"Or you can just take the short way down," I said.
I quickly scaled down after him and helped him stand. Aside from the spell's debilitation, he didn't seem to have suffered any damage. Slipping an arm around him and letting him lean his weight on me, I attempted to run toward the road he'd mentioned, which was now slightly visible. "Running" was difficult, however. It was hard work keeping Adrian up and I kept stumbling.
Still, we made our way slowly from the compound, which was about as much as we could hope for. Adrian's state made him clumsy and heavy, and his height was a real inconvenience.
Then, without warning, the spell wore off, and Adrian instantly recovered. His legs strengthened and his unwieldy gait straightened out. Suddenly, it was as though he were carrying me, and we practically tripped over each other trying to adjust.
"You okay?" I asked, letting go.
"I am now. What the hell was that?"
"It's not important. What is important is that those guys have recovered too. Maybe I knocked them down hard enough to slow them down." That seemed kind of unlikely. "But run anyway."
We ran, and even if he undoubtedly had the respiratory system of a chain smoker, his long legs made up for it. He could easily outdistance me but slowed so that we stayed together.
Whenever he started to get ahead, he'd grab my hand again. Shouts sounded behind us, and I turned off the flashlight to make us harder to spot.
"There," said Adrian. "See the cars?"
Slowly, out of the darkness, two SUVs materialized, along with a much more conspicuous yellow Mustang.
"Very covert," I muttered.
"Most of the guardians have gotten away," said Adrian. "But not everyone." Before I could respond, someone grabbed me from behind. In a maneuver that would have made Wolfe proud, I managed the backward kick that he'd tried so hard to teach us. It caught my attacker by surprise, and he released me, only for his companion to shove me to the ground.
Three figures ran toward us from the cars and hurled themselves at our attackers. Thanks to his signature duster, I knew Dimitri led the group.
"Get out of here," he called to Adrian and me. "You know where to meet. We'll cover you.
Drive fast - they'll probably be on the road soon."
Adrian helped me up, and once again we ran together. I'd hurt my ankle in the fall, so I moved slowly, but Adrian helped me along and let me lean on him. All the while, my heart was threatening to pound out of my chest, even when we reached the safety of the Mustang.
He guided me to the passenger side. "Can you get in okay?"
"I'm fine," I said, sliding in and unwilling to admit the pain was growing. I prayed I hadn't slowed us too much. I couldn't stand the thought of being the one responsible for Adrian's capture.
Satisfied, Adrian raced over to the driver's side and started the car. The engine roared to life, and he followed Dimitri's orders to the letter, peeling out at a speed I was envious of. Out on this country highway, however, it seemed unlikely there were any cops. I glanced behind us a few times, but by the time we made it to I-10, it was obvious no one had followed us. I sighed gratefully and leaned my head against the seat, though I was still a long way from being calm. I couldn't assume we were safe yet.
"Okay," I said. "How on earth did you guys find me?"
Adrian didn't answer right away. When he did, I could tell it was with great reluctance.
"Eddie put a tracking device in your purse, back at my place."
"What? He couldn't have! They searched me."
"Well, I'm sure it didn't look like one. I don't know what he ended up getting. He got it from your people, actually. As soon as Trey confirmed the meeting tonight, Belikov was on the phone with every guardian in a two-hour radius, trying to recruit backup. He called the Alchemists too and convinced them to share some tech."
There were so many crazy things about what he'd just said, I didn't know where to begin parsing it. All sorts of wheeling and dealing had gone on without me realizing it. And even when it had been settled, no one had told me about it. Plus, the Alchemists had been involved?
Helping the guardians to track me?
"The earrings," I said. "That's where they came from. The tracker must be in one of them. I never would have guessed."
"I'm not surprised, knowing the way you guys work."
The rest of tonight's reality began to sink in. The last of my fear subsided - only to be replaced by anger. "You lied to me! All of you! You should have told me what you were doing -
that you were tracking me and planning a raid! How could you keep that from me?" He sighed. "I didn't want to, believe me. I told them over and over they needed to get you in the loop. But everyone was afraid you'd refuse to take the device if you knew about it. Or that you'd somehow slip up and give away the plan to those nuts. I didn't believe that, though."
"And yet, you didn't bother telling me yourself," I snapped, still outraged.
"I couldn't! They made me promise not to."
Somehow, his betrayal hurt worse than all the others. I had come to trust him implicitly.
How could he do this to me? "No one believed I'd be able to talk the Warriors down, so everyone just made contingency plans without me." Never mind that I hadn't been able to talk them down. "Someone should have told me. You should have told me." There was legitimate pain and regret in his voice. "I'm telling you, I wanted to. But I was trapped. You of all people should know what it's like being caught between groups, Sage. Besides, don't you remember what I said just before you got in the car with Trey?" I did, actually. Almost word for word. No matter what happens, I want you to know that I never doubted what you're going to do. It's smart, and it's brave.
I slouched further into my seat and felt like I was on the verge of tears. Adrian was right. I did know what it was like to have your loyalty stretched between different groups. I understood the position he'd been in. It was just, some selfish part of me wished that I'd been the one his loyalty had been strongest to. He tried, an inner voice said. He tried to tell you.
The meeting spot that Dimitri had told Adrian to go to turned out to be Clarence's house.
The place was crawling with guardians, some of whom were patching up each other's injuries.
No one had been killed on either side, something the guardians had been very cautious about. The Warriors of Light already thought vampires were twisted and corrupt. They didn't need more fuel added to the fire.
Not that tonight's raid was probably going to help matters. I had no clue how the Warriors would react or if there might be some lethal retaliation in store. I supposed the guardians and Alchemists had taken that into consideration. I wondered bitterly if any of them would share their opinions on it with me.