Authors: Carly Fall,Allison Itterly
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Romantic Suspense, #Science Fiction, #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense
The ride to the church was quiet. Nico parked across the street, and they all got out.
“Let’s go see what a possible Colonist has to pray about,” Hudson said, as they crossed the street.
Blake held the door open.
“You first, Micah.” If this was a trap, Micah was going to be the first one struck down.
Micah hesitated for a second, then went in. The rest followed.
Blake remembered the first time he had stepped foot in a church. Well, actually it had been the one and only time. He was seventeen, and his girlfriend at the time had invited him to go with her family. From the moment his foot hit the carpet, a feeling of complete uneasiness overcame him. It was as if he didn’t belong there, and God was letting him know that. He managed to stay for about half the mass, then feigned an upset stomach. Well, he had truthfully been feeling queasy, so it wasn’t a total lie. Now that he knew he had some bad DNA rolling through his veins, he understood the feeling. Taking in the scene before him, the same unease made his skin feel tight, and he rolled his neck as if the motion would loosen it.
The priest stopped talking when he saw the group, and everyone turned around in their pews. There were a few gasps and some hushed whispers. Blake imagined they were quite the sight. All of them were over six feet, and all built like brick shithouses. Then there was the fact that most of them were wearing leather jackets. The congregation probably thought they were about to be robbed.
Blake scanned the small crowd. He didn’t see anyone who looked out of the ordinary. “See him?” he asked Micah.
Now what?” Nico asked.
If you gentlemen are here for the meeting, the stairs are to your left,” the priest called out to them.
Now we go downstairs,” Blake said, smiling.
Thank you,” Hudson said with a wave.
They made their way down the stairs with Micah in the lead and Hudson right behind him, a gun in one hand and a knife in the other.
“Don’t do anything stupid, Micah,” Hudson said in a low voice. “I’ll gut you first and shoot you later.”
When they reached the bottom of the stairs, Blake heard voices, and all motioned each other to be quiet. He looked around the corner and saw four doors, two on one side of the hall, and two on the other. He could see light coming out from under one of the doors.
Bingo! The meeting.
Blake strained to hear what was being said, but couldn
’t make out the words. He figured they had two choices: first, they could go in full force. Not shoot anyone, of course, but go in tactically like a police force would. However, if this was nothing more than an AA or Tupperware meeting, how would they explain themselves? They wouldn’t be able to, and the cops would be called and . . . that wasn’t a good scenario.
The second option was just to get closer and do some recon. That was what they had intended to do anyway. Might as well stick with the plan.
However, it probably wasn’t a good idea for all of them to be down here. It would be too easy for someone to mess up, make too much noise and let whoever was in that room know that they were being spied on.
Blake motioned Hudson over.
“Take Micah upstairs and wait for us in the car,” he whispered.
Hudson nodded, and got Micah
’s attention by poking his gun into his kidney. “Let’s go, big boy,” Hudson whispered.
Blake waited until they were at the top of the steps, then turned to Nico and Simon. He nodded, and all three moved toward the door.
Alaina sat next to a balding man in his forties with a paunch belly wearing a black T-shirt and a pair of jean shorts who had introduced himself as Georg
Daniel was across from her, completing the circle.
I’d like you all to welcome Alaina,” he said. “Like all of you, Alaina is gifted. She is special. She sees the ash that only you can see.”
No one said anything, just stared at her. So much for a warm welcome.
“I met Alaina at her place of employment,” Daniel continued. “I stumbled up on her and her . . . abilities by accident. Alaina, I met everyone else here through different avenues ranging from the Internet to the bus.”
Really? The Internet? This was getting creepy, even by her standards.
“We’re here because we all have the urge to kill, Alaina, just as I’m sure you’ve had. These people are no different than you. I’m here to help you fulfill your wishes, to help them with theirs. I have killed many, many times, and I guess you could consider these people my followers, my students.”
’s breath caught in her lungs. Was this some sort of cult? And they all wanted to kill? Sure, she had some dark thoughts, but she didn’t want to act on them. Well, most of the time she didn’t. When she was angry, it was more pronounced, but she never would follow through, would she? And did he honestly say he’d killed many times? He had to be bluffing, right?
