Vengeful (Page 66)

Rios was shuffling the file as she spoke, and Dom caught sight of a metal staple just before Hancock’s comm went off. The low static muffled the words, but one of them leapt out.

Vale.

Dom tried to hide the recognition on his face as Hancock lifted the comm to his ear.

Vale . . . awake . . .

“In the meantime,” continued Rios. “I suggest—”

“How did you get into Stell’s office?” asked Dom, changing directions. She looked up, a shadow crossing her face. Dom pressed on. “There’s only one door, and I was facing it. But you showed up behind me.”

Rios’s eyes narrowed. “Hancock,” she said. “Go call Stell. Ask him what he wants us to do next.”

Dominic really did want to hear Rios’s explanation, but not as much as he needed to get out. He waited as Hancock swiped his keycard, waited as the line turned green and the door clicked open.

“Now, Agent Rusher,” she continued, “let’s disc—”

He didn’t give her a chance to finish. Dominic took a deep breath, like a swimmer before a dive, and jerked backward, the world parting around him as he slipped out of time, and into the shadows.

The room hung in perfect stillness, a painting in shades of gray—Rios, frozen, her face unreadable. Hancock, halfway through the door. Dominic, still handcuffed to the table.

He rose, pulling the stapled pages toward him, and got to work prying the bit of metal loose. He worked the sliver free, then straightened it out, and began fitting the slim bar between the teeth of the handcuff and the locking mechanism. It took several tries, the weight of the shadows like wet wool draped across his limbs, and a red welt rising on Dominic’s wrist from the constant applied pressure, but finally the lock came loose. He pried the handcuff open, repeated the same grueling process with the other side, and was free.

Dom fastened the cuffs back around Rios’s wrists, then ducked under Hancock’s frozen arm into the hall. The air dragged around him like an ocean tide as he approached the nearest control room. There was only one other soldier there, a female agent named Linfield, sitting in front of a console, and frozen mid-stretch. Dominic freed the cattle prod from her holster and brought it to the base of her neck before stepping back into the flow of time.

A flash of blue-white light, the crackle of current, and Linfield slumped forward. Dom pushed her chair aside and started searching, hands flying across the keyboard.

He didn’t have long. Every second Dom stood in the real world was a second exposed, a second he could be caught, captured, a second alarms were going up, and soldiers were invariably crashing toward him. And yet, despite it all, the world narrowed as he typed, his heart racing, but the pulse strong, steady. He’d always been good under pressure.

Dom didn’t have time to figure out which cell Victor was being kept in, so he chose the fastest option.

He opened them all.

* * *

ONE minute Victor had been pacing the confines of his silent, empty cell, and the next the world was plunged into motion and sound. An alarm, high and bright, wailed as the farthest wall of the cell dropped away, the solid pane of fiberglass retracting into the floor.

Lights flashed white overhead, but instead of going into lockdown, the facility seemed to be opening. Coming apart. To every side, Victor heard the metal crank of seals breaking, doors unlocking.

About time.

He stepped out of the cell, only to find himself in a second, larger chamber, this one cast in concrete instead of plastic. It was roughly the size of a small airplane hangar—he circled until he found a door. It swung open under Victor’s touch and gave way onto a white hall.

He made it three steps before whatever Dominic had managed to cause was suddenly reversed.

Doors slammed, locks sealed, alarms cut off and then started again, the lights no longer white but a deep arterial red, like a twisted game of Simon Says.

But Victor didn’t stop moving.

Not when a hail of distant gunfire echoed in a nearby hall, not when boots sounded on slick linoleum, not when plumes of white gas began to pour through the overhead vents.

A barrier slammed across the hall in front of him and so Victor doubled back, holding his breath as he swung around a corner, found himself face to face with two EON soldiers, helmeted and armed.

He lunged for their nerves as their weapons flew up, but Victor was too late—their fingers reached the triggers an instant before his power could reach them.

The shots rang out, a burst of gunfire, and Victor lunged sideways, but the hall was narrow, and there was no escape.

A bullet—not a tranquilizer this time, but slim, piercing steel—grazed his side right before his power knocked the hands on the guns off course. But Victor’s own hold faltered too, and in that stolen second the guns adjusted, retrained on his head, his heart.

