I searched for a rabbit cloud...relaxed when I spied only shapeless puffs of white.
“I’ll call Ankh,” Cole said. “He’ll send a van for us. Until then, we’ll walk around like good little tourists, so that we’re not perfect targets. Then we’ll pick up Collins.”
At least they covered the sound of my breaking heart.
“All right, then.” He twined his fingers with mine. “Let’s go.”
Our group started down the street, everyone lost in their own thoughts...their misery over Collins’s loss. There were more cars out now than when we’d first arrived, and even more people, but at least we blended in even better with the evening crowd.
Desperate for a moment of happiness, I wished Cole and I were simply out on a date. A normal date—our first.
As long as we’d been a couple, we’d never gone to dinner together.
So, I went with it. All of our friends were alive. We were happy. He was just a boy, and I was just a girl. He liked me, and I liked him, and the only thing we had to worry about was how far we’d go when we reached my door.
Answer: as far as he’d allow!
Hey. This was my fantasy. We’d go further.
Cole brought my hand to his mouth and kissed my knuckles, bringing me back to the present...the pain. I’d never be able to wish Lucas, Trina, Cruz and Collins back to life.
“I’m sorry I snapped at you. I was thrown off guard.”
I’d be the biggest tool ever if I made him beg for my forgiveness after Nana and Kat had so freely given me theirs. “You can make it up to me with a victory massage. But who is—”
Anguished violet eyes brushed over me, before skittering away. “Don’t say her name. Please.”
“I won’t.” But now my curiosity was a living thing.
“I don’t even know if the woman you saw is the one I’m thinking about. There are thousands of people with the same name. But if she is, you can’t trust her. You just can’t. She’s evil in every way. The worst of the worst. A liar and a betrayer.”
O-kay. Did that mean she’d once been a slayer?
Had Cole worked with her?
Probably not. He’d said he knew “of” her, nothing more.
“Whatever happened back there,” he said, “we’ll figure it out. We always do.”
Why wasn’t his hope contagious? “What if it’s something bad?” I couldn’t hide the tremor in my voice. “Like when my zombie twin was living inside me.”
His grip tightened. “Are you asking me if I’ll break up with you?”
“Yes.” He had before. And a girl never forgot that kind of despair.
“I deserve that,” he muttered. “The answer is no. Never again. Not for any reason. You’re my girl, Ali. That’s never going to change. There’s no one else I’ve ever wanted more—no one else I ever will. You’re it for me, and if it takes the rest of my life, I’m going to prove it to you.”
The fierceness he projected...
I believed him. I also melted against him. “I’m looking forward to that.”
“You should. I have plans.”
Goose bumps broke out over my skin. “Plans, huh?”
“Oh, yeah. Get ready to learn about reasons sixteen through nineteen.”
Before I could respond—tell me now!—Frosty strode up to Cole’s side, keeping pace. “Hate to break up the foreplay party, but I think we’ve got a tail.”
Stiffening, Cole said, “How many?”
“Only four. Three guys, one girl.”
“We’ll split up.” Cole expelled a breath, mist dancing in front of his face. “Divide their efforts and make it harder for them to track us.”
Another chase. Great!
“Where do you want to meet?” Frosty asked.
Cole thought for a moment. “Ankh’s. They already know we’re staying there, and if they make it that far, his cameras will snap pictures of their faces and we can start IDing these people.”
I’d opened my mouth to protest, only to press it closed. He was right. We needed IDs. “I like the way your brain works,” I said. It was as sexy as the rest of him.
“Me, too. Consider it done. See you two on the flip side.” Frosty fell back to take Veronica’s hand. “You’re with me, Ron. And guess what? Team Fronica is about to...”
I didn’t hear the rest. They were already motoring down the road.
Cole nodded to Bronx, who took Jaclyn’s hand. They, too, moved away from us.
My adrenaline spiked, and surprisingly enough, it was all systems go. These people could be the ones who had killed my friends. If they wanted to chase me, fine. Have at it. But it would not end well—for them.
“You ready for this?” Cole asked.
“I am, but I can promise you they are not.”
IT’S YOU, NOT ME
As nonchalantly as possible, Cole ushered me into one of the stores. A bell jingled. Hello, racks of clothing. Hello, line of mannequins. We picked up the pace, darting past the counter.
As a salesgirl shouted, “Hey!” we snaked an employee-only corner. A small narrow hallway provided three doorways. We opted for the one on the right, the break room, heading for the door in back. The word EXIT glowed overhead.
Two employees sat at the table. One jumped to his feet and frowned.