“I did. Thank you for helping to save my life.”
“Yeah, well, you owe me.” Her smile faded. “I don’t suppose you saw Finn anywhere?”
I shook my head. “I’m sorry. I thought he’d be at Fort Arcana, but the place was abandoned. I saw . . . part of Cyclops.” Hadn’t the wolf come to see me? Or had I dreamed that? “What happened at the fort?”
“After the big attack, Fortune flew over it with Richter. She was just carting him around, like they were on a fun date or something. He must’ve been outta Emperor juice, ’cause he started gunning up the place.”
As long as I was alive, Richter’s days were numbered. I’m coming for you, Richter. I would replace his laughter with screams.
Lark continued, “Finn couldn’t run with his bum leg, barely got to an outbound truck. I leapt up to fang the chopper to buy time.”
So strange to hear her talk like this, as if she’d been there. Which she kind of had been. In the form of Cyclops. Red of tooth and claw. And later she’d attacked Fortune through Scarface—saving me.
“Those choppers drive me—I mean, my wolves—batty. Anyway, Richter shot up Cyclops until I couldn’t hold on. I dropped right in the middle of the freaking minefield. And ouch. Needless to say, I couldn’t keep up with Finn’s truck.” Her eyes flickered animal red as she said, “When we take care of Richter, save Fortune for me. That bitch and I have a date.”
“Noted. Did your falcon survive?”
“Yeah. She’s one of the scouts I’ve got searching for Finn.” Lark shuffled her feet. “Death told me you’d been riding out to meet Jack, to leave with him.”
And yet Aric had come for me and saved my life.
“Eves, I’m really sorry about the Cajun.”
I swallowed past the lump in my throat. My recovery seemed to have loosened my tourniquet. Tighten it!
A sudden thought occurred. “Lark, where are the clothes I was wearing?”
“Dunno. Paul probably burned them. They looked like you got dunked in Ragu or something—”
“There was a ribbon in my pocket.” My last physical tie to Jack. “Please find it! Please!”
“I’ll try.” Cocking her head, she muttered, “I hear your grandmother coming. Gotta scram. I’ll check back in later.”
I had so many more questions, but Lark slipped out.
Aric entered with Gran, helping her along with his gloved hands.
She looked so different from the last time I’d seen her. Her face was worn, and her hair had grayed even more. She’d lost a lot of weight, and her dark brown eyes no longer twinkled.
“Evie!” she cried, limping to my bed. She wrapped her thin arms around me.
I returned her hug. “Gran.” Her scent cast my mind back to my childhood, bringing on a rush of memories: Her pushing me on the swing at Haven. . . . Gran and Mom laughing when a duckling chased me. . . . Gran teaching me how to tend her beloved rose garden; the soil had been so warm. . . .
I’d waited through nine years and an apocalypse to see her again.
Over her shoulder, I caught Aric’s gaze. He stood in the doorway, his bearing tense. Hadn’t I heard strained exchanges between them? I couldn’t remember. I mouthed Thank you to him.
Gran drew back and sat on the bed. “Look at you! You’re all grown up. And so beautiful.” Her words did sound slurred. “I was so worried when I first saw you.” Was one corner of her lips turned down?
“Are you okay, Gran?”
“I’ll be fine. We need to focus on you. We have so much to catch up on.”
When I thought of all the things we needed to talk about—Mom’s death, the destruction of Haven, my relationship with Death—exhaustion swept over me.
I looked to Aric for support, but he was gone.
“Lord, you can barely keep your eyes open.” She clucked her tongue and tucked the blanket around me. “I’m here, watching over you. We’ll figure everything out. For now, you’ve got to regain your strength. Get some sleep, Evie.”
I needed to be doing so many things other than sleeping. Such as plotting the Emperor’s grisly death.
Still, my lids slid closed. “Just for a minute. . . .”
Day 424 A.F.
Gran sat on the edge of the bed, brushing my hair. She chattered about the food here and the worsening weather—any topic except those we needed to speak about.
When I’d awakened around dinnertime, she had been beside me—not Aric. But, as promised, he’d filled the room with plants and sunlamps, and moved my clothes to the closet.
Gran had brought me a tray with soup, then she’d helped me take a bath and get dressed. She’d murmured, “Such pretty clothes Death has provided for you.” But she hadn’t sounded approving.
Now she laid aside the brush with a labored breath. “I’m plumb wore out.”
I turned to face her. “Tell me what’s wrong.”
She smoothed her gray hair, the length caught up in a careless bun. “Worry’s kept me from sleeping. But you’re on the mend now.”
Slowly. “And you?”
“I’ll be right as rain soon enough.” Had she averted her eyes?
“Gran, how did you survive the Flash?”
“My facility was old, so there was an actual bomb shelter. I sensed something coming and headed down. I was the only one to make it, which meant I had food and supplies aplenty.”
Everyone had told me she would never survive this long, but I’d believed. “I tried to reach you.”