Deliverance Page 48

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“We’ve never met. If we had, you’d be able to place me. But I know why I look familiar to you,” I say because his blade keeps coming closer. I can only hope that by telling him a piece of the truth, I’ll intrigue him enough to give me an opportunity to kill him.

“Why is that?” His tone makes it clear he thinks I’m telling him another lie to buy myself more time.

He’s almost right.

“Because I was born in Rowansmark to Marcus and Julia McEntire.”

His sword freezes in midair, though the grip on my hair doesn’t lessen. “You’re the lost McEntire boy?”

“Yes. The Commander kidnapped me when I was a few days old. I was raised in Baalboden. I didn’t know who I really was until recently.”

He removes his knee from my back and twists me around to face him. Bringing the length of his sword beneath my chin, he studies me in what’s left of the moonlight. Two yards behind him, Jodi crouches, her eyes locked on me, her expression a mix of calculation and defiance. She’s going to intervene. Try to save me. And if she does, Sharpe will kill her.

Sharpe is going to kill her anyway if I can’t find a way to defeat him.

Jodi presses her palms into the stone and looks from me to the edge of the roof on her other side and then back to me again. I blink, and she repeats herself. Me—the edge of the roof—me again.

“I can see it,” Sharpe says, and I quickly meet his gaze before he realizes Jodi is a scant two yards behind him, clinging to the roof just inches before the building ends and the long drop to the ground begins. “You resemble your mother.”

“You knew my parents?”

“Marcus was the one who recruited me into the tracking program. He was a good man.” Sharpe’s tone hardens. “Which doesn’t explain why his son is on a roof stealing the tech Marcus worked so hard to build.”

I can’t tell him we’re disabling the tech, and he’d never believe we were simply curious and decided to do a midnight rooftop dash through the city to pry open a few beacons and peek inside. Time to become what he’s accused me of being all along: a liar.

I frown. “What are you talking about? This is Hodenswald tech.”

He leans forward and says softly, “Every city-state has either signed the protection agreement with Rowansmark or has been destroyed. Your leader himself admitted he understood that our presence here is to protect against a tanniyn attack. You know what these beacons are for. Lie to me again, and I will kill you.”

“You’re going to kill me anyway.”

His smile dries the spit in my mouth. “Lie to me again, and I will kill you slowly.”

Jodi gestures behind Sharpe, and I let my eyes glance off her as I scan my surroundings. Two yards between Sharpe and Jodi. Inches between Jodi and a long, fatal fall.

I just have to tell the truth long enough to find an opportunity to take advantage of Jodi’s position.

“Okay, fine. I know what they are. But you have plenty here. A transmitter that size? You’ve got this city covered and then some. I figured I could lift a few transmitters without anyone noticing.”

His sword doesn’t waver. “You thought wrong. What do you need the transmitters for? Planning on using our own tech against us?”

It’s hard to deliver a scornful laugh with a sword at my throat, but I try. “Why would I do that? I’m from Rowansmark, remember? If the Commander hadn’t intervened, I’d be wearing a tracker’s uniform right now.”

The truth of that statement sits uneasily in my thoughts, and I push it away. “But he did intervene. He kidnapped me, stole the life I was supposed to have, and dumped me on the streets of Baalboden when I was six, after having my adoptive mother killed.”

“A tragic story.” Sharpe’s voice is pitiless. “But still not an explanation for the theft.”

“Don’t you see? I hate him.” My tone is as ruthless as his. “I hate him. I hate what he did to my family in Rowansmark. I hate what he did to the people I cared about in Baalboden. Everyone I’ve lost, everything that’s gone wrong, can be traced back to him.”

I drop my sword and raise my hands to show him that I’m not a threat, and then I slowly reach my left hand into my cloak pocket and pull out one of the stolen transmitters.

“The Commander, like all city-state leaders, wears a necklace to ward off the tanniyn. The transmitter inside that necklace is powerful enough to keep the beasts away from an entire city, which is why you needed so many beacons up, right? You needed enough transmitters to make sure you could override the leaders’ signals if you needed to call the Cursed—the tanniyn.”

He nods and watches me closely. I keep the transmitter in my hand, but raise my arms again in a posture of surrender.

“I know enough about tech to be able to amplify the signal in these transmitters. I only took a few. It shouldn’t greatly affect your signal strength inside the city.” Except for the fact that the only signal they’ll be sending out is ultrasonic and therefore useless to Rowansmark’s purposes. “I just needed enough to overpower the Commander’s necklace.”

“Why?” he asks, but he already knows. And he knows I’m telling the truth. I can see it in the way his shoulders relax. In the increased space between my neck and the edge of his blade.

“Because the next time we have an encounter with the tanniyn, I want the Commander to be utterly defenseless.”

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