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Chapter Forty Six

Kaylie threw a punch almost before I could react, and I threw myself to the side. Her gauntleted fist passed less than an inch away from my face, hitting the wall behind me instead. Just like the first, that wall was instantly decimated, and the force of the explosion threw me forward—right into Kaylie!

 

“You’re insane, you know that?” I yelled as we both went rolling across the old dusty floor together.

 

We struck the next wall, and while Kaylie wound up for another punch, I put my foot on the wall and thrust off as hard as I could. Kaylie’s fist flashed, hitting only the open air, but the power behind her punch blew a hole in the ceiling big enough to drive a car through.

 

We both scrambled to our feet, facing each other down from across the hallway. “I’m insane? You just murdered my whole pack!”

 

“Because your pack just tried to murder me!” I shot back.

 

“Because you murdered my brother!

 

She came at me again, arm cocked behind her head and ready to disintegrate my face. My heart was racing with fear. It would only take one hit from that thing to end this fight. My Silverblood could probably tank two or three of those hits, but I didn’t trust this rickety old floor to support its weight. This was going to come down to me vs her in our human forms.

 

And I was unarmed.

 

But there was one upside to this, which Kaylie revealed as she attacked. She threw her fist forward, glove trailing red light like a comet, and I ducked and rolled right underneath her outstretched arm. I felt the power of the gauntlet be released behind me, but left me untouched as I rolled back to my feet and sprang upwards with a savage punch of my own straight to Kaylie’s face.

 

Kaylie was a good fighter—I should know, I’d faced her more than once. This wasn’t the best she could do. Just like Stewart, she was practically mesmerized by the glove’s power. That made her rely on it instead of fighting to her full capability. And that was going to be what let me beat her.

 

“I’m not D.K.,” I said to keep her off guard. The angrier she was, the more tempted she’d be to just punch, punch, punch. “You were never very smart, but can’t you at least tell the difference between us?”

 

Just like I’d planned, Kaylie growled and came at me with a wild haymaker. My heart skipped a beat when I saw that glowing hunk of death coming right at my delicate little face, but I shoved my fear down and ducked, letting it whiz harmlessly over my head. When I came back up, my fist hit her square on the burn mark on her chest. She screamed in pain and stumbled backwards, and I used that as my chance to ram into her as hard as I could, driving my elbow into her stomach. She was lifted off her feet, and I slammed her into the wall behind us hard enough to crack the wood.

 

I stepped back, catching my breath. “I didn’t kill your brother.”

 

Blood was leaking from a cut on her scalp, and the way she winced as she stood back up told me I’d bruised her gut, but she was far from done.

 

“Shut up!” she screamed, throwing yet another punch. I sidestepped this one, letting it pass a couple of inches to my right, and then stomped on her foot as hard as I could. With my own foot pinning her’s to the floor, I grabbed the gauntlet with both hands and pulled. She realized what I was doing, though, and clenched her fist around it. It didn’t budge and inch.

 

“Get off of me!” Kaylie hollered. Her other fist slammed into my side, making me double over in pain. That loosened my grip on the gauntlet, which Kaylie yanked out of my hands, and…

 

Oh, crap.

 

She whirled around, the gauntlet’s light growing even brighter, and backhanded me across the face.

 

Ladies and gentlemen…boys and girls…I have felt pain in my life. More pain than you can probably imagine. But none of it compared to what I felt right in that moment. Imagine being hit by a speeding train, except all that force was directed right into your face. Imagine that, instead of mercifully being reduced into a fine red mist, your body instead took the punishment, condemning you to feel that pain. Imagine how blank your mind would go, trying to escape that agony with the sweet embrace of insanity, all in vain because there is no place on earth, in heaven, or in hell where the pain can’t reach you. Imagine flying through the air, crashing through who knows how many walls with your fleshy little body, until you hit the ground and roll to a stop, unsure if you’re even in the same zip code as when you started.

 

That’s what being slapped by the Gauntlet of Malleus was like. Except it was so, so much worse.

 

My face was ruined. I could tell that much as I laid there on my back, staring up at the ceiling through eyes that wouldn’t focus. The moonlight I had stored up immediately kicked in, doing its best to knit me back together. I had enough of it. My Silverblood had made sure of that. But it would take time. Time that Kaylie wasn’t going to give me.

 

She was there in an instant, wrapping her un-gloved hand around my throat and lifting me clear off the floor with it. The gauntlet was a red blur in my unfocused eyes.

 

“Tyler knew not to piss off D.K.,” I heard her say through the ringing in my ears. “He knew what he would do if he thought we were challenging him. But you…you made D.K. mad. Tyler challenged him to save you. You’re the reason he died!”

 

My vision came back just a little. I could see the room we were in. Sunlight streamed in through a boarded up window behind me. That gave me an idea. Probably a stupid idea, since my head was still spinning from the magical pimp slap she’d given me, but it was better than nothing. I just needed a little time to be able to put it into motion.

 

“You took everything from me that night,” she said, tightening her grip on my throat. “And today you took it away again! This is the second time you killed my whole pack! What the hell am I supposed to do now?”

