Immortal Grave (The Dark Betrayal Trilogy), page 18
“Took you how? You were here the whole time, Ree.” Paden looked up at her with haunted eyes.
“In a dream. I’ve crossed over before, but never really understood how it happened. I guess this time, he took me once I fell asleep.” Ree shook her head. “I really don’t understand. If Brigid and the other goddesses hadn’t shown up, I don’t know if I would have escaped.” She looked at Paden and thought about all she had to lose. “I don’t know how they found me, but they got there just in time.”
“Paden called for Brigid.” Melanie moved closer to Ree, reaching over to grab her hand. Paden’s despair had scared all of them. She could see the relief in their eyes battling the worry over what they had just gone through.
“She was… fierce.” Ree told them, remembering the goddesses’ ire. Ree took a deep breath, remembering how rude she had been to Brigid not that long ago.
“She wasn’t here long. Just enough time to touch your forehead and tell Paden she would take care of you.” Melanie squeezed Ree’s fingers. “There was nothing for us to fight, no way to protect you.”
“I fought. I’m not sure what else anyone could have done.” Ree couldn’t help the shiver that slid down her spine when she remembered Ares’s red eyes and fangs. “Fangs. He had fangs.” Ree went to jump out of bed, but her leg got caught in the sheets.
“What are you talking about?” Paden steadied her with a hand on her arm.
“Ares had fangs. Not just fangs, but two sets!” Ree spun around looking at them. “He had four upper fangs! Just like Della!”
“Ree, the gods don’t have fangs.” Roland looked at her worriedly.
“He did. At the time, I was just trying to get away, but now I remember it clearly. He growled at me when I threw him across the room.” Ree looked around the floor for her shoes.
“You threw the god of war across the room?” Paden’s face was blank.
“There were no doors, so I couldn’t run.” Ree turned to look at him, confused by his tone.
“How did you throw the god of war across a room?” Roland moved closer, his eyes trained on her face.
“When he told me what they do to slaves… I—I panicked.” Ree swallowed. She didn’t want to relive the moment. Being pressed against Ares had been vile enough. And if Paden knew, he was likely to go into a rage. “So, I grabbed the power and shoved it at him. Well, actually, I kneed him between the legs and then shoved him across the room.”
Juliette held her hand up and Ree reached out to return the high-five. Roland narrowed his eyes at Ree and she was pretty certain he knew something of what had happened. Thankfully, he didn’t say anything, understanding it would only make things tougher for her to deal with.
“So, you were able to use the power against a god.” Roland stated the fact with surprise.
“At first.” Ree saw the toe of her shoe sticking out from under the bed and reached down to grab it. As she bent to put it on her foot, she stopped. Her white sock was now blood red and her jeans hung in tatters. “He started to beat down my shield, but I was able to get enough strength to last until Brigid and some other goddesses showed up. Hecate and I think Artemis. Not sure who the other one was. She sort of looked like Brigid; long red hair and scary expression.”
Standing up, Ree went to her closet and pulled out some new clothes and socks. She ducked into her bathroom and pushed the door closed. She would be able to hear them through the door no matter what.
“You were in a room with no doors or windows with nothing but a very angry god for company.” Roland moved closer to the bathroom. “Where did you find the strength to fight him off? I’m assuming you were most likely on Olympus and the room you were in was one of the detaining rooms. You can’t sense anything through those walls.”
Ree bit her lip while she slipped on her jeans. She had found more than enough power, but she wasn’t sure who might be listening in on their conversation. If Brigid and the others hadn’t noticed that she had been taking power from Ares, she’d rather not call attention to the fact. Many of the gods already acted like she was some type of threat and she was just beginning to understand why.
“I’m not sure.” She sat down on the edge of the toilet to pull on her fresh socks and stopped. The smooth, shiny scar on her leg curled up from her ankle and around her calf muscle like a snake. She traced it with her pointer finger and frowned. At the rate she was going, she was going to be a side-show freak by this time next year.
Shaking it off, she put her shoes on and stepped out of the bathroom. Roland was leaning against the wall next to the door, his eyes narrowed on her face when she stepped out. Paden had put on a new shirt and was pulling on combat boots. His eyes flickered to hers and she could feel his frustration at having not been able to protect her.
“You aren’t sure?” Roland’s voice pulled her eyes back to him and she could almost hear him asking, Or you don’t want to say?
“Maybe a burst of adrenaline?” Ree looked at him, not sure how to respond.
“Or desperation.” Roland jerked his chin once and Ree was certain he understood she couldn’t say. She didn’t put it past him to have come to the right conclusion.
“Right. She was backed against a wall and did what she had to.” Juliette nodded her head as if that ended the discussion and in many ways it did. No one else asked about it, whether they understood she couldn’t say or didn’t care, she didn’t know.
She headed out of her bedroom and went straight to her office. If napping wasn’t an option, she’d use her time planning. Someone had taken a map and circled spots in different colors. She leaned over to study it, trying to figure out what the colors all meant.
