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Huntress (Chapter 16)

I am not," Claire said.

"Yeah, you are," Jez said, still gently, as if humoring a child.

"I am not."

"You don't even know what it is." Jez looked at Hugh. "You know what? I just realized something. The

Wild Powers are all supposed to be 'born in the year of the blind Maiden's vision,' right?"

"Yeah…"

"Well, I was trying to figure that out all yesterday. And now, it just came to me, like that." She snapped

her fingers. "I was thinking about visions like prophecies, you know? But I think what it meant was vision,

like sight. Eyesight. Aradia only had her eyesight for a year-and that's the year. Seventeen years ago."

Hugh looked at Claire. "And she's "Seventeen."

"So what?" Claire yelled. "So are you! So are lots of people!"

"So am I," Hugh said with a wry smile. "But not everybody can stop a train with blue fire."

"I didn't stop anything," Claire said with passionate intensity. "I don't know what a Wild Power is, but I

didn't do anything back there. I was just lying there and I knew we were going to die-"

"And then the blue light came and the train stopped," Jez said. "You see?"

Claire shook her head. Hugh frowned and looked suddenly doubtful.

"But, Jez-what about the fire at the Marina? Claire wasn't there, was she?"

"No. But she was watching it live on TV. And she was very, very upset about it. I've still got the scars."

Hugh drew in a slow breath. His eyes were unfocused. "And you think it works across that distance?"

"I don't know. I don't see why it shouldn't." They were talking around Claire again, Jez gazing into the

depths of the garage. "I think maybe distance is irrelevant to it. I think what happens is that she sees

something, and if she's upset enough about it, if she's desperate enough and there's no physical way to do

anything, she just-sends out the Power."

"It's completely unconscious, then," Hugh said. "And who knows, maybe she's done it before."

Jez straightened, excited. "If it's happening far away, and she doesn't see the flash, and she doesn't feel

anything…" She turned on Claire. "You didn't feel anything when you stopped the train?"

"I didn't stop the train," Claire said, slowly and with shaky patience. "And I didn't do anything about that

fire at the Marina, if that's what you're talking about."

"Claire, why are you in such total denial about this?"

"Because it's not the truth. I know I didn't do anything, Jez. When you know, you know."

"Actually, I don't blame her," Hugh said. "It's not a great job."

Jez blinked, and then the truth swept over her. Her entire body went cold.

Oh, Goddess… Claire.

Claire's life as a normal person was over. She was going to have to leave everything, her family, her

friends, and go into hiding. From this point on, she would be one of the four most important people in the

world-the only of the four Wild Powers who was identified.

Constantly hunted. Constantly in danger. Sought after by everyone in the Night World, for a hundred

different reasons.

And Claire had no experience. She was so innocent. How was she supposed to adjust to a life like that?

Jez shut her eyes. Her knees were so weak that she had to sit down.

"Oh, Claire … I'm sorry."

Claire gulped, staring at her. There was fear in her dark eyes.

Hugh knelt. His expression was still and sad. Tm sorry, too," he said, speaking directly to Claire. "I don't

blame you at all for not wanting this. But for right now, I think we'd better think about getting you

someplace safe."

Claire now had the look of somebody after an earthquake. How could this happen to me? Why wasn't I

paying attention before it hit?

"I… have to go home," she said. But she said it very slowly, looking at Jez in fear.

Jez shook her head. "Claire-you can't I-" She paused to gather herself, then spoke quietly and firmly.

"Home isn't safe anymore. There are going to be people looking for you-bad people." She glanced at

Hugh.

He nodded. "A werewolf tried to run me down with a car, then jumped me. I think he must have

followed me from the station. I knocked him out, but I didn't kill him."

"And there's the vampire from the platform," Jez said. "He got away-did he see the flash?"

"He saw everything. We were both right there, looking down at you. After that, he took off running. I'm

sure he's going back to report to whoever sent him."

