“I’m not spending any energy on vengeance. The Kujoo will do worse than I could on my own,” Tristan said.
“Going to be a little hard to accomplish that if they go home the minute you get the rock, isn’t it?”
His smile was full of secrets. “The Kujoo have a plan to destroy the Beladors, and it has nothing to do with them touching the rock or with me battling Beladors, which keeps Shiva and Macha out of the picture. They’ve created a brilliant strategy with the Medb that will wipe every Belador from the earth, including their ancestors.”
Was he jerking her around, trying to convince her he was all-powerful, or was he really telling the truth? She saw a flaw in his proclamation of victory. “You can’t let them kill all the Beladors. You carry Belador blood. You’d die, too.”
“That’s finally the positive side of being half-breeds. The worst that will happen to us is to feel a weakening of our powers for a brief time, but Alterants will survive. Once I have the Ngak Stone, I’ll share my strength with our new clan of Alterants. We will survive and prosper.”
Why was he telling her this? He had to know she’d tell the Beladors as soon as she got free. Did he want her to tell the Beladors so her tribe would attack the Kujoo?
Did he really think that just because he was an Alterant she’d join his side if he was part of the annihilation of everything that mattered to her? “Brina won’t sit quietly while you do this.”
“By all means, tell her. Tell all the Beladors. The more the merrier. The Medb will be waiting.”
That definitely sounded like a trap. “What do you mean?”
“That’s all I’m sharing. Be smart and come with me.”
“When did you start thinking I was Barbie and you were Ken? What are you offering me to come with you? I’ll take a convertible in any color but pink.”
“You could save the Beladors.”
She didn’t believe he would help her do that. “How?”
“Give me what I want and I’ll tell you how.”
“Oh, sure. Hand you the rock and trust you not to kill everyone with it.”
Tristan cocked his head to one side, studying her. “Here’s a freebie to use as you choose. If you tell Brina I’ve escaped and am working with the Medb, she’ll come straight to me and she’ll die first, which works for me.”
“She only travels as a hologram.” That was common knowledge among anyone who knew about Brina.
He shrugged. “The Medb shared a lot of information with me, including Brina and Tzader’s history. They can kill her if she comes to them this time in any form.”
What did he mean about Brina and Tzader’s history? He’d said that as if he meant the two of them together. And he knew about Brina in hologram form.
The Medb had been doing a good job of educating Tristan.
He wasn’t finished sharing. “If Brina comes to me, so will Tzader and his sidekick, Quinn, who will call in an army of Beladors. They’ll play into the Medb and Kujoo’s plans, then they’ll all die before the Kujoo get to the point of wiping out the Belador race. You decide if you want to tell Brina, because she can find me the minute she learns I’ve escaped. Up to you to tell them or not.”
“If you hurt Tzader or Quinn, you’ll wish you were back in that cage,” she promised.
“If I was only an Alterant, you might win, but not with the power of the Medb behind me, and I’ll be even more powerful once I get the Ngak Stone.” Tristan’s confidence froze her blood. “You want to keep your tribe safe? Find that rock and bring it to me yourself on Wednesday morning, and I’ll tell you how to protect the Beladors.”
The pain in her leg interfered with thinking straight. “Let’s say I believe you, which I don’t. What if I don’t find the rock first?”
“If I find the rock first I’ll give you one other chance to save the Beladors.”
Did he think they were playing Let’s Make A Deal? “What would you possibly be willing to take in trade for letting the Beladors live?”
Both offers were unfair, unrealistic and undesirable. Stay with him? He was insane on top of being a monster.
Tristan stood quietly for a moment. “I need a female Alterant to populate our species.”
Ah, consolation female for the group. He was out of his ever-lovin’ mind. “And if I choose to accept either of these incredibly attractive offers, how would I find you if the Nightstalkers don’t know?”
He smiled at her sarcasm as if he’d find her entertaining company. “I plan to get my hands on that rock first. When I do, I’ll call you to me.”
None of this made sense, and he was crazier than bat shit if he thought she’d go for that bunch of hooey. But she’d play along since he was going to let her live. “I’ll have to think about it. I don’t understand any of this.”
Tristan touched his fingers to her chin and she held still only to show him she didn’t fear him. She could lie with her body as well as her mouth. “You will eventually, but I’ve told you enough for now. Make the right choice when the time comes. I take care of what’s mine.”
She scoffed. “I am not yours.”
“Yet.” He lifted his fingers and combed them through his thick blond hair. “Don’t waste your time trying to follow me. You can’t.”
Evalle shook with rage over his arrogance to think she’d consider walking away from the Beladors for him. Sure, a part of her wanted to be safe and out from under the threat of the Tribunal. But not with this guy, who had been trying to kill her until he’d realized who she was.
What about everything else he’d told her?
Could Brina be killed if she appeared only as a hologram? Did the Medb have a way to reach her through that form with the Ngak Stone? What if she didn’t believe there was a Medb trap and told the Beladors, then her tribe was lured to their deaths? Doing so could doom Tzader and Quinn. That wasn’t a risk she wanted to take. And would they even believe her, given she’d been warned by a rogue Alterant?
Tristan strolled quietly to the street and disappeared. The minute he stepped out of the park, the buzzing in her ears subsided.
Had she been inside a warded area or some sort of spell zone? She didn’t think Alterants could do that kind of magic or disappear, but then she didn’t know as much as Tristan did about Alterants, Brina or the Beladors, because Brina had kept her in the dark about so much.
