Redemption (The Alexa Montgomery Saga) (7 page)

BOOK: Redemption (The Alexa Montgomery Saga)
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It was a blessing that the stone
walls were there to keep them from the happenings on the inside of the
Building. They would find out soon enough.

He lined them up in the largest
room the Council Building had to offer, which was usually only used for
banquets and balls. Today, no tables with buffets of food were set up, no band
playing on the platform that served as a stage. The crystal chandeliers did not
glitter on the jewelry of dressed-up women or sparkle off champagne glasses.
Today, King William stood atop the platform, and the harsh lights above shone
down on his glittering attire and the hard lines of his old face.

He wasted no energy on an
explanation, or any words at all to the terrified people. He simply sat on the
platform in a plush chair, his back resting casually against it as he relaxed
his body so that he could use the full stolen power of his mind to perform a
mass Search. King William was weeding out traitors, and the only mercy he
offered them was that he was quick about it. Very quick.

One by one they were plucked from
the group by the King’s enormous Warriors. With their all-black uniforms and
hard, impassive faces, it was very much like watching death in motion. They
swept through the crowds with more grace and ease than their size should have
allowed, seizing men, women and children by the arms and hauling them through
two rear double doors that slammed behind them with an undeniable finality.

There were some who fought. These
were ones who refused to ignore their rapidly impending demise and instead of
going willingly, decided they would die fighting. Others, mostly women and
children, were herded off through the double doors with pleading looks for
someone to stop this; someone to please, please, stop this, defend them, just
please
do something,
and the men among them averted their eyes.
Sorry,
love, no help here.

Those that fought were killed on
the spot. By the time the last groups were hauled into the room, the marble
floors were slick and sick with the scarlet of spilled blood. The protests grew
fewer and fewer as the day wore on.

One woman, a Searcher who had
taught a class in the elementary school, stalked over to the double doors with
her head held high, but when she got to the exit she turned and faced the crowd
and shouted one word.
“Cowards!”

Some of the Wolves and Brockens
in the room, men especially, cringed as though she’d slapped them across their
faces. Others simply stood, unable to process what was happening. Most of them
cried, and their tears fell to the floor to mix with the blood of the fallen,
the blood of the brave.

The King was clever in his
doings, and by the end of the day he had suffered no causalities, no loss of a
Warrior as the result of the people’s resistance. They were even weaker than he
had expected them to be. It was a wonder that they couldn’t see how much they
needed him. Without him, they would be easy pickings for the other races.

The ones that passed the mass
Search, the ones that remained standing and present after King William had
delivered his mental rape, were sent from the room in a sort of haze, not fully
able to grip the terrible gravity that was taking place in here. Their eyes
were distant, glossy. But no one cried after they stepped out of the room.
Whether it was because they knew that they had just narrowly escaped death, or
because they were too afraid to—or both—made no difference. No one cried.

From the ballroom they were sent
into the second largest room in the Council Building, the auditorium. Waiting
for them there were fire pits with burning coals glowing red at the bottom.
Atop these pits, sticking out like spokes on the wheel of a black wagon, were
iron rods with King William’s crest at the end of them. Here, some of the
people screamed. The tips of the iron rods glowed as red as the coals at the
bottom of the pits, and the people lined up one by one to be branded with them.

By the end of day, when they were
finally released to return to their homes, they were nursing the burns that
would leave a scar shaped in the King’s crest on their right shoulders. But it
was not the pain of the fresh brands on their arms that kept sleep away that
night, but the pain of the fresh burns on their souls.

And they were the lucky ones.
Many homes sat empty that night, as they would the next day and the next. Their
occupants’ bodies had been burned, but their heads had been posted on spikes at
the gates to the city.

 

 

Alexa

“Now I need cigarette.”

“Nonsense.”

I lifted my head from Kayden’s
chest and peered at him out of the corner of my eye. “Yeah,” I said. “No, I’m
actually pretty certain it’s a
necessity
after what we just did. I
have
to have a cigarette.”

