said quietly, his eyes on Lucas.

  Lucas ground his teeth and forced himself to stay silent. Cyrus gave him one last glare and then strode past the sofas towards an open-plan kitchen at the far end of the room.

  ‘They hadn’t seen each other in a while,’ he remarked as he opened the fridge. He was waiting for one of them to ask why but Evie didn’t say anything and Lucas wasn’t about to fill the silence either.

  ‘They fell out,’ Cyrus explained as he walked back over holding two water bottles in his hand. He gave one to Evie, pointedly ignoring Lucas, and then went and dropped onto the nearest sofa, kicking his feet up onto a plastic block that seemed to serve as a coffee table.

  ‘What did they fall out over?’ Evie asked.

  ‘Over you,’ said Cyrus holding up his water bottle as if toasting her.

  ‘Me?’ Evie asked.

  ‘Yes. Risper and Vero were both part of the original Hunters. They were only kids when Victor found them – fifteen or so – hanging out at a skate park in Baltimore.’

  ‘Victor? You know Victor?’

  ‘I don’t know him. I know of him.’

  ‘Risper and Vero – what happened?’ Lucas asked suddenly. ‘How did they fall out over Evie?’

  Cyrus glanced up at him. ‘They fell out over the White Light. Victor expected them both to protect you,’ he said, his eyes lingering on Evie. ‘To train you. But Vero didn’t think they should risk their lives protecting something – someone – who she didn’t believe in.’

  Evie’s head flew up.

  ‘What evidence was there that it was you?’ Cyrus shrugged, taking a swig from his water bottle. ‘Vero thought it was a suicide mission. But Risper wanted it to be true. She wanted it to be true badly – she’d had enough – she wanted out and thought that if they’d found the White Light the end was in sight. So Vero walked away alone. She found us – joined us.’ He put the bottle down on the table. ‘For the last three years we’ve banded together in LA, trying to keep an eye on the way through, trying to limit the numbers of unhumans coming through. Waiting, I guess.’

  ‘Hold up,’ Evie said. ‘Vero walked away? She left? Just like that? And Victor didn’t come after her?’

  ‘No.’ Cyrus shook his head.

  ‘But Victor said no one ever left. He said no one ever got away.’ Her fingers were gripping the sides of the sofa. ‘People … people were killed trying to leave. He told me.’ She was talking about her parents but Cyrus didn’t need to know that.

  Cyrus shrugged again. ‘Well, Vero got away. She was one of the lucky ones. My mum too. He never managed to find her either – not for want of trying.’

  Evie’s voice was a hoarse whisper. ‘Your mum? She was a Hunter too?’

  ‘Yes.’

  ‘Who is she?’ Lucas asked.

  Cyrus looked up at him, an annoyed expression on his face as if he’d only just remembered that Lucas was in the room. ‘Her name’s Margaret,’ he answered.

  ‘Margaret?’ Evie said, her head flying up.

  Cyrus nodded.

  Evie turned to Lucas with a stricken look on her face and he dropped to her side, kneeling in front of the sofa.

  ‘I know her. I know
the name,’ she said, reaching for him. ‘She was in the book. The book Victor gave me with the family tree in it. She was scratched out. He told me she was dead. He made out that he’d killed her.’

  ‘Well, she’s alive,’ Cyrus shrugged. ‘Last time I checked anyway.’

  Lucas turned instantly to Cyrus, ‘Who’s your father?’

  ‘What’s it to you?’ Cyrus shot back, jumping abruptly to his feet so he was looming over Lucas.

  Lucas stood slowly so he was standing taller than Cyrus. ‘Nothing,’ he said.

  Cyrus turned away and started heading towards the door that Vero and Ash had disappeared through.

  ‘Are we going to see your mum?’ Evie called after him.

  ‘In the morning. First I think your boyfriend needs some beauty sleep. There’s a guest room you can use.’ He turned to Evie smirking, ‘Or you can bunk with me.’

  Lucas lowered his head and fought the overwhelming urge to fade and reappear right in front of Cyrus brandishing the sword that Vero had dropped by the door on her way in. It was tempting. Seriously tempting. But Evie had a tight hold of his hand as though she’d guessed what he was thinking, and she was looking up at him wide-eyed and pleading – or maybe she was warning him not to react, so he ignored Cyrus and, leaning down, kissed Evie on the lips.

  Chapter 18

  Evie stared at the bunk beds. The phrase who’s on top? was on the tip of her tongue but she couldn’t bring herself to utter it. She stood there in silence instead. The whole night had been so surreal and now it was ending with them standing here in a room with kids’ bunk beds shoved against one wall and a Space Invaders arcade game pushed against the other, while Vero’s cries seeped through the thinly partitioned walls.

  ‘Do you ever have times when you just don’t want to deal with what’s in front of you?’ Evie whispered as they stood there, hand in hand, in the centre of the room.

  ‘Yes,’ Lucas answered, laughing softly.

  She looked up at him, shaking her head slowly. ‘You’re so lucky. You can just disappear.’ She moved to face him. ‘I’m always scared that you’re never going to come back.’

 
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