Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (Page 114)

“Earnest?” she asked calmly.

“Of course.”

As he was speaking, he was already at my side and ducking to grab me in a fireman’s hold. We were up the stairs before I could register what was happening.

“What are we doing?” I asked as he set me down in a dark room somewhere off the second-story hall.

“Trying to confuse the scent trail. It won’t work for long, but it might give you a head start.” His voice was muffled as he pulled his shirt over his head.

I yanked my sweater off and held it out to him. He switched mine for his. I struggled to get my arms through the right holes, then yanked my jeans off. We traded. His pants were a little too short, but otherwise fit fine. He pulled me back to the hall. Earnest looked smaller in my clothes; he’d rolled the bottoms of my jeans. Archie was suddenly there; a leather satchel hung over his arm. They each grabbed one of my elbows and flew down the stairs.

It looked like everything had been settled. Edythe and Eleanor were ready to leave, Eleanor carrying a big backpack over her shoulder. Carine handed something small to Earnest. She turned to Archie and handed him the same thing—a tiny silver cell phone.

“Earnest and Royal will be taking your truck, Beau,” she told me as she passed. I nodded, glancing warily at Royal. He was glaring at Carine, resentful.

“Archie, Jess, take the Mercedes. You’ll need the dark tint in the South.”

They nodded.

“We’ll take the Jeep.”

Carine stopped next to Edythe. I realized that this was the hunting party, and I felt like I was going to throw up. How did it get to this point? Why had they listened to my idea? It was obviously wrong.

“Archie, will they take the bait?”

Everyone watched Archie as he closed his eyes and became incredibly still. A few seconds later his eyes opened again.

“She’ll track you. The man will follow the truck. We’ll be able to leave after that.” He was positive.

“Let’s go,” Carine said, heading for the kitchen.

But Edythe came back for me. She stared up at me, her gold eyes huge and deep and full of a million words she didn’t have time to say, and reached up to put her hands on my face. I leaned down, my hands already in her hair. For the shortest second, her lips were icy and hard against mine.

Then it was over. She pushed my shoulders back. Her eyes went blank, dead, just before she turned away from me.

They were gone.

We stood there, no one looking at me while I stared after them. It felt like someone had ripped all the skin off my face. My eyes burned.

The silent moment dragged. Archie’s eyes were closed again. Then Earnest’s phone vibrated in his hand, and Archie nodded once. The phone flashed to Earnest’s ear.

“Now,” Earnest said. Royal stalked out the front door without another glance in my direction, but Earnest touched my shoulder as he passed.

“Be safe.” His whisper lingered behind them as they slipped out the door. I heard the truck start thunderously, and then the sound faded away.

Jessamine and Archie waited. Then Archie lifted his phone to his ear just before it buzzed.

“Edythe says the man is on Earnest’s trail. I’ll get the car.” He vanished into the shadows the way Edythe had gone.

Jessamine and I looked at each other. She stood across the length of the entryway from me.

“You’re wrong, you know,” she said.

“Huh?”

“I can feel what you’re feeling now—and you are worth it.”

The feeling of being slowly skinned didn’t let up. “If anything happens to them, it will be for nothing,” I whispered.

She smiled kindly. “You’re wrong,” she repeated.

Archie stepped through the front door and walked straight toward me, one arm out.

“May I?” he asked.

“You’re the first one to ask permission,” I mumbled.

Archie slung me up into a fireman’s carry like Earnest had and, with Jessamine shielding us protectively, flew out the door, leaving the lights on behind us.

20. IMPATIENCE

WHEN I WOKE UP, I WAS CONFUSED. IT TOOK ME LONGER THAN IT SHOULD have to remember where I was.

The room was too bland to belong anywhere but a hotel. The bedside lamps were bolted to the tables, and the drapes were made from the same fabric as the bedspread.

I tried to remember how I’d gotten to this room, but nothing came at first.

I remembered the black car, the glass in the windows darker than that on a limousine. The engine was almost silent, though we’d raced across the black freeways at more than twice the legal limit.

And I remembered Archie on the seat next to me, rather than up front with Jessamine. I remembered realizing suddenly that he was there as my bodyguard, that the front seat was apparently not close enough. It should have made the danger seem more real, but it all felt a million miles away. The danger I was in personally wasn’t the danger I was worried about.

I made Archie keep up a strange stream-of-consciousness future watch all night long. There weren’t any details so small they didn’t interest me. He’d told me turn by turn how Edythe, Carine, and Eleanor would be moving through the forest, and though I didn’t know any of the landmarks he referenced, I’d been riveted by every word. And then he would go back and describe the same sequence differently, as some decision remapped the future. This happened over and over again, and it was impossible to follow, but I didn’t care. As long as the future never put Edythe and Joss in the same place, I’d been able to keep breathing.

Sometimes he would switch to Earnest for me. Earnest and Royal were in my truck, heading east. Which meant the red-haired man was still on their trail.

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