The blast of the gun echoed in the small room. Eve could smell the gunpowder and the faint traces of singed fabric. Her own voice echoed in the room—a scream so loud and incomprehensible that it tore at her vocal chords as it propelled its way to the surface. Cassie fell. Her small, weak, body, laboring under the fever and the torment tumbled downward, caught off guard by the presence of a man she had trusted.
In that moment before the gun went off, Eve recognized Cassie’s innocence in that flicker of recognition. And he had shamefully betrayed her. Eve scrambled toward Rourke, her hands outstretched.
“How could you?” she managed before Rourke turned the gun on her and sent her weeping to the floor.
“Easy, Eve,” Rourke sighed, as if he found her annoying, tiresome, and he holstered his gun. He walked over to his prey and stalked above her; blood pooled against her shirt and under her small body. Even tried to crawl closer, but she was kept at bay by Rourke’s domineering presence. Cassie lifted a weak hand to her wound: a quarter-sized hole under her collarbone. She pushed against the entrance wound, her eyes narrowing.
“You trained me,” Cassie said. Eve recognized the strength in her daughter’s voice and she put a hand over her mouth to stifle the sobs.
“And I trained you well,” Rourke replied. He crouched down. “To stay alive when I needed you to stay alive. To be the kind of kid to come save your mom. Yes, Cassie. I trained you well.”
But as he said this, Eve noticed the faint glimmer surging up from Cassie’s gunshot wound. Like a dim bulb, the energy pulsated, sputtered, and hummed. It was no longer bright and white, but yellow and hazy. Still, Cassie hadn’t used up all her power on Emerson and the phones and the lights. She’d quit before exerting everything; she must have kept a little for herself. And now the wound sealed like before, but slower.
Cassie closed her eyes and her breath became heavy; she scrunched up her nose and whispered, “No. No.”
Eve saw Rourke’s glower and used it as an opportunity to advance. She found herself by Cassie’s side and she slipped her hand into her daughter’s and stroked her head. It was clammy, not burning up like before. She let out a small sob: a mixture of anguish and confusion. She and Jared had been so worried about the fever, but they had been worried about all the wrong things.
In an instant, she felt a rough hand push her away from Cassie.
Rourke drew his gun again and looked at it and Cassie with measured intensity.
“Maybe we need to do this another way,” he mused. “Eventually you won’t be able to heal…eventually your powers won’t save you.”
“Then why does it matter?” Eve yelled. “If she’s got nothing left, then she’s useless to you…”
“Useless?” Rourke said with a sneer. He leaned down and yanked on Cassie’s shirt to expose the bullet hole. Where he had shot her was now a tangled mass of scar tissue, the glowing light subsiding with each pulse. “We don’t know what she is capable of…and I’d be an idiot to risk—”
The door to their room swung open. Jared, flanked on either side by two armed guards, flailed and spun. Eve jumped up and took a step toward him, before she realized that Rourke had pulled his gun and trained it on her.
“Jared!” she called, but Jared had noticed Cassie on the ground, her breathing labored. And when his eyes lifted, they went straight to Rourke. Eve recognized that look: it was a look that made her stomach turn hard and cold. It was pure anger, unadulterated focus. It was the look Jared had when he was trapped and cornered and ready for a fight; she’d seen it a few times in their marriage—and it had always ended badly for someone.
The guards holding on to Jared’s biceps took note of the charred, rubbery remains of their former commander on the floor, and gawked, then their eyes slipped to the child on the floor, and those distractions were all Jared needed to tear free. He wasted no time and launched himself at Rourke; his feet carried him to Rourke faster than the man could pull the trigger, and they tumbled downward. Eve heard the crack of their bodies against the floor.
“You killed them,” Jared seethed and he got a punch in against Rourke’s jaw. It was heavy enough to send Rourke’s head into the floor, but not hard enough to end the fight. Rourke let a stream of saliva and blood drip down his chin. “You were my friend,” he continued.
Eve took a step forward.
“Stop!” she tried to yell, but she knew it was no good and the message came out strangled. She turned her attention back to her daughter. Cassie was looking right at her. Her hand raised in the air, her glare piercing.
The guards in the doorway were moving around Cassie, their hands on their weapons.
From the ground, Rourke thrashed against Jared and both men fought for possession of the gun. He lifted his eyes to the men.
“Go,” he managed to say. “Go…Ali…the Friar’s Lantern. Launch it. Do it now.” The Dark Worshippers didn’t hesitate and then spun and rushed out of the room as quickly as they had barged in.
Eve spun to Jared wrestling with Rourke, and Cassie, who attempted to sit up, her arms outstretched to her mom. But Eve knew she couldn’t let them succeed. If Cassie had used up her energy to turn the lights back on, another round of her technology could wipe out the lights forever. No turning back, no rescue.
Rourke had a grip on his gun and Jared clawed at his hand. He turned, for just a second and caught his wife’s eye. It was frantic and quick, but Eve didn’t need a translation.
“Go! Now!” Jared yelled. Rourke took a shot at him with his free hand and Jared was rocked off-center. He recovered and kept the gun at bay. It was a strange dance: quick, quick, slow.
“Now!” he said to her again.
With her heart in her throat, Eve rushed to Cassie.
“Can you walk?”
Cassie gulped. Then nodded.
“Can you run?”
Cassie nodded again.
“We have to stop them, mommy.”
Eve tried not to look at the hole in her daughter’s shirt and the way she smelled like hot metal. This was still her girl; still her baby—she’d held her the moment she was born, she’d rocked to sleep at night, and fed, and bathed, and cradled. She’d live with the guilt of her naivety for the rest of her life. The rest of their long, lighted, lives.
With a quick shudder and a glance at her dear husband, Eve grabbed Cassie and rushed toward the Dark Worshippers and into the unknown, leaving Jared to finish Rourke. Leaving herself and Cassie to stop the Friar’s Lantern from striking again.
As they rounded a corner, the gunshot echo followed them.
“Daddy!” Cassie yelled and she spun back toward the room.
Eve shuddered. Hot tears stung her eyes and she scrunched her eyelids tightly. He’d found her using her GPS. He was smart. He was resourceful. He wasn’t dead. She pictured Rourke lying in blood. It had to be. It wouldn’t be Jared. It couldn’t be.
“Daddy’s fine,” Eve said, but her voice betrayed her own lack of conviction. “Okay?”
Cassie stared straight ahead. “Okay,” her brave daughter answered, and they pounded forward, ignoring the worry searing through them both. Eve pushed aside a worse thought: if Jared was gone, God, he couldn’t be gone, then Rourke would find them. And he would kill them, too.