Chapter Twenty Six
Dex hadn’t been kidding when he’d said he had connections here in Chicago. The hotel room he landed us wasn’t a five star presidential suite or anything, but it was big, spacious, and most importantly—it had two beds. Dex immediately threw his suit jacket onto one of them, thereby claiming it, and I went over to look out the window.
Chicago stretched out before me, both above and below. There were so many lights that for a few seconds it was actually hard to tell the city from the stars. It was past midnight, but when I looked down my keen werewolf eyes could pick out people on the sidewalk below. The highway a few miles off was packed bumper to bumper with traffic. I wasn’t sure how that made me feel. There were more people in every square mile of this city than I’d met in my whole life. Just thinking about that made me feel exposed.
But at the same time, I was in awe. Sad as it was to say, living with Hendricks for so long had made his attitude about humanity rub off on me a little. But this view destroyed all that in a second. This city had been built by humans. All these magnificent buildings, the soaring bridges, the—
NO. BAD, the Silverblood growled inside me. TOO MANY. GO!
For once, I actually understood where it was coming from. It was big, it was strong, and all those puny little people were nothing but prey to it. But even the mightiest hunter could be brought down if there was enough prey to do it. Like a swarm of mice overpowering a lion. Even if they didn’t kill it, I think my wolf would have died of embarrassment anyway.
“So, should we get to work now?” Dex asked. “Or wait till morning?”
I thought for a second. My brain told me I should be exhausted. After the confrontation I’d had with Granny I should have completely been drained. But that hadn’t happened to this me, it had been the me in Granny’s domain. This me had been sound asleep for close to twelve hours straight. It was awake, alert, ready to work even though its brain insisted it couldn’t be.
I let the curtains fall back over the window and turned to him. “Let’s get started.”
He nodded, putting his jacket back on, and made for the door. I followed. He was doing a good job of pretending nothing had happened on the bus, and I was more than happy to play along. With every minute that passed, more and more of what had happened at Granny’s cottage was slipping away. I wondered if I’d even remember it at all by the time the sun came up. I was fine with that too. I was here on serious business, and I didn’t need those kinds of thoughts distracting me. It was…
I stopped with my hand on the doorframe as a wave of nausea washed over me.
It was time to kill again.
“Amber, you coming?”
I nodded and followed him to the elevator. “So, how do we go about…how did you put it? Introducing ourselves to the Mythic community?”
“Well, first thing we have to do is find them.”
“And how do we do that?”
He grinned. “They’re everywhere, Sugarsnout. Especially where you don’t expect to find them. Luckily, I know exactly where they are.”
The elevator arrived, and we rode it down to the bottom floor.
“And what do we do once we’ve found them?” I asked once we were making for the main doors.
“Exactly what introducing ourselves sounds like,” he answered.
“What, we just say,” I waved my hands vaguely, “hi, we’re looking for a werewolf named Kaylie with a stupid magic glove?”
Dex’s eyes slid from side to side. “I’d leave out the part about the gauntlet if I were you. But other than that, pretty much.”
I stopped in my tracks. “And you actually expect that to work?”
“Sugarsnout, Sugarsnout, Sugarsnout.” He smirked and shook his head, holding the door open for me. “You’ve been part of this world for four years now, and you still have no idea how any of it works.”
The noise and the smells of the city hit me like an out of control dump truck the second I stepped outside. I coughed, instinctively reaching to cover my ears, but then forced my hands down to my sides again. After a few seconds, my body adjusted itself to the overwhelming sensations and I was able to act somewhat normally.
But I decided then and there that I wouldn’t spend a minute in this city longer than I absolutely had to.
“Cut me some slack,” I snapped at Dex. “I spent most of that time living under a rock. Literally.”
He laughed at that, which was at least one good sound in the eternal symphony of chaos around us. “Fair enough, I guess. So here’s the deal: Mythic communities are like big dysfunctional families. They don’t always like each other, usually don’t spend a lot of time together, but everyone always knows everybody else. We just need to find them, let them know why we’re here, and let word travel on its own until it reaches the ears we want to hear it.”
“Kaylie and her pack,” I whispered.
“Exactly. I picked our hotel because I knew it was close to a minor sanctuary. It’s just a couple blocks away.”
I nodded, and we walked in silence. I used that time to sightsee. Can you blame me? I’d spent the last three years living underground, and I was going back underground as soon as I was done here. I wanted to make the best of every second of freedom I had.
Unfortunately, I quickly found that there wasn’t a whole lot to see. Just a crap ton of buildings. While they looked impressive from above, from the sidewalk it just felt claustrophobic. Like walking through a deep, dark canyon—except that the canyon walls were covered with windows, and you had no idea which ones people were staring at you out of. Or who.
“So, uh, where’s the Sears Tower?” I asked a few minutes later.
I looked at him in surprise. “What? Did it get knocked down or something?”
Again, he burst out laughing. “Nothing that exciting, Sugarsnout. They just call it the Willis Tower now. And it’s,” he waved vaguely to our left, “somewhere over that way.”
I looked in the direction he’d gestured, but whether it was because of the buildings in my way or because it was so dark, I couldn’t see it. Sighing, I put my hands in my pockets and kept walking.
A few minutes later, he stopped us. “We’re here.”
I looked up…and up, and up, and up. We were standing at the foot of one of the tallest towers in the city. Its lights were on, despite the early hour, and a gigantic sign across the top spelled Lockout in huge glowing letters.
“That’s the Mythic hideout?” I asked in disbelief. “But it’s so…so…”
“Obvious?” Dex asked with a smirk. “What were you expecting? An empty subway tunnel?”
He chuckled. “I told you, the best place for them to hide is where nobody expects them to be. Everybody would expect to find them in a subway tunnel, or an abandoned building. But who would think to look in the corporate office of the biggest lock manufacturer in the world?”
I looked up at the building again. “Not me.”
“Exactly. So listen,” he put an arm around my shoulders and pulled me in close to whisper. “There’s something you really need to know before we go in there.”
“They don’t like you here, do they?”
“They don’t…” Dex paused. “How did you know that?”
“Dex, nobody likes you.”
He looked at me for a few seconds, and then shrugged. “Fair enough. Let’s go in!”
And before I could protest, he locked his arm with mine and pulled me toward the door.