The Rising Page 48

I took a swing at my captor. He just held me out to arm’s length and laughed.

“Claws in, little cat,” he said, still grinning. “Just like a cat, aren’t you? Rescue you and get scratched for my trouble.”

His smile was genuine, his tone light, amused. I stopped struggling.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“I’d say ‘friends of your father,’ but that’s not exactly true. Just a couple of half-demons with special skills for hire.” He set me down but kept his hand wrapped in my shirt. “You seem to have walked away from the accident all right. I hit you guys harder than I’d hoped. It’s tough to plan stuff like that.”

His partner walked over. “The doc’s out cold. We’ll just leave her here.”

“So you’re the ones”—I struggled to form the words—“my father hired. Now what?”

“Now nothing,” said the one holding me. “This is what your daddy paid for, so now you’re on your own, little cat. Except for this.” He fished a wad of cash, a metal key, and a tiny voice recorder from his pocket. He slapped them into my hand. “Top-secret instructions. Listen, then eat the evidence.”

“Thanks.” I turned to the stairs.

The brown-haired one called, “Not even going to ask for help getting away? You are an independent little cat, aren’t you?”

“No, I just don’t think I could afford your fee. Even with this.” I waved the bills.

Now even the blond guy chuckled. “We’ll get you to the city. If we spot one of your buddies, we’ll give them a lift, too, but only if we see them on the way.”

The brown-haired man nodded. “Can’t get caught while we’re cruising looking for strays.”

I tried to argue, but they were right. We left the house. The blond guy explained that he would take me in the SUV he’d used to draw off attention, while his partner got the smashed truck to safety.

On the way to the SUV, I caught the faint smell of Hayley in the breeze. The half-demons let me go after her and bring her back. There was no sign of Rafe, though, and I didn’t push for them to search. He might not be as street smart as Ash, but he’d been on the road with Annie for a couple of years, so he was capable of taking care of himself out here.


I LET THE HALF-DEMON drive us to North Vancouver. That meant we’d have a five-kilometer hike to Stanley Park, but it was as close to our destination as I dared get. There was, I knew, always the possibility that this was a grand scheme to make me lead them to Daniel, Corey, and Ash. Given the complexity of the plan, I doubted it, but I was still being careful. The bigger risk was that these guys would decide they could make more money by turning us all over to the Nasts—or the Cortezes.

So the guy let us out in a North Vancouver strip mall, wished us well, and drove off. Hayley and I pretended to head north. Once the taillights vanished we changed course, staying hidden behind and between stores in the commercial strip along the highway.

As we walked, I explained more of what was going on. Then I took out the voice recorder and pressed Play.

“Maya,” Antone’s voice began. “This is . . .” A hesitation, then “Calvin. If you’re listening to this, then you’ve gotten away and you’ve met the men I hired to facilitate that. I’m sorry if you were hoping for more assistance. I don’t think you were, but I’m sorry all the same. I’m treading carefully here. If you do return to negotiate, I can’t help if I’m being held in the Nast jails for treason.”

“Return?” Hayley said. “Negotiate? What’s he talking about?”

I whispered that I’d explain later.

Antone continued. “Later on this tape, I’m going to tell you more about Project Genesis. You already know some of that—you asked me about Elizabeth Delaney the first time we spoke. You may have heard that a small group of those subjects escaped. That’s not entirely true. They did, but they were found again a few months ago. The St. Clouds have been monitoring them. I’ve provided information on their whereabouts. You need to go to them and tell them that the St. Clouds are watching them. Then you need to convince them to turn themselves in.”

“Seriously?” Hayley whispered. “Is he nuts?”

I shushed her again.

“I told you that you need leverage to negotiate, Maya. So do they. Separately, you’re just two groups on the run. Join forces and you will all have enough leverage to negotiate a return on your terms.” A pause. “That return will include the Delaneys.” Another pause. “Your parents. I know that’s what you want and I know that’s what you need.”

We’d all get our families back, he promised. Then he told us everything we needed to know to get to the Project Genesis kids.

When the tape finished, I braced for Hayley’s outraged protests. Instead, she was quiet for at least a half kilometer. Then she said, “Okay. So what are our other options?”

“We run.”

“Run where? We’d need a goal, right? We can’t just run forever.”

“There’s that guy they mentioned in the car. Lucas Cortez. We could go to Portland, find him, and see if he’d help.”

“But his dad is CEO of another Cabal. One that’s at least as powerful as the Nasts. I’m getting the impression these Cabals aren’t exactly charitable organizations.”

“Agreed. It’s a possibility, though. Or we can find the Project Genesis group, tell them, and run with them.”

“And then what?” She sighed and shook her head. “That’s really what it comes down to, doesn’t it? And then what. Calvin’s right. We can’t run forever. We don’t want to. I want my mom and my dad and my sister back. And, yes, I want some kind of normal life back. I know that makes me sound like exactly what you’d expect—a spoiled cheerleader—but it’s what I want.”

“Me too.”

She looked at me, surprised.

I shrugged. “I know that ‘totally normal’ is out of the question. I don’t think we ever had that anyway. But I want my parents and I want a life. Plus, we have medical issues—Annie’s reversion, Corey’s headaches, and possibly more we haven’t found out yet.”

“Then this really is our only option.”

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