Deliverance Page 10

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Ian’s chest heaves, and his fists clench at his sides. “Someone has to pay. Justice requires sacrifice. Blood and pain to wash away the crime.” His voice rises. “Someone has to pay.”

“Someone will.” Drawing myself up straight, I ignore the dizziness in my head and step closer. Close enough to see the shine of starlight in his eyes. To see the cords of his neck stand out as he glares at me. “I’m not the one who needs Samuel’s protection. You’d better watch your back, every second of every day, because you have crimes to answer for, and I’m not going to stop coming for you until you pay for them with your life.”

“You can’t kill me.” He sounds insulted.

I smile. “We both know I can.”

“Samuel and Heidi would punish you in ways you’ve never dreamed.”

My smile grows. “No, they wouldn’t. I have to arrive in Rowansmark alive and well or they’ll pay the consequence for their failure. You, on the other hand, never have to arrive at all.” I turn my back on him and walk away.

CHAPTER FIVE

LOGAN

I can’t tell what time it is, but several hours have passed since I pled guilty before the triumvirate and was once again locked with Willow in Lankenshire’s dungeon, this time with Rowansmark trackers as our guards. The dungeon creaks and a draft blows from the end of the corridor closest to us, making the light in the hanging oil lanterns outside our door flicker. The entire place smells of damp stone mixed with the harsh metallic tang of the iron bars that hold us here.

I pace the floor, swinging my arms in circles as I walk. I need to be limber. Loose. Ready.

Rescue could arrive at any minute.

We need to survive the ensuing fight. And then, once we’re out in the Wasteland surrounded by the Commander’s men, we need to survive yet again.

Willow stretches slowly, arching her back as she stands on her tiptoes. The silver wire she pulled from her braid gleams dully against her wrist.

It’s the only weapon we’ve got.

The dungeon door creaks open, and voices drift down the corridor. Willow meets my eyes, and we both tense. Waiting for the sound of conflict. Swordplay.

Something.

Instead, the steady cadence of boot steps approaches our cell. Seconds later, the head tracker, the man with the shaved head who first confronted me in Lankenshire’s square earlier today, comes into view, fully outfitted for travel. Two more trackers are at his back.

“Open it.” The head tracker gestures toward our cell door, and then looks at me, his dark eyes fierce. “Fight us, and I’ll start cutting off body parts.”

“What’s going on?” I ask as Willow and I back away from the door. The metal bars swing outward, and the two men step inside, leaving the head tracker in the corridor.

“Transfer to Rowansmark,” one of the men says as he steps toward Willow.

The dungeon door clangs open again, and more voices fill the space. More trackers, all dressed for travel. More swords standing between us and freedom.

“I thought we weren’t leaving before dawn,” I say, but of course we are. I would’ve done the same thing. What better way to short-circuit any attempts at a double cross than to significantly alter the expected timeline? I kick myself for not anticipating this.

The tracker smiles, but it isn’t friendly. “We’re leaving now. Surely it doesn’t matter to you one way or the other, does it?”

“Not at all,” Willow says, her smile just as dangerous as his. “I’ve always wanted to travel the Wasteland with a full escort of uniformed idiots.”

“Willow—”

“Let her run her mouth,” the tracker says. “It will make punishing her for her part in your treachery all the sweeter.”

Willow laughs as one of the men inside the cell grabs her upper arm and pulls her toward the door. “One of your kind already tried to kill me once. Three guesses where I left his body.”

The tracker holding her spits on the floor. “You didn’t best a tracker. You’re nothing but a Tree Person.”

Willow whips her body around and snaps a kick straight into the man’s windpipe. He falls to his knees, clutching his throat while his face turns red as he gasps for air.

“Still think I’m nothing?” she asks. I shove past the tracker beside me as she wraps her fingers around the wire at her wrist.

“Willow.”

She looks at me. I don’t shake my head. I don’t look at her wrist. I give nothing away as I beg her with my eyes to remember that her weapon might be the only leverage we have. If she reveals her secrets now, when we’re surrounded by trackers and have absolutely no chance of escape, we’ll be improvising with nothing but wishes and thin air.

Slowly, her fingers relax and move away from the wire. Seconds later, I’m grabbed roughly from behind and another two trackers rush into the cell to wrestle Willow into submission. The man she kicked lies on the floor, moaning and retching, but at least he’s still breathing. The last thing we need is for the head tracker to decide that Willow deserves to give her life for the life of one of his men.

“Get them out here,” the head tracker says as he pulls his sword and looks at Willow. “You’re lying. Do you know how I know that? Because if you’d actually killed a tracker, you’d be dead as well.”

She rolls her eyes. “You mean because of the little internal bomb you all have in case you get killed in the line of duty? Please.” She nods toward me. “We saw that in action when we killed a tracker on our way back to Baalboden. You know an easy way to avoid getting hurt by flying body parts? Stand back and shoot an arrow. Also, you might want to rethink the whole if-you-kill-me-you-will-pay-dearly strategy, because the biggest danger is the mess. Kind of hard to injure someone when all that’s left of you are scraps.”

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