Redemption (The Alexa Montgomery Saga) (3 page)

BOOK: Redemption (The Alexa Montgomery Saga)
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But he was a Traitor. All
along he was a traitor.

Yes, that was true. But somehow
it didn’t seem to matter now. Somehow, none of it mattered now. How could I
stand here and judge the boy that was laid out on his deathbed, knowing I had
put him there? I could not. I would not. Jackson may have been a spy for the
King, may have started out as a traitor to my sister, but somewhere along the
way, he had fallen in love with Alexa. And in the end, he had made the ultimate
sacrifice for her. A traitor by definition, perhaps. But if you asked me, his
final actions made him a hero. My hero, anyway. He hadn’t only saved my sister,
he had saved my
soul.

Tears threatened. I took a breath
and swallowed them back.

I averted my eyes now, looking
over at Alexa, who had come to a stop beside me at the foot of the main
attraction. Her shoulders were held straight and her head high. Her dark hair
fell in waves down her shoulders, hiding the silver sun there, but the tattoo
that marked the lives she had taken trailed out down her right arm, glimmering
like the diamonds in the night sky. I was struck with a sense of wonder that
night staring at her. So stoic and strong and steady, her Gladius hanging
between her shoulder blades by the vine of an exotic flower. So much a Sun
Warrior.

The waves of grief and agony
washing out of Alexa’s soul were the only indication of her suffering. I shut
my eyes and began to absorb them, cringing inside, so close to the fire.

And then I was cut off from the
heat abruptly, the pain and fire shut off as if by a faucet. I opened my eyes
and saw that Alexa was staring at me. She shook her head once, just a tiny back
and forth motion. I looked down at my feet, somehow ashamed, though I knew that
she knew that I was only trying to help. She would not let me share in her
burden. She would not see me suffer.

A shirtless man with long silver
hair stepped forward then, a torch burning in his hand. His arms had black
wings tattooed into them, which trailed over his shoulders and connected on his
back. His eyes were silver as well and filled with something sweet for my
sister, flickering orange and silver as he handed her the torch. Alexa took it
from him with a nod, and I realized that she must know this silver man, and was
fond of him. I wondered not for the first time just how much had happened in my
absence.

Jackson had been washed free of
as much gore as was possible, his ruined clothes switched out for a wolf’s fur
blanket that covered him from feet to neck. I didn’t know who was responsible
for this, but I was grateful to them beyond words for covering Jackson’s neck.
The memory was more than enough of a visual reminder of what I’d done; of how
I’d torn open his throat with my fangs. I swallowed, my mouth suddenly dry, and
my stomach roiled when the phantom taste of Jackson’s blood filled my mouth.

Something is coming! It’s
coming coming coming…

I had to calm down. I glanced
around to soothe myself. Nothing had changed. No King’s Warriors hauling chains
and axes coming forth to bring me to justice. No angry mob demanding my head on
a spike. Just more creatures filling in to take a spot beside the lake, and
none of them could be a danger to me, because no one who meant harm could enter
the Outlands. I took a deep breath to slow the irrational rambling of my heart.

Beside me, Alexa moved forward
and stood over Jackson’s body, staring down at it with the look of someone who
will never see what lay before them again. She leaned forward and placed a kiss
on Jackson’s forehead, holding the burning torch out to the side as she did so.
Then she whispered something so low that despite all of the supernatural ears
present, I knew no one heard it but me, and it wasn’t my ears that I heard it
with.

“I’m sorry, Jack.”

My heart broke into a thousand
jagged shards and fell to the pit of my stomach. I was going to cry now. There
could be no stopping it. I sucked in air as quietly and quickly as I could
manage, trying to halt the inevitable. Alexa moved back now, and with one shove
of her left arm, she pushed Jackson out onto the silver lake and lit the pyre
before it could sail out to the beyond forever and ever.

Sounds. A
woomph!
as the
pyre caught and the flare of orange and yellow as the flames obscured Jackson’s
body from view. A sharp intake of breath, my own, I thought. Something
breaking, the tear of a paper heart, maybe. Soft moans and silent cries and
mutterings.

