Mortal Defiance (Dark Betrayal Trilogy #2)

Chapter 16



“Ree, it’s me.” Roland jerked her back against his chest; one of her sleeves tore as she struggled. When Ree’s power touched them, the dancers from the floor seemed to have woken from whatever spell had been holding them, and they began to scatter in fear, knocking over tables and chairs as they ran. Some of them were screaming about a gun, others were screaming about knives, but Ree didn’t care. The only thing she cared about was getting back to Paden.

“Let me go! Paden! He shot Paden!” The power flared across the floor in a wave of angry energy. She pulled power from the ground under the club, and the tables and chairs along the walls began to shake and fall over.

“He’s fine, Ree. He’s fine.” Roland turned her face so she was looking in the right direction. Paden was standing over the limp body of Mr. Duncan. He looked back toward Ree, nodded at Roland, and moved to where Sophie and Weylin were fighting. Blood dripped from the holes in his jacket, but it didn’t seem to bother him at all.

Paden moved across the dance floor with a liquid grace she’d never seen. It was beautiful and terrible at the same time. Every Dark One that came at him fell in a broken heap. Diving at a Dark One in his way, Paden grabbed the man’s head and swiftly broke his neck before tearing apart one of the metal chairs. Turning, he shoved the chair leg in the fallen Dark One’s chest. Taking the rest of the chair, he flung it at the backs of the Dark Ones near the bar, knocking them over. Weylin and Sophie quickly dispatched the others and made their way across the floor, toward the rest of their group.

“Not bad.” Roland nodded his head at Paden as he came back to Ree. She launched herself into Paden’s arms.

“Not bad? I think that was pretty impressive.” Tristan’s voice rang through the club. Ree looked up to see her brother smiling down at them. Sitting on the railing, his feet dangling in the air, he looked relaxed, even amused. Flanking him were Shannon and Della. However, Shannon’s face was grim, where Della’s looked manically happy. Pushing off from the railing, Tristan dropped to the dance floor, landing crouched like a cat. “Of course, what else can you expect from the special godling? He always had an edge in everything, so why not in immortality, too?”

“What is wrong with you, Tristan? Why the hell did you do this to yourself?” Ree looked at her brother and tried to push down the bile in her throat. Was this it? Was this going to be her chance to end this mess?

“I wanted to be the best, and now I am.” Holding his arms open, Tristan spun in a little circle as if to demonstrate. “I deserve the good stuff. Now I have power, money, and everything else I wanted. And after I kill you, I’ll even have a planet.” Shrugging, he looked at Ree with an almost sheepish expression. “Seems like a fair trade. Actually, I think I’m getting the better end of the deal.”

“What happened to you?” Ree stepped beside Paden, and Roland moved to her other side. “Why would you think this is better?”

“Well, because it is better. I can do whatever the hell I want, and no one cares. Well, except for you guys. Which is a real downer, you know?” Picking up a slim splinter from the broken chair, he used it to pick something out from under his fingernail. “You know what? You could always join me. Then we both win. What do you think, sis? Come to the dark side?”

Shaking her head, Ree stepped forward. “No, Tristan. Why don’t you come back to us? We can make you better.”

“I’m not sick, Ree.” Shaking his head, he threw the piece of metal on the ground. “I knew exactly what I was—” His words were cut off by the spear of power Ree shot at his chest. The fact that he had chosen all of this, that it hadn’t been forced on him, made Ree snap. The concentrated amount of energy was almost blinding as it flew across the room. Lightning-fast reflexes saved Tristan as he dodged to the side. The crackle of burning flesh sounded through the room as the energy sliced his arm, and he dove to the floor. The energy slammed into the stairs, exploding wood chips and metal with a large bang.

“Damnit, Ree! You could’ve killed me!” Tristan stood up cautiously, anticipating another throw. “Of course, I guess that was the point. Thankfully, I ate well not long ago and could sense the power building.”

“Why don’t you stand up all the way so I can try again?”

“Oh, that’s cute. Look at you, being all feisty.” Tristan threw a piece of metal at her head, but she used a shield to block it. Paden moved closer to her, his elbow brushing against her arm. She could feel his strength seeping into her as she pulled from those around her.

“Tristan.” Della spoke out loud, her voice sliding through the room like warm smoke. “It isn’t time.”

