Boundless Page 82

“We broke up. It’s like you said, he’s a human. He didn’t understand me. It didn’t work.” Christian’s hand tightens in mine as he registers how, even though what I’m saying is technically the truth, it’s also a lie, and he can feel how desperately I want to be convincing in this lie. Because if Tucker’s not worth anything to me, he can’t be used as leverage.

But then, if Tucker’s not worth anything to me, he can also be discarded like an empty paper cup, used and thrown away. I have to be careful.

“She’s with me now,” Christian says. He’s so much better at lying than I am. There’s no telltale catch in his voice.

“It’s true that you two seem awfully fond of each other,” Asael says thoughtfully. “But then it begs the question: Why did you come here? Why, out of all the places on earth you could have gone, did you send yourself here, to this boy?”

I meet Tucker’s eyes and swallow. This is the lie I’m not going to get away with.

Because he’s my home.

“Lucy, be a dear and hold the human, will you?” Asael says, and now there’s a black blade at Tucker’s throat. Lucy takes his arm and pulls him a few steps away from Asael, her own eyes glinting with the excitement of it all. I hear the sorrow that makes up the blade sizzle slightly as it touches Tucker’s neck, and he flinches.

Asael appears happy, like his day is looking up.

“Now,” he says, suddenly all business. “Let’s negotiate. I think a trade might be in order. A life for a life.”

“I’ll go,” Angela volunteers immediately. She clears her throat and says it again louder. “I’ll come back with you, Father.” Her voice wavers on the word.

Asael scoffs. “I don’t want you. You’ve been nothing but a disappointment since I found you. Look at you.” His eyes sweep up and down her body, lingering at the markings on her arm. Bad daughter.

She doesn’t answer, but part of her seems to shrink inside herself. No one loves me passes through her mind.

“I want Jeffrey,” Lucy says, like a child demanding her favorite toy. She looks at him, smiles. “Come on, baby. Come with me.”

Jeffrey takes a deep brave breath and starts to step forward, and I catch his arm and pull him back.

“Dear, sweet Lucy,” Asael says as Jeffrey and I argue without words for a minute. “I know you have a crush on the boy, and I know you’ve put a lot of work into him, but I think I’d rather have that one.”

He points at me.

“No,” Christian and Tucker say at the same time.

Asael smiles wickedly. “Ah, you see? She’s valuable. And easy on the eyes.” His gaze on me is like a touch, and I shiver, draw my arms over my chest. “I’m looking forward to hearing how you managed to cross out of hell. You’ll tell me, won’t you? Who’s been teaching you?”

“Take me,” Christian says then.

Asael waves his hand dismissively. “I don’t even know who you are. Why would I want you?”

“He’s the one who killed Liv,” Lucy accuses.

Asael’s eyes flash. “Is that true? You killed my daughter?”

I understand Christian’s intention about a second too late. “Christian, don’t—”

“Yes,” Christian says. “But I’m your son.”

His son.

Oh, boy. I didn’t see that one coming. But Christian, I realize, has been seeing this moment. This is his vision, facing down the man who killed his mother. His father.

Lucy gasps, her face turning up again, eyes wide. If Christian is Asael’s son, it means that he’s also her brother. Her brother and Angela’s brother. It’s quite the family reunion we’re having in here.

How long has he known that? I wonder. Why didn’t he tell me?

Asael’s eyes widen. “My son? Why ever would you think that you’re my son?”

“You’re the collector, right?” Christian looks down at his feet. “You collected my mother. Bonnie was her name. A Dimidius. You met her in New York City, 1993.”

“Ah, I remember,” Asael says. “Green eyes. Long, pale hair.”

Christian’s jaw clenches.

“A shame what had to happen with her,” Asael continues. “I hate to destroy beautiful things. But she simply would not tell me where I could find you. Tell me, do you have black spots on your wings?”

“Shut up,” Christian mutters. I’ve never felt that kind of rage from him before, and it’s a frightening thing. He’d kill Asael, if he could.

Asael squints at him thoughtfully, oblivious. “Well now, that does change things. Perhaps I want you, after all. Even though you’ll have to be punished, I suppose, for killing Olivia.”

“No,” I say firmly, shaking my head. “I’ll go with you. Tucker is my responsibility, no one else’s. I’ll go.”

Clara, Christian growls in my mind. Stop talking and let me do this.

You are not the boss of me, I send back fiercely. Think about it. What you did just now, telling him that, was unbelievably brave and selfless, and I know you did it for me, but it was … stupid. I don’t care what the vision told you. We need to be smart about this. Out of all of us, I’m the most likely to be able to get out of hell on my own. I can get out.

Not without me, he says. You’ll go crazy in there without someone to ground you.

He has a point, but I try to ignore it. Find my dad, I say. Maybe he can come for me.

I remember Dad’s exact words last time we talked. I can’t interfere, he said. He can’t save me. Still, it’s what I have to do. And I’m actually starting to form the beginnings of a plan.

I’m going. No more arguing, I tell Christian. Besides, you’re the one holding the glory, I say, and then before he can answer, I step out of it.

Tucker groans when I walk toward them.

“Let him go,” I say, my voice traitorously thick. “A life for a life, like you said.”

Asael nods at Lucy, whose dagger disappears, but she still has hold of Tucker’s coat.

“Let him walk to the glory,” I say.

“First, you come to me,” Asael insists.

“How about we do it at the same time?”

He smiles. “All right. Come.”

I step toward Asael, and Lucy steps toward the circle of glory with Tucker.

Don’t let him touch you, Angela whispers fervently in my mind. He’ll poison you.

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