The soldiers fired, the hall filling with the sharp retorts, and Victor braced for the impact.

It never came.

Instead, an arm wrapped around his shoulders, Dominic’s body twisting in front of Victor like a shield as he pulled them both back into the dark.

The world went suddenly, perfectly, still.

They were standing in the same place, in the same hallway, but all the violence and urgency had been sucked out of the space, replaced by silence and calm. The advancing soldiers hovered, frozen in time, the bullets carving lines of motion as they hung suspended in the air.

Victor dragged in a few steadying breaths, but when he tried to speak, nothing came out. The shadows were a void, swallowing not only color and light, but also sound.

Dominic’s face was a grim mask a foot from Victor’s own as the soldier’s hand tightened on his sleeve, and he tipped his head in a wordless command.

Follow me.

XIV

THE LAST EVENING

FIRST AND WHITE

ONCE again, Marcella had chosen to wear gold.

She’d come a long way since that pivotal night on the National’s roof, shedding not only her husband but the scalloped decadence of that first dress, trading it for the polished sheen of white-gold silk. It molded to her body like liquid metal, rising up around her throat and plunging down between her shoulder blades, pooling in the small of her back.

To my beautiful wife.

In a certain light, the milky fabric seemed a second skin, the soft shimmer brushed onto bare flesh, turning her to gold.

What’s the point of having beautiful things if you don’t put them on display?

Marcella tucked a coil of black hair behind one ear, admiring the liquid way the gold earring fell from the lobe. A bracelet circled one wrist. Her nails, painted to match.

If beauty were a crime.

A net of white-gold beads, like a band of stars, over her hair.

Does she come with a warning label?

Her heels, thin as blades and just as sharp.

My wife, the business major.

The only drops of color the steady blue of her eyes and the vivid, vicious red of her lips.

You don’t want to make a scene.

Her hand drifted to the mirror.

I always thought you were a brazen b***h.

The glass silvered under Marcella’s touch, burning black in spots as if it were film, erosion spreading until it swallowed the gold dress and the blue eyes and the red lips set in a perfect smile.

Jonathan was leaning against the wall, fidgeting with his gun, ejecting and reinserting the magazine the way Marcus used to punch the end of his pen when he was restless.

Click, click. Click, click. Click, click.

“Stop that,” she ordered, turning toward him. “How do I look?”

Jonathan gave her a long, considering stare. “Dangerous.”

Marcella smiled. “Come zip me up.”

He slid the gun back into its holster. “Your dress has no zipper.”

She gestured at the heels. He came forward, and knelt, and she lifted one foot onto his waiting knee.

“No matter what happens tonight,” she said, tipping up his chin. “Keep your eyes on me.”

* * *

SYDNEY woke up in an empty bathtub.

She was curled on her side, wrapped in a large comforter in the deep white basin, and for a second she had no idea where she was. And then, haltingly, she remembered.

The Kingsley. June. The hotel, and the cup of too-sweet chocolate.

Sydney got to her feet, head pounding from whatever June had put in the drink—and grateful she hadn’t drunk more of it. She stumbled out of the tub and tried the bathroom door, but the handle only turned a couple inches.

Syd knocked, and then pounded. Threw her shoulder into the door and felt the resistance, not of a lock, but an object forced against the other side. Syd turned, surveying the small, windowless room, and saw the note sitting on the sink.

I’ll explain everything when this is over.

Just trust me.

∼J

She felt herself tremble, not with fear, but anger. Trust? June had drugged her. Locked her in a hotel bathroom. She’d thought that June was different, that she saw Sydney as a friend, a sister, an equal. But for all that talk of trust, of independence, of letting Sydney make her own choices, June had still done this.

Syd had to get out of here.

Had to find Victor, and save Mitch.

She felt for her phone, only to remember she’d left it on the coffee table. But as she dug her hands into her bomber jacket, she felt the small metal tin with Serena’s bones in one pocket, and the cool steel of the gun in the other. June obviously hadn’t thought to frisk her. After every thing, she’d treated Sydney like a naive child.

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