“Wake up, kids.” I jerk awake to the sound of Cadmar’s voice over the intercom. “We’ll be landing in fifteen.”
Conner and I are still tangled around each other and it takes a few minutes to get untangled. We take turns in the bathroom getting freshened up then move into the seating area. I get my backpack and case down from the overhead bin, and we watch out the window as Cadmar approaches the landing strip. The sky is star-speckled, the moon high. With the time difference, it should be about eleven in the evening here. A few lights twinkle in the castle, but I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or not. If anyone is home, they know we’re here now. Conner looks out the window, too, with his mouth hanging open.
“You live in a castle?” he asks, continuing to stare out the window.
“Um, yeah.” I nod, feeling totally awkward. I’ve never had anyone over to the castle before, so it’s weird having him see it. Especially because I think it’s beyond ridiculous. “It’s a bit much, I know.” He shakes his head slightly but doesn’t say anything else.
Once the plane is landed and in the hangar, Cadmar comes out of the cockpit. “All right, you need to stay put,” he says to Conner before looking at me. “You ready for this?”
“Yeah.” I nod. “I was thinking, if we don’t come get him in the next few hours, he should get to the garage, take one of the cars and get out of here.”
“That’s a good idea,” Cadmar agrees. “We could leave the keys in the Jeep to make things easier.”
“Again, don’t I get any say in this?” Conner asks, sounding irritated. “I don’t want to go anywhere if you guys are hurt or something. I can help.”
“You’d be walking into a house of killers.” Cadmar shakes his head. He pulls his wallet from his pocket and pulls out a wad of hundred dollar bills. “Take this.” He hands them to Conner, who holds them away from himself as if they’re poisoned or something. “If we don’t contact you in exactly three hours, you go to the garage—the side door should be open—and take the black Jeep. You should be able to survive off that for a while. Make sure you bounce around between cheap motels and make your way toward Canada; you should be able to hide pretty well there. If we aren’t dead or in the hands of the Elites, we’ll contact you.”
“This is ridiculous!” Conner shouts, hands fisting at his sides, the bills crumpling in one of them. “I can’t just take off to another country and live in motels. I’m not a coward!”
“Conner.” I try to say it calmly, but my voice shakes. This sucks. I don’t want to leave him, but I know what’s best. If it’s between him getting killed and him living, I choose the latter. “Just listen to us, please. I know this sucks, believe me, but this is a matter of you living or dying. I’d have to say you living is the better option.” I pause as he gives me this look, as if the thought of leaving without us is causing him physical pain. “This is only the worst-case scenario. Things might work out. We just want you to be prepared if they don’t. We can’t argue anymore; we’re wasting time.”
“Fine. But I’m going to be prepared for things to work out.”
Cadmar nods, turns to open the door and gets off the plane. I turn back to Conner, holding his burning gaze for a few seconds. He pulls me into his arms and kisses me hard. I hate having to leave him; how I might not ever see him again. He releases me and gives me another pained look.
“Please, be careful,” he says, his voice stiff as his fingers dig into my shoulders. “I don’t want this to be goodbye.”
I nod then give him another quick kiss before I get off the plane. I hurry to the Jeep which Cadmar already has running. Once I’m in, he peels out, racing toward the garage.
We step out of the Jeep inside the garage. Scarlet is leaning against the GT-R, looking bored. She’s wearing skin-tight black pants, a gray tank top with a black leather jacket over it and black stilettos. Her blonde hair is in waving curls, which fall around her face. She looks like she’s ready for the runway, but I know better; this is how she dresses when she’s ready to kill.
“What took you so long?” she purrs to Cadmar, making me want to vomit. “I was hoping you would get back sooner so we could finish this before morning.”
“It doesn’t have to be this way, Scarlet.” He moves around the Jeep, putting himself in front of me, which I hate. “The Elites are going to come. They obviously didn’t want to hear what I had to say in her defense, so we all need to get out of here.”
“Oh?” She tilts her head, making a pouty face. God, her drama is ridiculous. I want to smack her or knee her in the stomach, then demand to know where Reiley is. “You mean they didn’t want to listen to what you told them about her mother?”
Who the heck’s mom is she talking about? And where did this come from? We weren’t even talking about moms or anything of the like.
Something clicks in my brain, but I still don’t get it. Or I don’t want to. Or maybe I’m not ready to. I don’t know. Cadmar glances back at me with this worried look, which I think I should understand, but I don’t. In return, I give him my best ‘what the hell is she talking about’ face.
Whipping back around to face Scarlet, he growls, “Can we not do this right now, Scarlet? We already have enough shit going on. We don’t need to add more to it.”
“You think I care at this point?” she shrieks, looking like a banshee from Hell. “I’m past the point of caring. I stopped caring when you chose her over me. That is where you made your biggest mistake.” She starts pacing in front of the car, her heels clicking against the polished, cement floor. “No. I’m going to turn you two over to the Elites, because I’m choosing them over you.” She stops pacing and gives us a huge smile. “But first, I’m going to go take care of the boy and his dad.”
“Like hell you are.” He stalks toward her. “You think they’ll only want me and her?” He snarls. “No, they’re going to want all of us.” He’s only a few feet away from Scarlet when I see movement behind one of the other cars.