How come I could see that stuff around you?” she asked.
We’ll cover that later,” Daniel said. “Let’s check in with George. Did you do it, George?” He then turned to Alaina. “George hasn’t killed anyone yet. There are some in the group who have, and others who are working their way up to their full potential.”
Oh my God. What had she gotten herself into? Was this some sort of sick joke? Some sort of show where they spring an impossibly weird situation on someone and then film their reaction? She looked around the room for hidden cameras.
George smiled. It wasn’t a friendly grin, but one of evil, his teeth discolored yellow and reminding Alaina of rodent chompers. “I did. I finally did it.”
And what did you do, George?”
Alaina listened in horrid fascination as George described luring a homeless woman with promises of money and drugs into an abandoned building two nights ago.
“I couldn’t believe how easy it was to get her to trust me,” he said, leaning forward and putting his elbows on his knees. “I squeezed her throat and actually felt the life go out of her. She put up a hell of a fight.”
Well, give us details, George. How old was she?” Daniel asked.
I don’t know—maybe thirty or forty? You know how those drugs make the bitches look older than they are.”
And you said she put up a fight?” another man in the circle asked.
Yeah. See my scratches?” he said, pulling down his T-shirt to reveal red marks on his chest. “It was fucking awesome. It was like she turned into a hellcat or something. The harder she fought me, the more excited I got.”
Alaina felt bile rise in her throat, and she realized that although she might have had contemplations of killing others, she would absolutely never do it. There was a moral compass deep inside of her keeping her from making her thoughts and dreams a reality.
“After she was dead, man, I was so hard. I wanted to come all over her—“
Alaina stood up, certain she was going to be sick. There was a distinct difference between thinking about something and actually doing it. And then getting off on it . . . no.
“This isn’t for me, Daniel. I’m going to take off now.”
She grabbed her purse and headed for the door. As she reached for the doorknob, Daniel grabbed her arm and jerked her backward. He hovered over her, his grip on her arm strong.
“That’s not a possibility, Alaina,” Daniel said, his voice low. “Once you accept the invitation to the group, there’s no turning back.”
She tried to pull her arm away.
“You never told me that.”
That’s the way it is.”
I’m leaving Daniel,” Alaina said, surprised by the fear that coiled within her. She wasn’t afraid of much, but she was downright terrifie
No, Alaina. You aren’t.”
George stood up.
“You think I’m going to let you walk out of here alive after what I just told you? I’ll snap your pretty little neck just like I did that homeless bitch, and I’ll love every second of it.”
She glanced at Daniel, who didn
’t disagree with George. Despite her best intentions of not letting them see her emotions, Alaina felt tears in her eyes. She was in big trouble and needed to at least try to get out of here. She looked down at her arm and saw black ash. What the hell was with this guy?
You see it, don’t you?” Daniel whispered. “You see the ash.”
What is it?” she asked.
It’s me getting excited at the thought of killing you, or watching George do it, in this case.”
Reflex took over, and Alaina brought her knee up, slamming Daniel in the crotch. As he bent over, he let go of her arm. She brought her other knee up and connected with his nose.
George was almost on top of her. She threw her purse into his face and turned for the door, flinging it open. The stairway leading to her freedom was to her left, and she ran, only to be tackled from behind. She was flipped over and George straddled her. He punched her in the face, and she saw stars.
Come on and fight me, you bitch,” he said, spittle landing on her face.
She struggled, refusing to die like this, and George
’s hands snaked around her neck and squeeze
There was no air to be had, and the energy left her quickly. Her life flashed before her eyes. The loveless foster homes. Stripping. She had always planned one day to do something different, and now her tomorrows were just about up, and it was very apparent that Daniel’s idea of a fresh start and hers were very, very different. Her vision started to blur and fade . . .
Suddenly, there was a lot of sound and commotion, and a man appeared over George’s shoulder. His hair fell on his forehead, his chin covered in scruff. His dark eyes were angry as he yanked George off of her, head-butted him in the face, and threw him against the wall. As Alaina watched George slump to the floor, her savior wordlessly pulled her to her feet and shoved her toward the steps.
’t argue. There was more yelling behind her as she climbed the stairs, and then a door slammed. At the top of the steps the priest stood there looking confused.
