“But we hope never to get there.” Daemon’s voice hardened. “We don’t plan to stay hiding forever. The city isn’t just a sanctuary for those forgotten or hunted. It’s also ground zero for the resistance.”* * *Tall oaks and elms gave way to swampy marshes that eventually leveled into long stretches of nothing but prairies. We’d stopped once to use the restroom, and then as night fell, we were on the road again.
Not the highways we’d been traveling.
Daemon took dusty, country roads that bypassed the larger cities near Houston that were still populated, but I knew we were getting close to Zone 3 because we’d stopped seeing any cars out on the road or any sign of life or light in the homes dotting the grasslands, or in the apartments stretching like empty, bare hands into the starry night.
A nervous anxiety filled me as Daemon pulled into an abandoned car wash, followed by the Jeep.
“We walk from here,” Zoe said, opening the car door.
I stepped out into the cool night air, making out dust-covered cars in the darkness as I went to the trunk of the car to grab my bag.
Luc joined me, taking the bag before I could drape it over my shoulder. “I got this.”
“I can carry it,” I told him.
“We have to move fast.” He closed the trunk.
“Are we in Houston?” I asked.
“Suburbs.” Daemon came around the back as the other three joined us. “Everything here is abandoned. We’ve got about a mile on foot. You good with that?”
“Then let’s go,” Archer said from somewhere in the shadows.
Luc took my hand and squeezed. My stomach was churning like a fan set to high as we walked out the back of the car wash and cut through overgrown, empty backyards.
No one spoke as we hurried through the darkness, and I knew that all of them could move a million times faster than I could but were slowing down, exerting far more energy to do so.
I could try to go faster, and considering what I’d done in the woods, I probably could be just as fast as they were, maybe even faster.
But I didn’t even know how to tap into whatever was inside me, and if I did, would I turn around and try to kill everyone around me? It seemed like whenever I went badass assassin, I went after anything I perceived as a threat, and since everyone around was either a Luxen or an Origin, I didn’t think that was going to end well.
So, I walked as fast as I could, holding Luc’s hand with a death grip.
“You’re doing perfectly,” Luc said as he caught a low-hanging wire, lifting it out of the way.
“Thank you,” I whispered.
The mile seemed to stretch for an eternity as we crossed vacant streets and sprawling ranchers, past pools that smelled like moss and knee-high, swaying reeds.
At any given moment, I expected a chupacabra to jump out of nowhere.
Luc chuckled as he looked over his shoulder at me. “Chupacabras aren’t real, Peaches.”
“I don’t know about that.”
“Kat would probably agree with you,” Daemon said from up ahead. “She’s convinced they’re real. She says she can hear them howl at night.”
“That would probably be a dog,” Luc commented.
“Or a coyote,” Zoe said. “I definitely think there are coyotes around here.”
My eyes widened. “I hope it’s a friendly coyote.”
Someone chuckled. Maybe Dawson. Then Archer said, “Let’s not find out.”
Finally, after an eternity, we cleared a heavy thicket, and I saw it in the silvery moonlight.
“Holy crap,” I whispered.
A wall of steel stood before us as far as the eye could see. It had to be close to a hundred feet tall, and as we edged around it, staying close to the cropping of heavy trees, I saw no opening.
How in the world did they build this, knowing there were people inside?
“They didn’t care.” Luc tugged me along.
Up ahead, I saw one of the twins slip into their Luxen form, becoming a brilliant white beacon. “What is he doing?”
“Letting them know we’re here,” Luc answered.
A heartbeat later, the Luxen slipped back into his human form, and I heard the soft groaning of steel rubbing against itself.
“Daemon?” came a low male voice.
“Here,” the Luxen responded, and then we were crossing the dirt trench, heading for an opening I couldn’t even see. The twins disappeared into the wall, and then I lost sight of Zoe and Grayson.
My heart launched into my throat as my feet slowed. I really had no idea what awaited me on the other side of the wall. A forgotten city. People who would either welcome us or be wary. Someone in there might know what was going to happen to me.
Could tell me what to expect.
Months earlier, I wouldn’t have wanted to know the truth. I would’ve rather hidden from it. But I wasn’t her anymore.