Tristan’s face closed down, his eyes flashing with anger. Ree realized there was more going on between those two than she had anticipated.

“Well, I guess it’s time to call it a night. Of course, I have a few friends that want to say hello before you go home.” Dozens of Dark Ones poured out of the employee doors, and Ree took a step back. “Don’t worry. I’ll see you.”

Chapter 24

Disappearing up the stairs with blinding speed, Tristan yanked Shannon behind him as they went through the loft in the back of the building. Ree held the shield in place as the Dark Ones began to advance, but she knew that she wouldn’t be able to hold it indefinitely.

“Bryce, the window, please.” Sophie’s voice was calm as she decided on a course of action. Bryce stood on the back of the booth and busted the glass out of the old window. Using the palm of his hand, he strong-armed the metal bars out of the way.

“Got it.” Bryce hopped down next to Ree. “There are sirens heading this way.”

“Oh, shit. I’m too pretty to go to jail.” Weylin’s voice cut through the commotion of the room. Dark ones were pressed against Ree’s shield, their teeth gnashing as they tried to claw their way through. Ree’s knees were growing weak, so she knew they had to get out of there soon.

“We need to go,” Ree said. Juliette hopped onto the back of the booth and slid through the window. Weylin, who was tall enough to see in from the outside, quickly followed her.

“C’mon, Ree. I’ve got you.” Weylin held his hands out for her, offering his support.

“Go, Ree.” Paden looked over his shoulder at her, his bright green eyes tense. His hand darted out to touch her cheek briefly.

“I’m not leaving you.”

“Ree, we’ll be fine. This will be fun.” Roland slipped a long knife out from his jacket. Stepping back, he smiled at Paden. “Shall we keep score, godling?”

“Sounds like a plan.” Something flashed in Paden’s eyes, and Ree realized it was excitement. He gave a cocky salute to Roland. “May the best immortal win.”

“C’mon, Ree.” Sophie pulled Ree toward the window.

Climbing up the booth, Ree felt her shield weaken. She turned toward Paden and Roland, fear clutching at her heart. “Please be careful. Please.” Weylin’s hands closed around her arms and he pulled her through the window, into his arms. He set her down and started leading her across the street. Sophie and Bryce were right behind her. When her vision began to cloud, she let go of the shield and prayed Paden and Roland made it out safely.

Bryce scooped Ree up into his arms, and they made it to Sophie’s shop in record time. Once inside, Ree began to pace. Sophie handed her an energy drink before going to stand next to the windows. Tension stiffened the older woman’s shoulders as she watched for the return of the rest of their group. Juliette sat down on the sofa next to Bryce and used a washcloth to wipe the blood from his knuckles. Turning on the small television, Melanie surfed the channels, looking for the news. There was a small bar at the bottom of a show, with a scrolling message announcing breaking news. Apparently someone had reported the shooting at the club, and the cops had the place surrounded.

No one said anything as they waited; only the television made any noise. Weylin brought Ree a banana once she had finished the energy drink. He propped open the swinging door that led to the front of the shop with a stool so he could watch out the large front windows. A cop car screamed past, lights flickering and siren blaring.

Biting her thumbnail, Ree continued her trek around the room, the pit of her stomach quivering with fear. A buzzing sound drew her attention to the bag she’d left next to the couch. Snatching the backpack off the floor, she dug through the front pocket for her cell phone. The ringing had stopped by the time she had it in her hand, but the flashing missed-calls icon showed twenty-two new messages. Sitting on the couch, Ree covered her face with her hands. She had forgotten to call her parents and she knew they were frantic, even without the umpteen messages.

“Call them and tell them you’re okay.” Sophie sat down next to Ree and looked at her with patient eyes. “With the shooting on the news, they are bound to be in a panic.”

“They’re going to want to know where I’ve been. They’re going to want me to come home, and I can’t. Not until I know that Paden and Roland are okay.”

“Tell them what you have to, Ree, but ease their minds.”

Nodding, Ree grabbed her phone and headed up the stairs. Better to not have to look at everyone as they listened to her conversation. Sitting down on the bed, she took a deep breath before dialing her home phone number. It only rang once before some picked up.

“Ree? Ree? Where are you? Are you okay?” Her father’s rushed words were rising in pitch, and Ree had trouble understanding him.

“It’s me, Dad. I’m okay. I’m sorry I forgot to call.”

