Authors: Brenda L. Harper
Stiles shook his head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Sure you do.” Wyatt shoved a finger into Stiles’ chest. “This isn’t my first experience with gargoyles.”
“Good for you,” Stiles said, dropping the water bottles as he stepped into Wyatt.
“And I know about you, about people like you. Working for the gargoyles, spying on people so that the gargoyles can find them easier.” He shoved his finger so hard into Stiles’ chest that he grunted a little. “It was someone like you who led the gargoyles to my mother.”
“Then your mother wasn’t human,” Stiles spat out at Wyatt.
Wyatt swung, but Stiles ducked and missed his blow even as he landed one of his own in Wyatt’s gut. Wyatt didn’t even react to the blow as he swung again, catching Stiles on the corner of his jaw.
“Stop!” Dylan cried, shoving an arm between the two men. Stiles immediately stepped back, throwing his hands up in the air, but Wyatt moved forward, his fist still raised in a threat. Dylan moved in front of him, laying her hands on his chest and pushing him backward. “Stop it,” she demanded. “This is stupid!”
“He brought that gargoyle to us,” Wyatt insisted.
“You don’t know that,” Dylan said, taking his face between her hands, forcing him to focus on her. “Besides, doing this isn’t going to solve anything, one way or the other.”
Wyatt focused on her, the tension slowly easing from his fists. “I won’t take him to my city.”
Sam had come over and was standing off to one side, Ellie slightly behind him. “You can’t leave him out here alone,” he said quietly. “Not when he knows which way we’re going.”
Tension came back into Wyatt’s arms, his fists clutching him again. He studied Dylan’s face. “What if it happens again? What if he brings the gargoyles on us again?”
“What if it wasn’t him? We were out in the open, Wyatt.”
“We’ve been in the open before.”
Dylan stroked Wyatt’s cheek lightly before she dropped her hands and stepped back. “If you leave Stiles behind, I stay with him.”
“Dylan, don’t be stupid.”
“He’s one of us,” she said, touching her chest between her breasts. “He’ll die out here alone.”
“We’ll all die if we take him with us.”
“We have a better chance as a group,” Sam said.
“Don’t do me any favors,” Stiles said from a short distance away, where he was leaning against a tree.
Dylan glanced at him, a part of her wanting to hit him, too. When she turned back to Wyatt, there was a flash of pain in his eyes. Then he turned and began to walk away in the same direction they had been moving before Stiles called out to them.
“Do what you want,” he said with a dismissive gesture.
Ellie stared at Dylan for a long minute before she turned and chased after Wyatt, slipping her fingers between his when she joined him. He didn’t pull away.
Dylan didn’t look at Stiles or Sam. She scooped up the water bottles that lay on the ground and began to follow.
Signs of humanity began to appear as the sun moved passed the midway point in the sky. Walking paths that were clearly made by human feet, not animals. Water bottles, crushed and abandoned in the tall grass. Torn cloth, broken tools. And animal carcasses, buried and dug up by other animals, the bones scattered across the dirt.
“We’ll stop here,” Wyatt said suddenly, stopping just below the crest of a small hill.
“Why?” Sam asked.
Wyatt ignored him in favor of digging a water bottle out of his bag and taking a long, satisfying swallow. Then he walked off the path and picked a quiet place beside a long, flat rock. Ellie, without surprise, settled beside him with a satisfied sigh.
Dylan tossed her bag, returned to her by Stiles, onto a grassy spot before she dropped down beside it, leaning forward to stretch out the muscles in her back. Sam sat on one side of her, Stiles a few feet to the other, isolated from the others in a way that spoke more about the tension between them than anything else.
“You should eat something,” Sam said.
Dylan glanced at him. “What about you? How are you feeling?”
He shrugged. “Like I wasn’t just attacked by a wild hog.”
She raised her eyebrows, barely listening as she watched Ellie rub at Wyatt’s shoulder with one of her long, delicate hands. Why was he letting her touch him like that? Did he like that sort of thing? Did he want her unnatural hands to touch him other places? To do other things?
“Eat,” Sam said, holding out a piece of cooked meat to her.
