John lay on the bed, curled on his side, staring into the dark. The room he'd been given in the Brotherhoods' mansion was luxurious and anonymous and made him feel no better or worse.
Prom somewhere in the corner, he heard a clock chime once, twice, three times... He kept counting the low, rhythmic tones until he got up to six. Rolling over onto his back, he considered the fact that in another six hours it would be the start of a new day. Midnight. No longer Tuesday, but Wednesday.
He thought of the days and weeks and months and years of his life, time that he owned because he'd experienced it and therefore could lay claim to its passage.
How arbitrary, this distinction of time. How like humansand vampiresto have to cut the infinite down to something they could believe they controlled.
What a crock. You didn't control anything in your life. And neither did anyone else in theirs.
God, if only there was a way to do that. Or at least be able to do some things over. How wonderful would it be if he could just hit a rewind button and then edit the hell out of the past day? That way he wouldn't have to feel as he did now.
He groaned and turned onto his stomach. This pain was... unparalleled, a revelation of the worst kind.
His despair was like an illness, affecting his whole body, making him shiver though he was not cold, tossing his stomach though it was empty, causing aches to bloom in his joints and his chest. He'd never considered emotional devastation to be an affliction, but it was one, and he knew he was going to be ill from it for quite some time.
God... He should have gone with Wellsie, instead of staying home to work on tactics. If he'd been in that car, maybe he could have saved her... Or maybe he'd just be dead too?
Well, that would be better than this existence. Even if there was nothing in the afterlife, even if you just blacked out and that was it, surely that would be better than this.
Wellsie... gone, gone. Her body, it was ashes. From what John had overheard, Vishous had laid his right hand upon her at the scene and then taken what was left behind. A formal Fade ceremony, whatever that was, would be performed, except no one could do that without Tohr.
And Tohr was gone, too. Disappeared. Perhaps dead? It had been so close to dawn when he'd taken off... In fact, maybe that had been the point. Maybe he'd just run out into the light so he could be with Wellsie's spirit.
Gone, gone... everything seemed gone.
Sarelle... lost to the lessers now, too. Lost before he had really known her. Zsadist was going to try to get her back, but who knew what would happen?
John pictured Wellsie's face and her red hair and her little pregnant bump. He saw Tohr's brush cut and his navy blue eyes and his broad shoulders in black leather. He imagined Sarelle poring over those old texts, her blond cap of hair hanging forward, her long, pretty hands working the pages.
The temptation to start with the tears again rose, and John sat up quickly, forcing the urge to level off. He was through with the crying. He would not weep again for any of them. Tears were utterly useless, a weakness not worthy of their memories.
Strength would be his offering to them. Power his eulogy. Vengeance the prayer at their graves.
John got off the bed, used the bathroom, then dressed, slipping his feet into the Nikes Wellsie had bought for him. Within moments he was downstairs, going through the secret door that led into the underground tunnel. He walked quickly down the steel labyrinth, eyes straight ahead, arms swinging in a soldier's precise rhythm.
When he stepped through the back of the closet and out into Tohr's office, he saw that the mess had been cleaned up: The desk was back where it had been before, and the ugly-ass green chair was tucked in behind it. The papers and the pens and the files and everything were tidied up. Even the computer and the phone were where they should be, though both had been broken into pieces the night before. They must be new ones...
Order had been restored, and the three-dimensional lie worked for him.
He went to the gym and flipped on the cage lights in the ceiling. There were no classes today because of everything that had happened, and he wondered with Tohr gone whether the training would stop altogether.
John jogged across the mats to the equipment room, his sneakers smacking against the tough blue skins. From the knife cabinet he took out two daggers and then snagged a chest holster small enough to fit him. Once the weapons were strapped on, he went to the center of the gym.
Just as Tohr had taught him, he began by lowering his head.
And then he palmed the daggers and started to work them, clothing himself in anger against his enemy, picturing all the lessers he was going to kill.
