My teeth ground together so forcefully my jaw almost snapped. “You do realize you will be executed for your crimes, do you not?”
“Humans cannot hurt me.” She faced me again, her gaze boring into mine, her eyes thoughtful. “You, though, could do great damage, I think. You are, after all, my finest creation.”
Her words sent a rush of anger through me, and I scowled. “You had nothing to do with shaping me into the woman that I am.”
“You are more mine than your father’s. More alien than human.”
“I am not like you. I will never be like you.”
“No, Mia en Arr. We are the same.” Her beauty glowing in the light, she approached me. “Your father hid you well. I spent years, so many wasted years, searching for you in New Britain. Then I read an article written about New Chicago’s A.I.R. team. There you were, staring out at me from a computer screen. I packed my belongings and traveled here that very day. I’ve watched you, you know. You are everything I wanted you to be.” There was a “but” in her tone.
“But I fight for the wrong team,” I finished for her.
“Yes. There is that small little detail. Small”—a grin flitted across her face—“but fixable.”
“How did you know I was here, in Kyrin’s home?”
“I followed your trail of energy last night. That,” she said, her grin becoming sheepish, too innocent for the monster hidden inside, “and I have my people watching Kyrin. The silly man thinks he is so smart, that he sneaks undetected through my home. But I know. I always know.”
“So here we are,” I said, trying for a casual tone.
“Yes, here we are. What better place for our first meeting? A.I.R. does not know where you are; therefore they cannot give me trouble.” She moved directly in front of me, and I smelled the subtle floral fragrance that encompassed her. “I wasn’t trying to hurt you that day in the parking lot. Kyrin was my target.”
Do your job, I told myself. She’s evil. Vile.
I had to take her down. Duty first and always. Innocent lives rested in this Arcadian’s hands, and if I didn’t snatch them away, she would crush them.
“How horrid Kyrin is to keep you here, locked away. Do you plan to kill him? Of course you do.”
Not giving myself time to think further, I dropped my knife and pounced. Perhaps I should have kept the weapon, but I wasn’t ready to kill her. Not when she might be the only way to find the babies. Not when—I didn’t allow myself to consider the other reason.
I wrapped my leg around hers and pushed. Because my action was so swift and unexpected, and delivered with expert precision, she fell backward, her expression stunned. I was on top of her in the next instant. By then she had already gained her momentum and unleashed a torrent of power so great, I dropped to my knees with a thud.
My hands covered my ears, trying to block out the loud, piercing blast of reverberating energy through my head. This was a thousand times worse than the pain I had experienced when stepping outside Kyrin’s home. Wave after wave of agony rushed through me. A scream tore past my throat.
An eternity passed, or maybe minutes, but I felt a brush of fingertips across my cheek and forced my gaze open. Atlanna crouched in front of me, her features filled with anger, as well as a hint of pride. “Not many could have taken me unaware.” With a simple glide of her fingers, she removed the armband from my bicep. “You are free now, Mia. Free to kill Kyrin for locking you away.”
Slowly, the ringing inside my head subsided.
“Take me to the babies and return the human men you abducted,” I croaked. “Please.”
“But I’m not finished with them yet,” she said, rising.
I grasped her hand, meaning to keep her from leaving. When our palms touched, her image filled my mind. I saw her lying on plush carpeting, covered in blood. Whose? Hers? She didn’t move, didn’t utter a sound. Was she dead or alive? Who had hurt her?
I tried to manipulate the vision, hoping to reveal the answers, but the harder I tried, the more the vision faded. No, I almost shouted, unsure whether I spoke to the vision or to Atlanna’s bleeding form. Stay with me. I probed the edge of my consciousness, twisted each image with a mental hand. Soon the vividness of colors and the complexity of shapes evaporated into mist, finally vanishing completely.
My eyes wide, I stared up at her. She watched me, her lips parted, her features now pale.
“What did you see?” she demanded, clutching my shoulders. “Tell me what you saw.”
I shook my head. I wouldn’t tell her, didn’t know how to tell her she might perish in the coming days. I didn’t even know how I felt about what I’d seen.
She released me, stepped two feet away. “I, too, have visions. They are never wrong.”
“I know,” I said sadly.
“Do you know, too, that we sometimes see distortions of the truth?”
My brows drew together. “What are you saying?” That what I’d seen might not come to pass? That what I’d seen was merely one possibility of what the future held?
“I—” She paused, whatever she’d planned to say dying a quick death. “Come to me after you have killed Kyrin. Your…brother would like to see you again.”
With that, she strode from the house.
I bolted after her, my footsteps pounding into the wood panels. Just before I reached her, Atlanna glanced over her shoulder, and for a moment of suspended time, our gazes held. “Do not make me wait too long,” she said.
My head filled with the same intense ringing she’d caused before, and I squeezed my eyes shut as I dropped to the waiting ground. How many minutes passed, I didn’t know. I only knew that when the sound cleared and the pain subsided, I opened my eyes and found myself alone. Atlanna had disappeared as if she’d never stepped into the house.
Her final words inside the house penetrated my now pain-free mind. Your brother would like to see you again. I blinked once, twice. Kane. The brother I didn’t remember. The brother my father worshipped and thought he’d killed.
So Kane was with Atlanna. Was probably helping her. I should have been shocked. I wasn’t. Why should anything go right for this shitty case?
I whipped to my feet, retrieved the knife I’d dropped, and sheathed the sharp blade inside the waist of my skirt. Upstairs, I confiscated a pair of Kyrin’s boots and multiple pairs of socks. The socks I used as stuffing inside the boots, but even then the black leather boots proved several sizes too big and flopped on my feet. I didn’t waste time with pants or a shirt. I simply tugged one of his jackets over my shoulders. The thick material sagged, and the sleeves covered my hands. It’d have to do.