Dylan took it sullenly, picking at the meat. But once the first bite touched her tongue, her stomach became something of a traitor, growling for more. She ate slowly, a childish attempt to hide her ravenous need. As though the evidence of her humanity would prove her weakness to Wyatt.
“How long were you outside the dome before you found Ellie?”
Sam glanced at Dylan over a piece of his own meat. “Three days. We had both made it to the rendezvous point.”
“But they didn’t show.”
“No, they didn’t show.”
“How did you survive that long?”
Sam took a bite of the meat and chewed for a long few seconds before he shrugged. “I knew which plants would provide moisture.” He glanced over at Ellie. “I think for her it was just dumb luck. She was in bad shape when I found her.”
Dylan looked at Ellie, too, the meat in her stomach suddenly turning into a ball of heaviness in her belly as she watched her whisper something in Wyatt’s ear. “Why did you start walking again?”
Sam looked down at the meat, rolling it around in the palm of his hand. “I figured moving was better than sitting still.”
Dylan tossed her meat into some nearby bushes and lay back against her bag. “Maybe,” she said.
She closed her eyes, and her mind was immediately flooded with Ellie’s thoughts. It made her blush, some of the things that girl was thinking. Made her feel a tightness in her belly she remembered from Wyatt’s touches along with a deepening sickness in her belly as anger toward Ellie grew in her own heart. She imagined that rounded wall, the one that had always helped her block out such thoughts before, and slowly silence began to replace the constant chatter. Maybe that’s why she didn’t hear the first warning.
Sleep began to darken the edges of her mind, blocking even her own thoughts from her consciousness. She couldn’t remember ever being quite this tired. All the walking, the emotional turbulence, the abilities that seemed to be growing and changing every day; it was becoming too much for her overwrought mind.
As she slipped out of this consciousness into the next, Davida’s face suddenly appeared in her mind’s eye. She was frantic, a look that Dylan had never seen on her familiar features before.
“You’re in danger, Dylan,” she cried. “Wake up!”
Dylan sat up so quickly she nearly banged her head against Sam’s as he leaned over to grab a water bottle out of the open mouth of her bag.
“What’s the matter?”
She glanced around the clearing, searching for anything that might be construed as danger. She met Wyatt’s gaze, and the guarded look in his eyes instantly changed. He climbed to his feet, brushing Ellie away from him as he pulled his long, curved sword from its scabbard.
“Where?” he asked.
Dylan began to shake her head, but then her mind was filled with a huge number of voices, all coming from the same direction. She grabbed her head, pressing her temples between her hands as pain shot through her. And then she pointed.
“What’s going on?” Sam asked.
“Get her out of here,” Wyatt said. “Take her and Ellie that way.” He gestured toward an anemic line of trees off to their left. “There’s a trail in there that will lead to the back edge of the city. If I don’t find you by nightfall, go there.”
Sam nodded, grabbing Dylan’s arm as he jumped to his feet. “No,” Dylan said as he pulled her away.
“Go,” Stiles said, her knife in his hand as he moved up beside Wyatt.
Dylan touched her side, looking for her knife even as she stared at it in Stiles’ fist. “How—” she began, but soon realized it was pointless, as Sam obeyed Wyatt’s commands and dragged her across the clearing to grab Ellie and lead them into the woods.
Dylan’s last vision of Wyatt was of him standing back to back with the same man he had tried to destroy earlier in the day.
“Shut up,” Dylan said as she knelt behind a tree and closed her eyes, focusing her thoughts on Wyatt. An image flashed through her mind, trees off to the distance as Wyatt ran over rough terrain, dropping down behind a tall line of bushes. Stiles was beside him, not even breathing heavily as he crouched in the dirt, his eyes open and alert for any trouble.
A second later a group of men, dressed alike in long red jackets and silver pants, marched up the path where they had just been sitting. One of the men spotted Dylan’s bag where she had dropped it. He searched through it, scattering its belongings over the grass and dirt next to his feet.
“Nothing,” he said, holding it up for another man to look.
“They have to be somewhere close. They wouldn’t have left this much water and food intentionally.”
The second man turned to the others and gestured to the area around them. “Fan out. Search the brush.”