“Cadmar!” I shout, but it’s too late.
He looks back at me then down at the small dart in his chest. “What the fuh—” He falls forward, his face smashing into the cement.
I rush toward him. I’m so focused on getting to him I don’t see the movement behind me. I whip around right as a fist makes contact with my face. Bryn hits the side which is already bruised, the fresh pain making me double over. It’d be great if that part of my face would stop getting hurt.
I’m only down for a second before I spring back up and go to kick out at her knee. She blocks, but I still get her thigh hard enough to make her hesitate. I take the advantage, jabbing my fist forward, right at her nose. It makes contact, and there’s a sick, crunching noise I both hear and feel as blood spurts everywhere. My knuckles feel like they may be chipped, but I pay no attention to the pain because she’s still standing. As I swing my left fist, someone comes up behind me, grabs my arms and kicks the backs of my knees, sending me to the ground.
Eva has me on my knees, my arms pinned tightly behind my back as Bryn leans against the Lamborghini, holding her bleeding nose. Scarlet comes around and stands in front of me, her head held high and her arms crossed over her chest.
“Ge fuddin brode by dose!” Bryn yells, it coming out all garbled, but I get the gist and it makes me want to laugh. She deserved it.
“You’ll be fine,” Scarlet says over her shoulder. “But something else might get broken if you get any blood on that car.”
I try to wriggle free while she’s distracted, but Eva pulls my arms tighter, until it feels as if my shoulders might pop out of their sockets. Scarlet turns back toward us, glaring at me.
“Do you see what you’ve done?” she snarls. “This is all because you wanted to act on a ridiculous teenage crush; because you couldn’t control your hormones.” She purses her lips, continuing to glare and I can’t help but think how awesome it would be if her face got stuck that way. She’s an ugly glarer. She smacks me across the face. Hard. I blink rapidly to keep from yelling out or groaning. Blood fills my mouth as she moves her gaze to Eva. “Take her to the holding room, both of you. I don’t want her making a bigger mess. As soon as she’s secured, get ready to go and meet me out here. I’ll take care of Cadmar.”
Bryn comes over, helping Eva zip-tie my wrists behind my back. They aren’t nice about it, and the sharp plastic cuts into my skin. As they drag me into the house, I look over my shoulder, trying to see what she’s doing with Cadmar, but the girls shove me forward so I can’t see anything. They push me down the hall, toward the basement door. I can’t believe they’re helping Scarlet like this. I always knew they were awful, but I didn’t know they were this bad. My only comfort in this horrifying moment is that Conner is hidden away.
I try struggling away from them again. If they get me in to the holding room, there’s no hope of me getting out. Any other room, I might be able to escape, but this one is basically a steel vault with foot-thick walls, floor and ceiling. It’s designed to be inescapable, and the only people who can open the door are the ones who live here.
“No snarky comments from you two?” I sneer at the girls, provoking them. “I would at least think you’d be yelling at me for breaking your nose, Bryn.”
They stay silent, but Bryn elbows me in the ribs. I let out a grunt, but it didn’t hurt that bad. I’ve had broken ribs before; that small blow didn’t even compare.
“What did Scarlet promise you guys for your help?” I continue. They both tighten their grip on my shoulders but stay silent. “Was it money, or a little bit of freedom, or was it that ridiculous pink car you two wanted to buy together?”
Something I said gets to them because they spin me around, slamming my back against the wall. “What she promised us doesn’t concern you,” Bryn growls in my face. She isn’t at all intimidating, not even with dried blood crusted all around her nose and mouth. Really, it’s just gross, especially close up like this.
“What you should be concerned about is what the Elites are going to do to you when Scarlet hands you over to them,” Eva adds, smirking as if the thought of the Elites is entertaining.
“You think the Elites scare me?” I laugh. “I kill people for a living. I’m not afraid of anything.” Eva punches me in the stomach and I double over but keep laughing. They both look shaken. They should be. “Yeah, get as many cheap shots in as you can while my hands are tied behind my back, because I can guarantee you, when they’re free, I will have both of you on the ground in puddles of your own blood.”
They yank me off the wall, guiding me through the basement door and down the stairs without another word. When we get to the steel door of the holding room, Bryn presses her thumb to the electronic scanner on the wall next to the door. The large locks move out of place and the door slides open. The room is pitch-black. I can’t see anything beyond where the dim light from the basement hallway leaks in.
Bryn pulls me back, whispering, “I’m really going to enjoy killing your boyfriend.” Her hot breath fills my ear, making me gag. I try to pull away from her, but she holds on tighter. “It’s a shame he has to die, though. Scarlet showed me his profile; he’s really hot.”
They shove me into the room and the door slides shut, the lock moving back into place. I trip over my feet, falling flat on my face. Groaning loudly, I roll over, getting myself to a sitting position. I look around the room, but the effort is useless; the entire room is in total blackness. Most people would probably panic in a place like this, but I’m not afraid of the dark, so I’m able to keep myself calm. I hear something shift in what I think is the left corner of the room. I tense up, not having a clue who might be in here with me.