Raphael turned around, spinning his knife, and resumed his pacing.

Curran glanced at me. “You quit the Order.”

“Ted made it a choice between Brenna’s SOS phone call and keeping my ID on my neck.”

“So you picked the shapeshifters over the knights,” Raphael put in.

Andrea shot him a look of pure fury.

“No,” I said. “I picked people in danger over a direct order to ignore them.”

Now things were clear. I went to help the shapeshifters and Andrea stayed, and now Raphael wanted to bite her head off for it.

“I have your dog,” Andrea said.

Thank you, Universe. “Has he barfed anywhere?”

“He ate my bathroom rug, but other than that he’s okay.”

“I owe you a rug, then.”

She nodded.

I perched on the table. “What’s the Order’s plan for dealing with Erra?”

Andrea grimaced. “Ted’s brought in some female knights from Raleigh and they’re setting a trap for her at the Mole Hole. Tamara Wilson is here. Master-at-arms, blade. She’s supposed to be out of this world good and immune to fire. Ted’s going along with your plan to directly challenge Erra. They’ve put her name on a flag and are flying it over the Mole Hole.”

The Mole Hole used to be Molen Enterprises until it exploded. The slender glass tower once belonged to the Molen Corporation, owned by one of the richest families in Atlanta. Rumor said the Molens had gotten a hold of a phoenix egg. The plan was to hatch the egg, so the young phoenix would imprint on them, giving them a superweapon. The phoenix did hatch, but instead of going “Mommy!” it went boom. Took out the Molen tower and the three city blocks around it. Phoenix didn’t squat once they hatched. They rose, like ancient rockets, straight into the sky.

Eventually the dust cleared, revealing a perfectly round crater. About a hundred and forty yards across, it gaped almost fifty feet deep and full of molten glass and steel. When the crater cooled two weeks later, a foot-thick layer of glass sheathed its bottom. Enterprising citizens cut steps in the crater’s earthen wall, turning it into a makeshift amphitheater. All sorts of legal and illegal events took place in the Mole Hole, from skateboarding competitions and street hockey to dog fights.

“The Mole Hole is in the middle of the city.” I frowned.

“Fifteen minutes from the People’s Casino, twenty from the Witch Oracle in Centennial Park, twenty-five from the Water and Sewer Authority,” Andrea said.

“How badly was the Order trashed?” Curran asked.

“It was still smoking when I left at the end of the day,” Andrea told him.

“Then Moynohan needs to administer severe and very public punishment,” Curran said. “The Order must save face.”

“He’ll get plenty of spectators at the Mole Hole,” Raphael said. “The last time I was there, the buildings on the edge of it were packed full. At least three thousand people, maybe more.”

I felt an urge to hit my head against a wall. “You were there when I told him that Erra loves to panic crowds, right?”

“I was there,” Andrea confirmed. “I refreshed his memory. He told me to shove it.”

“And that’s the person for whom you will put yourself in harm’s way.” Raphael shook his head. “But you won’t do the same for our people.”

“He’s one of many knights,” Andrea said. “He’s not the Order. His views are outdated and don’t reflect the attitudes of the majority of the Order’s members. I didn’t swear allegiance to him. I gave my loyalty to the mission.”

“And that mission is to clean you and me off the face of this planet!” Raphael growled.

“The mission is to ensure the survival of humankind.”

“Yes, and Moynohan doesn’t think we fit the description.”

“I don’t care what he thinks,” Andrea snarled. “I’m there because I dedicated my life to it. It gives me a purpose. Something to believe in. Unlike you, I actually did something with my life instead of wasting my time rutting with anything I could hold still for thirty seconds.”

“A lot of good it did you—you sit on your ass in the Order all day long, polishing your weapons, and the one time you could have made a difference, you chose to do nothing.”

Andrea slammed her hands on the table. “I chose to obey an order from my commanding officer. Discipline, look it up.”

“They were dying! They called you for help and you did nothing!”

“Yes, because Kate went there.”

Derision twisted Raphael’s face. “So you let her take the fall for you?”

“I’m not her!” Andrea pointed at me. “I can’t just dramatically rip my ID off and walk away.”

I glanced at Curran in case he decided to wade in. He sat next to me, his jaw resting on his fist, watching them the way one would watch a fascinating play.

Andrea kept going. “The Order was there for me when nothing else was. Where was your precious Pack and these fabled shapeshifters when I was sixteen with a sick mother on my hands and no way to feed myself?

Where were you? I won’t be a flaky slut bouda. When I give my loyalty, I mean it.”

“You’re giving it to the wrong people, can’t you see that?”

Andrea’s eyes blazed. “If I leave, Ted wins. I won’t let that fucker force me out, do you hear me?”

“Do what you want.” Raphael shook his head. “I’m done.”

Oh, boy.

“There are only two streets leading from the Mole Hole, so if Erra panics the crowd, she’ll run them either toward the Casino or toward the Water and Sewer Authority,” I said. “Erra gets off on watching people run. The street leading to Water and Sewer is dark, but the street to the Casino is well lit.”

“The Casino is more likely,” Andrea said. “Not only can she pick off the stragglers, but scared people naturally tend to run toward the light. It gives them an illusion of safety.”

And the light will be full of vampires. “Erra might be reluctant to destroy vampires, which could limit casualties.”

“The People won’t enter the fight,” Curran said. “They have nothing to gain.”

“Nataraja may or may not know the connection between Roland and Erra, but Ghastek doesn’t know,” I said.

“He realizes that something odd is going on and he wants a piece of it. He went through a giant guilt rant when I wouldn’t let him have Deluge’s head. He won’t jump into the fight if you or I ask them, but if a knight of the Order calls them . . .”

Tags: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Vampires
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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