“The blue ones are the homes of people we know are of immortal lines. Green are the offices of jobs of people we know have immortal blood.” Melanie stepped next to Ree and looked at the map. “The purple circles are the people we suspect of having some kind of extra in their blood. The red circles are houses we know have hidden Dark Ones in the past and the orange circles are places the Dark Ones have been known to frequent.”
“Do you guys see what I see?” Ree stared at the map, her eyes trailing over the circles. There were clusters of orange circles along the busy areas like River Street and Broughton. Red circles strategically placed in each neighborhood area, near apartment complexes. More importantly, they were all arranged in a pattern.
“Yes. Looks like they are protecting something.” Melanie frowned down at the map.
“The college.” Paden put his hand on the small of Ree’s back. She could feel his need to be near her, and she was glad to have him close by.
“Melanie?” Ree looked up at her friend. “When was that special effect conference being held?”
“Um, not for another week or so.” Melanie looked down at the map. “You think that is when they are planning the final showdown?”
“That’s when they were planning the final showdown.” Ree narrowed her eyes at the map. “But, we’re going to move the show up a little bit.”
“What are you thinking, Ree?” Paden circled the college with his finger. “That they were going to go after you with all of those people there?”
“That’s exactly what I’m thinking.” Ree shook her head. “But I’m not planning on waiting for them to decide when it’s time. And I’m certainly not going to let them choose a time where they have hundreds of potential casualties."
“So when are you thinking?” Roland’s voice was quiet, but serious.
Ree looked over her shoulder to where Roland was standing, his hands tucked into the back pockets of his jeans. “Tonight.”
The energy in the room shifted dramatically with that one word. Roland’s eyes gleamed and Ree could feel Paden behind her stand up taller. Melanie’s eyes narrowed for a minute, taking on a grim look. Shifting her eyes around the room, she looked at her friends and tried to gauge their thoughts. There was a sense excitement, but under that was nervousness. This was a huge moment for their group. In a few h
“What about the Guardians in the town?” Bryce asked.
“When did you hear from them last?” Ree looked back to look at the map, her mind running over different strategies.
“Met and Niall called an hour before we realized there was something wrong with you. They had gotten two families and were heading back to their boat.” Bryce came over to look over the map.
“Hm. Did they have any trouble?” Ree tapped her finger on the college and then traced a line to City Market and River Street.
“They had trouble with one set of parents.” Bryce frowned. “Not that I blame them. Any parent would be freaked out if people with fangs showed up and demanded they bring their kids and go with them.”
Ree grunted in agreement. “What did they do?”
“Well, Met said that Niall was pretty good at convincing them to go along.” Ree saw Bryce shake his head out of the corner of her eye. “I think he liked knocking the father out a little more than he should have.”
“What about the others?”
“We’ve had contact off and on, but not a lot of chatter. There have been run-ins with darklings, but nothing they couldn’t handle.” Bryce shrugged.
“What about the cops?” Ree moved her fingers back to the college, her eyes moving over the surrounding squares and houses.
“Magda had a run-in with some cops. Thankfully, she was able to get out of it. Very diplomatic, that one.” Roland smiled. “Makes a nice balance, considering her partner.”
“Tall guy?Very military?” Ree looked at Roland surprised. “I thought relationships were forbidden between godlings.”
“The gods tend to overlook things when the godlings have already completed their battle.” Roland frowned. “Most do not form permanent attachments, though. I think they feel they must be battle ready at all times. Considering the current situation, I can see their reasoning.”
Ree looked at Roland for a moment, remembering her barter with Athena. She couldn’t help but wonder if those godlings had also found themselves in a position to be on call in the future. It felt as if the gods planned on keeping them all for future purposes. Sighing, she turned back to her map. There were other things that required her attention.
“How do we know Tristan will be at the college tonight?” Juliette drew everyone’s attention to where she was sitting.
“Do you see the way these houses are set up? There is a pattern, a strategy to where they set up the Dark One’s bases. They are protecting the school.” Ree tapped the spot on the map that stood for the college.
“You’re saying Tristan has been hanging out on the college grounds this whole time?” Juliette stood up and looked at the map. “Why there?”
“Home court advantage.” Paden put his hands on the desk and leaned forward. “He always liked playing on our soccer field better than anywhere else. He would go on and on about the dips and where rain water pooled.”
“Then even if we attack tonight, he’s going to know the area much better than we do,” Bryce pointed out.
“Yes. And he will no matter when we attack. If we wait for him to lure us in, then not only are we playing on his court, but on his schedule.” Ree shook her head. “We have to take any advantage we might have.”
“We could wait another day or two and study the layout of the buildings. The school isn’t set up like a regular campus. It’s spread throughout the historic district.” Melanie chewed on her thumbnail. “And if he is there, then it’s a sure bet that some of the teachers and staff are darklings or worse. There are a lot of night classes.”
“No. We do it tonight. We can’t wait any longer. We focus on the buildings in the center of their circle.” Ree shook her head. If, for some reason, the other gods found out what she had done to Ares, it would likely end up with her dead. If Tristan found out she was no longer human, she would lose her secret weapon. Time was of the essence and she wasn’t going to waste it. Explaining all of her reasons wasn’t an option, either. Everyone was just going to have to follow her lead on this. Thankfully, she didn’t feel much opposition to her plan; it was more like they wanted to be prepared as much as possible.
