He glides silently inside, his gun at the ready, as Conner and I follow in behind. We’re in the small, classy kitchen, which has all white cabinets, black appliances and yellow walls. The dining room off to the left has a small wooden table. The floors are all a rich, golden wood, which looks clean and polished. An archway is between the dining room and kitchen and the living room off to the left.
The house is completely silent, so they’ve probably guessed it isn’t Conner and his dad, because they would be making at least a little bit of noise coming home from a trip. Cadmar navigates the house as if he knows the inside of it well. He goes straight to the staircase to the left of the living room, on the far end of the house. After pressing against the wall, he moves slowly up each stair.
I make sure Conner is behind me then go in the opposite direction of the living room, making my way down a long, narrow hallway. Two doorways are on either side of the hall and one directly in front of us. I have no idea what any of the doors lead to, but I’m guessing a couple bedrooms and bathrooms and the one in front of us must lead to the garage.
We’re both pressed against the wall, our guns held low. This isn’t the ideal setting for them to jump out and attack us, so they’re probably hidden away in the bedrooms. We edge closer to the first door and I get ready to swing it open, but we both pause at the light thud above us. A loud shriek follows it, sounding unmistakably like Scarlet. Conner looks up in panic and starts backing toward the kitchen. I look back at him, shaking my head, but he keeps moving backward. More thuds, some crashing and shouting upstairs, but I try to stay focused on what I need to do.
With Conner all the way back to the kitchen, I realize I’m completely on my own against Bryn and Eva, but this doesn’t scare me; it’s exactly how I wanted it. A creak sounds in the room across from the one I was going to go in first, so I move against that wall and get ready to open the door. Being caught up in a moment like this, there isn’t room for excitement or nerves. I just do what I need to; never think twice, never hesitate. Hesitation gets you killed.
I grip the door handle, standing hidden behind the wall as I swing it open. I take a quick glance around—seeing it’s probably Conner’s room, with dark curtains, a large bed off to the left against the wall, and a small dresser next to the closet door—then get back behind the wall. A muffled gunshot hits the doorjamb right beside my head, less than a second later. Jerking to the side, I suck in a sharp breath, trying to keep calm. I can’t believe they took a shot, just like that, without even seeing who it was first.
More muffled shouting sounds above me as Conner moves back into the archway, his face completely drained of blood. It seems like he’s about to charge in front of me, to protect me, so I hold my hand up and shake my head, telling him to stay back. I sigh in relief when he listens this time, scooting back and taking cover behind the wall.
“I know you’re there, Payton,” Bryn’s taunts. I guess she did get a glance at me, which means she must really want me dead. “You may as well show yourself so we can get this over with.”
A hot lick of anger courses through my entire body as she lets a few more shots off at the doorjamb. I lower myself and lean my head back against the wall, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. Putting my gun back in its holster, I unsheathe one of my daggers. Conner glances around at me, giving me a wide-eyed, crazy look, as if he can’t believe I have a dagger in my hand. I shake my head and put my hand up again. I’m not planning to kill her, but I am going to hurt her. The want is deep inside me, being egged on by the image of the bruises on Reiley’s face.
“We don’t have all day, Payton,” she drawls in a bored tone.
I’m glad she spoke again, because it gave me the chance to get a gauge on where she is in the room. It sounds like she’s behind the bed to the left. Before I move into the doorway, I block out the sounds from upstairs and ignore Conner looking around the wall at me. I breathe deeply one more time then crouch with the dagger ready in my throwing hand.
Bryn stands right at the foot of the bed, her gun pointed above my head. I throw the dagger low and fast and it embeds itself right in her left, upper thigh. She screams, her gun falling to the floor. “You bitch!” Bryn shrieks, clutching at her leg.
Ha! I’m the bitch, even though she was the one shooting at me. She pauses to pull the dagger from her leg before she gives me a panicked look and tries to reach for her gun. Before she can grab it, I launch myself at her, tackling her to the ground. We roll around, both of us trying to get on top, until I end up there, locking my legs around her waist. I punch her as hard as I can in the face, which brings me sweet satisfaction because it’s already black and blue from me breaking her nose earlier.
She bucks under me, trying to get herself free, then swings a fist, which makes contact with my ear. A sharp pain shoots through it, my head swinging to the side. My ear rings so loudly, I can’t hear much else. She takes the advantage, trying to swing at me again, but I block her and get another jab in, hitting her in the mouth this time. My knuckles scream in protest, her blood mixing with mine under the split skin.
She tries wiggling out from under me again, but I reach behind me, digging my thumb into the hole in her thigh. Shrieking again, she tries to squirm free. While she’s busy screaming, I pull one of the tranquilizer syringes from my jacket pocket, bite the cap off, and go to stab it into her.
“It’s over, Payton!” Eva shouts behind me and I’m certain I have a gun pointed at my head. Bryn goes slack under me, panting hard, but laughing under her breath. “Drop the needle and put your hands up.”