 

Come on, moonlight! Just a little more!

 

My sight was clear enough now that I could make out her face, and the tears that were running down her cheeks. “I can’t go to another pack. They’d never take me after what happened to my last two. And I…I wouldn’t be able to sleep without thinking about losing them too. It’s over for me!”

 

She raised the glove. I was out of time.

 

“You…” I croaked, my jaw barely managing to move.

 

Her eyes narrowed. “Save your excuses. “I’m going to—”

 

“You…killed…Tyler.”

 

Kaylie froze, her mouth falling open in shock. So quietly I almost couldn’t hear her, she whispered, “What did you just say?”

 

“You killed him,” I made myself say. It hurt to speak, but it was my only chance. “You knew what D.K. was doing to him. Tyler let D.K. walk all over him to protect you.”

 

Kaylie’s grip tightened. “You’re lying!”

 

The moonlight was doing its job, healing my wounds. I’d still have a seriously screwed up face when it was done, but at least it’d be functional. I just needed to stall a little longer.

 

“The two of you together could have beaten him,” I went on, ignoring the pain. “But you were too scared. You were going to let D.K. torture you both for the rest of your lives. Do you know what that makes you, Kaylie?”

 

She clenched her teeth. “Don’t say it!”

 

“A coward! While Tyler fought for all of us, you were hiding behind D.K.! You wouldn’t put yourself in danger to save your own brother. That’s why he died, Kaylie. Not because of me. Because of you!”

 

“No…”

 

“It’s your fault!”

 

“SHUT THE HELL UP!”

 

She brought the glove back, ready to blow my head from my shoulders and end the fight. But she’d waited too long. My Silverblood abilities had healed me faster than she’d expected, and now I was ready for her. Grabbing the wrist she was holding me up with, I twisted it as hard as I could. I heard the pop of her joint dislocating, and she dropped me. Her other arm was already coming straight at my face, though.

 

Grabbing Kaylie by her broken wrist, I fell backwards. Her punch passed so close to my face that the glove’s energy made my skin tingle. Behind me, the wall exploded, letting even more sunlight in. Then I hit the floor, bringing her down with me. I raised both of my feet so that she landed on top of them, threw all my weight backwards, and thrust my legs back out again.

 

With a scream, Kaylie flew straight out the hole she’d just made.

 

I lay there for a few seconds, hardly able to believe I was still alive. My head still hurt so much that I felt like if I looked into a mirror, there’d be a cartoonish dent where my face should be. But I still had work to do. After everything I’d done, I couldn’t risk the stupid glove getting stolen by someone else. So I forced myself to my feet, wandered through the building until I found the stairs, and kicked down the boards blocking the exit.

 

There she was. Lying on her back on top of the cold, hard pavement, so far unnoticed by anyone except for me. Kaylie’s arms were spread by her sides like she was trying to make a snow angel in the concrete. I clenched my fist against the sudden wave of regret that suddenly washed over me, seeing her like that. She’d brought this on herself. I’d offered to let her go a dozen times, and she’d refused every single one of them. It was her own fault she’d died.

 

But that didn’t make me feel any better.

 

MURDERER.

 

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. There was only one thing left to do. I walked up to her, knelt down, and—

 

“Tyler…”

 

I jumped back up. She wasn’t dead! She was just lying there. Eyes closed. Chest barely moving, with a pool of blood growing beneath her where her head had cracked open on the road.

 

“Tyler!” she said again. I took another cautious step toward her, and her eyes opened. “It really…is my fault…isn’t it?”

 

I didn’t know what to say. A fresh wave of tears washed down her face as she cried.

 

“You were right,” she whispered. “I was too scared to do anything, and now…now Tyler is dead!”

 

She wasn’t any threat to me now, I realized. Even if she could move—which I highly doubted—she’d lost all of her will to fight.

 

“Take it,” she said, letting the gauntlet slide off her hand. It fell to the ground with a heavy clunk. “I don’t care anymore. Just…”

 

I bent down to pick it up. “Just what?”

 

She moved her eyes so that we were looking at each other. “Just kill me. I don’t want to be alone again.”

 

I took a step back. “I don’t want to—”

 

“My family is dead! My pack is dead! Just do it, and let me go be with them again!”

 

I looked down at her. Broken, helpless. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was hurt her even more. But then, she was already in pain, wasn’t she? I’d be hurting her worse by leaving her like this. If I were to kill her, at least I could make it painless.

 

Sighing, I took a step back and set the glove down on the ground.

 

“Are you sure?” I asked.

 

She gave a weak nod, and I got down on all fours, ready to change.

 

“Amber…” she whispered.

 

“Hmm?”

 

“I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve any of this. You’re a good person.”

 

I looked away from her. She was wrong about that. So very, very wrong. But I didn’t have it in me to argue with her. Instead, I changed. I grew until my sides were pressed against the walls on either side of the alleyway, my head high enough to see through the second floor windows. I looked down at Kaylie one last time. She gave the slightest hint of a nod, and…

 

Goodbye, Kaylie.