The sun rose, casting long shadows through the dusty warehouse windows.
Dex and I were back in the warehouse on Gunnery and Floydston, where Kaylie and I had fought before. The tables had turned this time, though. Today, we were the ones waiting for Kaylie and her pack to show their faces. Dex already had his scepter in hand, even though he’d said he still couldn’t interfere. This was between me and Kaylie. For my part, I had my shift pins on. One on my shirt, the other on my pants. When I changed—and this time, I would change—the magic in those pins would make my clothes vanish. It was a handy little tool, especially if you didn’t want to have to go shopping for a new outfit every time you shifted.
They were…a gift from Stark.
I shook my head, ridding it of those thoughts. I could gloom it up later, when I was safe and sound back in Hendricks’ lair. Well, sound at least. But then again…I glanced at Dex from the corner of my eye, feeling those now-familiar butterflies flutter in my stomach. Maybe things would be better when I went back this time, now that I had him. Don’t get me wrong, life would still suck. There was literally no way it couldn’t suck, being stuck with Hendricks. But maybe Dex could make it suck a little bit less.
He caught me looking at him, and I snapped my eyes forward again. This wasn’t the time to be going all fuzzy wuzzy with him. I needed to focus. The only people who needed to see my fuzzy side today were the Urban Predators, and they’d be getting more acquainted with my teeth and claws than with my fur.
That sent a shudder down my spine. Things were finally back to normal. After my little vacation of mystery solving, it was time to kill again. I’d already gotten a headstart by killing Amnubar. Next was Kaylie, and I doubted she would put up as much of a fight as he had.
Dex was still looking at me. I slowly turned my head back toward him, trying to keep my thoughts on the mission, but looking into those eyes, it was a little hard.
“What’s up?” I asked.
He opened his mouth to reply, but then closed it and shrugged. With one hand resting in his pocket and the other idly twirling his scepter, he looked like he was just waiting for his favorite coffee shop to open. But I already knew him well enough to see the tension he was so good at hiding. The way he elected to stand instead of lean, the way his eyebrows were ever so slightly furrowed. Something was bothering him, and that bothered me.
“Come on,” I pressed him. “We don’t have a lot of time here. Just tell me!”
He sighed. “It’s…I dunno. I shouldn’t even bring it up.”
“Dex,” I said sternly, “if I die here without knowing what you’re thinking, I’ll be rolling in my grave for the next thousand years. Out with it!”
That brought a smirk to his face, but it quickly vanished. “It’s just that, after we’re done here, everything’s going to go back to normal.”
“As normal as it ever is for us,” I snorted.
“True.” He didn’t even smile that time. “The thing is, though…why should it?”
I paused, then turned to look at him. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, Hendricks treated you like crap before. When you go back, he’ll treat you like crap again. Twenty years from now, he’ll still be treating you like crap. Why should you have to deal with that?”
That did a little bit to lower my spirits, and I hugged myself. “Because he’s the only one keeping Majestic from finding me.”
“No, he isn’t.”
“So it’s not like I can just…” I stopped, replayed what he’d just said in my head, and the jumped a little. “Wait, what?”
“You haven’t been under Hendricks’ protection for over a month, Amber,” said Dex, his eyes stone cold with seriousness. “Not since we faked your death back at the abandoned hotel.”
I blinked slowly at him. “But…But if that’s true, then why…”
“I’ve been keeping them from finding you. I know their tricks forwards and backwards. I know every loophole. You don’t need Hendricks.”
Those words hit my brain like a runaway train. My heart began to pound in my chest. My head felt like it was spinning. Was I breathing? I honestly couldn’t tell. I…didn’t need…Hendricks?
This wasn’t good. I was getting distracted. Kaylie and her pack could walk right in those doors right now, and I might not even notice. But no matter how hard I tried to focus, those words kept dragging me right back.
I didn’t need Hendricks.
“It- It doesn’t matter,” I said quickly. “He thinks he owns me. He’d never let me go. And you…”
“Don’t worry about me,” Dex said without hesitation. “And as for getting away…well, that’s why we’re here.”
I cocked my head in confusion. “What do you…the glove!”
He nodded. “With that, I think the two of us actually have a chance of taking him down.”
I can’t describe the wave of excitement him saying that brought me—or the terrible emotions that came when I crashed back down into reality.
“That won’t work,” I said, shaking my head. “I’ve been punched by that thing, and it didn’t even break any bones. Hendricks wouldn’t even feel it.”
Dex gripped his scepter tight, then walked over to me, leaning down a little so that we were face to face. “After everything you’ve done, Amber, you’re still underestimating yourself.”
I snorted. “We’re talking about fighting Hendricks. I think you’re the one overestimating me.”
“Do you remember what I told you about the Gauntlet of Malleus?”
I thought back. “Something about it drawing power from anger?”
He nodded. “Exactly. And who on earth has more to be angry at than you?”
I thought about that—and that was more than enough to get my blood boiling. Seeing Dad get killed, finding out I wasn’t human anymore, driving my mom almost to insanity only for her to be used as a hostage against me. Finding out Stark had been the wolf who’d attacked me. Murdering Kimberly not once, but freaking twice. Hendricks. Majestic. Becky. D.K. Kaylie. Amber.
I clenched my fists with a white knuckled grip, my nails digging shallow cuts into my palms. Dex was right about one thing: I did have plenty of anger stored up inside me. But…
Sighing, I let all that anger leak out of me and shook my head. “It won’t be enough.”
Dex took me by the arm. “But what if it is?”
“It’s too dangerous!”
“He’d never be able to hurt you again!”
“He’ll kill us both, Dex!”
“Not if you kill—”
I turned on him, eyes blazing with fury. “If I kill him, you’ll never get your cure!”
That finally shut him up. He closed his mouth, letting go of my arm and backing a couple of steps away. I crossed my arms and looked away. He’d only been trying to help. I hated having to bring up something like that. But I had to. Hendricks would never kill me, not while I was still the only Silverblood he owned. But Dex was another story. I wouldn’t have been able to stand it if he—
“There are more important things than getting my cure,” he interrupted my thoughts. I looked at him again, and found him looking back with the most wide eyed, innocent stare I’d ever seen on him. “Like taking care of you.”
My heart melted. “Dex, I love you. And I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but—”
Before I could finish, the doors to the warehouse flew open with a deafening BANG! In strode the Urban Predators. Kaylie was in the lead, with the others making a V formation behind her. Benny Rattail was on her left, with Twitchy to his left. Bro and Sis, the twins, flanked Kaylie on her right.
And they looked freaking pissed.
I stepped forward, all thoughts of romance and rebellion immediately forgotten. “I’m glad you decided to show up. Did you bring the glove?”
With stiff, jerky movements, Kaylie held the black metal glove up—and then threw it on the floor.
“Good,” I said. “Then are you ready for our rematch?”
Kaylie’s lips drew back in a feral snarl. “This ain’t no rematch.”
I blinked. “Then what—”
“Tyler was my brother, not theirs!” she yelled, pointing at her packmates. “But Amnubar was a brother to all of us.”
My heart sank into my stomach when I realized where she was going with this.
The others stepped forward to stand beside her. Not as support, but as allies. Kaylie’s eyes flashed with murderous fire.
“This time,” she growled, “you’re fighting the whole pack!”