Boundless Page 67

I’m provoking him, and he knows it. Still, he smiles. “I could take you there easily enough. Getting you out would be infinitely more difficult. Chances are you’d lose yourself within a few moments and become as trapped as your friend.”

“I’m strong,” I tell him. “You’ve said so yourself.”

“Yes, and why is that?” he asks. “Why are you so strong, little Quartarius?”

I smile vaguely.

“You’d be waltzing in right under Asael’s nose and taking something that belongs to him,” he says, like the idea is not altogether an unpleasant one. He’s none too fond of Asael. Which works for me.

“Yes. Will you help me?”

“All that for a mere story? Do you take me for a fool?”

“Then I guess this is a pointless conversation.” I shrug and stand up, brush grass off my jeans. “Oh well, it was worth a shot.”

“Wait,” he says, all the humor gone from his voice now. “I haven’t said no, exactly.”

Hope and terror bloom simultaneously in my chest. “Then you’ll take me?”

He hesitates. “It’s very dangerous, for both of us, but especially for you. The likelihood that you will be caught—”

“Please,” I say. “I have to try.”

He shakes his head. “You don’t understand the nature of hell. It will swallow you up. Unless …” He starts to pace. He has an idea, something good—I can tell by the way he stands up straighter, by the diabolical bounce in his step. I wait for him to tell me.

“All right,” he says at last. “If you cannot be talked out of it, I will take you.”

“How soon can we go?” I ask.

“Tonight. That will give you enough time to reconsider.” He leans toward me. “This is a futile endeavor, little bird, no matter how strong you think you are.”

“When should I meet you? Where?” I ask.

“Where’s the nearest train station?”

“A few blocks from here. Palo Alto.”

“Meet me at the train station in Palo Alto, then,” he says. “Midnight.”

I’m light-headed. I already knew the time and place, from the vision, but hearing him say it, knowing for sure that’s what the vision is about, shocks me. That and that he’s ready to take me so soon. Like, tonight. Tonight I am going to hell.

“Having second thoughts already?” he asks with the hint of a smile.

“No. I’ll be there.”

“Wear black or gray, nothing conspicuous or flashy, and cover your hair,” he says. “Also, you must bring a friend, another of the Nephilim, or I can’t take you.”

He turns like he’s going to walk away.

“A friend? You can’t be serious,” I gasp.

“If you’re going to succeed on this little excursion, you’ll need someone to ground you. Someone to help you keep back the sorrows of the damned. Otherwise your gift of feeling what others feel will drown you. You won’t last two minutes.”

“All right,” I say hoarsely.

He turns into a bird. My eye’s not quick enough to see the transition, but one second he’s a man, the next a crow. He squawks at me.

Midnight, he says in my mind, his voice like a splash of cold water. And don’t forget, you owe me a story.

I won’t forget.

Christian’s more than a little surprised when I cross straight into our hotel room and tell him we need to take Web to Billy after all. I’ll fill him in later. “Trust me,” I say, and his jaw tightens, but he doesn’t argue when I go around gathering up Web’s supplies and take us to Billy’s house in the mountains, where she is obviously expecting us.

He thinks I’m freaking out over the whole motherhood thing. That I don’t want to be responsible for Web. He’s disappointed, because he thought we could handle it, but he understands.

Or at least he thinks he does.

It kills me to hand Web over to Billy, but I try to smile when I do it. He’ll be safer with Billy, I remind myself. But he’s uncertain in her arms, whimpering, and my heart squeezes painfully at the way he keeps looking at me.

“It’s okay, little dude. Auntie Billy’s going to take good care of you,” I say, and go over all his stuff one last time, what kind of formula he takes and which one makes him puke like The Exorcist, which blanket to swaddle him in at night, which pacifier is his favorite, the vital importance of his stuffed monkey.

“I got it, kid,” Billy says, patting my arm. She’s feeling emotional, too. Deep down she’s always wanted a child. She would have had one with Walter, if she could have. But she herself only has seven more years to live.

“I’ll call tonight and sing him a song,” I promise, and only barely get out of there without bursting into tears.

And that entire time, Christian stands beside me, waiting for me to tell him what’s up.

He’s crazy surprised when I cross us to the study room in the Roble basement and not back to Lincoln.

“All right, Clara,” he says, trying to hide his alarm. “Where are we? What’s going on?”

I tell him.

He has the following reaction:

“You did what?”

Yeah, he’s a little upset. Understandably.

“I agreed to meet Samjeeza at the Palo Alto train station, at midnight,” I say again.

“How could you do that?” He tugs his hands through his hair. “Do you have a death wish?”

“No,” I reply coolly. “I have a vision, and it’s telling me that I’m going to go meet him.”

“You’re talking about taking a train ride into hell.”

“I know.”

He starts shaking his head. “No. No way. No.”

“I’ll show you,” I say, refusing to take no for an answer. “Come on.”

Without another word I head off, up the stairs, out of Roble, walking fast across campus, and he doesn’t have much of a choice but to follow. He hasn’t learned to cross yet—for as amazing as he is with flying and glory swords, I am still light years ahead of him when it comes to calling and using glory. He can’t get back without me.

When he sees the church, he suddenly gets where I’m going, and he doesn’t want to come. I take his hand and start pulling him across the quad. We reach the doors of MemChu. I turn to him. “Just go inside with me. Walk the labyrinth. See if you don’t have a vision there, too. I’ll bet you ten bucks you see a train station.”

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