Authors: Nancy Straight
“Yes. Your brother who has spent the last several weeks with Zandra is here. Is she with him?”
“No. Maybe. I don’t know. I didn’t ask.”
Drake held his pose in front of the door. He wasn’t budging. My voice sounded weak, pathetic really, but I couldn’t help it. “I need to see him, Drake.”
“You will. We will. But you’ve waited twenty-three years; another day shouldn’t make a difference. Meeting him now could be a trap.”
“It’s not a trap. He just called to me. He’s here for me.” My voice hitched and more words wouldn’t come. I threw myself at the door and pulled the handle, but Drake held his position. I was being unreasonable. I wasn’t thinking clearly, but I didn’t care. Cameron was the last piece of Mom still on the planet. He was a piece of me. Who knew what he had gone through to get here? Maybe he’d had to escape like I had. Maybe he needed us to protect him from Zandra. Maybe he just needed to see me as badly as I needed to see him.
Drake’s steel arms wound around me and kept me from opening the door. The stress of everything we had gone through had done little to faze me up until now, but the thought of being denied access to Cameron while he was just a few floors below made me want to collapse. Why would having Cameron downstairs affect me this way?
“Shhhh, I’m right here. I’m not going anywhere,” Drake assured me.
Sobs rocked my body, not tears, but full-fledged, uncontrollable, outrageous sobs. If Drake wouldn’t let go of me, I could see myself trying to claw through the door. He remained steady. His arms held me in place. The sad little voice inside me emerged again, this time it begged, “Please, Drake. I need to see him. Please.”
His constricting arms loosened fractionally, enough so that I was still held tight, but his eyes challenged me. “It’s a bad idea to allow yourself to be in any type of danger before the Council meeting tomorrow.”
“I won’t be in danger, Drake. It’s Cameron. I just need to see him.”
“If you’re wrong and there is danger, I’ll transform in front of a lobby full of people.” His eyes were stern as he searched mine for any doubt. “All the political influence in the world won’t keep an event like that off of You-Tube and every news station on the planet. Make no mistake, if I think there is even a sliver of chance that you’re in danger – I’m changing. Do you still want to go downstairs?”
“There won’t be any danger. I promise.”
Drake let me go, took a step away from the door and held it open for me to pass. I was so excited my feet barely touched the floor of the hallway. I was standing in front of the elevator when it opened; I pressed the “L” before Drake was even in the elevator. Would Cameron recognize me? Would he want Drake and me to come back to South Dakota with him? Did he have a girl he missed? Would he like me? Would he want to stay with us?
Drake’s steady voice echoed in my head, “
Calm down, Cami
.” I looked up into his beautiful face as his smile stared back at me. As the elevator touched the ground floor and dinged, Drake pressed the “Door Close” button. His expression was serious, “I know you want this to go well. I do, too. If I sense something I don’t like, it’ll be all hooves and horsehide, so don’t do anything to provoke him in the open.”
No matter how hard I tried, it was impossible to keep the smirk off my face. “Hooves and horsehide? Interesting threat. It’s going to be fine, I promise.” Drake removed his finger from the button as the doors swung open wide.
The lobby was full of people, much more congested than when we had arrived. The hotel bar was full of men in striped shirts, some sort of a sports team. Several people waited in line at the hotel’s registration desk. My eyes darted about the room, too excited to focus in one location for longer than a fraction of a second. “
” my thoughts offered.
Two men stood with their backs to the elevator, just ten feet away. One stood up straight, and his posture braced like he’d been hit with a board. He slowly angled his neck to look directly at us. His eyes were the same brown as mine; his hair was short and a little darker than mine. When he turned around, I was able to get a full look at him – it was Cameron.
(Camille Nash – Lost City Resort, South Africa)
Drake’s hand took mine as we walked the few steps toward my brother. My brother. My twin brother. The other half of me. Drake gripped my hand harder, maybe in an effort to keep my feet on the ground, maybe as a silent reminder that he was cautiously optimistic about this reunion.
