“I can’t help you escape.” Adam pulled up a chair to sit next to him. “She won’t let me.”
Michaels looked at the woman who’d healed his bullet wounds. She was fiddling with some sort of weird orb. “I’ll be honest…” Michaels glanced at Adam. “I was expecting more green, a few warts…” Wren wasn’t much older than Laura, and looked like a sweet, innocent young girl.
“Give her a few years.” Adam nodded. “Renee was full hag when she wasn’t —”
“You know I can hear you.” Wren glared.
“…employing illusions.” Adam ignored her. He looked down, apparently unwilling to meet Michaels eyes. “Gabriel, he…”
“My partner generally knows what he’s doing, kid.” Michaels smiled at him. “Are you alright?”
“I’ll get back to you on that.” Adam shrugged. He looked up when Michaels tested the handcuffs securing him to the chair. “Please, uh…” Adam swallowed. “I’m under orders to kill you if you try to escape.”
He stopped messing with the handcuffs and sighed. “So, am I a hostage, or bait?”
“Don’t flatter yourself.” Wren walked back toward him. “I just want to know how you threw me out of your head.” She reached a hand to touch his face, and he pulled back. She smirked. “I’m not going to hurt you, Lloyd.” She gave Adam a pointed look. “I’ll make him do it.”
When she reached to touch him again, he let her. Hopefully, Erilon would be back on her, well, feet very soon. He felt something slither through his skull and shook his head to try to dispel the sensation. Wren just smiled at him. He tried a different tactic. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want…”
Father Williams stared at the box. Ted took a deep breath. “Oliver?” He waved a hand in front of the man’s face. “Oliver?”
“Please tell me that’s not going to melt our faces.” Father Williams exhaled.
“I was hoping you could tell us that.” Felipa shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “Is the rest of the pack…?”
“Iggy got back about half an hour ago…” Father Williams took a deep breath, then met Ted’s eyes. “So, we can muster a defense if needed.”
“That’s something of a relief.” Ted nodded.
“Ted, is that…” Father Williams glanced at the box. “Is that what I think it is?”
“I…” Ted swallowed. “Yes. It is.” He touched the lid, then swallowed again. “And, uh, apparently, nobody but Felipa or I should try opening it.”
“I don’t want to open the box of doom.” Felipa actually made a small whimpering sound.
“Is there news?” Ted raised an eyebrow.
“There is.” Father Williams sighed. “But it’s not good.”
“Daniel?” Ash put his hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “Matthias —”
“Yeah.” Daniel took a few deep breaths, then wiped at his eyes. “He’s going to be okay. Everyone keeps telling me.”
“No.” Ash sighed. “He’s going to be scared and ashamed. He’s our protector, and he was nearly turned on us. He’s going to be hurting, and he’s going to need you.”
“I…” Daniel blinked at him. Then he gave a small laugh. “Damn, you’re even starting to sound like Gabriel.”
“He let me borrow his psychology books.” Ash looked down at Stephan. “He’s going to be okay, though?”
“Yeah. He uh…” Daniel looked over his shoulder at the room containing Matthias. “He drained himself keeping Matthias from…” His breath came a little ragged. “So yeah, he’s going to be fine. Better.” He managed a small smile. “Cause, since he was drained…”
“You fixed his leg.” Ash grabbed Daniel and pulled him into a hug. “Thank you.” He felt Daniel starting to shake as he returned the hug, and Ash rubbed his back. “Thank you.” He pulled Daniel into his lap and held the man as Daniel started to cry.
Ahit was patrolling, which was apparently just pacing with a semblance of purpose. The students didn’t seem to mind being at the manor house. If anything, the opposite was true. Adele had authorized the students being able to use the pool in the garden area, and the students were treating their narrow escape as a weekend lark. They were even laughing, and a group of them had found a stereo system and were holding an impromptu dance party. It was hard to look in their direction and not see her sons.
