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GETTING TO TREY was easier said than done. A girl getting into the guys’ dorm at normal hours would’ve been difficult enough. But after curfew? In the middle of the night? Nearly impossible.
I had to resort to creative options and called Eddie while I was driving Adrian home.
One thing I never had to feel guilty about was calling Eddie at any hour. He kept his ringer on (much to Micah’s delight, no doubt), and I suspected he slept with the phone next to his pillow.
“Yes?” Eddie’s voice was alert and ready, as though he hadn’t been asleep at all. That was just how he was.
“I need you to go see if you can wake up Trey,” I told him. “Sonya’s been kidnapped and is being held at some weird compound with a logo like Trey’s tattoo. We need to find out what he knows.”
This was the first time Eddie was hearing about Sonya’s kidnapping, but he didn’t ask for further information – or how I’d known her location. He knew she’d been in danger recently, and this quick message was enough to get him going. I didn’t exactly know what would happen when Eddie did find Trey, seeing as there was no way I’d be able to talk to Trey myself until morning. Still, we had to start somewhere.
“Okay,” said Eddie. “I’m on it. I’ll call you back.”
We disconnected, and I stifled a yawn. “Well, here goes nothing. Let’s hope Eddie can find out something.”
“Preferably without beating up Trey in the process,” said Adrian. He snuggled against the passenger seat, the only sign that he too was feeling tired from our late night. He’d long since converted from a vampire’s nocturnal schedule. “Since that might limit how much we can find out.”
I made a face. “If Trey’s somehow involved with this, I’m not sure I want to take it easy on him. And yet… I just can’t believe he is.”
“People fool each other all the time. Look at you. You think Trey knows you’re part of a secret society helping to keep vampires hidden from the world?”
“Actually… yes.” I stopped at a red light and thought back on some of Trey’s weird behaviors.
“He knows Jill’s a Moroi, I’m almost certain of it. He didn’t notice right away, but when he did, he kept telling me to keep her hidden. Then after Sonya was attacked, he told me to stay safe.” A horrible realization was dawning on me. “He knew. He knew I was friends with Sonya. He probably knew about the attack and never said anything!”
“Not a surprise if his group’s working counter to yours.” Adrian’s tone softened. “If it makes you feel better, it sounds like he was kind of conflicted if he was trying to warn you.”
“I don’t know that it does. Oh, Adrian.” I pulled up in front of his building and saw the yellow Mustang illuminated in the streetlight. “You left the car out. You’re lucky it didn’t get towed.”
“I’ll move it,” he said. “And don’t look at me like that. It’s within a half-mile radius. I’m not breaking your rules.”
“Just be careful,” I muttered.
He opened Latte’s door and glanced back at me. “You sure you want to go back to the school? You’ll be locked in until morning.”
“Not much I can do until then anyway. I want to be there the instant I can get access to Trey. I’ll trust in Eddie for now.”
Adrian looked reluctant to leave me but finally nodded. “Call if you need anything. I’m going to keep trying to see if I can find Sonya in her dreams. Didn’t have much luck earlier.” One of spirit’s more disconcerting powers was the user’s ability to intrude on the dreams of other people. “Is she just not asleep?”
“That, or drugged.”
Neither option made me feel any better. He gave me one last, lingering look before leaving.
I returned to Amberwood where a sleepy student aide waved me in without comment.
Mrs. Weathers had long since gone home, and her overnight coverage didn’t seem particularly concerned about my comings and goings. As I was walking up the stairs, my phone rang.
“Well, it took forever, but I finally woke his roommate up,” he told me.
“He’s not there. I guess he wasn’t last night either. Some kind of family emergency.”
“No word on when he’ll be back?” I was beginning to think all of Trey’s “family stuff” might be more insidious than I’d guessed. I was also willing to bet he wasn’t the only one with a sun tattoo.