When we were just feet away, I dropped Drake’s hand and lifted my arms to take Cameron in an embrace. Cameron took a step away from me and slid both his arms behind his back. My mind didn’t need time to process what had just happened – he had rejected me. Embarrassed, I brought my hands back to my sides and made no attempt to move closer. This was all new to him, too.
My eyes remained fixed on Cameron. He looked like me, and Mom, and even a little like Will. He was taller than me, by at least a couple inches. His face was clean shaven, or maybe it was naturally smooth? He looked like he’d spent days in the sun, not at all the pasty-white like the others I’d met in the dead of South Dakota’s winter. Was his complexion naturally darker than mine? Will said he was at Zandra’s. Was he out in the Florida sun a lot at Zandra's? She had spent far less time with him, just a couple weeks compared to the months I’d been held prisoner at her estate. Maybe he was given a crash course in mythology instead of her regimented hour each day she had spent with me.
The thought of Cameron stuck in her house of horrors had me worried. My eyes instinctively went to his neck as I remembered the horrible wounds that had been inflicted on my neck. I saw no bleeding sores, but that didn’t mean he hadn’t been abused. I’d been so caught up in what was going on with me, I had nearly forgotten about Cameron.
The guilt kept carefully at bay began to wash over me. It hadn’t occurred to me to be worried about Cameron until just this moment. She hadn’t put a shock collar on him, but what had she done to Cameron? Is that why he shied away from me a second ago? I told him not to trust her, but I should have told him what she did to me. I should have told him how she manipulated Gage and me, how she made us believe she had murdered Drake and Bianca. My heart began thumping harder in my chest, beating out a rhythm that drowned out all other sounds in the lobby.
I needed to calm down, slow my thoughts, or I’d end up sounding crazy. “What’re you doing here? I mean. . . I’m glad you’re here, but how did you find. . . I mean. . . “ I took a breath, “It’s great to finally meet you.” My voice sounded a couple octaves too high, not at all like myself, high-pitched and rapid. I took a deeper breath, willing myself to calm down.
When he didn’t immediately answer any of my questions, I offered, “I’m sorry. I’m just really excited to finally meet you.”
Cameron pursed his lips together, raised his eyebrows and looked sideways at the enforcer standing next to him. Goose bumps formed on my arm. Will had been right; it was the enforcer I had told Drake to release yesterday in Cancun – the one I’d instructed to act as a messenger. What was he doing with Cameron? Had this enforcer taken my brother prisoner?
“Yeah, well, Grandma thought you might listen to me.”
Grandma? Since when was Zandra – Grandma? The blood in my veins began to cool. He was delivering a message from her? “Okay. I’m listening.” Drake sensed the change in me. His reaction was nearly imperceptible. He had been standing on my right but was now nearly blocking me from view. His gaze was fixed on the enforcer who stood to the side of Cameron. Drake’s movement did not go unnoticed by the enforcer. But rather than move to protect Cameron from any kind of an attack, the enforcer took a step back away from Drake.
Cameron appeared oblivious to the dance that was occurring between Drake and the enforcer. Instead, in a monotone warning Cameron said, “Don’t come to the Council meeting tomorrow.”
I could hear the contempt in his voice. What had she told him? He couldn’t seriously expect me to come all this way only to hide out in a hotel room. “Cameron, there are some things I don’t think you’re aware of. It’s important that I address the Council.”
Cameron dropped my gaze and looked directly at Drake. “Hey, that was Grandma’s message. I’m all for you both getting what’s coming to you.”
Cameron’s voice was full of contempt. I didn’t understand. “Getting what’s coming to us?” The fine hairs at the nape of my neck took notice. “And what’s that exactly?”
Cameron and the enforcer were both staring at Drake. The enforcer looked worried; he’d seen Drake’s transformation for himself in Cancun. He knew he had been out-manned, or maybe out-Centaured, twice by Drake. Cameron’s stare was different – full of anger. He answered me without dropping his eye contact with Drake, “A death sentence.”
