Laughing at the absurdity of being interrupted by lemons, I started to pick up fruit. “Maybe you should get back to the front.”
“I can help.” He stooped to fish lemons out from under the bottom shelf. “And I’m not leaving without at least one whole chocolate stick to myself.”
I snorted. “If I give you chocolate, will you go? I don’t want to get caught making out with a customer in the back room. I’ve been fired for less.”
“Clara wouldn’t fire you for that, and besides, no one is around to catch us anyway. Who could possibly overhear us back here?”
I straightened, my hands full of lemons. “Please, Aaron. There are a couple people out front and I don’t want to risk this job. I really …”
Trailing into silence, I stared at nothing as a lightbulb went off in my brain.
“This job is important to you, isn’t it?” Crouched by the shelves with an armload of fruit, he paused. “Tori? You okay?”
I opened my mouth, then closed it. My face felt cold. I must have gone pale.
Aaron rose to his full height. “What’s wrong?”
“I think—I just realized—but—” I bit off the words. “I need to check something.”
“Huh? But Tori—”
Dropping the lemons back onto the floor, I sped out of the storage room and through the kitchen. At the saloon doors, I peeked into the pub. All the tables were empty except one. Liam sat alone, his face illuminated by his phone and his feet resting on a nearby chair.
I shoved through the doors. “Liam, where’s Tom?”
“Hmm? Oh, he left a few minutes ago. Decided to go home. I’m leaving too, just finishing—”
I spun on my heel and raced back through the kitchen. Aaron stood in the storage room doorway, his brow furrowed. “What—”
“When Kai and Ezra were arranging to go to Stanley Park on Sunday, did they talk about their plans while they were here?”
“Here?” He glanced around the kitchen. “Uh. Yeah, I remember Kai talking to the Stanley Coven on the phone. We were upstairs in the workroom.”
I pressed a hand to my mouth, my heart hammering.
“Tori, what the hell is wrong?”
“I just realized … we’ve been wondering how the rogue guild knew to ambush you near my apartment, and how they knew where I’d be on Sunday, and why they thought you’d be alone that night. We assumed they were predicting our movements, but it’s way simpler than that.”
His expression hardened with intensity. “How?”
I wrapped my arms around myself. “Last Saturday before we left, when you offered to walk me home, I mentioned West Georgia Street—and that’s where you first noticed we were being followed. While here at the guild, Kai talked on the phone about how he and Ezra would be gone on Sunday night. And”—I swallowed—“on Saturday, I mentioned to Sabrina that I was going shopping and what my favorite store is.”
Aaron’s eyes widened.
“In the storage room, you said, ‘Who could possibly overhear us?’ But there is someone—”
“Tom,” Aaron hissed. “Is he here? I saw him earlier.”
“No, he already left. I just checked.” I peered toward the bar as though I could see the corner where Tom had been sitting most of the night—and where he’d been almost every night. Clear as chiming bells, I could hear Liam’s voice as he explained Tom’s psychic ability, clairaudience. Super hearing. He can hear people talking within a certain vicinity.
Aaron raked a hand through his hair. “Okay, so Tom is probably the only person who could have overheard all three conversations, but that would mean he’s been feeding information to the rogue guild. He wouldn’t do that.”
“How do you know?”
“He—he just wouldn’t. He’s a guild member. He wouldn’t betray us like that.”
I closed my hand around Aaron’s arm, holding tight. What he was really saying was that a guild member wouldn’t betray the guild. Aaron didn’t believe any of his precious comrades-in-arms would deceive him.
Deception, Sabrina’s tarot cards had warned. Deception lurks in the shadows, calling the conflict ever closer.
Calling the conflict.
Tom had left.
“Aaron,” I gasped. “We need to leave. Right now.”
“What?” Aaron said blankly.
“We need to leave,” I repeated, panic flaring through me. “Tom left. Liam was the last one here, and he just went home. We’re alone—just like the first time we were attacked.”
“We’re in the guild, Tori. No one would be dumb enough to attack us here. Besides that, our team is hunting down the rogues as we speak. It doesn’t matter if Tom tries to tip them off.”