I DRIFTED IN AND OUT of sleep that night. My body was exhausted from the magic, but I was too on edge about Sonya to fully give in to the fatigue. I keep waking up and checking my cell phone, afraid I’d missed some call – despite the fact that it was on its loudest setting. I finally gave up and got out of bed a couple of hours before the cafeteria’s breakfast began. By the time I’d showered and dressed – and put my coffee maker into high gear – I was back into open hours on campus. Not that it did me much good.
I made two more calls after that, first to Spencer’s to see if Trey was working. I didn’t expect him to be, but it was a good excuse to see if he’d been there in the last couple of days.
He hadn’t been. My next call was to Stanton, reporting Sonya’s disappearance. I told her we had a lead that connected one of my classmates to the vampire hunters and that Sonya was likely being held at a compound outside of town. I didn’t elaborate on how I knew, and Stanton was distracted enough by the kidnapping in general to ask much more.
At breakfast, I found my “family” sitting with Micah over at West’s cafeteria. Eddie, Angeline, and Jill’s troubled faces told me they all knew about Sonya. Micah was cheerfully chatting about something, and I had a feeling his presence was preventing the others from discussing what they really wanted to. When Micah turned to ask Eddie something, I leaned over and murmured to Jill, “Get him out of here.”
“Tell him to go?” she whispered back.
“If you need to. Or go with him.”
“But I want to – “
She bit her lip as Micah’s attention returned to her. She looked unhappy about what she had to do, but soon put on the resolved expression that recently I’d often seen her wear. She nodded toward Micah’s plate. “Hey, are you about done? I need to check on something with Miss Yamani. Will you come with me?”
Micah brightened. “Of course.”
Once the two of them were gone, I turned to Eddie and Angeline. “Any sign of Trey?” I asked.
“No,” said Eddie. “I checked in again this morning. His roommate’s starting to hate me.
Can’t say I blame him.”
“This is driving me crazy!” I said, feeling like I could beat my head against the wall. “We’re so close and yet helpless. Every minute that goes by is another that Sonya doesn’t have.” He grimaced. “Are we sure she’s alive?”
“She was last night,” I said.
Both Eddie and Angeline looked at me in amazement. “How do you know?” she asked.
“Um, well, I – no way!” My jaw dropped as I stared past Eddie. “It’s Trey!” Sure enough, a bleary-eyed Trey had just entered the cafeteria. Damp hair indicated a recent shower, but there were bruises and scrapes all over him that I could no longer attribute to football.
Eddie was in motion before I could say another word, and Angeline and I were quick to follow.
I half-expected Eddie to tackle Trey then and there. Instead, Eddie walked right in front of Trey and blocked him from entering the food line. I was just in time to hear Eddie say, “No breakfast today. You’re coming with us.”
Trey started to protest and then saw Angeline and me. Jill suddenly appeared as well, having apparently lost Micah. A sad look crossed Trey’s features – almost defeated – and he gave a weary nod. “Let’s go outside.”
As soon as we’d cleared the door, Eddie grabbed hold of Trey and shoved him against the building. “Where’s Sonya Karp?” Eddie demanded. Trey looked understandably surprised.
Eddie was lean and muscled, but most people underestimated just how strong he was.
“Eddie, back off!” I hissed, glancing around uneasily. I had the same urge, true, but our interrogation wouldn’t get very far if a teacher came by and thought we were roughing up another student.
Eddie released Trey and stepped back, but there was still a dangerous glint in his eyes.
“Where’s the compound you’re holding her at?”
That seemed to wake Trey out of his sluggish state. “How do you know about that?”
“We’ll ask the questions,” said Eddie. He didn’t touch Trey again, but his proximity and posture left no question he would go to extremes if needed. “Is Sonya still alive?” Trey hesitated, and I almost expected a denial of knowledge. “Y-yes. For now.” Eddie snapped again. He grabbed the front of Trey’s shirt and jerked him close. “I swear, if you and your messed-up associates lay one hand on her – “
“Eddie,” I warned.
For a moment, Eddie didn’t move. Then, reluctantly, he released Trey’s shirt, but stayed where he’d been standing. “Trey,” I began, keeping the same reasonable tone I’d just used with Eddie – after all, Trey and I were friends, right? “You have to help us. Please help us find Sonya.”