Wyatt tensed as one man walked straight toward him and Stiles. He bent low, pressing himself as close to the ground as possible. Stiles moved over him, and for a second, Dylan lost her connection to them. When it returned, the man had walked past them and was searching the area farther back in the brush. Wyatt turned and followed the man’s movements with his eyes.
“We have to move,” Stiles whispered.
Wyatt nodded, gesturing to his left. Stiles didn’t see it at first, but there was a ditch there that led deep into a gully that fell off far below the path above. Wyatt led the way, clearly familiar with the area, leading Stiles into a shallow impression in the wall of the gully, where they stood and listened to the noise of the search.
“Dylan,” Sam said, shaking her arm lightly. “We have to move.”
Dylan opened her eyes, aware of the cracking of twigs not far in front of them. Ellie was standing behind Sam, her arms wrapped around herself as though the air around them was freezing instead of crackling with an intense heat that had yet to begin to subside. Dylan moved to her feet and followed Sam as he led the way deeper into the line of trees. They stumbled across the path Wyatt had mentioned. Dylan hesitated. The sound behind them had stopped. She wanted to wait for Wyatt and Stiles.
“We have to go,” Sam hissed into her ear.
“What if they come looking for us?”
“What if the wrong people find us?” Sam stared earnestly into her eyes, his green eyes reminding her suddenly of Donna. “We have to go.”
Dylan glanced behind them, listening for a second for noises that might alert them to the danger they had apparently left behind. Then she nodded, reluctantly.
“What about Wyatt?” Ellie suddenly cried, her high-pitched voice too loud for comfort.
Dylan moved toward her, grabbed her arm, and laid a hand lightly over her mouth. “You have to be quiet,” she hissed. “We don’t know who that was back there, but Wyatt does, and he told us to hide. Do you think he would want us to get caught?”
Ellie shook her head, her eyes wide with fear.
“He’ll find us,” Sam assured Ellie as he gently tugged Dylan’s hand from her mouth.
Ellie glanced behind her, her eyes still wide, her arms still wrapped around her chest. She began to walk when Sam gestured for her to go forward.
They followed the path for a few, silent moments. Dylan glanced back at Sam and was surprised that he had a knife in his hand, one similar to hers, but with a dark colored handle in place of her white one. She met his gaze and could see the fear in every line of his handsome face, a face as chiseled and well-proportioned as Wyatt’s, just in a more graceful style. He nodded slightly, his lips curving in what was probably meant to be a smile but became more of a grimace.
And then a sudden flash of red burst out of the trees behind him.
It happened so quickly. Dylan wasn’t even aware she had moved. She lunged forward just as Sam turned, raising the knife high above his head. Dylan grabbed an edge of his red coat, jerking the man to the left, exposing his neck to Sam. It only took a second to slit his throat, longer than it took for the dying man to grab Dylan’s wrist and twist it behind her back, yanking her shoulder painfully out of socket.
Then there were more red coats flowing out of the trees.
“Down!” a voice yelled.
Ellie dropped down immediately, lying flat in the dirt a few feet behind Sam and Dylan. Sam moved up close to Dylan, his knife, still dripping blood, raised slightly as he faced the Redcoats. He laid a hand on Dylan’s hip, pulling her tight against his back as he turned his body to protect her from the Redcoats who were circling around them.
“Be smart,” one of the Redcoats said, moving toward Sam with a long, thin sword in his hand. “Get down.”
Sam stepped backward, pushing Dylan with him. “Let us go,” he said.
The Redcoat stopped moving, turning slightly toward his troops. He gestured toward them to stay back, a smile on his lips as he turned back toward Sam. “We don’t mean you any harm, son,” the man said.
“Of course you do.”
The man slid his sword back into its scabbard where it hung from his waist. Then he faced Sam, his hands high in the air. “We just want to take you into the city and find out what you were doing out here.”
Sam shook his head. But Dylan closed her eyes, struggling to hear the thoughts of this strange man. Normally it was easy for her to hear thoughts of the people around her, but this man was too difficult. It was like there was a wall in his head not unlike the one Dylan built in her own mind to block the thoughts of her sisters back in Genero. She pushed at it, trying to find a crack that would let her hear just a little of what his secret intentions might be. But there was nothing.