Twenty minutes later I parked the Volkswagen a few blocks from where Scott had left the Charger two nights ago. The scenery hadn’t changed. Same boarded-up buildings. Same streetlights in disrepair. In the distance, a train blew a forlorn whistle.
Since Hank’s building was guarded, I discarded the idea of going anywhere near it. I was going to have to find another way to look inside. An idea struck me. If there was one thing I could use to my advantage, it was the construction—the buildings were built one right next to the other. I could probably see inside Hank’s building from the one directly behind it.
Sticking to the route Scott and I had taken, I jogged closer to Hank’s building. Crouching in the shadows, I settled in for my first stab at surveillance. I noticed that the fire escape had been promptly removed. Hank was being careful, then. There was fresh newsprint covering the third-floor windows, but whoever had started the job hadn’t made it to the fourth floor yet. Every ten minutes, like clockwork, a guard exited the building and walked the perimeter.
Convinced I had enough information to go on, I circled the block, coming out near the building that backed to Hank’s. As soon as the guard finished his walk-around and retreated inside Hank’s building, I sprinted into the open. Only this time, instead of hiding in the all ey behind Hank’s building, I hid one all ey down.
Standing on top of an overturned trash can, I tugged the fire escape down to ground level. I was afraid of heights, but I wasn’t about to let that fear get in the way of finding out what Hank was hiding.
Taking some shallow breaths, I climbed to the first landing. I told myself not to look down, but the temptation was too strong. My eyes swept the all ey below, seeing it through the iron latticework of the fire escape. My stomach cramped and my vision blurred.
I climbed to the second level. Up to the third. A little nauseated, I tried the windows. The first few were locked, but finally I jimmied one loose, and it opened with a gritty whine. Camera in hand, I stuffed myself through the window.
I’d just come to a full stand inside when I was blinded by lights. I threw my arm over my eyes. All around, I heard the sounds of stirring bodies. When I opened my eyes again, I gazed at row upon row of cots. One sleeping body in each cot. All male, all exceptionally tall.
Before I could form a follow-up thought, an arm hooked my waist from behind.
“Move!” a low voice ordered, hauling me back toward the window I’d come through.
Snapping out of my daze, I felt the pair of strong arms drag me back through the window and onto the fire escape. Jev gave me a hasty look-over, his eyes brimming with aggravation. Wordlessly, he pushed me toward the rungs. As we clambered down the fire escape, shouts echoed from the front of the building. Any minute now, we were going to find ourselves trapped from above and below.
Making an impatient sound, Jev scooped me into his arms, holding me flush against him.
“Whatever you do, don’t let go.”
I’d barely fastened my grip when we were flying. Straight down. Without bothering to use the fire escape, Jev had jumped over the railing. Air ripped past us as gravity pulled us toward the all ey below. It was over before I could scream, my body jolting with the impact of landing, and just like that I was back on my own two feet.
Jev grabbed my hand and yanked me toward the street. “I’m parked three blocks away.” We rounded the corner, ran a block, cut up an all ey. Ahead, parked at the curb, I saw the white Tahoe. Jev key-fobbed the doors open, and we flung ourselves inside.
Jev drove fast and hard, screeching around corners and flooring it down the straightaways, until he’d put miles between us and the Nephilim. At last he bounced the Tahoe into a little two-pump gas station halfway between Coldwater and Portland. A closed sign hung in the window, with only a few dim lights burning inside.
Jev cut the engine. “What were you doing back there?” His volume was low, his tone furious.
“Climbing the fire escape, what did it look like?” I shot back. My pants were torn, my knees were scuffed, my hands were scraped, and getting angry was the only thing stopping me from bursting into tears.
“Well, congratulations, you climbed it. And nearly got yourself killed. Don’t tell me you were there by coincidence. Nobody hangs out in that neighborhood after dark. And that was a Nephilim safe house you barged into, so again, I’m not buying that it was by accident. Who told you to go there?” I blinked. “A Nephilim safe house?”
“You’re going to play dumb?” He shook his head. “Unbelievable.”
“I thought the building was vacant. I thought the building next to it was the Nephilim warehouse.”
“Both are owned by a Nephil—a very powerful Nephil. One is a decoy and the other sleeps about four hundred Nephilim on any given night. Guess which one you walked into?” A decoy. How smart of Hank. Too bad I hadn’t thought of it twenty minutes ago. He’d have the entire operation relocated by tomorrow morning, and I’d lose my only lead. At least now I knew what he was hiding. The warehouse was the sleeping quarters for at least a portion of his Nephilim army.
“I thought I told you to stop looking for trouble. I thought I told you to try normal for a while,” Jev said.
“Normal didn’t last very long. Right after I last saw you, I bumped into an old friend. An old Nephil friend.” I’d let the words fly out without thinking, but I didn’t see the harm in telling Jev about Scott.