"And they'll be putting everything they have on the streets, looking for us." Jez looked around the garage.

"We need transportation, Hugh."

Hugh gave a tiny grin. "Why do I have the feeling you don't mean a taxi?"

"If you've got a pocketknife, I can hotwire a car. But we have to make sure nobody's around. The last

thing we need is the police."

They both stood up, Jez reaching down absent-mindedly to pull Claire to her feet.

Claire whispered, "Wait. I'm not ready for tins-"

Jez braced herself to be merciless. "You're never going to be ready, Claire. Nobody is. But you have no

idea what these people will do to you if they find you. You… just have no idea."

She located a Mustang across the garage. "That's a good one. Let's go."

There was a loose brick in the wall near the car. Jez wrapped it in her jacket and broke the window.

It only took a moment to get the door open and another few seconds to start the car. And then

everybody was inside and Jez was pulling smoothly out

"Take Yanacio Boulevard to the freeway," Hugh said. "We've got to head south. There's a safe house in

Fremont."

But they never made it out of the garage.

Jez saw the Volvo as she turned the first corner toward the exit It had its brights on and it was heading

right for them. She twisted the wheel, trying to maneuver, but a Mustang wasn't a motorcycle. She didn't

have room. She couldn't slip out and get away.

The Volvo never even slowed down. And this time there was no blue light. There was a terrible crashing

of metal on metal, and Jez fell into darkness.

Everything hurt.

Jez woke up slowly. For a long moment she had no idea where she was. Someplace-moving.

She was being jolted and jarred, and that wasn't good, because she seemed to be bruised all over.

Now, how had that happened… ?

She remembered.

And sat up so fast that it made her head spin. She found herself looking around the dim interior of a van.

Dim because there were no real windows. The one in back had been covered from the outside with duct

tape, and only a little light came through at the top and bottom. No light came from the front. The driver's

compartment was closed off from the back by a metal wall.

There were no seats in back, nothing at all to work with. Only three figures lying motionless on the floor.

Claire. Hugh. And… Morgead.

Jez stared, crawling forward to look at each of them.

Claire looked all right. She had been in the backseat with a seat belt on. Her face was very pale, but she

didn't seem to be bleeding and she was breathing evenly.

Hugh looked worse. His right arm was twisted oddly under him. Jez touched it gently and determined

that it was broken.

And I don't have anything to set it with. And I think sbmething else is wrong with him-his breathing's

raspy.

Finally she looked at Morgead.

He looked great. He wasn't scraped or bruised or cut like the rest of them. The only injury she could

find was a huge lump on his forehead.

Even as she brushed his hair back from it, he stirred.

His eyes opened and Jez found herself looking into dark emeralds.

"Jez!" He sat up, too fast. She pushed him back down. He struggled up again.

"Jez, what happened? Where are we?"

"I was hoping you might tell me that."

He was looking around the van, catching up fast Like any vampire, he didn't stay groggy long.

"I got hit. With wood. Somebody got me when I left my apartment." He looked at her sharply. "Are you

okay?"

"Yeah. I got hit with a car. But it could be worse; it was almost a train."

They were both looking around now, automatically in synch, searching for clues to their situation and

ways to get out They didn't have to discuss it The first order of business was always escape.

"Do you have any idea who hit you?" Jez said, running her fingers over the back door. No handles, no

way to get out

"No. Pierce called to say he'd come up with something on the Wild Power. I was going to meet him

when suddenly I got attacked from behind." He was going over the metal barrier that separated them

from the driver's cabin, but now he glanced at her. "What do you mean, it was almost a train?"

"Nothing here. Nothing on the sides. This van is stripped."

"Nothing here, either. What do you mean, a train?"

Jez wiggled around to face him. "You really don't know?"

He stared at her for a moment. Either he was a fantastic actor, or he was both innocent and outraged.

"You think I would do something to hurt you?"

Jez shrugged. "It's happened in the past."