“Where the hell have you been? Why didn’t you answer your phone?” Taking a deep breath, her father tried to speak slower. “You’re sure you’re okay?”

“Yes, I’m fine. I’m still not used to having a phone and forgot it was on silent.” Running her hands over the bedspread, she tried to smooth some of the wrinkles. “I didn’t mean to worry you.”

“Ree, there’s been a shooting downtown. Where are you?”

“I know, Dad. That’s what made me think to look at my phone. I’m at the antique shop, helping Sophie.” Ree looked up and hoped he heard the truth in her words.

“You were supposed to come home right after school, Ree. We needed to talk. Now your mother is practically catatonic. The only thing she’ll say is that Tristan is watching over her. It’s not good, Ree. You should have known not to put this kind of stress on her.” Anger laced his words, but what really made Ree cringe was the strain and hopelessness. “You need to come home right now.”

“Dad, I can’t come home yet.”

“Alastriana McKenna, you need to get your butt home right now. I’m not playing with you. Someone died at a club tonight. You have your boss bring you home, and you might as well tell her that you won’t be working there any more, too.”

Fear clutched Ree’s stomach, and her voice come out in a rush. “Who was it? Who died?”

“We’ll talk about it when you get home, Ree. Which I expect to be in less than ten minutes. Do you hear me?”

“Dad, listen to me. I need to know who died, okay? Tell me who it was!” Please, don’t let it be Paden or Roland. Please, I don’t want them to die for me, Ree thought to herself.

“Ree, I shouldn’t have said anything. We’ll talk about it—”

“Tell me who it was!” Ree stood up, pressing the phone to her ear.

“Duncan. The man that had recently taken over the club after the original owner disappeared.”

Falling back onto the bed, Ree breathed in and out several times before she was able to say anything else. “How did he die?”

“I don’t know, Ree. It doesn’t matter at this point. What matters is that you aren’t home yet. I expect you here in fifteen minutes. Do you hear me? I’m not joking around, Ree.”

“Yeah, Dad. I hear you. I’m sorry I worried you.”

“We’ll talk about it when you get here.” There was a pause, and Ree waited patiently for whatever was bothering him. “I love you, Ree.”

“Love you, too.” Hanging up the phone, Ree ran downstairs to see if the guys had shown back up.

Melanie was sitting at the bottom of the stairs. Looking over her shoulder, Mel shook her head no. Ree sat down next to her friend and put her head in her hands.

“My dad wants me home, but I can’t go yet. Not until I know they’re okay.”

“I know.” Putting an arm around Ree, Melanie put her head on Ree’s shoulder. “They’re going to be okay, Ree. They’re both too stubborn to let something happen.”

Ree snorted and put her head back in her hands.

When Sophie moved from her seat back to the windows, Ree peeked from between her hands. Anticipation rolled through the room as the others heard whatever had grabbed the older Guardian’s attention. Standing, Ree put her hand on the banister and reached with the power to see who was outside. When she felt the two people entering the parking lot, Ree flew from the stairs and out the door.

“Ree!” Sophie’s voice was lost in the winter wind as Ree launched herself at the two shadows rounding the corner. Throwing her arms around their necks, she squeezed tightly before stepping back and placing her hands on her hips.

“What took so long? We’ve been worried!”

Roland laughed outright, while Paden smirked. The others were standing behind Ree and she could feel their relief at seeing their friends, their family. Smiles brightened everyone’s face, even Sophie’s.

“It’s not funny! This was torture.” Shaking her head, Ree smiled to see them both unharmed.

“We had to take the long way back. The cops are out in force, and we were trying to not be seen.” Paden looked at Roland and laughed. “I never knew there were so many back alleys in Savannah. We even ran across some roofs. Who does that?”

“That would be me.” Grinning, Roland looked at Paden. “It saves a lot of time on commuting.”

“So, what happened?” Leaning forward, Weylin looked eager for details.

“I won.” Paden’s smile was brilliant as he looked at Ree possessively.

“Not by much, godling.” Roland shook his head in amusement. His blue eyes focused on Ree for a moment, but quickly looked away.

“C’mon! What was the final tally? What happened?”

“Geez. Later, Weylin. Ree has to get home. Her dad’s going to go ballistic as it is.” Juliette pushed Weylin’s shoulder.


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