“Thank you, Maria,” Cate said. “I owe you.”
The woman stopped in the doorway, glancing at Ruby. “You don’t owe me anything. I have to tell you, though, I got a call from Beth. Your absence has definitely been noted in the office.”
“I figured as much,” Cate said. “The Bureau needs all hands on deck right now.”
Maria nodded. We listened to her footsteps padding down the stairs before we gathered closer at the foot of the bed.
“Are you going to be all right?” I asked Cate.
She gave me a fond smile. “I did manage to have somewhat of an excuse. My boss is sympathetic to the Psi and gave me the day off to find somewhere outside the city for Nico and a few others to stay until things calm down. But I don’t have to go back at all.”
“You should,” Chubs told her. “For the time being, you’re the only one of us who can keep watch on what’s really happening.”
“For the time being?” she repeated. “Do you have a plan?”
“We have something,” Vida said. “Clearing Zu’s name and exposing Mercer’s and Moore’s roles in all this will hopefully go a long way in mending what Cruz just burned the fuck down.”
“We just have to hope it won’t start another, bigger fire,” Chubs said.
“It won’t,” I said. “Not if we focus on the part that’ll get people angry: the fact that they’re selling Psi outside of the United States to potential enemies. They may hate us, but it’s clear the government doesn’t want anyone else to have us or our potential, either.”
“That’s awfully cynical,” Cate said.
“Ruby wouldn’t have acted without proof,” Liam said. “After everything we went through, she knows to always gather evidence.”
Because very few people believed our word without it.
“She does,” I said. “And I think I know exactly where it is.”
Vida raised her brows. “Zu, Our Lady of Complete Fucking Surprises. Anything else you’ve forgotten to share?”
I shook my head.
Liam rubbed a hand over his face, looking back over at Ruby.
“What’s the matter?” Chubs asked him.
“I was just thinking about my kids—the Haven kids,” he said. “I trust Mom and Harry to take care of things, but I don’t know what’s happening with everyone—if they’re even okay. I can’t bring Ruby back to them like this, but she would kill me if I didn’t go check on them.”
“You can,” Chubs told him. “Stay a few more days to make sure she’s stable and to see if she wakes up. If she’s still like this, then you can go for a day or two and I’ll stay with her and keep everyone updated. My dad will be able to bring the supplies we need from his hospital and can probably find a neurologist we can trust for a consult. Let me do this, please. I can’t go back to DC yet, I can’t get myself in front of a camera and tell the world the truth, but I can help my friend. And I will.”
“Maybe…” Liam said, his expression torn. “But if something happened while I was gone—”
“Nothing will happen,” Chubs promised. “It’ll give me time to start figuring out where the kids downstairs came from, and if they have homes they need to be returned to. Or it’ll give me time to figure out a different safe place for them to go.”
Maria came back in, her arms full. I stepped into the hall to give her room to pass, but once I was out, I couldn’t bring myself to go back in. That sensation, like static crawling beneath my skin, was back. The room felt too small to contain me.
A hallway light winked as I passed by, heading into one of the empty rooms at the back of the house. This one had no bed or dresser, just a window and a chair-less desk. I leaned against the latter and closed my eyes, pressing Roman’s shirt to my lips. I breathed in the smell of cedar, leather, and smoke.
Priyanka and Max still had no idea why I’d gotten out when Roman and Lana hadn’t, and I was too much of a coward to go down and tell them. As it was, the longer I thought about those last few seconds, the less they made sense to me.
I could see it so clearly, how he’d lifted his scarred hand higher, pressing it repeatedly against the opposite shoulder until I’d noticed it. Until I’d gotten his message.
I’m okay. This is okay.
He had to have known they were Mercer’s soldiers, and what the risks were. That was what I didn’t understand: Why would he give himself and his sister back over to Blue Star? Why not come through the door with me or try to fight them off to escape another way?
Because, a small voice whispered in my mind. You.
He’d stalled the Blue Star soldiers so I could get away, along with Ruby and the others. Maybe some part of him had finally recognized what Priyanka and I had upstairs: Mercer had emotionally and mentally manipulated Lana, but she couldn’t see it, and that made her a danger to all of us. But Roman couldn’t leave her alone with Mercer. Not again.
I’m okay. This is okay.
Anger pulsed through me, sweeping away the ache and guilt. “Like hell it is.”
I wasn’t going to lose him or anyone else to this cycle of nightmares. I was done accepting what little we’d all been given—I wasn’t going to be tricked into believing that the wheel of our story would continue to roll on without being pushed forward by sheer force. There was no time to sit here and just hope it would all get better. If we’d only wait.
The time for waiting was over. If they wanted a Psion Ring, then they’d have one.
On my terms.
Downstairs, Max and Priyanka were sitting across from each other at the kitchen table. Max had put his head down and shut his eyes, but Priyanka’s finger was tracing the knots in the wood, her expression haunted. I found a sticky pad and pen by the landline phone and wrote a quick note of explanation, slapping it on the refrigerator. No leaving without good-byes. That would always be the rule. I’d decide on the rest as we went along.
At the sound, both of them sat up.
“Are either of you interested in going for a drive?” I asked.
“Why?” Priyanka asked. “What’s going on?”
“Ruby left us a gift,” I said. “And we’re going to go get it.”
Two Weeks Later
WE DIDN’T BOTHER WITH TH
E door. We blew the whole damn wall out.
I looked back, watching the flames reflected in Priyanka’s dark eyes. The black ski mask hid her face, but satisfaction radiated from her as the last of the dust and bricks settled. Muggy, smoke-stained air swirled against my skin. I took in a deep breath, touching the comm in my ear.
“Three minutes start now,” I told the others. “Vi, you in position?”
The response I got was another small explosion, this one at the front entrance to Mercer’s warehouse, where Vida and her team of seven Psi were positioned.
“We’re in,” Vida said in our ears. The gunfire was immediate in response. I waved the group behind me forward, into the smoldering remains of the room Mercer had set aside for his stooges to sleep in. Jacob stepped up and, with a thrust of his hand, sent two of Mercer’s men slamming into the nearby wall.
“Stay here,” I told him. “Make sure no one comes in or gets out until we’re back.”
He and Lisa had answered my call for help, as had a dozen other Psi I hadn’t seen or spoken to in years. Once the network was alive again, the current of change that moved between us was as unstoppable as it was growing.
One voice could be drowned out, but not a dozen. Not a hundred. Not a thousand.
Our goal wasn’t violence, and it wasn’t subjugating others through terror—it was working outside the law to gather information, protect Psi, and speak directly to the public with the truth denied to them by the people in power.
“We’re in, Max,” I told him over the comm. “Get ready.”
Outside, waiting for us back in the transport truck, Max said, “Ready.” There was a flicker of static over the line as he added, his voice softer, “My dad…”
“I know,” I said, leading the others out of the room. “Don’t worry.”
One of Mercer’s men was waiting in the hallway, half-dressed, half-wild with adrenaline from having been woken from a dead sleep. He fired off a shot that went too wide. One of the Kin lifted him into the air, then slammed him back down onto the floor, stunning him.