Soldier Page 25

“Why me?” I asked. I didn’t explain what I meant; Mr. Roth already knew. Loyalty and determination could get you only so far. I was a hatchling, and this was possibly Talon’s biggest, most expensive project to date. Yes, I had managed to impress the organization, but they were taking a massive risk by bringing me on. Even I understood that.

Mr. Roth regarded me with cold professionalism. “Because it’s in your blood, Mr. Hill,” he said, and walked away, leaving me staring after him in utter confusion.


When I opened my eyes, the world was still dark. My skull throbbed, and the air was hot, stale, and smelled of burlap and sweat. I raised my head and realized it was covered with a thick black bag. My hands had been tied behind my back, bound with coarse rope, and there was a cloth gag in my mouth. Judging from the rumble of an engine and the vibrations of my seat, I could guess I was in the backseat of a car, heading in an indeterminate direction.

I shifted, and something hard and pointed pressed into my ribs from the side. “Don’t try anything,” said a voice, the same female who’d been waiting for me at the hotel. “Just relax. It won’t be much longer.”

Who are you? I wanted to ask. Are you with St. George, or Talon? If you know who I am, why haven’t you killed me yet?

Maybe they were taking me to the Patriarch. Perhaps the leader of St. George wished to see the traitor in person so he could execute him himself. Grim as it was, that was the best scenario I could hope for. St. George would show me no mercy, but at least it would be over quickly. If this was Talon, they’d probably want to interrogate me for information on Riley’s rogue underground and the Order. I could take a lot of pain, and I’d been trained to withstand torture without breaking, but I could only imagine what Talon would do to a former soldier of St. George.

Unfortunately, I could only wait until my captors revealed who they were and what they wanted from me. Meanwhile, across the ocean, Ember was still in danger, unaware that she and Riley were walking into a trap. Helpless, I clenched my fists against my back, well aware that every mile, every minute that ticked by, took me ever farther from getting to them in time and closer to losing the red dragon forever.

We drove on for several more minutes, taking multiple twists and turns, before the car finally shuddered to a halt. Still blindfolded, I was dragged out of the vehicle, led across a cement floor and down a flight of steps. The air was cold and damp, cooling my face a little through the suffocating bag, making it easier to breathe. There was a scraping sound, like a chair was being dragged across the floor behind me. A moment later, I was pushed into it, and the sack was torn from my head.

Blinking, I looked around. I was in a basement, with thick stone walls and a few shelves holding various outdoor tools. There were no windows, and only one dim lightbulb, flickering right above my head. Three people surrounded me; two bald, grave-looking men standing to either side of my chair, and the small Asian woman I’d seen earlier. I hadn’t gotten a good look at her before I’d been knocked senseless, but seeing her now, I realized she wasn’t very old—though her exact age was impossible to tell, and she was very attractive. She regarded me coolly with her arms crossed over her chest before stepping forward and yanking the gag from my mouth.

“Apologies for the somewhat barbaric treatment.” Her voice was soft and had the faintest hint of an accent. “Normally we are not quite so rude, but I couldn’t take any chances with the Order being so close. We had to move quickly, and I didn’t have time for arguments. I hope you understand.”

I didn’t answer, though my heart sank at her words. Not from the Order. So, they were part of Talon, after all. I took a furtive breath, steeling myself for what was to come. They’d no doubt brought me here, where screams and cries of pain would go unheard, to interrogate me. But I would not break. I would not give up Ember’s location, or Riley’s underground. The next few hours might have me wishing I was dead, but I would not betray the girl I loved to the organization. They would have to kill me.

The woman cocked her head at me, dark eyes narrowing, and her voice turned hard. “So. Now that that’s out of the way...why are you here? Who sent you? And please,” she added, holding up a hand, “don’t try to lie and claim you don’t know what I’m talking about. We have seen you outside St. George. You’ve been trailing the Patriarch for days. We know you are involved, and that you’re working for the organization. You wouldn’t be following the leader of St. George if you weren’t.”

Still silent, I blinked. Now I was confused. Why accuse me of being from “the organization” if she was from Talon herself? I knew she couldn’t be from the Order, but if she wasn’t part of Talon, and she wasn’t of St. George, who was she?

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