And then, a shriek. A shriek that
ripped across the night air, drowning out the sounds of grief and heartbreaks
and breathing the way rock music would drown out turned pages and whispers in
an old library. Followed by another call, and another, another, mingling together
into one songlike, terrible cry. The tears that had threatened to spill from my
eyes only a moment earlier were gone, dried up like an old riverbed.

And the things that followed
happened oh so fast.

My hand flew up and covered my
open mouth on its own accord. My eyes grew wide with guilt and recognition and
realization. My sister’s brown eyes flashed toward me, settled there and asked
a question that was answered with my expression. Her arm reached back and
snapped the vine that held her Warrior’s sword in place between her shoulders.
A scream. More than one, several. Moans and curses and cries in tones and
languages that were completely foreign to my ears. My own moan, swallowed up in
the cacophony of other noises, but mostly, in the shrieking summons of the
Accursed ones.

The Lamia had come. And I knew in
my soul that it was me they had come for.

 

 

Alexa

The sound ripped through the
night sky like a low-flying jet, making those beneath it tense their shoulders
and cover their ears involuntarily. I knew the sound well, even though the
first time I had ever heard such a noise had not been so long ago. Goosebumps
broke out across my arms like fevered rashes, the cry of the Accursed bringing
back memories like the cologne of a lost lover. A cool tingling sensation
rushed down my back, seeming like a tiny person with shoes made of ice had
skated up my spine. By its own volition, my right arm reached back and tore my
Gladius free of the vine that secured it between my shoulder blades.

My first thought after the moment
of surprise gave way to rational cognition was not my own, but rather that of
my monster.

Let the show begin!

My stomach tightened at the sound
of its enthusiasm.

I looked to my sister, not sure
of what I was hoping to find there. Nelly’s eyes had gone wide with horror and
dark with guilt. I gripped my sword, and the deadly silver blade slid out from
its hiding place in the handle. Instinctively, my head tilted back and tested
the air, though there were far too many creatures around to pick out the sickly
sweet smell of the Lamia. Around me, chaos erupted.

Creatures took off in every
direction. The Pixies trailed low across the ground streaming light behind them
like colorful comets, dashing into vegetation wherever they could find it. The
Fae people released their tattooed wings into the air and zipped by with all
the grace of fallen angels. Little brown Trolls with pinched faces hobbled off
as quickly as their stubby legs could carry them. No one seemed to have the
same destination in mind,—or any destination in mind at all—but they all had
the same look on their faces. Terror.

When my frantic eyes settled back
to the spot where my sister had been only a moment ago, I saw that she was not
there. Panic erupted in my gut like a volcano, and if I hadn’t spotted her
through the crowd to my west, I may have passed out cold from the sheer
sensation.

Nelly was moving swiftly through
the crowd, which still was crushed beneath the weight of those terrible
shrieks. I took off after her without a second thought, and was surprised by
how long it took me to catch up to her. Her fluid, almost sinuous movements
reminded me so much of those of the Accursed, and I was thankful that I was
behind her and could not see her eyes. It was all too easy to imagine them
going a deep, endless black.

“Where the hell is she going?”
I wondered, leaping into the air to hurdle a Troll that was blocking my
path. It was difficult to think with that piercing sound still filling the
night.

Apparently, my Monster had no
such issues.

Our sister has just gotten
some callers, Warrior. She is going to receive them.

Now a new kind of panic rose in
me, something wet and hot and ugly. My hand tightened painfully around my
sword, and I used all my strength to finally catch up with my sister. When I
drew up beside her, it took me a moment to find the nerve to look at her face,
so great was the fear of what I would find there. But I needn’t worried.
Jackson’s sacrifice had been a true one, and still so fresh. Nelly’s eyes were
the warm hazel that I always remembered them, not a stitch of black to be found
there.

Keeping pace with her and trying
to talk to her was quite the effort. She was moving so fast, and I had the
lungs of smoker. I opened my mouth anyway, and all I got out was, “Nell—”

I was yanked by the back of my
shirt to a hard stop. My shirt gave way to the pressure and ripped a couple
inches down the collar. I would have fallen forward right on my face if not for
the hold Nelly kept on me. A sense of wonder filled me as I stood there staring
at her, realizing it was she who had halted me, so easily, and with one hand.

