Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (Page 113)

“But Joss and Victor—they’ll be trying to kill you?” My voice was raw, like I’d sandblasted the back of my throat.

“Stop. You focus on staying safe. You do whatever Archie tells you.”

“How am I supposed to not worry about you? What does that even mean—that you don’t fight fair?”

She half-smiled. It didn’t touch her eyes. “Have you ever tried to act without thinking of that act first? Aside from involuntary muscle actions like breathing and blinking, it’s terribly difficult to do. Especially in a fight. I’ll see every single thing she plans, every hole in her defense. The only one who can hold his own against me is Archie—since he can see what I decide to do, but then I can hear how he’ll react. It’s usually a draw. Eleanor says it’s cheating.”

She seemed relaxed—like the idea of fighting the hunter and her partner was the easiest part of this whole mess. It made my stomach twist and plunge.

“Should Archie stay with you, then?” I asked. “If he’s a better fighter than the others?”

“Eleanor can hear all this, you know. She’s offended, and also not thrilled with that idea. It’s been a while since she was allowed to really brawl, no holds barred. She plans to keep me and my cheating ways out of this as much as possible.”

That made me feel a little bit better, which wasn’t fair to Eleanor. I looked over my shoulder again, but I couldn’t see her expression.

“Is she still following?” I asked.

Edythe knew I wasn’t talking about Eleanor. “Yes. She won’t attack the house, though. Not tonight.”

She turned off onto the invisible drive. Archie’s headlights followed. We drove right up to the house. The lights inside were bright, but they didn’t do much to light up the surrounding trees. The yard was still black. Eleanor had my door open before the truck was stopped. She pulled me out of the seat, ducked under my arm, threw her arm around my waist, than ran me through the front door with my feet a foot off the ground, like I was a giant rag doll.

She burst into the big white room with Edythe and Archie on either side. All of them were there, already on their feet. Lauren stood in the middle of their circle. A low snarl rumbled in Eleanor’s chest as she set me next to Edythe.

“She’s tracking us,” Edythe hissed, glaring at Lauren.

Lauren’s expression was unhappy. “I was afraid of that.”

Archie darted to Jessamine’s side and whispered in her ear. They flew up the stairs together. Royal watched them, then moved quickly to Eleanor’s side. His eyes were intense and—when they flickered unwillingly to my face—hostile.

“What will she do?” Carine asked Lauren.

“I’m sorry,” she answered. “I was afraid, when your girl there defended him, that it would set Joss off.”

“Can you stop her?”

Lauren shook her head. “Nothing stops Joss when she gets started.”

“We’ll stop her,” Eleanor promised. There was no doubt what she meant.

“You can’t bring her down,” Lauren answered. “I’ve never seen anything like her in my three hundred years. She’s absolutely lethal. That’s why I joined her coven.”

Her coven, I thought, of course. That whole show of leadership in the clearing was just that—a show.

Lauren was shaking her head. She glanced at me, obviously confused. “Are you sure this is all worth it?”

Edythe’s furious growl tore through the room. Lauren cringed away from her.

Carine looked at Lauren. “I’m afraid you’re going to have to make a choice.”

Lauren understood. She hesitated for a minute. She looked at every face, then at the bright room.

“I’m intrigued by the life you’ve created here. But I won’t get in the middle of this. I bear none of you any enmity, but I won’t go up against Joss. I think I will head north—to that clan in Denali.” She paused. “Don’t underestimate Joss. She’s got a brilliant mind and unparalleled senses. She looks wild, but she’s every bit as comfortable in the human world as you seem to be. She won’t come at you head on.… I’m sorry for what’s been unleashed here. Truly sorry.” She bowed her head, but I saw her flicker another puzzled look at me.

“Go in peace,” Carine said.

Lauren took one more long look around the room, and then she disappeared through the door.

The silence lasted less than a second.

Carine looked at Edythe. “How close?”

Earnest was already moving. His hand touched a keypad on the wall, and with a groan, huge metal shutters began sealing up the glass wall. My mouth fell open.

“About three miles out past the river. She’s circling around to meet up with the male.”

“What’s the plan?”

“We lead her off, then Archie and Jessamine will run him south.”

“And then?”

Edythe’s voice turned icy. “As soon as Beau is clear, we hunt her.”

“I guess she’s left us no other choice,” Carine agreed, her expression grim.

Edythe looked at Royal. “Get him upstairs and trade clothes.”

Royal stared back at her, incredulous.

“And why would I do that?” he asked. “What is he to me?”

“Roy…,” Eleanor murmured, putting one hand on his shoulder. He shook it off.

My eyes were on Edythe, worried that this would set off her temper, but she surprised me. She looked away from Royal like he hadn’t spoken, like he didn’t exist.

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