“Slade, I don’t have time to argue with you. This could be a suicide mission.”
“So be it. If she’s right, then this affects all of us.”
Michael spoke up. “He’s right. We’re going, too.”
I looked around the room at the six determined male faces. “Fine. Bring her along.”
Michael frowned. “Why not just kill her?”
Damara whimpered and tried to break free from the were who held her.
“Two reasons. First, considering I cost them the support of the queen, my credibility is for shit with the council. Showing up at their sacred festival with a pack of werewolves and a vampire probably won’t change their minds. So Damara’s our insurance policy. They may not listen to us, but they’ll listen to her.”
Slade nodded. “And the second reason?”
“I’m out of the justice-dispensing business. Let the council decide what to do with her.” I paused. “Assuming any of us are still alive after tonight, that is.”
Thirty minutes later, I sat in a van filled with five pissed-off werewolves, a former vampire assassin, and a quietly sobbing mage. The mood inside the van was tense. Each of us sat still and quiet, as if bracing ourselves for what was to come.
Finally, Slade’s curse broke the silence after another call to the council went straight to voice mail.
Michael spoke up then. “Sabina? We need to talk about something.”
“What’s up?” I asked, leaning forward through the seats. My stomach churned with each passing mile. Even if we got there in time, I wasn’t sure the council would actually listen to me. Hell, I didn’t even know if Maisie would listen to me.
“In twenty minutes, we’ll all change to wolf form. It may actually work in all our favor, but I wanted to warn you so you don’t get distracted.”
I nodded and looked up at the full moon. It hung like a red wound in the sky. Or was it a celestial stop sign, an omen of doom?
The lull in excitement and the heightened anticipation of more to come put me in a reflective mood. Not an hour earlier, I’d been thinking about how I needed to look out for myself. Funny how life can do a one-eighty on a dime. Damara’s admissions had changed the game. I couldn’t walk away with everyone I cared about in danger. Some lone wolf I turned out to be. But as worried as I was, part of me felt good to have a purpose. Something other than my own self-interest to focus on. Of course, my reasons for rushing back to the Crossroads weren’t completely altruistic. Knowing my grandmother’s role in this whole drama had reminded me of the reason I came to New York to begin with. Now I had more reason than ever to seek her out and make her bleed.
Of course, I knew better than to expect my grandmother to show up at the battle. She and the other two Dominae wouldn’t deign to get their hands dirty with an ambush. But knowing she was behind all this made me determined to send as many of her vampire goons to Irkalla as I could before I joined them there. And if I survived, nothing would keep me from making good on my promise to see her destroyed.
The headlights glinted off the exit sign for Sleepy Hollow. Time to get my mind back in the game. “When we get there, I want you all to wait out front while Slade and I talk to the council. If you see trouble coming, howl your ass off and we’ll come running.”
Michael nodded. “We’ll be ready.”
I leaned back with a noisy exhale. Slade grabbed my hand and held on. “We’ll make it in time.”
I looked at him, wishing I felt as optimistic. “I’d feel a lot better if I knew what the Dominae were planning.”
He nodded solemnly, giving my fingers a squeeze. “We’ll find out soon enough.” He nodded toward the windshield. I looked up to see the black gates of the compound illuminated by the van’s headlights.
“Sabina,” Michael said.
He leaned out the window and punched a button on the security pad. I leaned over his body so the camera would get a clear shot of my face.
“State your name and purpose,” a voice demanded from the intercom.
“This is Sabina Kane. I need to speak to Orpheus immediately.”
There was a drawn-out pause. I leaned forward to push the button again when the voice finally responded. “Miss Kane, you are forbidden on the premises by decree of the Hekate Council. Please back your vehicle away from the gate.”
I didn’t have time to argue, so I made my play. Damara sat in the passenger’s seat, so I yanked her forward toward the windshield. Shoving my gun to her head, in full view of the camera, I shouted, “I have Damara Crag as a hostage. Open the gate or I will put a bullet in her brain.”
My heart pounded in my ears during the unnatural silence that followed my threat. Everyone in the van held their breath as we waited for the mages’ response. Then, finally, the gate buzzed and slowly yawned open.
I lowered the gun and released Damara. She curled into herself on the passenger seat as Michael put the van in drive.
“Okay, everyone, look alive,” I said. “It’s showtime.”
* * *
A greeting party waited for us in front of the manor. Six Pythian Guards stood with machine guns and magical weapons trained on the van. Orpheus stood at the front of the group, his face darker than a thundercloud. Michael stopped with the headlights trained on the group.
“Exit the van with your arms raised!”
I looked at Michael. “Everyone out. Slowly. They’ll probably take me into custody, but I’m pretty sure I’ll still get a chance to talk to Maisie. You guys try to look as unthreatening as possible.”
“We’ll try,” Michael said. “But the minute the clock strikes midnight, things are going to get pretty hairy.”
I shot him a lame attempt at a smile and opened my door. “Do your best.”
I held up my hands and jumped out. Slade held Damara’s arm with one hand beside me. The weres lined up behind us.
Immediately, the guards came forward with their weapons trained on us. Adam moved to stand next to Orpheus. His face was hard, completely void of recognition. I couldn’t blame him. After all, as far as he knew I’d gone shit-house crazy and kidnapped his aunt’s protégé.
I kept my hands up, allowing another guard to pat me down for weapons. The weres and Slade got the same treatment. When they nodded the all-clear to Orpheus, he came forward. He jerked a nod for one of the guards to take Damara. Looking totally defeated, the girl went willingly, shooting me worried looks as they led her a few feet away.