tempest reborn (jane true #6) Page 16

‘That was the shittiest offer anyone has ever made me,’ I said, leaning back in my chair and giving Trevor my shaming stare. It didn’t faze him.

‘It’s actually a very generous offer, which I think you’ll realize after some thought. Now, shall we get you to London?’

With that, Trevor stood, offering me his hand. I refused it, getting to my feet by myself. I also wasn’t finished talking.

‘Trevor, I’m serious. I know you have to do what you’re doing, that this is your job. But as soon as this hell is over, I’m done. I’m not a warrior. I never was, and I never will be. I’m just someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and ended up having to save the world. That doesn’t make me a hero.’

Trevor looked at me, and he dropped the mask of genial politeness with which we’d talked until then. ‘Who said anything about being a hero?’ he asked. ‘This is about power. You’ve got power that people want, Jane. You’ll never be able to walk away from that fact.’

And with that he left the room, taking my hopes for the future with him.

Chapter Nineteen

Turns out our new military friends had what was basically a Concorde at their base, so we made it to London in amazing time. Surrounded by Trevor’s own men and women, I couldn’t spill my guts to Anyan about my feelings over Trevor’s speech. But the barghest slept the whole way anyway, after eating an enormous meal. Considering I wanted him at top strength for a number of reasons, I didn’t begrudge him the recuperation time.

When we arrived at Heathrow, we were met by official-looking vehicles that whisked us through a set of security lines for which we didn’t even have to get out of the car. I felt like a scary Beyoncé with all the special treatment, coupled with the way the guards looked at our vehicles. Trevor might look a bit like Dilbert, but he was obviously a major player in his world.

I tried to tell myself his help at this time was a good thing, but I wasn’t convinced.

‘So where’s the Red now?’ I asked as we started the drive into the city.

Trevor checked his iPhone again before speaking. ‘No reports. She’s gone quiet after a long night.’

‘Damn. What’s the plan?’

‘If you’re up for it, we’ll tour the damage?’

I nodded. Maybe we could glean something about the Red’s mental state from the attacks, although I doubted it. I was pretty sure she wasn’t working on a plan at this point. She was venting her rage and loss.

The fucked-up thing was that I understood why she’d do that. I mean, not why she would hurt others as part of her grieving process, but I could understand being so full of rage and hurt. We’d killed the love of her life, her brother and mate. That might have been creepy, but it was also quite a powerful set of relationships, all rolled into one incestuous dragon package. Considering she was evil to begin with, no wonder she was randomly striking out.

The scary part was that I also understood this striking-out stage would pass. Then she’d go for her real revenge. If her tantrums could kill a few hundred people, it was horrifying to think about what she could do given time to plan.

My thoughts continued along such dark paths as we drove through London’s deserted streets, seeing only emergency crews and soldiers directing everyone to stay indoors or take to the Underground to use as shelters, just like they did in World War Two. London looked and felt like I would imagine a war zone would, something I never thought I’d experience in my lifetime.

‘Here we are,’ Trevor said as our vehicle approached a smoking ruin. ‘Westminster. Or what’s left of it.’

Our vehicle stopped, and the others in our cavalcade pulled up beside us. Anyan and I got out of the car we’d been riding in, and I unconsciously reached for both the labrys and the silver stone in my pocket. My mind brushed against the place the labrys hid, waiting for me, as did my fingers on the stone. It was less of a comforting gesture, although it was that, and more of a subtle reminder that if we were at war, I was the warrior. It was a necessary reminder. Seeing the destruction of a building that was part of my cultural imagination of Britain made me want to run home to my childhood bed.

Iris, Caleb, and Ryu had gotten out of the car they’d ridden in, and were looking with similar expressions of horrified awe at the crumbling ruin in front of us. None of us asked about definitive death tolls, probably because we didn’t want to hear them. I felt a small, invisible hand press my knee, a bizarrely comforting gesture from our secret gwyllion ally.