I sucked in a shallow breath to quell my anxiety.
Aaron rubbed my arms soothingly. “It’s okay. We’ll wait here.” He pulled his phone out, thumbs zooming over the keys. “Felix will come right back after they’re done, since he’s on duty tonight, but I’ll tell Kai and Ezra to return here too. We’ll find out from them if Tom is really involved.”
“Okay,” I mumbled uncertainly.
“Message sent.” He looked up from his phone with a smile. “I told you I would always—”
I didn’t see it, but I heard it—the sickening crack of something hitting bone.
Aaron lurched sideways, then crumpled. As he hit the floor, my heart slammed to a dead halt, shock paralyzing my entire body. With a silent gargle that would’ve been a scream if I’d had air in my lungs, I stumbled toward him.
Something flashed past me, just missing my face. I reeled back, hands outstretched with no idea what I was defending against. I spun around and froze a second time.
People had appeared—three of them, standing casually at the back of the kitchen. A man, a woman … and Tom. His usually shy expression was lined with sadistic glee. I staggered a step away, my foot bumping Aaron’s unmoving arm.
Three shiny orbs the size of billiard balls hovered in front of the unfamiliar man, each glowing a different color. As they stilled, floating serenely, the red splatters on one became visible. Horrified, I looked down at Aaron—at the blood running down the side of his slack face.
“He should have listened to you,” Tom said conversationally. “If you’d run immediately, you might’ve escaped.”
My hands clenched and I inched back another half step. “But then I wouldn’t have gotten to tell you to your face that you’re a shit-eating coward who deserves every bit of pain coming your way.”
The woman laughed. “Take her out.”
The other man canted his head, and I threw myself down as two orbs whipped past. Telekinesis. How the hell was I supposed to defend against a telekinetic?
Go for his eyes, Aaron had told me after Liam had messed with me. He needs to see to use his telekinesis.
Launching up, I sprinted for the saloon doors. The woman laughed again.
An orb struck my shoulder with the force of a major league pitcher throwing a fastball. The impact spun me in a half circle and I bounced off the counter but kept on my feet. Gasping, I slapped a hand against the light switch.
Darkness plunged over the room. Only the faintest light leaked in from the pub, but it did nothing to illuminate the kitchen. The three orbs glowed, hovering in the air near me, but they weren’t moving. The telekinetic didn’t know where to aim them.
“Get the lights back on!” the woman yelled.
Tom and the telekinetic growled at each other, clattering against counters and cupboards as they searched for a switch. Crouching, I slid an empty stock pot off the counter and crept toward the orbs. They glowed, allowing the telekinetic to see them, but maybe I could fix that.
Taking aim with my pot, I swept it through the air like a bug-catching net. Clang, clang, clang. The three orbs hit the bottom of the pot and I slammed it down on the floor, trapping the balls and extinguishing their telltale glow. The man swore furiously.
I shoved the pot under the sink where the telekinetic wouldn’t spot it even if they got the lights on again, then threw my hands out, feeling for the sauce pans hanging over the range. Grabbing a handle, I charged. I’d been through this kitchen a hundred times. I didn’t need light.
When I heard the scuff of backpedaling shoes, I whipped the sauce pan around in my signature baseball swing. It thwacked into a body. Skirting back a step, I wound up and swung again. This time I hit a bony limb and the telekinetic yelped.
A footstep clacked on the floor on my other side, and I whirled, ready to strike. A hand touched my shoulder.
The saucepan fell to the floor with a bang, and my arms dropped to my sides. I stood there, unmoving, the hand on my arm and a voice in my head. It commanded me to stand still—and that’s what I did. I could do nothing else, the voice drowning out my thoughts, my consciousness.
Clattering sounds, then light bloomed, blasting my eyes. But I didn’t move. I didn’t know how.
Tom’s face appeared in front of me, and he sneered. “You were right that I was passing on information about Aaron, but you were wrong about everything else.”
“You two carry the Sinclair kid,” the woman ordered.