He shook his head. “I can’t, Sydney. It’s for your own good. She’s evil. I don’t know what trick she’s played on you or how she’s got this illusion going on that hides her true identity, but you can’t trust her. She’ll turn on you. Let us – let us do what we need to.” The words were all correct, right in line with the Warriors’ propaganda. But, there was something in the way Trey spoke, something about his posture… I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was that made me question him. People teased me about my inability to pick up on social cues, but I was almost certain he wasn’t entirely on board with whatever this group wanted him to do.
“This isn’t you, Trey,” I said. “I know you well enough to know. You wouldn’t kill an innocent woman.”
“She’s not innocent.” There it was again – that mix of emotions. Doubt. “She’s a monster.
You know about them. You know what they can do. Not ones like her.” He nodded toward Jill.
“But the others. The undead ones.”
“Does Sonya look undead?” asked Eddie. “You see any red eyes?”
“No,” Trey admitted. “But we have other reports. Witnesses who saw her in Kentucky. Reports of her victims.”
It was hard to keep a calm face through that. I’d actually seen Sonya when she was Strigoi. She’d been terrifying, and given half a chance, she would have killed my companions and me. It was hard to accept that when one turned into a Strigoi, they weren’t in control of their senses or soul. They lost touch with their humanity – or whatever Moroi had – and weren’t the same as they’d once been. Sonya had done terrible, terrible things, but she was no longer that creature.
“Sonya changed,” I said. “She’s not one of them anymore.” Trey’s eyes narrowed. “That’s impossible. You’re being deceived. There’s some kind of…
I don’t know… dark magic going on.”
“This isn’t getting us anywhere,” growled Eddie. “Call Dimitri. Between the two of us, we’ll get him to tell us where this compound’s at. I’ve broken into a prison. Getting into this place shouldn’t be that much harder.”
“Oh, you think so?” A humorless smile crossed Trey’s features. “That place is surrounded with an electric fence and packed with armed men. Plus, she’s heavily secured. You can’t just walk in there.”
“Why is she still alive?” asked Angeline. She seemed to realize how weird that sounded and was quick to elaborate. “That is… I mean, I’m glad she is. But if you think she’s so evil, why didn’t you finish her off?” She glanced at my friends and me. “Sorry.”
“It’s a good question,” Eddie told her.
Trey took a long time in answering. I had a feeling he was torn between keeping the group’s secrets and wanting to justify his actions to us. “Because we’re all being tested,” he said finally. “To see who’s worthy of performing the kill.”
“Oh my God,” said Jill.
“Hence all your bruises recently,” I said. My fears of domestic abuse weren’t far off, really.
“You’re competing to kill a woman who’s done nothing to you.”
“Stop saying that!” Trey cried, truly looking distraught. “She’s not innocent.”
“But you’re not so sure,” I said. “Are you? Your eyes aren’t telling you what your hunter friends are.”
He evaded the accusation. “My family expects this of me. We all have to try – especially after we messed up the alley attack. We lost our authorization to kill her then, which is why the council ordered these trials to redeem ourselves and prove we were up to it.” Getting
“authorization” to kill someone was sickening, but it was the rest of what he said that made me do a double take.
“You were there,” I said in disbelief. “In the alley, and – and it was you! You’re the one who grabbed me!” It came back to me now, my assailant’s surprise and hesitation.
Trey’s face confirmed as much. “I knew you were friends with them. I can tell by looking at all of you, although I didn’t figure you two out right away.” That was to Eddie and Angeline.
Trey turned back to me. “I recognized your tattoo the first time we met. I just ignored it because I didn’t think you were involved in anything that I was. I thought you only hung out with harmless vampires, so I didn’t expect you to be there that night. I never wanted you to get hurt. I still don’t, which is why you need to let this go.”