‘So this is where she attacked first?’ Anyan asked from beside me. He was looking almost his old self, and now that we were back on the ground, I could feel a steady pull of his earth magics. He was healing himself with every step, building back up his physical and magical strength. As for his emotional and mental … only time would heal those wounds. Time and lovin’, and I planned on helping him have both.

‘Yes. Westminster first. She struck Big Ben and then attacked Parliament, then St Paul’s. Then it was just … random.’

I pursed my lips, considering, before I spoke. ‘I wouldn’t say it was random. She got the attention of the world first, and then she showed off what she could do.’

‘Well, we definitely saw that. The military didn’t stand a chance against her.’

‘You need water,’ I said, moving forward a bit to get a clearer view of the wreckage.

‘Water?’ Trevor asked, already reaching for his phone.

‘Yes. Fire trucks are good. Daniel knows all this,’ I said, but then remembered Daniel was dead. And who knew how the chain of command for reporting things worked when you were dealing with government organizations that weren’t supposed to exist? Someone should have known, through Daniel, that water was a weakness for the Red and the White, but obviously they didn’t. Considering Trevor’s words to me, I was pretty sure there were all sorts of territorial disputes within this secret unit, and Daniel had been as involved as Trevor.

‘Fire trucks,’ I repeated, ‘and those crop-duster planes might work, although the Red would probably just swat them out of the sky. Maybe drones could be rigged with water?’

I was talking out of my ass by this point, having no idea what a drone could do other than what I’d learned on the nightly news.

‘We’ll look into it,’ Trevor said, his chubby fingers texting furiously. ‘Maybe we can hold her back until we figure out what she wants.’

‘Wants?’ Anyan asked, rounding on Trevor. He’d been quiet for our walk, taking everything in his usual way. But I could see some of that old barghest spirit rising in him. ‘She doesn’t want anything. She just wants to destroy everything she can. That’s what she wanted before we killed her lover and brother. Now, there’s nothing she wants that we can give her, as we took the only thing she loved. All she’s got left is revenge.’

Trevor stopped texting, raising his eyes to Anyan’s. A flash of fear went through them at the idea of an enemy who genuinely wanted nothing. We may not understand the mindset of a terrorist, for example, but we could learn about them and make guesses about what they wanted. Hell, they usually made videos telling us in great detail what they wanted. And even if their demands seemed illogical or impossible, their desires were there for us to mull over.

It was rare to have an enemy who genuinely wanted nothing except to kill. Rare and horrifying, as there was suddenly no room for negotiation.

Hiral started feeling up my leg again, but this time he was tugging on my jeans like he wanted me to walk forward. I cleared my throat, meeting my crew’s eyes carefully before again addressing Trevor.

‘We want a few minutes to look around. Alone.’

Trevor looked uncomfortable. ‘I’d prefer you had some of my men with you. For safety.’

I arched an eyebrow. There was nothing his men could save us from, quite frankly, no matter how big their guns. I forced my brow back to normal before speaking, keeping my tone carefully modulated.

‘Trevor, let’s not kid ourselves. You and your people are here as a favor. We’ll let you play with the big dogs, but don’t think for a minute we couldn’t be out of here the second we wanted to. You know what we’re capable of.’

I saw Trevor’s Adam’s apple bob as he absorbed my not-quite-entire truths. The fact was the creature could poof only one or two of us out of there, especially after all the mojo it had expended helping create the stone; and then getting Anyan back had necessitated an enormous output of energy. It couldn’t keep up this pace forever, any more than we could.

But Trevor didn’t need to know that. I’m sure he already knew we had the ability to appear out of nowhere before, and of the Red’s sudden disappearance in Hong Kong. If he thought such occurrences were normal, we’d be a lot better off…

‘Yes, well, if you’re certain you’ll be safe…’ the little man said, his voice trailing off when his words were met by my contemptuous little smile.

‘We’ll call you if we need you,’ I said drily, moving forward and motioning to my friends to follow.