And she didn’t know how much of Tristan’s ability was due to Noirre majik.
She sent a telepathic message. Tzader, we need to meet. I’ve got news on the Ngak Stone and it’s not good.
Within a minute, Tzader answered, Meet at Trey’s house. I’ll contact the rest of the team. You bring Storm.
She’d forgotten about Storm and limped around, turning in a circle as she searched the park for him. Using her kinetic ability, she pulled her sunglasses up from the ground and put them on.
Her calf muscle ached like something was trying to chew its way out where the ghoul had stabbed her. It felt as if her skin was burning from the inside out.
The rain had died down to a drizzling mist. There came Storm down the concrete steps in the middle of the park. He jogged up to her, his face lined with worry when he touched her cheek.
She flinched when his fingers brushed her bruised face.
“What happened to you? I can feel sharp needles of pain coming off you.”
“Got stabbed in the back of my leg by something like that ghoul thing you chased. You catch him?”
“No. And he’s not the only one. I ran into three more in the park. I had to stay and watch over a human couple until the ghouls left.” Storm stepped around behind her and squatted down, gently checking her leg.
But the slightest touch sent spasms of pain shooting up her calf and thigh. “Crap!”
“I don’t like the color oozing out of this wound.”
“What do you mean? I bleed red just like everyone else.”
“There’s purple running with the blood. You could be infected by some sort of majik. This smells like spoiled oranges.”
That would be the color and smell of Medb majik. What would that do to her? “We have to meet the rest of the team at Trey’s house.”
“You aren’t walking far with that.” Storm stood up and leaned as though to lift her.
“Don’t even think about picking me up if you want to draw your next breath,” she warned.
“You’re so stubborn.” He didn’t try to hide the irritation in his voice. “Whatever’s in your system could cause you to shift involuntarily or kill you if it stays in long enough.”
“I’ll let you know if I start feeling twitchy.” She sounded like a snotty bitch, but she was working real hard not to upchuck.
“That’s reassuring,” he said in a tight voice. “How far is Trey’s house?”
“About a mile.”
“We’d get there a lot faster and you wouldn’t be in as much pain if you’d let me help you.”
“I can handle the pain.” Barely. “Let’s go.” She hobbled along, trying not to think about how sick she felt. What had that ghoul infected her with?
“What’s the meeting about?” Storm asked.
“I found the Ngak Stone.”
“Where is it?”
“Worst possible place. The stone and the woman who has it are with a Kujoo warrior.” And they couldn’t have picked a worse person to take control of the stone if Tristan was successful. Had Tristan been telling her the truth about being sent to a cage before he’d shifted?
If so, that meant Brina could be lying to her about the other Alterants.
What about Vyan? How did he fit into all this?
She didn’t know why Vyan had tried to protect the woman from Tristan, but just the fact that the Kujoo warrior had done so made Evalle wonder if there was some dissent among the Kujoo.
Regardless, Vyan had to relish wiping out all the Beladors as much as the other Kujoo and Tristan did.
Heat crawled up her leg, tugging her awareness back to the most immediate threat. Could Medb majik kill an Alterant?
Just her suck-ass luck to be the test case.
Laurette waited for the man lying in her living room to get up and kill her.
He could do it. Thanks to her magic rock, she’d had enough vision to see him draw a sword on another guy who’d thrown lightning bolts from his fingers in Piedmont Park.
A sword. Lightning bolts from humans.
All that had been before she’d magically traveled from the park to her little cottage a couple blocks away.
She looked down at the glowing rock in her hand. Magic. She’d never believed in magic, but what other explanation was there for standing in one place one minute then showing up in another the next?
Brutus came running back into the living room, his mouth still dripping water from where he’d gone to his bowl in the kitchen. She’d freed his leash from the inert guy’s body the minute she’d gotten here, but his water-soaked body was still sprawled in the middle of her floor. Dripping all over her braided rug that had seen better years.
Grandpa Barrett would hoot over this if he were still alive. He used to tell her how life was full of magic.
That a miracle was just pure magic.
She could understand how a hundred voices raised in prayer to a higher form could result in a miracle.
But a rock?
Brutus sniffed all around the arm of the unconscious man on the floor. Then he sniffed the guy’s long wet hair also clinging to her rug.
“Careful, Brutus. He might wake up,” she whispered. She wished he would wake up so she could ask him who he was and how he’d known about her rock. And how she’d gotten home.
This guy had told her, “Run and get rid of that rock.”
After what she’d seen tonight, there was no way she’d let go of this rock. It had been the only thing to save her at the park. And who was that woman who had shown up and that other guy who’d tried to kill this one?
That tall woman had called this guy Vyan.
She’d also told Laurette to get rid of the rock.
The man in Laurette’s living room moaned, but the sound barely reached her ears.
Brutus ran over and jumped up on the sofa next to her, where they normally sat to listen to a television show.
Guilt started eating at her even though she’d laid a towel over this Vyan’s shoulder. Those lightning bolts had cut his shoulder and stabbed his chest. He was still bleeding.
If she didn’t stop the bleeding, he might die.
Then what would she do? How would she explain any of this to the police?
What about the rock? If the rock was full of magic, she could use it to heal him. She lifted the rock and said, “Fix this guy’s wounds.” Nothing happened. “Make him healthy.” Still nothing. “Make him go away?”
His body didn’t move an inch.