“He needed to know. We’re ready and we won’t roll over for him. It had to happen sooner or later. We knew he was coming and we’ve known for a while. If he shows up, we’ll deal with it. We’ve dealt with Hugh and Erra; we’ll deal with him as well.”

An hour later Robert began to cry. He didn’t say anything. He made no noise. He just rode in the cart, tears rolling down his face. Thomas talked to him, saying quiet soothing words. Eventually Robert stopped, and then Christopher began to weep.

Half an hour later Robert cleared his throat. “Tom?”

“Yes?” Thomas bent to him.

“If Roland tries to capture me again . . .”

“He won’t.”

“If he tries, kill me.”

• • •

BY NOON WE reached the ley line point and the two Pack Jeeps they had parked there. Naeemah told me she wouldn’t go any farther.

“Thank you,” I told her.

“I will see you,” she said.

We boarded the Jeeps and steered them into the ley line. The magic current grabbed the vehicles and dragged them southeast. We rode the ley line for hours. I slept. I was so tired. Sometimes I would wake up and hear Jim and Curran discussing war plans or see Christopher asleep next to me with a small smile on his face, or hear Andrea vomit into a paper bag. At some point Jim asked her how she could possibly have anything left to throw up and she threatened to shoot him.

Finally the magic squeezed the Jeep, compacting us inside it, as if some unseen force somehow moved our atoms closer together. The pressure vanished and the ley line spat us out onto solid ground. I opened my eyes. “Where are we?”

“Cumberland.” Curran was looking at something ahead.

Northwest end of the city. We were home.

I raised my head and looked in the direction Curran was looking. Barabas stood on the sidewalk.

“How did he know we were coming?”

“He didn’t,” Curran said.

We got out of the car and Barabas trotted to us. “I’m so glad you’re alive!”

“We’re glad, too,” I said. “What are you doing here?”

“The People notified us that you would be coming in at this ley point. Actually they gave us the exact time you would arrive, which is odd.”

Not odd at all. Apparently my father had us watched.

“The People want to have a Conclave meeting tonight, and they requested the presence of both of you and the Pack Council. They said they want to bury the hatchet. It’s in two hours.”

“Tell them no,” Curran said.

“I tried,” Barabas said. “They said, quote, ‘Sharrim’s presence is requested.’ Does that mean anything to you?”

Curran swore.

“I’ve sent our guys to sweep the location and establish our presence,” Barabas said. “They’re reporting that the People are already in place. The Pack Council is on standby. Do you want me to cancel?”

“If we don’t go, it will make things worse,” I said. “Roland’s giving us the time and place. If we ignore him, he can hit us at the Keep, and the loss of life will be greater.”

Curran put his arm around me. “It’s your call.”

I was as ready as I was going to be for now. Another few days or even a few more weeks wouldn’t make a difference. I would’ve taken a century or two if it was offered, but it wasn’t on the table. “Screw it. I’m tired of waiting. Let’s get it over with.”

Curran looked at Barabas. “Call the Council. The Pack will make a stand.”


THE RUINED CITY slid by outside the Jeep. Atlanta. Ugly and beautiful, decaying and rising, life and death at the same time. Home. For better or worse, home. The sun was just beginning to set and the sky burned with a riot of orange and red. Curran drove, his face somber.

“This isn’t the way to Bernard’s.”

“The Conclave isn’t being held at Bernard’s,” Barabas said from the backseat. “We’re going to Lakeside.”

“What’s Lakeside?” I asked.

“It’s a new development where North Atlanta High School used to be.”

“The one that was overrun by boars with steel quills?” I remembered that. Took the city two years to boar-proof the area.

“Yes. Supposedly it’s been constructed by the same firm that made Champion Heights.”

Champion Heights was the only surviving high-rise in Atlanta. “It’s a tower?”

“Twelve floors.”

I laughed. What else was there to do?

“Did I miss something?” Barabas asked.

“You should drop me off and bail,” I told Curran.

“What, and miss the fun? Not a chance. We’ll pound him into the ground.”

We couldn’t win. I knew it. He knew it. But I loved him so much for those words, he didn’t even know.

We turned onto Northside Parkway. The ground rose, forming a hill, and on top of it a tower perched above a long, narrow lake. Built with yellow rock and turquoise glass, it faced the setting sun and the sky set its windows on fire.

Curran parked in front of the tower near a row of black SUVs that probably belonged to the People. A row of Pack Jeeps sat at the opposite end of the parking lot. The party was all here. Now I just had to bring the entertainment.

“Who is running security?” Curran asked.

“Derek,” Barabas answered.

Well, the place would be secure. Also, Derek would probably die. I needed to get him and our people out of the building.

The second Jeep parked next to us and spat out Jim, Andrea, Thomas, and Robert. When I tried to suggest Robert should stay behind, both wererats acted mortally offended. I let it go. I was tired of trying to talk people out of this mass suicide.

We walked through the double doors, manned by two guards. The taller of the men on the right stepped forward. Curran looked at him for a second and the two guards turned around and decided to look somewhere else.

We crossed the lobby.

“The elevator doesn’t work yet,” Barabas informed me. “The bottom floors aren’t finished. Only the top three are.”

“That’s fine. We’ll take the stairs,” Curran said.

We climbed the steps. I knew stairs would be the death of me one day.

Twelve floors went by fast. I opened the door and we stepped into a wide hallway lined with green carpet. Six journeymen stood on the left, six vampires sitting by their feet. Across from them Derek and five of our combat-grade people stood on the right. Derek saw us and pushed himself from the wall.

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