“I’m tired of this,” said Eddie. It was a wonder he’d been patient this long. “We need to bust down the doors of that place and – “
“Wait, wait.” An idea was forming in my head – and it was another crazy one. “Trey, you said Eddie couldn’t just walk into that place. But could I?”
“What are you talking about?” asked Trey, a mix of suspicion and confusion on his face
“You know what I am. You know what I do.” Trey nodded. “Our two groups used to be united. Those guys who stopped me on the street even said they thought we should all be working together. The Warriors want Alchemist resources.”
“So, what… you want a trade?” asked Trey, frowning.
“No. I just want to talk to this council of yours. I want to explain why Sonya isn’t… er, why she doesn’t look the way she used to. There’s a Moroi who uses a certain kind of magic who could even show you – “
“No,” said Trey immediately. “None of them would be allowed inside. They’re tolerated, but that’s it. You hybrids wouldn’t be allowed either.” Again, he spoke to Eddie and Angeline. I’d never heard the term hybrids used, but the meaning was clear.
“Okay,” I said. “Only humans. I’m human. Your group wants to work with my group. Let me go with you. Unarmed. I’ll talk to your leaders and – “
“Sydney, no,” protested Eddie. “You can’t go there alone! They tried to decapitate Sonya, for God’s sake. And remember what Clarence said about radicals stalking him?”
“We won’t hurt humans,” said Trey adamantly. “She’d be safe.”
“I believe you,” I told him. “And I know you wouldn’t ever let anything happen to me either.
Look, aren’t you curious about why Sonya is the way she is? Can you take the chance your people are making a mistake? You said you tolerate Moroi. She’s one of them. Let me explain.
I’m not asking for anything else except a chance to speak.”
“And a guarantee of safety,” added Angeline, who looked almost as outraged as Eddie.
He nodded at her words. “You guys are big on the honor stuff, right? You’d have to promise she’d be safe.”
“Honor’s what makes us do what we do,” said Trey. “If we promise she’ll be safe, she will be.”
“Then ask them,” I urged. “Please? Won’t you do this for me? As my friend?” A pained look crossed Trey’s features at that. He’d hinted before that he owed me for helping end the illicit tattoo ring last month. That would obligate any friend, let alone one instilled with a rigid sense of honor. I knew then, too, that more than honor was on the line here.
Trey and I were friends – with more in common than I’d ever realized. We both were part of groups that wanted to control our lives, often in ways we didn’t like. We also had domineering fathers. If Trey and I didn’t have such opposing goals, we might have laughed about all this.
“I’ll ask,” Trey said. Something told me he too was thinking of our similarities. “Because it’s you. But I can’t make any promises.”
“Then ask now,” growled Eddie. “We don’t have time to waste. And I’m guessing Sonya doesn’t either.”
Trey didn’t deny it. I hesitated, suddenly wondering if this was a smart choice. What would happen if we let Trey out of our sight? Would it be better if we really did drag him to Dimitri?
And Sonya… how much time did she have left?
“Now,” I reiterated to Trey. “You have to get in touch with them now. Don’t go to class.” It was probably the first and only time I’d say those words.
“I swear,” said Trey. “I’ll call them now.”
The bell rang, ending our meeting. Although, if we’d had the chance to save Sonya at that moment, I knew each of my friends would have walked off campus then and there. We let Trey go, and he headed back toward his dorm, not toward our classes. Angeline – newly free from suspension – departed with Jill while Eddie and I walked to history.
“That was a mistake,” he said, face grim as he stared at where Trey had gone. “For all we know, he’s going to disappear, and we’ll have lost any chance we had at getting Sonya back.”
“I don’t think he will,” I said. “I know Trey. He’s a good person, and I could tell that even if he thinks Strigoi need to be exterminated, he’s not 100 percent sure of Sonya. He’ll do what he can. I think he’s feeling torn right now, caught between what they’ve told him his whole life and what he’s starting to see with his own eyes.”
Sound like anyone else you know? an inner voice asked.