Kayden stared down at me with
eyes as golden as sunlight, and the corner of his mouth turned up the tiniest
bit. It was only the slightest difference in the perpetually impassive expression
he always wore–a look he reserved for only me. I held in a sigh that would have
sounded a touch too girly for my ways with some admitted effort. In the midst
of a dark, cold world, Kayden was a spark of warmth that I clung to greedily,
and I could not find it in me to be upset with him over what he had done. It
was the kind of foolish, love driven deed that I myself may have done.

He sold his soul, Warrior,
my
Monster intoned flatly in my head.
And we are a selfish creature, you and I.
You are not angry because it comes as a relief, doesn’t it? To know that his
soul will follow yours into the beyond, be there any beyond at all…comforts
you.

Yes, it comforted me, and there
was no point in being ashamed in that. If I had learned one thing in this
world, it was that the past was the past and there wasn’t jack-shit you could
do about it. For all the magic and wonder, there were no rewind buttons on the
show of life, no mulligans or do-overs. Kayden had made his decision out of
love, and to spend our time together on this earth angry with him would be a
middle finger to the universe, and I thought that the universe was probably
already pissed off enough at me already. It had to be. How else could things
have gone so terribly wrong?

I sat up, glancing around for my
clothes and sighing when I saw them scattered all about the room. “I have to go
check on Nelly, anyway,” I said. “So Nelly, then cigarette. It’s the order of
things. The only thing that makes sense.”

Leaning over the side of the bed,
I snatched my t-shirt off of the floor and pulled it over my head. Then I stood
up. Kayden released a heavy breath. “I hate it when you do that,” he said.

“What?”

A pause. “Put clothes on.”

This made me laugh, and I sat
back down on the bed beside him and bent over so that I could kiss the nearly
healed scar on the right side of his chest, where he had taken a bullet for me
back at Dangeon. That hadn’t been so long ago, but he had been drinking from
me, and it was now just a pink and white star-shaped scar. As strange as it
was, I thought that the scar was beautiful, that it made him more beautiful
just by being there. Maybe it was the Warrior side of me that was honored to
have his love for me etched into the very skin of his body that made me love it
so. But then again, I’ve always liked scars. With the number of them I’d
incurred just growing up, I kind of had to. I had more scars than I could
count, and the painful stories that accompanied them.

I got up again and found my
pants, anxious every moment that my sister was out of my sight now that Kayden
was no longer…occupying me. “Well,” I said. “I can’t be running around kicking
ass naked. Nobody would take me seriously.”

Kayden sat up and grabbed his
shorts from the floor. “Oh, I think you’d be surprised how seriously they would
take you.” He found his shirt and pulled it on over his head. “But then I would
have to cut all of their eyes out for looking at you.”

I smirked at him. “No, Kayden.”

“No, what?”

“That’s not a crazy thing to say
at all.”

Kayden chuckled at this, and
after we’d slipped on our shoes we went down the hall to Tommy’s room. I
knocked on it gently, looking over at Kayden. Panic filled me suddenly, as I
realized I could hear no voices coming from the inside. Kayden put his hand on
the small of my back, where my Gladius was always tucked. The sword felt very
much like a body part to me now, as I never went anywhere without it.

That’s because you’ve been
forced to live by it, Warrior, as surely as you will die by it.

I rolled my eyes a little as I
waited, my foot unconsciously tapping the floor anxiously.
“There’s no need
for that talk now, thank you very much. I’ve got enough on my mind without your
morbid input.”

The door to Tommy’s room swung
open and I released a heavy breath. Tommy stood there squinting and blinking
his eyes. They widened a little when they saw me, and he glanced over his
shoulder. More panic struck me like a jab to the solar plexus. “Tommy, is Nelly
here?” I asked, nearly tripping over my words in my haste to get them out.

Tommy ran a hand through his hair
and nodded. “Yeah, she’s sleeping,” he said.

I pushed Tommy aside and stepped
into the room, needing to see with my own eyes that Nelly was safe before I
could relax. She was just as Tommy had said, fast asleep under the covers of
his bed. My head tilted as I saw that she was on one side of it, with the
covers on the other half drawn back as if someone had just vacated the other
side. I spun around and raised my eyebrows at Tommy.