He glared, seemed about to get into one of his Excited States. Then he shook his head. "I have no idea

what's going on. And I would not try to hurt you."

"Then we're both in trouble."

He leaned back against the metal wall. "I believe you there." He was silent for a moment, then said in an

odd, deliberate tone, "It's the Council, isn't it? They found out about Hunter's deal with us, and they're

moving in."

Jez opened her mouth, shut it. Opened it again.

"Probably," she said.

She needed Morgead. Claire and Hugh weren't fighters. And whoever had them was a formidable

enemy.

She didn't think it was the Council. The Council wouldn't use hired thugs; it would work through the

Elders in San Francisco. And it would have no reason to kidnap Morgead; the deal with Hunter Redfern

didn't really exist.

Whoever it really was had a good intelligence system,

good enough to discover that Morgead knew something about the Wild Power. And had a lot of

money, because it had imported a lot of muscle. And had a sense of strategy, because the kidnappings of

Jez and Claire and Hugh and Morgead had been beautifully timed and nicely executed.

It might be some rogue vampire or werewolf chieftain who wanted to grab power. It might be some rival

vampire gang in California. For all Jez knew, it might even be some insane faction of Circle Daybreak.

The only thing that was certain was that she was going to have to fight them whenever this van got where

it was going, and that she needed all the help she could get.

So it was important to lie to Morgead one last time, and hope that he would fight with her.

She had to get Claire away safely.

That was all that mattered. The world would survive without her and Morgead, and even without Hugh,

although it would be a darker place. But it wouldn't survive without Claire.

"Whether it's the Council or not, we're going to have to fight them," she said out loud. "How's your

energy-blast trick? The one you demonstrated when we were stick-fighting."

He snorted. "Not good. I used up all my Power fighting the guys who tackled me. It'll be a long time

before I recharge."

Jez's heart sank. "Too bad," she said unemotionally. "Because those two aren't going to be able to do

much."

"Those humans? Who are they, by the way?" His voice was so carefully careless again.

Jez hesitated. If she said they were unimportant, he might not help her save them. But she couldn't tell the

truth, either.

"That's Claire, and this is Hugh. They're-acquaintances. They've helped me in the past."

"Humans?"

"Even humans can be useful sometimes."

'I thought maybe one of them might be the Wild Power."

"You thought if I found the Wild Power I wouldn't tell you?"

'It occurred to me."

"You're so cynical, Morgead."

'I prefer to call it observant," he said. 'For instance, I can tell you something about your friend Hugh,

there. I saw him in the city, just once, but I remember his face. He's a damned Daybreaker."

Jez felt a tension in her chest, but she kept her face expressionless. "So maybe I'm using him for

something."

"And maybe," Morgead said, simply and pleasantly, "you're using me."

Jez lost her breath. She stared at him. His face was shadowed, but she could see its clean tines, the

strong but delicate features, the darkness of his eyebrows and the tension in his jaw. And she knew, as

he narrowed his eyes, that they were the color of glacier ice.

"You know," he said, "there's still a connection between us. I can feel it, sort of like a cord between our

minds. It pulls. You can't deny it, Jez. It's there whether you like it or not. And-" He considered, as if

thinking of the best way to put this. "It tells me things. Things about you."

Oh, hell, Jez thought. It's over. I'm just going to have to protect Hugh and Claire myself. From him and

whoever's got us.

Part of her was scared, but part was just furious, the familiar fury of needing to bash Morgead over the

head. He was so certain of himself, so … smug.

"So what's it telling you now?" she said sarcastically before she could stop herself.

"That you're not telling the truth. That there's something you're keeping from me, something you've been

keeping from me. And that it has to do with him." He nodded toward Hugh.

He knew. The jerk knew and he was just playing with her. Jez could feel self-control slipping away.

"Something to do with why you want the Wild Power," Morgead went on, a strange smile playing on his

lips. "And with where you've been for the past year, and with why you suddenly want to protect humans.