“This is it. We can’t wait for Tristan to have a giant supply of convention-goers to use as leverage. We can’t let the darklings continue to tear apart our city. Tonight we do what we were made to do. Tonight, we go to war and send the dark gods packing.” Ree looked at everyone, her eyes lingered for just a moment on each of them. “I don’t know how this is going to go. I don’t know if we will all make it out of this alive. But, I do know I wouldn’t want anyone else at my side, and I will do everything in my power to make sure we win.”
Ree checked her watch one more time before looking at the dock again. They still had a couple of hours before dusk, but she wanted to be headed for the city before full dark. If things went as she hoped, they would be scouting the college before the Dark Ones even woke up. She was only waiting for the refugees to show up and somehow the waiting was the worst part. Frowning, she batted away a piece of pine straw that had landed on her shoulder. So much to do. So little time to kill her brother.
“You’ve been staring at the water for the last ten minutes.” Melanie’s soft footfalls made the pine straw whisper.
“I’m worried.” Ree didn’t look at her friend.
“About what?” Melanie stood next to Ree and watched the water.
“Everything.” Ree took a deep breath. “I’m worried about the people on their way here. I’m worried about you guys.” She stopped and took another breath. “I’m really worried something is going to happen to one of you. I try to not think about it, because we don’t really have a choice. But it’s still there. Still nagging in my head and heart.”
Melanie reached out and put her arm around Ree’s shoulders. “What else?”
“And I’m worried about Tristan.” The air fell out of Ree’s mouth and she felt oddly deflated. “This whole time, I’ve tried to not focus on him. Not focus on the fact that it is Tristan. But tonight, there is no turning back. Tonight I have to kill my brother.”
“Ree.” Melanie turned Ree to face her, a hand on each of her shoulders. “We’re all worried for each other. This is a huge deal. A massive thing we have to accomplish. But we can’t focus on those things. We just have to focus on what we’re doing and why.”
The sound of a motor drifted over the water and reached their ears. Both of them looked out at the water and saw the glint of the setting sun on the boat hull. Ree felt a little tension in her stomach release. At least these families would be safe for now.
“Tristan always wanted more, Ree.” Ree jerked back to look at Melanie. “He hated that he went to school on scholarship. He chose this, Ree. You know it, and I know it. He was never a bad guy; not a bully or cruel. But he wanted more. Maybe he didn’t understand why they wanted him. Maybe he didn’t know what it would do to him, but he chose it. And we all have to accept the consequences of our decisions.”
“Do you think he knew? Knew he would have to kill me?” Ree lowered her voice. “Did he know that the consequences would affect us too?”
“He’s the only one who knows for sure, Ree.” Melanie squeezed her shoulders before letting go. “It really doesn’t matter now.”
Ree shook her head and looked back at the water. It really didn’t matter anymore. He had made his decision and Ree was making hers. She couldn’t let the Earth fall into the dark gods’ hands. Even if that meant she had to kill her brother. Even if it meant killing a piece of herself in the process.
Sighing, she headed for the dock. She wanted to welcome the new people to the island, help them feel safe. The closer the boat came, the more she could feel the fear and worry of the humans. She caught the rope Met threw to her and tied it to one of the cleats. Ree brushed her hands off when she stood and offered to help the first family off the boat.
“Who’s in charge here?” He hopped onto the dock and held his hand out to his wife and young children.
Ree looked at Met and Niall for a minute. She hadn’t really thought about it, but if she was being honest, she was the one in charge now. And she had a feeling she needed to assert that fact right away.
“That would be me. You’re the Thornton family, right?” Ree smiled at the kids. “Why don’t we go on to the house where you’ll be more comfortable? We’re expecting more people and it would be easier to explain it once.”
“We’re not moving off of this dock until you tell me why we’re here.” He looked at Ree, his face stubborn. “That little guy stuck me with something and the only reason I haven’t done something about it is because I didn’t wake up until we were on the boat.”
“Um, excuse me.” A small grey-haired woman with bright blue eyes looked at Ree. “Does this have anything to do with the vampires?” The little old man holding her hand rolled his eyes and the angry father cursed under his breath.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“Actually, yes, it does.” Ree smiled at the old woman. “The Dark Ones are looking for people that have a little something extra in their blood. Both of your families were at risk.”
“You’re out in the sun. You aren’t a vampire.” The man crossed his arms over his chest. “Are you planning on using us as hostages? We’re not joining any cults or worshipping monkeys. Just give me the keys to the boat and we’ll be out of here.”
“Met? Would you mind a demonstration?” Ree nodded at the Guardian who smiled.
Before Met could say or do anything, Niall looked at the father and opened his mouth in a wide smile. His Guardian fangs slid free and gleamed in the remaining sunlight.
“Nom, nom, nom.”
Ree wanted to slap herself on the forehead, but decided it would be better to slap Niall instead. Grabbing his shoulder, she pulled him back behind her with a glare. The Guardian was still smiling, but Ree didn’t have time to deal with him. The little old woman was crossing herself and her husband looked close to a heart attack.
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