Drake was already positioned in front of me, but he took a step forward. The enforcer wasted no time backing up further, but Cameron held his ground. Drake and Cameron stood just inches apart. Without hesitating I slid to the side, placing a hand on each of their chests. When did I become the referee? “Drake, back up.” He didn’t flinch. “Drake!” He looked down at me. More quietly I said, “Back up. I want to know what Cameron has to say.”
Cameron smirked. It bothered me, probably more than it should have – but that was the same look I’d seen on Mom’s face. It was her “checkmate” look. I saw it the few times I’d tried to do something I wasn’t supposed to and she’d caught me. My legs felt weak. Looking at Cameron and seeing Mom, but hearing Zandra’s awful words was nearly too much.
“There won’t be a death sentence.” My words were hollow. I hadn’t said them as forcefully as I wanted to. The strength I’d felt resonating in me for the last couple days seemed somehow to have evaporated. I tried again, “The gods made a mistake. A death warrant never should have been issued for the Tak herd. We’re here to make it right.”
Cameron’s eyes finally looked my way. “Made a mistake? I don’t think so.”
“Do you hear yourself?” I wanted to grab him by the shoulder and shake him. “You’re part of the Tak herd, too. If we can’t make the Council listen, you’re in as much danger as we are.”
“I’ve already renounced my ties to the Tak line. I’m a son of Chiron.”
Was he an idiot? “Brilliant. So you’re fine with seven herds ostracizing one herd for crimes committed a millennia ago? These aren’t strangers, this is our family. What’s wrong with you?”
“No. Chiron is my blood. You, your freak of a boyfriend, and all the others are on your own. I want nothing to do with any of you.”
“Husband,” I corrected.
Cameron made a noise akin to a scoff. “I’m not surprised. You two deserve each other.”
What was his problem? What the hell did Zandra do to him? Could she have brainwashed him that quickly? It had only been a few weeks; even the best cults of the world couldn’t brainwash someone that quickly.
“Look, I don’t know what Zandra’s told you, but open your eyes. She’s not someone you want in your corner. Turn your back on her and she’ll strike – she’s a snake.”
“I’ll take my chances.”
Drake’s hand gripped around my waist, silently offering to support me. It wasn’t like before: Cameron’s words didn’t make me want to collapse – they made me angry. “You’re my brother. You’re my
brother. Whatever she said to turn you against us, you need to. . . you need to consider the source.”
“Consider the source? Now that’s rich.” Cameron leaned back and laughed, not a chuckle, a laugh – hearty enough that everyone in the lobby turned to stare at him, even the sports team huddled around a television in the hotel bar found more interest in his cackle than on the large screen they had all been mesmerized by.
Cameron pointed an accusing finger at Drake, “He steals an arrow that I’d been told to protect with my life and runs off into the woods. A whole family of freaks converges on me, each telling me not to trust the others.
ask if you can hide out at my house and beg me not to tell anyone where you are, and then you proceed to destroy it – not just my house, but everything in my house, too. Next I find out you’re trying to take Grandma’s chairmanship by force? Let me guess? I should trust
. I should go against the one person I’m related to who is respected by the rest of the world? I should help my bi-polar twin sister to start a war against the gods that can’t be won? Yeah, how about you consider your source, and stop listening to the crazy voices in your head.”
My eyes clouded. The venom in Cameron’s voice hurt. My heart ached. The utter joy I felt at seeing him face to face a few minutes ago made the ache that much worse. Drake’s arms snaked around me as he turned me so my back was to Cameron and I couldn’t see the hatred pouring through his eyes.
I couldn’t bring myself to respond. Not to anything. I wanted to find a dark corner and pretend this meeting never happened. Drake spoke directly to my thoughts, “
It’s okay, Cami. I’m here. I’m here. Don’t listen. Those were Zandra’s words, not Cameron’s. We’ll make him understand. I promise.”