Unfortunately, once word got out, I was afraid I wouldn’t be hearing from Jason anytime soon. That thought hurt, but there was nothing I could do about it now. The wheels were already in motion.
Daniel got an okay from Foley for us to skip art history, although we probably could have snuck out without much trouble, as we realized when we walked outside and watched one wickedly expensive car after another pull into the drive in front of St. Sophia’s. As the blue and yellow flag above the door waved in the wind, a Mercedes convertible pulled up, followed by a Bentley, a Rolls-Royce, and a really long limo driven by a white-capped driver.
I’d forgotten—the dance was tomorrow, so this was parents’ night.
“Aren’t they here early?”
“There are events throughout the day,” Scout explained. “They have breakfast together; then, while the girls go to class, the parents go to seminars about raising bratty little monsters or something.”
“Or financial aid for college,” I said.
“Like these kids need financial aid,” Scout grumbled. “Let’s go.”
I pulled my hoodie around me and followed Scout down the street.
The city smelled like smoke and wetness and dirt, and there was a chill in the air that said winter wasn’t far away. I wasn’t looking forward to that any more than I was looking forward to putting Scout and Sebastian together in the same place. She’d watched him knock me out with firespell, he’d been there when the Reapers had kidnapped her, and he was at least part of the reason I was sad about Jason. So he wasn’t exactly at the top of her popularity list.
We walked silently toward the river through a part of downtown Chicago I hadn’t seen yet. The streets were a little quieter over here, and there weren’t as many tourists. It looked more residential, like the folks who worked and shopped in the busier parts of downtown lived here. Even the bars and restaurants looked smaller—more like neighborhood joints. They all had little patio areas with stand-up heaters, I guess for Chicagoans who weren’t quite ready to give up the fight to winter.
The bridge appeared at the top of a rise in the road. There was a stone tower on each side of the roadway, and symbols were carved into the walls. As we walked closer, I could tell there were two kinds of symbols—a “Y” within a circle, and a quatrefoil. These were the signs of the Adepts and Reapers. Appropriate meeting place, I thought.
There were cars on the bridge, and plenty of tourists and businesspeople going about their days, but no Reapers as far as I could see. We walked to the edge of the bridge where the sidewalk narrowed to cross it, then stopped. Scout put her hands on her hips and surveyed the area with a critical eye.
“He’s not here yet,” she said.
I frowned. I couldn’t see the other side of the street because of the angle, and she wasn’t much taller than I. “How do you know that?” I wondered, a little spark of hope fluttering that maybe, somehow, she’d gotten her magic back.
That wishful thinking didn’t last long.
“Jill just signaled it,” Scout said, then pointed over to one of the high-rise buildings that lined the river.
Jill stood beside the building’s front door, arms wrapped around herself in the chill, her long auburn hair nearly horizontal in the wind. She uncurled a hand and gave me a little wave. But her head suddenly whipped to the side toward the river—she’d seen something.
When she looked back at us, she raised her index finger, then made a fist, then pointed to the bridge.
“A Reaper has arrived,” Scout translated. “That must be Sebastian.”
“I guess so.” I pushed down a bolt of fear. Fear wasn’t going to do any good right now. Besides, if Sebastian didn’t have magic, what could he do? Water balloons? Slap fight? It didn’t seem likely that he’d start punching two girls in the middle of downtown Chicago.
I glanced at Scout. “Are you okay with this?”
“Am I ready to have a civil conversation with a Reaper who didn’t lift a hand to help me when I was lying on the table? I’m not sure. I’m certainly not ready to forgive someone who had a chance to do the right thing but cowarded out. And I’m not convinced he’s the good guy you think he is.”
“I don’t think he’s a good guy,” I said, not realizing I’d decided that until I said the words aloud. “But our lives are weird, and sometimes you make friends with strange people.”
“I guess so.” I nodded with confidence, trying to convince myself as much as her. “Let’s do this.”
We started across the bridge, and as we walked closer to the middle, Sebastian appeared over the hill. He wore jeans and a black leather jacket, his hands tucked into his pockets. With the dark hair and blue eyes, he looked like a bad boy from a movie poster—the kind that was charming and handsome, but turned out to be not so good by the end.
It probably looked like I was a helpless schoolgirl in a plaid uniform, but my guard was all the way up.
We met him a few feet from the middle, a gap between us.
Sebastian looked at Scout, then me, and it felt like his eyes were boring into my soul—like he knew I had doubts.
He raised his hands, palms facing us.
Scout did the same thing. They looked like street performers pretending to be stuck behind a glass wall. She elbowed me. “Hands up,” she murmured.
“Why?” I asked, but did what she said.
“Tradition. Proves you aren’t holding a wand or something.”
“I could have a wand?”
“It’s a personal preference. Come on.” Apparently satisfied that Sebastian wasn’t about to throw bad magic at us, she put down her hands and walked forward.
We walked closer and faced him down, two Adepts against a Reaper.
“I request a temporary cease-fire,” Sebastian said.
“Granted,” Scout said. “South side rules, no snipe hunt.”
Slowly, I turned my head to look at Scout and tried to ask a question with my eyes: What in the crap are you talking about?
But it was Sebastian who understood the look and answered me. “Cease-fire means no magic will be used during this meeting. South side rules mean we’re fair game after we leave the bridge, but we can’t snipe hunt—so only the people on the bridge can work the magic, not the folks we brought with us.”
I guess it was a tradition, but it seemed silly to have rules like that when there was no magic to use.