I’d sort of hoped that Trey would give me an answer right away – say, by chemistry. But he wasn’t there either or anywhere else at school the day. I supposed these things took time, and my patience and faith were rewarded at the end of the day with a text from him: Still checking. Some are willing to talk. Others need convincing.
Eddie didn’t take Trey’s message as concrete proof when I showed it to him, but I didn’t think Trey would’ve said anything if he’d skipped town. Eddie wanted to get together with Dimitri and discuss strategy on this new development. So, we decided to take a group trip downtown. I sent the summons to our family to meet outside the East dorm in a half hour. Jill was the first one to arrive, and she came to a halt when she saw me.
“Wow, Sydney… your hair.”
I glanced up from where I’d been answering a text from Brayden, telling him I couldn’t hang out this weekend. “What about it?”
“The way those layers are styled. They perfectly complement your face.” She was looking at me in that weird way again. “Well, yeah,” I said, hoping to change the subject. “It’s a, um, good haircut. Sorry we had to get rid of Micah earlier.” It took her a few seconds, but my distraction snapped her out of the hair-induced trance.
“Oh, no. It’s okay. I mean, things are getting weirder between us anyway.”
“Oh?” Micah had seemed as chipper as ever, the last time I saw him. “You guys are still having problems?”
“Well… I guess I am. I really like him. I love hanging out with him and his friends. But I just keep getting reminded of how nothing can happen with us. Like, this morning. There’s a whole other world we have going that he can’t be a part of. And I can’t stand the thought of lying to him or keeping him out of my life. I might have to do it… for real. End things. I know I’ve kind of said that before, but now I mean it.”
“We’re here for you if you do,” I said. I technically meant it, but if Jill came sobbing to me afterward, I wasn’t entirely sure what I should say. Maybe I could find a book on appropriate breakup counseling techniques before she did the deed.
A wry smile crossed her face. “You know what’s silly? I mean, I don’t want to go jumping from one guy to another – and I do still care about Micah – but I’m starting to notice what a really good guy Eddie is.”
“He’s a great guy,” I confirmed.
“Moroi and dhampirs being together are discouraged when they’re older, but now… I mean, I knew some who got together at St. Vladimir’s.” She gave an embarrassed laugh. “I know, I know… I shouldn’t even be thinking like that. One guy at a time. But still… the more I see Eddie – he’s just so brave and so confident. He’d do anything for us, you know? He’s like some storybook hero in real life. But he’s so dedicated, he’d probably never be interested in someone like me. No time for dating.”
“Actually,” I said, “I think he’d be very interested in you.” Her eyes widened. “Really?”
I wanted to tell her everything. Instead, I chose my words carefully, unwilling to give away his secrets after he’d spoken to me before about letting him handle his own personal affairs.
“He talks all the time about how smart and competent you are. I think he’d definitely be open to something.” He also talked about how he wasn’t worthy of her love, but that resolve might fade if Jill actively went after him.
She grew lost in thought, and no more was said on the topic when Eddie and Angeline came walking up. We drove into town, and I dropped Jill and the two dhampirs off at Adrian’s while I ran a few errands. Waiting for Trey was agonizing, and I needed distraction. Plus, I was low on some Alchemist supplies and wanted to make sure I was up to full strength before any venture into the Warriors’ camp.
My phone rang as we were wrapping up. It was Trey, and I stepped outside an herbal store to take the call.
“Okay,” he said. “You’re good to go. They’ll meet with you tonight – just you.” Anxiety and excitement raced through me. Tonight. It seemed surprisingly soon, yet that was exactly what I wanted. We needed to get Sonya out of there.
“I’ll take you there at seven,” Trey continued. “And… well, I’m sorry… but you’ll have to go blindfolded. And I’ll be checking to make sure no one follows us. If they do, everything’s off.”
“I understand,” I said, though a blindfold certainly made the venture scarier. “I’ll be ready.
Thank you, Trey.”
“Also,” he added, “we want the sword back.”