What’s going on down there?” he demanded.
Alaina tried to speak, but could only cough. The room was spinning.
“Nothing, sir,” the man said. He looked over his shoulder back down the stairs. “Move it, Blake! Let’s go, Simon!”
Alaina turned to see two men about halfway up the stairwell.
The man who had saved her from George grabbed her arm and guided her outside. A white Hummer was parked across the street, and he was pulling her toward that.
Let go of me!” she yelled, finally finding her voice and feeling like she had just jumped from the proverbial pot into the frying pan.
He said nothing, just kept running with her firmly in his grip. She fell, wincing when her knee made contact with the road. He pulled her back to her feet in seconds.
“Stop it!” she screamed. The back door to the Hummer opened, and she was pushed in. She looked up and saw another man with a ponytail. He looked confused, but pulled her closer to him to make room for the other two men behind her.
The door slammed and the Hummer sped away. Fear squeezed Alaina
’s chest as tears streamed down her face, and she had to wonder if she’d just been saved or kidnapped.
Nico knew he had put into motion a set of events that would lead to nothing but trouble. He was debating if his helping hand had just evolved into kidnapping, or if it was in the semantics of the situation and kidnapping was defined based on point of vie
Him and Blake had snuck up to the door and heard most of what had been said as a man talked to a woman named Alaina, calling her
“special,” and telling her that she was just like the others in the group. A chill had gone down Nico’s spine. How many of these “special” people were in that room?
They heard commotion behind the door, and then it flew open. Nico had jumped back, the door barely missing his mug. A woman wearing a blue sundress had run out of the room, fear and determination etched in her face. That paunchy fuck was right on her heels, and Nico, Blake, and Simon exchanged looks. What the hell was going on? And, yeah, so much for their recon.
The man had lunged at the woman, taking her to the ground. When he hit her, a rage Nico had never felt before rose within him, and he suddenly knew that the most important thing was getting the woman out of there. He’d turned briefly to see what Blake and Simon were up to, and hadn’t been surprised to see both throw a couple of punches at people from the room who had come out when the commotion started. Most of those in the meeting simply headed for the back door, the closest escape route.
The car was quiet, and he turned to the woman. “Are you okay?” he asked. Nico noted that Hudson had his gun on his lap, trained on her.
“I appreciate what you did back there. But . . . now can you please just let me go?” she pleaded in a small voice. She turned to him, her blue eyes wide, her bottom lip trembling and bleeding. Tears tracked down her cheeks. “I don’t want any trouble. Please.”
Nico’s heart skipped a beat as he stared at her. His chest constricted, and his stomach clenched. Good God, she was gorgeou
He looked her over and saw ash on her arm. There was no way she could be a Colonist, was there? Nico was under the impression that all the Colonists were male. If that were the case, then one of the men in the room was definitely a Colonist and had touched her while in a heightened state. Perhaps the male who had hit her?
And what had she been doing there?
Nico realized just how important she had suddenly become. Before, she had been the traditional damsel in distress, but now, she could give them information, leading them one step closer to eradicating another Colonist.
“Can’t do that, sweetheart,” Hudson said from next to her. “We need information from you.”
“On what?” she asked, glancing over at Hudson.
“On what was going on in the church,” Hudson said, looking out the window.
Her gaze met Nico’s again, and it felt like a fist to his diaphragm. Confusion, hope, and fear swirled together in those pools of blue. “It’s going to be okay,” he said quietly.
“Don’t make promises you can’t keep,” Simon mumbled next to him.
Blake cranked the car to the left and went into a parking garage. He slammed the car into park then took out his phone. “We need to call Noah.”
“He’s not going to be happy,” Hudson said, glancing at Nico.
Nico knew this, but he did what he had to do. And when he glanced over at the woman sitting next to him, he was damn happy he had.
The woman rubbed the ash on her arm, her forehead crinkled in puzzlement. “Why won’t this stuff come off me?” she mumbled through tears.
“You can see that?” Nico asked.
Her eyes grew wide, as if she had just said something she shouldn’t have.
“Oh, fuck,” Hudson said, swiveling in his seat to face her. “We got us a bad girl here, boys.”