And why you say 'Goddess' when you're surprised. No vampire says that. It's a witch thing."

Goddess, I'm going to kill him, Jez thought, clenching her teeth. "Anything else?" she said evenly.

"And with why you're scared of me reading your thoughts." He smirked. "Told you I was observant."

Jez lost it. "Yeah, Morgead, you're brilliant. So are you smart enough to figure out what it all means? Or

just to get suspicious?"

"It means-" He looked uncertain suddenly, as if he hadn't exactly figured out where all this was leading.

He frowned. "It means… that you're …" He looked at her. "With Circle Daybreak."

It came out as a statement, but a weak one. Almost a question. And he was staring at her with an

I-don't-believe-it look.

"Very good," Jez said nastily. "Two points. No, one; it took you long enough."

Morgead stared at her. Then he suddenly erupted out of his side of the van. Jez jumped forward, too, in

a crouch that would let her move fluidly and protect Hugh and Claire.

But Morgead didn't attack. He just tried to grab her shoulders and shake her.

"You little idiot!" he yelled.

Jez was startled. "What?"

"You're a Daybreaker?"

"I thought you had it all figured out." What was wrong with him? Instead of looking betrayed and

bloodthirsty he looked scared and angry. Like a mother whose kid has just run in front of a bus.

"I did-I guess-but I still can't believe it. Jez, why? Don't you know how stupid that is? Don't you realize

what's going to happen to them?"

"Look, Morgead-"

"They're going to lose, Jez. It's not just going to be the Council against them now. Everybody in the

Night World is going to be gunning for them.

They're going to get wiped out, and anybody who sides with them will be wiped out, too."

His face was two inches from hers. Jez glared at him, refusing to give ground. "I'm not just siding with

them," she hissed. "I am one of them. I'm a damned Daybreaker."

"You're a dead Daybreaker. I can't believe this. How am I supposed to protect you from the whole

Night World?"

She stared at him. "What?"

He settled back, glaring, but not at her. He was looking around the van, avoiding her eyes. "You heard

me. I don't care who your friends are, Jez. I don't even care that you came back to use me. I'm just glad

you came back. We're soulmates, and nothing can change that." Then he shook his head furiously. "Even

if you won't admit it."

"Morgead…" Suddenly the ache in Jez's chest was too much to stay inside. It was closing off her

throat, making her eyes sting, trying to make her cry.

She had misjudged Morgead, too. She'd been so sure that he would hate her, that he could never

forgive.

But of course, he didn't know the whole truth yet.

He probably thought that her being a Daybreaker was something she would grow out of. That it was just

a matter of getting her to see the light and change sides again, and she would become the old Jez

Redfern. He didn't realize that the old Jez Red-fern had been an illusion.

Tm sorry," she said abruptly, helplessly. "For all of this, Morgead-I'm sorry. It really wasn't fair to you

for me to come back."

He looked irritated. "I told you; I'm glad you did. We can work things out-if you'll just stop being so

stubborn. We'll get out of this-"

"Even if we do get out of it, nothing's going to change." She looked up at him. She wasn't frightened of

what he might do anymore. The only thing she was frightened of was seeing disgust in his eyes-but she

still had to tell him. "I can't be your soulmate, Morgead."

He hardly seemed to be listening to her. "Yes, you can. I told you, I don't care who your friends are.

Well keep you alive somehow. The only thing I don't understand is why you'd want to ally yourself with

stupid humans, when you know they're going to lose."

Jez looked at him. Morgead, the vampire's vampire, whose only interest was in seeing the Night World

conquer humanity completely. Who was what she had been a year ago, and what she could never be

again. Who thought of her as an ally, a descendent of one of the first families of the lamia.

Who thought he loved who he thought she was.

Jez kept looking at him steadily, and when she spoke, it was very quietly. And it was the truth.

"Because I'm a human," she said.

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