After all, Jev had taken my side when I’d argued with Gabe to release B.J., so he couldn’t hate Nephilim the way Gabe clearly did.
Jev’s eyes hardened. “What Nephil friend?”
“I don’t have to answer that.”
“Forget it. I already know. The only Nephil you’d be gull ible enough to call a friend is Scott Parnell.” I wasn’t fast enough to hide my surprise. “You know Scott?” Jev didn’t answer. But I could tell by the quiet, killer look in his eyes that he didn’t think highly of Scott. “Where’s he staying?” he asked.
I thought of the cave, and how I’d promised Scott I wouldn’t tell anyone. “He—didn’t tell me. I bumped into him when I was out running. It was a brief conversation. We didn’t even have time to exchange phone numbers.”
“Where were you running?”
“Downtown,” I lied easily. “He stepped out of a restaurant as I was passing and recognized me, and we talked for a minute.”
“You’re lying. Scott wouldn’t be out in the open like that, not when the Black Hand has a price on his head. I’m betting you saw him somewhere more remote. The woods by your house?” he guessed.
“How do you know where I live?” I asked nervously.
“You’ve got an untrustworthy Nephil shadowing you. If you’re going to worry about something, worry about that.”
“Untrustworthy? He filled me in on Nephilim and fall en angels, which is more than I can say about you!” I gathered my cool. I didn’t want to talk about Scott. I wanted to talk about us and force Jev to open up on our past connection. I’d been fantasizing about seeing him for days, and now that I had what I wanted, I wasn’t about to let him slip away again. I needed to know who he’d been to me.
“And what did he tell you? That he’s the victim? That fall en angels are the bad guys? He can blame fall en angels for the existence of his race, but he isn’t a victim and he isn’t harmless. If he’s hanging around, it’s because he needs something from you. Everything else is a pretense.”
“Funny you should say that, since he hasn’t asked me for a single favor. So far, it’s been all about me. He’s trying to help me get my memory back. Don’t look so surprised. Just because you’re a closed-off jerk doesn’t mean the rest of the world is too. After shedding light on Nephilim and fall en angels, he told me Hank Mill ar is building an underground Nephilim army. Maybe that name means nothing to you, but it means a lot to me, since Hank is dating my mom.” The scowl faded from his face. “What did you just say?” he asked in a genuinely menacing voice.
“I called you a closed-off jerk, and I meant every word.” He narrowed his gaze beyond the window, clearly thinking, and I got the distinct impression he’d found something I’d said important. A muscle in his jaw clenched, a dark and frightening look bringing a cold edge to his eyes. Even from where I sat, I sensed the tightening of his body, a current of underlying emotion—none of it good—flexing under his skin.
“How many people have you told about me?” he asked.
“What makes you think I’ve told anyone about you?”
His eyes pinned me in place. “Does your mom know?”
I debated another snide comment, but was too exhausted to put in the effort. “I might have mentioned your name, but she didn’t recognize it. So we’re back at square one. How do I know you, Jev?”
“If I asked you do to something for me, I don’t suppose you’d listen?” When he had my attention, he continued, “I’m going to take you home. Try to forget tonight happened. Try to act normal, especially around Hank. Don’t mention my name.”
By way of an answer, I shot him a black look and swung out of the Tahoe. He followed suit, coming around to my side.
“What kind of answer is that?” he asked, but his voice wasn’t nearly so gruff.
I stalked away from the Tahoe, in case he thought he could use force to stuff me back into the car.
“I’m not going home. Not yet. Ever since the night you saved me from Gabe, I’ve been thinking of all the ways I could run into you again. I’ve spent way too much time speculating how you knew me before, how you knew me at all. I might not remember you or anything else from the past five months, but I can still feel, Jev. And when I first saw you the other night, I felt something that I’ve never felt before. I couldn’t look at you and breathe at the same time. What does that mean? Why don’t you want me to remember you? Who were you to me?”
At that, I stopped walking and turned back to face him. His eyes were dilated to full black, and I suspected all kinds of emotion hid there. Regret, torment, wariness.
“The other night, why did you call me Angel?” I asked.
“If I were thinking straight, I’d take you home right now,” he said quietly.
“But I’m tempted to do something I’ll probably regret.”
“Tell me the truth?” I hoped.
Those black eyes flicked over me. “First I need to get you off the streets. Hank’s men can’t be far behind.”
AS IF ON CUE, THE SCREECH OF TIRES RANG OUT BEHIND us. Hank would be proud; his men didn’t give up easily. Jev yanked me behind a crumbling brick wall. “We can’t outrun them to the Tahoe, and even if we could, I’m not dragging you into a car chase with Nephilim. They’ll walk away from a rolled or totaled car, but you might not. Better to take our chances on foot and circle back to the car after they’ve given up. There’s a nightclub a block from here. Not the cleanest place, but we can hide there.” He took my elbow, propelling me forward.