Nelly wasn’t looking at me. She
was staring straight ahead with a look completely inscrutable. I followed her
gaze and realized for the first time that I was standing just on the inside of
the magical border that kept the harmful out of the Outlands. Beyond was a
field of tall yellow grasses, their stalks stone-still in the windless night.
Above, the stars in the sky stared down like the tiny eyes of indifferent
deities. And ahead, just outside the border, the closest less than ten feet
from me, the farthest hunkered back in the grass like a lioness in hunt, were
some two hundred Lamia.

I was so shocked by the sight
that it took me several moments to realize that the shrieking had stopped. I
looked out and was met by the stares of hundreds of all-black eyes. They moved
not a fraction, their still, white bodies looking more like statues than of
anything living. My Gladius burned icy cold in my hand. I hadn’t noticed their
arrival, but Kayden was now standing beside me, and Tommy had taken up position
on Nelly’s other side.

When the Lamia nearest us stepped
forward, I was once again halted by the hold my sister had on me. Every single
stitch of me wanted to throw myself outside of the border and test the
swiftness of my blade. When a growl ripped up my throat, I wasn’t sure who it
was directed at, the Lamia, or my sister.

Nelly’s voice spoke in my head
then:
Don’t be stupid, Alexa. There are too many.

For some reason, I took offense
to this. I knew somewhere inside of me that Nelly was right, and that she was
only trying to protect me, but I was never one who liked being told what to do.

The Lamia who had moved spoke,
and any retort I would have offered Nelly got jammed up in my throat with the
sound of creature’s rotten, singsong voice. “My Queen,” the Lamia said, and
offered a curtsy that was absurd in its gesture. The Lamia met Nelly’s eyes and
glanced over her shoulder at the city of the Outlands behind us. “I had not
expected to find you in such a place, and with such a…plethora of rare
delicacies.”

The way the Lamia was looking
behind us made me glance behind me despite the fact that my training was
screaming at me to never turn my back to the enemy. The sight there was somehow
much worse than that of the field filled with Accursed in front of me. The
enormity of what was happening locked into place in my head, and it was all  I
could do not to cringe visibly when I saw that the entirety of the Outlands
occupants had shown up for this show, and that they had all just heard the
Lamia call my sister
Queen.

No wonder she hasn’t been
forthcoming with her dealings over these past few days, Warrior. Our little
sister has dug up more trouble than we anticipated. Look at how they are watching
her, as if she were their…leader.

“No,”
I thought.
“As if
she were their
Queen.

A chuckle.
Well, this just got
interesting, now didn’t it?

“No, this just got dangerous.”

The Lamia spoke once more. “Seems
there is a lot you haven’t told us, my Queen.” The Lamia’s onyx eyes flicked to
me. “If I had known you were an acquaintance of the Sun Warrior, I would have
insisted on an introduction.”

At last I found my voice–or
rather, my Monster found its voice. “Alexa,” I said, and a crooked grin spread
across my face. “Pleased to meet you.”

At this, the Lamia threw her head
back and laughed, her lips pulling back to reveal the rows of shark’s teeth
still stained scarlet with a recent kill. Seeing this, I experienced a strange
flashback to the first time I had encountered these creatures, when they had
broken into my house and flipped my world upside down. A hatred so intense that
I felt it thrum in my veins filled me, a welcome feeling. I would take hatred
over grief any day. And, I was going to cut the smile right off of this bitch’s
face. My smile stretched wider still.

Easy now, Warrior. As much as
I would like to let you rush out there so that we can have a little fun, Nelly
is right. We are too far outnumbered. It would be suicide. So stop acting like
a crazy beast and play this smart. Start by telling our sister to command this
Lamia to stop calling her Queen. Enough damage is done already. We may be no
safer on this side of the barrier than on that side if these supernaturals
think Nelly is a Lamia Queen.

BOOK: Redemption (The Alexa Montgomery Saga)
5.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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