I made arrangements for him to pick me up at Adrian’s, since I had a feeling Dimitri and Eddie would have a lot to say to me beforehand. In fact, I called them as soon as I was off the phone with Trey, to give them a heads-up. I also called Stanton to give her an update. It occurred to me I should have checked with her sooner, but I’d wanted a definitive answer from Trey first.
“I don’t like the idea of you going alone,” she said. “But it does seem unlikely they’d hurt you. They really do seem to stay away from humans – us in particular. And if there’s a chance to get Karp out of there… well. That would save us a lot of fallout with the Moroi.” Stanton’s tone told me, however, that even if she thought I’d be safe, she wasn’t so optimistic about Sonya. “Be careful, Miss Sage.”
Adrian’s apartment was filled with tension when I arrived. Dimitri, Eddie, and Angeline were clearly agitated, probably because they were being left out of the action. Adrian, surprisingly, looked upset too, though I couldn’t figure out why. Jill watched him with concern, and they kept staring at each other, unseen messages undoubtedly passing to her through the bond. At last, he averted his gaze, like he was ending a conversation. Jill sighed and walked toward the others in the kitchen.
I started to speak to Adrian, but Eddie beckoned me forward. “We’re debating on whether to give you a weapon or not,” he said.
“Well, the answer is ‘not,”‘ I said immediately. “Come on, they’re blindfolding me. Do you think they won’t search me for weapons too?”
“There must be a way,” said Dimitri. Since we were in air conditioning, he wore the duster.
“I can’t let you go in there defenseless.”
“I’m not in danger,” I said, feeling like I’d been repeating the same thing all day. “They might be crazy, but Trey says if they give their word, they’ll stick to it.”
“Sonya doesn’t have those guarantees,” Dimitri pointed out.
“No weapon is going to help me save her,” I said. “Except for my reasoning. And I’m armed with that about as well as I can be.”
The dhampirs still didn’t seem happy. They went back to arguing amongst themselves, and I left them to find some water. Adrian called to me from the living room. “There’s diet pop in there.”
I opened the refrigerator. Sure enough, it was stocked with all kinds of pop. And, in fact, it had more food than I’d ever seen. Another benefit of Nathan Ivashkov’s generosity. I grabbed a can of Diet Coke and joined Adrian on the couch.
“Thanks,” I said, opening the can. “This is the next best thing you could have to gelato.” He raised an eyebrow. “Gelato? Sounds like dessert to me, Sage.”
“It is,” I admitted. The mundane topic was comforting amidst all the tension. “It’s kind of your fault for bringing it up yesterday. Now I can’t stop thinking about it. I wanted some at dinner last night, and Brayden talked me out of it – which is probably why I’m even more obsessed with it. Ever had that happen? Once you can’t have something, you want it that much more.”
“Yes,” he said bitterly. “It happens all the time.”
“Why are you so down? You think I should have a weapon, too?” With Adrian, it was really hard to guess where his moods would go.
“No, I get your point, and I think you’re right,” he said. “Not that I like the idea of you going there at all.”
“I have to help Sonya,” I said.
He studied me and smiled. “I know you do. I wish I could come with you.”
“Oh yeah? You going to protect me and carry me out of there like you threatened to do last night?” I teased.
“Hey, if that’s what it takes. You and Sonya. I’ll toss one of you ever each shoulder. Pretty manly, huh?”
“Very,” I said, happy to see him joking again.
His amusement faded, and he became serious again. “Let me ask you something. Which is scarier: walking into a den of crazy, murdering humans or being with safe – though kind of wacky – vampires and half vampires? I know the hang-up you Alchemists have with us, but is the loyalty to your own race so strong that… I don’t know… that the people themselves don’t matter?”
It was a surprisingly deep question for Adrian. It also echoed my trip to the Alchemist bunker to see Keith. I was reminded of how Keith’s father hadn’t cared about his son’s moral character so long as it meant Keith wasn’t on good terms with vampires. I also thought back to the alley and how obstinate the Warriors were about hearing any truth but their own. And finally, I looked over at the dhampirs arguing in the kitchen, continuing to brainstorm covert ways of keeping Sonya and me safe, no matter the risk.
