"Miss Lanthe?" the sorceress repeated, her blue eyes gleaming dangerously. "Why don't you just buy me a minivan, zip me into mom jeans, and shoot me in the face?"
Carrow shrugged. "I'll make this up to you when we all get out, yeah?"
The sorceress played with one of her dark plaits. "Melanthe's sitting service has rates of one hundred K an hour."
"Put it on my tab."
Footsteps sounded down the corridor. Coming for me. Ruby heard them as well; she launched herself from the bunk at Carrow's legs.
Carrow caught her up, swinging the girl into a hug. Ruby clung with her little arms, her face streaked with tears as she pressed it against Carrow's neck. Carrow stared at the ceiling, struggling to keep from bawling with her.
"Promise you'll come back," Ruby whispered.
Her words sounded slurred, babyish even. Promise came out as pwomise. Carrow knew precisely jack-point-jack about raising kids, but she didn't think this reversion could be a good thing, in light of the circumstances.
Carrow eased Ruby back to meet her eyes. "I vow to the Lore that I will come back for you. You believe me, don't you?"
A slight nod.
Fegley, Dr. Dixon, and a contingent of guards arrived, opening the cell's glass door. The woman reached for Ruby, but Carrow hugged her even closer.
"Anything happens to her, it's on your head, Dixon." She cast the doctor a warning look, knowing her irises would flicker. Carrow's eyes didn't change color with emotion. They changed brightness, glittering like stars. Right now, she was literally starry-eyed, and it was freaking the mortal out.
Dixon stared, absently replying, "L-like we agreed ..."
Ten minutes later, Carrow sat in a military Humvee, one of five that made up Fegley's convoy. As the truck bounced down a rutted road outside the facility, Carrow gazed out of the rain-slicked window, still in turmoil, replaying the sound of Ruby screaming for her. How can I miss her like this already, as if I've left my heart behind?
Giving herself an inward shake, Carrow forced herself to study her surroundings.
The road wound through a moist forest overflowing with fir trees. Lichen and moss coated fallen trunks and anything stationary, making everything appear fuzzy, any sharp edges smothered by green. The area looked like it could be in the Pacific Northwest.
Way to narrow it down, Carrow.
The landscape was definitely coastal, which lent credence to the latest rumor going around - that the Order chummed the surrounding seas to attract great white sharks, ensuring no immortal could escape by water....
As her eyes darted over geographic details, she tried to mentally prepare for her mission, reflecting on all she'd learned from the dossier.
She was filled with curiosity about Malkom Slaine. What had happened when he'd been turned into a Scarba? Had he become the walking dead or had his demon nature remained dominant? Had he been alone for all those years?
Did the Order just assume she'd have sex with him to lure him back?
Carrow couldn't remember the last time she'd taken a lover. She would've enjoyed more, but she'd learned that sex didn't necessarily make all men happy. It made them feel good, relaxed, but not necessarily joyful. There was angry sex, insecure sex, preening sex. Some men needed validation, others vindication, but most thought of wild-child Carrow as a con"uest.
If she knew she wouldn't get all her needs met, she didn't go all the way.
Now she might not have the luxury of being choosy....
Eventually, the convoy parked around a large clearing encircled by five e"ual-sized boulders. As she climbed from the truck, Carrow sensed power there, sacredness.
Then she glared up at the steady deluge of rain that wetted her leather boots and skirt, reminding Carrow how much she loathed the wilderness. For her, the "great outdoors" was as much an oxymoron as "true myth."
Last night, Dixon had suggested combat boots in place of Carrow's own - her two-thousand-dollar, gathered-leather, over-the-knee boots. "Do you want me to go in as an enchantress or a warrior?" Carrow had asked testily. "Pick a caste, any caste, mortal. I myself think I have the best chance as an enchantress. And f**k-me boots are standard-issue."
Carrow gazed down at the mud creeping around her soles. Oh, well. She would rather die than admit a mortal was right.
Furthering his own doom, Fegley yanked Lanthe out of another Humvee by her collar, shoving her into the clearing. His continued cruelty gave Carrow insight into the skin-bag of waste that was Fegley. She'd decided he was a deeply insecure man who hated women.
This gig gave him power over females he would never otherwise possess.
Enjoy it while you can. Only a matter of time before he went down. Once Carrow got Ruby settled at Andoain, she would return here and go wicked on their asses.
"Get to it," Fegley ordered Lanthe. "You have two minutes. Try anything and the snipers will plug your skull."
With a killing look, the sorceress raised her hands. Soon an iridescent blue light glowed from her palms. Her face pinched with strain as she created a door-sized threshold, carving a black vortex as if through thin air.
Teeth gritted, Lanthe said, "Be careful out there, witch."
"I will." She shouldered her pack, readying herself at the portal's edge. "You take good care of my little girl until I get back." My little girl. As soon as she said the words, Carrow knew they were true. Ruby was hers. Would always be.
"I will take care of her," Lanthe said, but she glanced away.
The sorceress truly didn't think Carrow was going to make it back?
Before she could "uestion Lanthe, Fegley planted himself in front of Carrow. "You've got six days to get your target back to this portal. Saturday night, witch, no later than midnight, Oblivion Standard Time. Your tor"ue will activate an hour before then. You show without Slaine, and we'll slam the door right in your face. Lastly, don't call him by his name, or he'll know you're a mole. Clear?"
"As clear as you can make it, f**kwit. Anything else?"
Fegley smirked. "Yeah, if the demon finds out what you're planning, he'll cut off your head and mount it on a pike." Carrow was still gaping when the man grabbed her shoulder. "Go to hell, witch. Literally."
Then he shoved her into the abyss.
No sign of Ronath. The afternoon was drawing to a close, and now another interminable night loomed.
Malkom ceased his pacing to gaze out over the desert yet again. He'd had a sense that something momentous was about to occur, a feeling of destiny - which in his case usually meant destruction.