“I sent her information to this Tobias fellow.” She turned to see Professor Kravitz. “He’s attempting to track Colette, but she’s already disposed of her phone.”
“Coraline’s out there.” Lidia nodded toward the garden. “Lykos said some of this places defenses are elven or something I don’t really understand, but apparently Coraline’s magic can serve to reinforce them a bit.” She glanced at him. “I suspect it’s just him and Christophe letting her think she’s helping so she feels better.”
“Lykos is…” The professor shrugged. “A very odd man.”
“He’s trying to help my son. He could be walking around in a tutu and farting rainbows everywhere and I’d still like him.” Lidia folded her arms. She swallowed. “You’re helping him, too.”
“He saved my life, Lidia.” Professor Kravitz patted her arm. “You raised a good, strong young man, and you should be proud.”
“I am.” Lidia blinked back tears. “I am.”
He tried to find Iggy’s presence reassuring. The young man was an alpha. Theoretically, he was just as powerful as Matthias, and Matthias had nearly held his own against Gabriel. Ted sighed. It would be much easier if Iggy didn’t look too young to buy cigarettes. “He’s wearing a Teen Titans t-shirt.” Sister Doris sighed. When Ted glanced at her, she rolled her eyes. “You were thinking it too.”
“I let them keep the secrets, Ted.” She leaned on the back of the pew. “That doesn’t mean I’m not aware of the secrets. My brother may be mentoring that boy, but it is not toward the priesthood.” She straightened. “Just tell me that thing you brought back is not the ark of the covenant.”
“It is not the ark of the covenant.” Ted nodded.
“Good, then —”
“I think it might be worse.” Ted looked down, folding his arms.
“These, uh…” She swallowed. “These people, the ones…” She took a deep breath. “The ones who killed my parents and hunted my brother…” She looked up at him. “Do they know you have it?”
“No.” Ted shook his head. “And I’m sitting here praying the don’t find out and…” He laughed softly. “I’m not even Catholic.”
“Well…” Sister Doris shrugged. “Neither am I, so —”
“You…” He blinked, then turned to look at her. “You’re a nun.”
“This place, it…” She looked up at where Father Williams was talking to Javier. “It offered my family sanctuary, sheltered us, and gave my brother purpose.” She shrugged. “And I like the gardens.” She patted his hand. “I may not believe, Ted.” She smiled. “But I do have faith.”
Adele looked up at Jormun stepped away from the still snarling Matthias. Daniel’s eyes went wide. “Can’t you —”
“I have.” Jormun nodded to him. “I’ve nullified the secondary effect. The Cabal’s witch will not be able to take control of him.” He looked back at Matthias. “The remaining poison will clear his system in a few days, and he will return to himself.” Daniel swallowed, and Jormun put a hand on his shoulder. “My forcing it clear could have repercussions on his system. I think it best to avoid any further complications.”
“No, that makes sense.” Daniel nodded. “Can I stay with him?”
“It’s not contagious but be careful.” Jormun nodded. He walked into the room containing the others. “Would someone like to tell me —”
“What the hell is going on here?” Adele started at the sound of another voice and turned to see an oriental man striding into the room. Jormun gave an annoyed sigh as the other man shook his head. “Are you trying to start a war?”
“Usually.” Jormun nodded.
“Ryuu…” Magda stood.
“Magda.” Ryuu took a deep breath. “I thought it was understood discretion was necessary. Why —” He shot a glare at Jormun. “Involve him?”
“It was —” Magda started shaking her head. “An accident.”
“You accidentally summoned a dragon?” Ryuu stared at her.
“My bad.” Khait raised his hand.
Ryuu opened his mouth, glanced at Khait, and then his face took on a very resigned look. “I see.”
“Is it true, then?” Jormun raised an eyebrow. “Are they correct?”
“It is…” Ryuu sighed. “Complicated.”
“Shit.” Jormun shook his head before looking up at the ceiling. “It’s true.”
“You asshole.” Lidia’s voice rang out sharply.