Phury walked into the theater and took a seat in the back. The place was crowded, chatty, filled with young twosomes and legions of frat boys. He heard hushed voices and some that were loud. Listened to laughter and candy getting unwrapped, and slurping and munching.
When the movie came up the houselights dimmed, and everyone started yelling out lines.
He knew when the lesser approached. Could smell the sweetness in the air, even through the popcorn and the girlie perfumes emanating from the dating pairs.
A cell phone appeared in front of his face. "Take it. Put it up to your ear."
Phury did and heard harsh breaths on the line.
The crowd in the theater yelled, "Damn it, Janet, let's go screw!"
The lesser's voice came from right behind his head. "Tell her you're going to come with me without a problem. Promise her that she'll live because you're going to do what you're told. And do it in English so I can understand you."
Phury spoke into the phone, the exact string of words he used unknown to him. All he tracked was the fact that the female started sobbing.
The lesser yanked the phone back. "Now put these on."
Steel handcuffs dropped in his lap. He cuffed himself and waited.
"You see that exit to the right? That's where we're headed. You're going first and there's a truck waiting just outside. You're getting in the passenger-side door. The whole time I'm right behind you with the phone to my mouth. You fuck with me, or I see any of your Brothers, and I'm going to have her slaughtered. Oh, and FYI, there's a knife at her throat so there's no time delay. We clear?"
"Now stand up and get moving."
Phury rose to his feet and headed for the door. As he walked along he realized he'd had some thought of coming out of this alive. He was vicious good with weapons, and he'd packed a few in hidden places. But this lesser was smart, hog-tying him, trapping him with the life of that civilian female.
As Phury kicked open the theater's side door, he knew without a doubt that he was kissing his ass good-bye tonight.
Zsadist came to by force of will, reaching out through the drug haze and grabbing onto consciousness. With a groan he dragged himself across the bath's marble floor and onto the rug in the bedroom. Clawing his way across the carpet, pushing with his feet, he barely had the strength to will the door open when he got to it.
As soon as he was in the hall of statues, he tried to yell. At first it was only hoarse whispers, but then he got a holler out. And another. And another.
The pounding, running footsteps made him dizzy with relief.
Wrath and Rhage knelt by him and rolled him over. He cut through their questions, unable to follow all the words. "Phury... gone... Phury... gone..."
When his stomach heaved, he lurched back onto his side and threw up. The voiding helped, making him feel a little more clearheaded after it stopped.
"Have to find him..."
Wrath and Rhage were still firing questions, talking fast, and Z thought they were probably the cause of all the buzzing in his ears. Either that or his head was about to explode.
As he pushed his face off the carpet his vision spun, and he thanked God that dose of morphine had been calibrated for Bella's weight. Because he was a mess.
His gut spasmed and he vomited again, losing it all over the rag. Shit... He never had been able to handle opiates.
More feet pounding down the hall. More voices. Someone wiping his mouth with a wet cloth. Fritz. When Z's throat started working up another round of gags, a wastepaper basket was shoved in his face.
"Thank you," he said as he threw up again.
With every heave, his mind was coming back online, his body, too. He stuffed two fingers down his throat to keep himself going. The faster he got that drug out of his system, the sooner he could go after Phury.
That heroic motherfucker... God. He was going to kill his twin for this, he really was. Phury was the one who was supposed to live.
But where the hell had he been taken? And how to find him? The movie theater was the starting place, but they wouldn't have stayed there long.
Zsadist started to do the dry-heave thing, because there was nothing left in his stomach. It was in the middle of the retching that the only solution came to him, and when it did, his stomach rolled from something other than the drug. The way to his twin violated every instinct he had.
More pounding down the hall. Vishous's voice. A civilian emergency. A family of six trapped in their house, surrounded by lessers.
Z lifted his head. Then his torso. Then he was up on his feet. His will, ever the only saving grace he had, came to the rescue again. It threw off more of the drug, focused him, cleared him out better than the vomiting.
"I'll get Phury," he told his brothers. "You go take care of business."
There was a brief pause. Then Wrath said, "So be it."