Authors: Brenda L. Harper
And why had he saved them from the Redcoats when all the other gargoyles seemed to want Dylan dead?
She closed her eyes and tried to focus on him, but nothing happened. She had the feeling that Stiles was not someone she could listen in on without his full cooperation.
So she focused on the Redcoats, straining her mental ears to listen for any thoughts that might belong to someone near them, someone who meant them harm. She had never really tried to focus on someone she didn’t know before, someone whose face she couldn’t picture and whose essence she couldn’t feel. She wasn’t sure it would work the same way it had with Donna and Davida, with Ellie and Wyatt. And Sam.
But then a thought came to her, loud and clear.
No urgency, no panic. Just a simple command.
Yet, she recognized the thought. And she knew it wasn’t a warning. It was a taunt. A player in a game accepting temporary defeat.
It was Lily.
“We should go,” Dylan said.
“What about the Redcoats?” Wyatt and Sam asked at almost the same instant.
“I think they’ve given up for today.”
“How could you—” Sam began to ask, but Wyatt stood and began to walk away before the words were even out of his mouth.
“This way,” he said.
Sam gave Dylan his boots, assuring her that they were only rubbing uncomfortably on his sore ankle. She wanted to refuse, but the bottoms of her feet were so raw that it was becoming more and more difficult to want to put one foot in front of the other. So she took them after he promised to ask for them back when his own feet began to hurt.
They walked in single file, Wyatt at the front and Sam in the back, as though it was a necessary thing to keep Dylan from the freedom of leading or of the leisure of falling behind. After the day they’d had, she supposed she understood Sam’s need to always keep her in his sights, and Wyatt’s controlling need to be the only one who could lead them to the hidden safe house. But still…something about it just annoyed her.
Too tired, she told herself.
They walked for a little more than an hour. Dylan bit her tongue to keep from calling Wyatt out on that fact, but then began to think that he had not truly trusted her assurance that the Redcoats were no longer after them. That irritated her. A lot about this situation was beginning to annoy her.
And then the feeling just began to fall away.
She couldn’t explain it, really. This sense of wellbeing that fell over her. It was like a dark cloud had lifted from over her head.
It was a familiar feeling.
“Davida,” she whispered.
Wyatt glanced at her over his shoulder, a strange look in his dark blue eyes.
And then he stepped from the low brush and the tall oak trees into a clearing. It was a small knoll covered in more of the reddish-brown dirt that was everywhere, only a few cactus plants growing here and there to break up the monotony of the landscape. And behind it, just below the gentle curve of the knoll, was a house that seemed determined to disappear, so close in color was it to the dirt.
But none of this really registered with Dylan. All she saw was the dark-haired woman standing on the front porch.
She took off in a run, clumsy in Sam’s boots, which were several sizes too big for her. But she somehow made it into her arms without falling flat on her face and splitting a lip.
“How?” she asked a moment later as Davida pushed her back so that she could touch her face, reassure herself that Dylan was unharmed.
“It’s a long story,” she said, that familiar smile creasing her face.
Dylan touched her, ran her fingers along the curve of Davida’s jaw. “It’s really you?”
“It’s really me.”
Dylan threw her arms around her again, trying to make up for too many missed hugs. Davida laughed as she rocked Dylan in her arms, just like she had done when she was little.
“No welcome hug for me?” Wyatt asked as his heavy footsteps sounded on the wooden porch steps.
“It hasn’t been two years since I last saw you,” Davida said in a teasing tone.
Wyatt smiled. An affectionate smile, Dylan saw over the edge of Davida’s shoulder as he walked past. And then he disappeared inside, Sam close at his side.
Dylan pulled back, her gaze moving slowly over Davida’s face. “How do you know Wyatt? How did you come to be here?”
“It’s a long story,” Davida said. “I’ll explain it to you soon, but first you should come inside and meet everyone.”
Dylan hesitated. She glanced into the woods she and her two companions had just left, her thoughts once more moving to Stiles and the Redcoats and that last message she had heard from Lily.
“They’ll come looking for us,” she said quietly.
“I know,” Davida said. “But we’ll be ready.”
Dylan’s eyes fell on Davida again. Her chest felt full to bursting with the affection that swelled there. She wasn’t sure if she could handle the idea of losing her again.
“I thought you were dead,” she whispered. “They took Donna away, and I thought—“
“They took Donna?”
Color drained from Davida’s face. She glanced toward the trees, too, as though she could see something there beyond the wood and the leaves and the birds, her bottom lip tucked tight between her teeth, as though she intended to bite clear through it. And then she focused on Dylan again.
“How long ago?”
“Weeks,” Dylan said. “Two, maybe three.”
Davida’s eyes lit up. “Then it might not be too late.” She grabbed Dylan’s hand. “Come on, we have to talk to Jimmy.”
Dylan followed Davida into the house. The front door opened into a large room that was both common room and kitchen. It was a large room, but felt small because of the number of people inside. So many people. And so many of them children. Toddlers crawling around on the floor, older ones curled up in whatever space they could find, reading or playing games. And older kids, some close to Dylan and Wyatt’s age, watching over the small ones or helping the guardians with meal preparations.
“Where do they all come from?” Dylan asked.
“Lots of places,” Davida said as she walked determinedly through the crowd of people and toys and books and papers. “Some come from Genero, others from cities as far away as a week’s walk.”