“Lidia…” Ryuu started shaking his head.
“You knew where my son was all along.” She started toward him, but Christophe caught her arm. “You knew, and you let Merlin near my daughter.”
“It was best not to draw attention to Adam. Direct involvement would have only endangered him further, risked Merlin —” Ryuu started shaking his head.
“He knows.” Jormun’s voice was calm. To her horror, the other dragon visibly paled. “And I think he’s known for some time now.”
“I see.” Ryuu nodded.
“Ryuu, if you help —” Magda started to reach a hand toward him.
“I’m sorry.” Ryuu shook his head.
“Why…” Jormun folded his arms. “Ryuu, this was stupid.”
“He…” Ryuu glanced at Lidia. “Haru hid the pregnancy from me. By the time I found her again, the child had been born. She begged…” He looked away from her, back to Jormun. “He didn’t echo at birth. His spark did not ignite. She convinced me to let her take him to her brother, and…” He nodded. “He was my son. If there was chance…”
“Then you should have kept him with you.” Jormun glared. “Did you at least watch him?”
“I did.” Ryuu twitched a shoulder. “Just not long enough. He hit thirteen without showing any signs, and I thought…” He sighed. “I left him so he could have a normal life. He had…” Ryuu looked again at Lidia. “He had a family. A good one. There seemed to reason to take that away from him. He…” Ryuu swallowed. “He had no magic, Jormun.”
“He needs your help, Ryuu.” Jormun squared his shoulders. “He…”
“You know the price Poseidon paid, Jormun.” Ryuu shook his head. “The limits we agreed to. You know that better than any of us.” He glared at Jormun. “Amaterasu doesn’t share your peculiarity.”
“You…” Jormun blinked. Then slowly, he nodded. “You’re protecting your daughter.”
“I…” Ryuu closed his eyes, then nodded. “I won’t see her pay for my mistake.”
“Adam…” Lidia glared. “Is not a mistake.”
“I’m sorry.” Ryuu shook his head. Then he took a look around the room before returning to meet Jormun’s eyes. “If you can…” Ryuu clenched his fists, and there was a flash of something. Adele felt her skin tingle. She saw Stephan’s eyes open and the man started sitting up. “Good luck.” He vanished.
“What…” Abigail started shaking her head. “Just…”
“Michaels…” Stephan started looking around frantically. “Where’s Michaels?”
“Erilon is looking for him now.” Laura nodded to him.
“He was shot. The woman who poisoned Matthias shot him.” Stephan rubbed his forehead.
“Odds are he’s in the same place Adam is.” Jormun turned to Laura. “Find them.”
Stephan got to his feet, then blinked and looked down. He put his weight on what had been his bad leg, then actually gave a small hop. His gaze went to Daniel, who smiled. “Thanks for looking out for my boyfriend.” Daniel nodded.
He winced when he heard Michaels cry out in pain. Laura’s dad was screaming, and he couldn’t do anything to help. She’d shown him her new passport, smiling as she pointed out the name. ‘Laura Michaels’. The man was a hero on a dozen levels, none of which meant a damn thing to Wren.
Wren had actually laughed when she’d succeeded in poking into Michaels head. “A demon.” She’d rolled her eyes and glanced at Adam as though expecting him to share her amusement. “They actually bargained with a demon.”
Adam reached out, trying. Erilon. Erilon, come on. He needs you right now. There was no response. His eyes went to the door, where Colette leaned against the wall, smirking. She’d taken an unholy glee in describing what she’d done to Matthias. God fucking damn it, he’d warned them. He’d warned them. Adam swallowed. Fuck, this was his fault. If he hadn’t let Gabriel into Merlin’s trap, none of this…
“Who…” Wren took her hand off Michaels head, then put it back a heartbeat later. Michaels screamed, and Wren’s face twisted into rage as she took her hand away again. “That slut. That fucking nigger piece of shit slut.” Her eyes turned toward Adam as she all but snarled. “You kissed that skank?”