I turned back to Adrian. “I’d take the vampires. Loyalty to one’s kind can only go so far.” Something in Adrian’s face transformed, but I hardly paid it any attention. I was too struck by the realization that the words I’d just uttered were akin to high treason in the Alchemists.
Eddie and Angeline left later to get us dinner, and I let them take my car, so long as Eddie drove. While they were gone, Dimitri tried to drill in some more self-defense techniques, but it was hard to learn very much in so short a time. I kept thinking of Wolfe warning us to avoid dangerous places. What would he say about me walking into a den of armed vampire hunters?
Eddie and Angeline were gone for a while and finally returned, angry at how long the restaurant had taken. “I didn’t think we weren’t going to be back in time,” said Eddie. “I was afraid you wouldn’t get food before your mission.”
“I don’t even know if I can eat,” I admitted. Despite my earlier brave words, I was starting to grow nervous. “Oh, you can keep those in case you need the car.” He’d walked over to my purse with the keys and dropped them in anyway. “Are you sure?”
He shrugged and then fished the keys out again. Adrian, to my surprise, watched him with narrowed eyes and seemed upset about something. I couldn’t keep up with his moods today.
He stood up and walked over to Eddie. After a few moments, they moved even farther away and seemed to be having a whispered argument, one that involved a few glances at me.
Everyone else looked uncomfortable and suddenly jumped in with any conversation topics they could find. I could only stare back and forth, feeling like I had missed something important.
Trey called me at seven on the dot, saying he was waiting out front. I rose from my chair and picked up the sword, taking a deep breath. “Wish me luck.”
“I’ll walk you out,” said Adrian.
“Adrian,” warned Dimitri.
Adrian rolled his eyes. “I know, I know. Don’t worry. I promised.” Promised what? Nobody elaborated. There wasn’t far to walk since he lived on the ground floor, but when we stepped outside, he caught hold of me, his hands resting on my arms. A jolt went through me, both at the touch and the unexpected gesture. His only displays of tenderness were usually with Jill.
“Sage,” he said. “For real. Be careful. Don’t be a hero – we’ve got plenty of them back there. And… no matter what happens, I want you to know that I never doubted what you’re going to do. It’s smart, and it’s brave.”
“You sound like it’s already happened and failed,” I said.
“No, no. I just… well, I want you to know that I trust you.”
“Okay,” I said, feeling a little puzzled. I again had the feeling that I wasn’t being told something. “Hopefully my plan will work.”
I needed to walk away, out of Adrian’s grasp, but couldn’t quite do it. I was hesitant to go, for some reason. There was safety and comfort there. Once I left, I really was walking into the lion’s den. I lingered a few moments more, safe in the circle we made, and then reluctantly slipped away.
“Please be careful,” he repeated. “Come back safe.”
“I will.” On impulse I took off my cross necklace and pressed it into his hand. “This time, keep it for real. Hold onto it until I return. If you get too worried, look at it and know that I’ll have to come back for it. It goes really well with khakis and neutral colors.” I worried he would give it back, but he simply nodded and squeezed the cross tight. I walked away, feeling slightly vulnerable without it, but hoped it reassured him. My discomfort suddenly seemed like a small thing. I wanted Adrian to be okay.
I got into the passenger seat of Trey’s car and immediately gave him the sword. He looked about as miserable as he had earlier. “You sure you want to go through with this?” Why did everyone keep asking me that? “Yes. Absolutely.”
“Let me see your cell phone.”
I handed it over, and he turned it off. He gave it back, along with a blindfold. “I’ll trust you to put this on yourself.”
I started to slip it on and then, on impulse, looked back toward the building one last time.
Adrian was still standing there, hands in his pockets, face concerned. Seeing my gaze, he managed a small smile and raised one hand in… what? Farewell? A benediction? I didn’t know, but it made me feel better. The last thing I saw was the flash of the cross in the sunlight, just before I covered my eyes with the blindfold.
I was plunged into darkness.
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READY TO PLACE AN ORDER