“What?” he asked casually, though
I noticed that a little color bloomed on his cheeks. “Nothing happened. She was
tired. I was tired. We slept.”

I glanced over at Kayden, who was
leaning in the doorway in that relaxed way he had that belied his readiness to
spring into action at any moment. His golden arms were crossed over his chest
and a small smile played behind his eyes. “Um hmm,” I said, looking back over
at Tommy. “Do I have to tell that I will cut your heart out if anything goes
wrong?”

Tommy’s old smirk found his lips.
“Uh, no, mighty Sun Warrior. I’m pretty sure that part’s a given.”

I nodded. “Good. I guess you
can…go back to sleep then.” I put my hand on Tommy’s shoulder, and he lifted it
to his mouth and gave it a light kiss. “Watch over her, okay Tommy?”

Tommy smiled now. “Yes, ma’am.”

I went over to the door where
Kayden was waiting for me. “Mission accomplished. Now, how about that
cigarette?”

Kayden tossed his arm over my
shoulder and shook his head. Closing the door to the room, he said, “Good luck,
Tommy.” Tommy’s answering chuckle was drowned out as we stepped out into the
hallway.

I looked up at Kayden. “Good
luck? What’s that supposed to mean?”

Kayden gave me an innocent look.
“Nothing at all,” he said.

I gave him a light jab in the
side, and he laughed. “You’re abusive.”

“Umm hmm,” I said. “To say the
least.”

Kayden laughed at this, and
together we walked down the dimly lit hallway, the only light offered from the
tiny glittering stars placed into the walls. When Kayden pushed open the door
that led to the outside of the cottage, the real stars overhead blinked in the
night sky as though we had awakened them. I stepped off of the path that the
door led out to and into the small garden that flanked it. A few Pixies
fluttered around, floating from flower to flower, trailing light behind them like
tiny comets. I took a seat on a carved wooden bench that sat beside the house,
and Kayden sat down next to me.

Retrieving a cigarette and
lighter from my pocket, I set flame to it and inhaled deeply. The smoke felt
pleasantly poisonous in my lungs. I rested my head on Kayden’s shoulder at
stared out at the night. “Kayden, what do you think happens when we die?”

Now who’s being morbid?

“Oh, shut up.”

Kayden was quiet for so long that
I lifted my head to look at him, wondering if maybe he hadn’t heard me. But his
golden eyes met mine and I saw that he had. I waited. Finally, he released a
long sigh. “I don’t know, Alexa” he said, and his soft Scottish accent gave me
goose bumps the way it always did when he said my real name. “But I don’t think
it matters either way.”

I sat back and thought about this
for a time, and as always, Kayden was more than happy to let silence hang
between us. He had always been a man of few words, and this answer was so much
like him that it didn’t surprise me in the least. Also, the more I thought
about it, the more I thought he was probably right.

He surprised me when he spoke
again. “It doesn’t really matter because death is inevitable for everything
that lives.” His head tilted back as he stared up at the stars. I watched his
face, as raptured as I always was when Kayden decided to share his rare bits of
wisdom. “Except maybe the Gods,” he said, “But everything that has a life must
lose it eventually. What matters is that it was a life worth living.”

I felt stupid tears threaten inexplicably
and forced them back with a few deep breaths. My voice was smaller than I would
have liked when I asked, “Is it, Kayden? Is it worth living?”

Kayden tilted my chin up with his
fingers and kissed my lips, and the answer to my question was evident to me in
his touch. “Oh, yes, my Warrior,” he said, his golden eyes burning into my own.
“I really think it is.”

I glanced around me now,
wondering if we were alone enough for me to climb onto his lap and have another
taste of something that made life worth living, but something caught my eye,
and as much as I tried, it was too distracting to ignore it. I stared out into
the night before us and at first could not locate the thing that had caught my
attention. The cabins and cottages were still dark and silent, the red maple
trees still in the windless night. The sky overhead was still black with its
sprinkling of sugar, but something was different. Something was…
off.

BOOK: Redemption (The Alexa Montgomery Saga)
10.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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