Davida glanced over her shoulder at Dylan but didn’t answer. Instead, she continued to drag her through the mess until they passed through a door that led down a narrow corridor and into another room. This room was familiar. It was the room Dylan had seen in her vision earlier in the day. Wyatt’s dad stood in the middle of the room speaking quietly to his son, his hand resting on Wyatt’s shoulder in a way that might seem impersonal to an outsider, but was full of affection. The spark in Wyatt’s eyes gave it all away.
Ellie was there, too, speaking quietly to Sam as a woman knelt at his feet, carefully bathing the cuts and bruises that were still forming there. Sam looked up as Dylan and Davida entered the room and winked, a soft smile contradicting the pain in his eyes.
“Jimmy,” Davida said with some urgency.
Wyatt’s father turned, a welcoming smile on his lips that slipped when his eyes fell on Dylan. He stepped forward, finishing the small circle Davida and Dylan began with their bodies. He studied Dylan’s face, his eyes moving from her hair to her eyes to her lips, and back again.
“Remarkable,” he said quietly.
“I told you,” Davida said.
His eyes came back up to Dylan’s. “I apologize,” he said. “I just…there are no words.”
Dylan glanced at Davida, who squeezed her hand reassuringly. “She just told me that another one, Donna, was taken from Genero several weeks ago.”
“Why didn’t we know this?”
Davida shrugged. “They’re getting better at hiding it.”
Jimmy nodded. His eyes never left Dylan through this entire exchange. It was as though he could not believe what he was seeing. She wanted to move away, wanted to remove herself from his unsettling curiosity.
Wyatt moved up beside his dad. “What now?” he asked.
Jimmy stepped back slightly to include Wyatt in their growing circle. “We will have to move. This place will not be safe much longer.”
“I don’t understand,” Dylan said. “Who are all these people? Why are you here and not inside the city?”
“We were in the city,” Jimmy said. “But there was some trouble a few days ago and we had to leave. There was no way to contact Wyatt and let him know.”
“The Redcoats are the city guards,” Davida said. “They don’t move far from the city. We should be safe here for a little while.”
“How did they know we were coming?”
Jimmy’s eyebrows rose. “What makes you think they knew you were coming?”
Dylan glanced at Wyatt. “They found us just after we stopped to camp, and Wyatt sent us directly to them. I don’t think he would have done that if he had known they would be waiting for us on that back path.”
Wyatt’s eyebrows rose as she spoke the words, but his eyes whispered a different story. She wanted to apologize for doubting him, but she was afraid this was the best he was going to get at this point.
“It’s complicated,” Davida said.
“It’s more than complicated,” Wyatt said. “It’s a damned science experiment gone wrong.”
“It’s a lot of things,” Jimmy said as he laid a calming hand on Wyatt’s arm. “The war created a place of odd alliances, and many of those are beginning to fall apart.”
Jimmy glanced at Davida, who shrugged so subtly that Dylan might have missed it if she was not still clutching Davida’s hand.
“There is so much you don’t know,” Jimmy said. “So many things that we will have to explain to you. But I’m afraid there isn’t enough time.”
“You mean because of the Redcoats.”
“Not just the Redcoats. There are so many dangers out there.”
“Like the gargoyles,” Wyatt said.
“Like the gargoyles,” his father agreed.
“What about Stiles?”
Wyatt’s eyes dropped to the tip of his boots. His father glanced at him. “What’s a ‘styles’?”
“Not a what, a who,” Dylan said. “He’s a friend.”
“I’m still not sure about that,” Wyatt said.
“He rescued us back there,” Dylan insisted.
Wyatt raised a single shoulder in a shrug.
Jimmy looked between Dylan and Wyatt. “What is she talking about?” he finally demanded of his son.
“He’s a gargoyle,” Wyatt said. “A gargoyle who disguised himself as a human in order to travel with us.”
“And you didn’t recognize it?” Jimmy demanded, turning on his son. “What have I told you? How many times have I instructed you to watch out for things like that? What were you thinking?”
“I was thinking that you told me to keep her with me at all times.” Wyatt gestured at Dylan. “She threatened to leave if I didn’t let him join us.”
“He could have killed you while you slept.”
“But he didn’t.”
“Hey,” Dylan said, pulling away from Davida to stand at Wyatt’s side. “Stiles rescued us in the city.”
Jimmy looked at her as though she had gone insane. “Why would a gargoyle do that?”
Wyatt shook his head. “I don’t know, but it did.”
Jimmy glanced at Davida.
“Maybe even they understand how special she truly is.”
“What does that mean?” Dylan asked.
Wyatt took her hand, and her mind was suddenly flooded with the memory of their first kiss. She looked at him, but he was studying the floor again. But he squeezed her fingers, making her wonder how aware he was of her ability to see his thoughts.
Davida and Jimmy stared at each other, oblivious of the heated thoughts of their two adolescent companions. “Time to get to work,” Jimmy said with a deep, exhausted sigh. He picked up a pad of paper and a writing stick from the low table behind him and handed it to Dylan. “Write down everything that happened to you while you were in the city. We find that memory is more accurate when written down.”
“What will you do with it?”
“Read it. Then burn it,” he said with a soft smile. Then he turned back to the table, sifting through the papers as Davida moved into position across from him, focusing on the papers in a way that told Dylan this behavior was more than a habit. “Welcome to the resistance,” Jimmy said.
“Resistance to what?” Dylan asked.
“To whom,” Wyatt corrected, turning into her so that he could speak almost directly into her ear. “Resistance against the corrupt leadership of Lucifer and his bride, Lilith.”
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