I go to comply, but a shocked gasp escapes Eva before her body thuds to the floor. Without hesitation, I glare into Bryn’s shocked gaze and stab the needle into her right shoulder, pushing the clear liquid into her. Her eyes bug out and she sucks in a breath then passes out.
As I move off her, something hits the wood floor. I jerk around while Conner charges me with a fierce look in his eyes. He falls to his knees, yanking me into his arms. His heavy breaths trail over my neck and cheeks as he rocks me, kissing all over my face and down my arms. Cradling my injured hand, he examines my split knuckles as another loud crash sounds above us. Reluctantly, I pull away from him and we get up from the floor.
I pull two zip-ties from my other jacket pocket, holding them out to Conner. “Take these and restrain them,” I demand, and he grudgingly takes them. “I’m going to help Cadmar. When you’re done with them, stick your head outside and tell them to bring the cars around and park the GT-R in your garage.”
He nods once then gets to work on restraining Bryn as I take off for the stairs. Taking them two at a time, I pull my gun out on the way. I halt at the top as the sick, metallic scent of blood fills my nose and dread churns in my stomach. Leaning back against the wall, I try to look around it so I can get a sense of the situation.
This area looks like another living room, but everything is shifted out of place: lamps and vases knocked over, flowers scattered around. Dark stains of fresh blood cover the lightwood floor, and Cadmar and Scarlet are in the middle of it all.
They dance around each other with daggers in their hands, both slashed and bloodied all over, but this doesn’t seem to faze either of them. Scarlet’s long hair hangs in her face, which has a gash on the right cheek. Her gray tank top is ripped in a few places and covered in blood. Her hands have blood all over them, as if her arms are bleeding a lot. Cadmar has a split lip, his shirt slit on the chest and his coat on the arms, but I don’t see any blood through the black material. Both of their faces are emotionless, stone masks, but I know they want to hurt, if not kill, one another.
“Are we going to do this dance until one of us bleeds out?” Cadmar asks in a bored tone. “Because I can assure you, I’ll last longer.”
Scarlet hisses and strikes out, slashing toward Cadmar’s stomach, but he dodges and snatches her swinging arm. He pulls her around as if he’s going to put her in a chokehold, but she snakes under his arm and behind him, pulling his arm in an awkward position. He’s forced to let go of her arm, but he swings around and kicks out, his boot connecting with her stomach and launching her into a wall. Hitting it hard, she crumples to the ground, but she’s quick to get back on her feet. She gets in another attack stance, her dagger at the ready. This fight could last forever, because they both want to cause pain, so I decide to step out and point my gun at her chest.
“Drop your dagger, Scarlet,” I demand. They both look at me in shock as if they forgot where they were.
“And here she is,” she snarls, straightening up. She looks terrifying with her face all bloodied up. “The girl who caused all this trouble.”
Ignoring her, I glance at Cadmar while keeping my gun pointed at her chest. He’s in a grizzly stance with his legs apart and bent, his hands down at his sides, one in the shape of a claw and the other loosely gripping his dagger. He gives me a hard look, which I’m not sure means for me to tranq her or go back downstairs. If it’s the latter, there’s no way in hell I’m complying. I look back at Scarlet, who is also watching Cadmar.
“She’s not going to shoot me, Cadmar,” she says in a bored tone and he glares at her. “We may as well get back to what we were doing.”
He doesn’t answer, but he nods slightly at me and she sees it, too. “No,” she growls, as I go to pull the trigger.
I pull it, but she darts out of the way and does something I wasn’t expecting; she flings her dagger at my chest. Cadmar shouts something as he launches himself at her, knocking her to the ground. I try to dodge the dagger and do all right because it misses my chest, but it hits my left shoulder, embedding itself all the way to the hilt. A yell escapes me as the force of the blow makes me fall on my ass. Like any wound from a sharp knife, I didn’t feel any pain when the blade went in, but I sure as hell can see it stuck in my shoulder, right above my bicep.
I try not to look at it, and I’m definitely not ready to pull it out, but it’s hard to ignore the blood flowing down my arm. Instead of focusing on it, I look over at Cadmar. He has Scarlet pinned on her stomach, trying to restrain her hands behind her back, but she’s putting up a good fight. I don’t know why he didn’t tranquilize her to begin with, but I guess he still needs some help here. I lean back against the wall behind me, fishing in my pocket for the other syringe. My left arm doesn’t want to move at all, but I wouldn’t want it to if it could because the pain is blinding now.
“Cadmar,” I croak when I finally get the needle out.
He his gaze snaps to mine, looks of pain, anger and worry, crossing his face. I hold the needle up and toss it to him, cringing because the motion makes the blade scrape against bone. He catches it easily, pulls the cap off with his teeth, and stabs it into her back. It only takes a second for her to stop struggling and Cadmar binds her wrists. Then he surges to his feet and is by my side in one fluid motion. He looks at me with that mixture of emotions all over his face again.
“I’ve got to pull it out.” He sounds as if he’s in pain, which may be so since he has shallow cuts all over his body. “It’s going to hurt like a bitch.”
“I’ve had worse.” I chuckle then cringe.
“Just don’t look, okay?” He glares at the knife and I look away.