With a sharp jab, Munro tagged him in the kidney, a particularly painful spot for both of them.
Only problem with fighting your twin: you both shared the same weaknesses.
"Were you vivisected?"
The word made Will flinch more than the punch had. So he launched another fist. "Chest cracked open, organs plucked, then stapled back up? The prisoners called it a zipper in the chest." A big seeping Y from belly to collarbones-something on the outside to keep you occupied while regenerating your insides.
"This was done to you, brathair?" Brother. Now Munro seethed.
"And I canna get vengeance!" No outlet to vent this rage.
Will couldn't decide which of his four enemies he hated more: the soothsayer who'd betrayed him, the Blademan who'd caged him, the scientist who'd tormented him, or the one who'd set it all in motion: Preston Webb.
He lunged for Munro again, pummeling his brother, pissed because he knew Munro was holding back. His eyes had scarcely flickered, his beast as firmly leashed as usual.
To hell with it. Will's knuckles stung, his face throbbed. At some point in the last ten minutes, he'd begun to crave whiskey more than hitting Munro. With a final halfhearted blow, Will released him. As quickly as the fight had started, he ended it. They were both breathing heavily, both bloodied.
At the same instant that Munro swiped his sleeve over his lacerated forehead, Will did the same over his shattered nose.
Then he turned toward the liquor cabinet to root for a fifth. Ah, Macallan. Fine whiskey, expensive. He chugged it like water. The liquid stung his lips, swirling around temporarily loosened teeth. He couldn't quite taste it with his nose full of blood.
But Munro wouldn't let this drop. "And what about the doctor I heard tell of?"
Will clenched the bottle neck so hard it broke, shards digging into his palm while the bottom half fell and shattered all over the floor. "She took a special interest in me." Her eyes wide behind oversize glasses, she'd softly queried, "Why should Chase be the only one with an immortal plaything?"
Will had made her pay-but too late. The experiments and torture had dredged up all his memories. I'd thought I was doing so well.
"Do you know where Dixon is?" Munro asked. "No one in the Lore can find her."
"I made sure she was conscious as I ripped her limb from limb." And he wished to the gods that he could do it again, leisurely. He dared his brother to say aught about that.
Munro didn't. "Someone saw succubae tracking you through the prison."
To avoid Munro's gaze, Will dug up another bottle. "They wanted Lykae for dinner. As usual." Ruelle had been right. Werewolves were sodding catnip for those parasites.
New bottle in hand, Will staggered back against the wall, overwhelmed by the memories. His hatred of succubae burned afresh, until it choked him of breath, threatening to suffocate him.
If a man hated for this long, would there soon be nothing left of him?
Mayhap that was why the Instinct had left him. Because he was halfway to the grave already.
"And did they . . . feed?" Munro seemed to be bracing for the worst.
"They dinna." But it'd been so damned close. "They would have if no' for the Valkyrie Regin the Radiant and her cellmate." With their help, he'd been able to behead all five succubae. He often replayed that memory, the seed-feeders' screams, their surprise.
"Regin is the Blademan's woman, and she helped save you from a hellish fate," Munro said. "Is that why you have no' targeted her male?"
The man had overseen security on the island and had bludgeoned Will for an escape attempt. Thought to be human, the Blademan was actually a berserker. "That's one reason." Another? Nix had told him that their future lines would entwine. No' if I'm dead, Nix!
Munro snapped his fingers for the whiskey. "Give over."
Will cradled his bottle in the crook of his elbow, handing Munro his own. "Are we done now? Can we never speak of this again?"
Munro raised his brows, the slash on his forehead making him wince. "We have to do something."
Will took another long draw. "I canna target Chase. I canna find Webb." Canna target Nix. "There's nothing to be done." Never had his future seemed so hopeless. Not even when he'd inadvertently killed both of his parents and his unborn sister. At least then he'd naively thought that time healed all wounds, that one day his pain would lessen.
What a crock of bullshite. Time multiplied all wounds. "And if I see one more pitying look, I'll give you a proper hiding, I swear to gods."
"I know about the plane ticket," Munro said simply, but so much was going on behind those eyes.
Will's time in that prison had made him realize how ridiculous it was to keep struggling, to keep living as if he had reason to. Nine hundred plus years was plenty. And only an idiot would continue constructing a building on such a bollixed foundation. "Wanted a change of pace."
"Doona lie to me! You think I doona know what you're contemplating? You interrogated Bowen about the Pit of the Fyre Dragan."
Last year, their cousin Bowen had been trapped in that lair before escaping. When Will had heard of the place, he'd perked the hell up. It was all well and good to be suicidal, but an immortal had practicalities to deal with. Namely: unless you could cut off your own head, you couldn't kill yourself.
As my father knew . . .
So Will had planned to take a dip in the Pit.
"And then," Munro continued, "you bought a one-way ticket to a place nicknamed Where Immortals Go to Die."
The whiskey was loosening Will's tongue, coaxing him to admit the truth. "When I was young, I got . . . twisted. Now I'm no' right. There it is, there's nothing to be done for it." He shrugged. "If there were, it would have happened by now."
Munro's eyes were widening as if he was chilled by Will's casual demeanor.
"Gods, man, I've had so many centuries," Will said. "I've lived long enough." Nix had been right about one thing-the bone hadn't set right. Now pulverized, never to knit. "The prison was just a hint, brother."
"Did you never consider how I'd feel to lose the last of my family?"
"Oh, aye." He'd debated it, deciding Munro would be better off. Since he was revealing all, Will might as well round out the tale. "My Instinct was quiet before the prison. Now it's gone."
Munro's jaw slackened, as if he could scarcely imagine this loss. The Instinct was part of what made a Lykae who he was.
Will drank deep, then said, "Hell, that means I'm halfway dead already. I've no Instinct and little control of my beast. I'm a liability. I will no' be a burden to this pack." To you.
Munro had said he didn't pity Will. But I pity him. In one fell swoop, Munro had lost two incredible parents and a baby sister, and gained a burden for life.
Will had been waiting centuries for Munro to wake the hell up and realize he hated his brother. "The only reason I'm no' already dead is because I craved retribution first."
"We'll find your mate. She can heal you. We'll call Nix and ask her to search-"
"Doona say that Valkyrie's name to me again!"
Munro raised his brows. "Yet another secret?"
Ronan and Ben burst into the lodge then, gazing at all the destruction, the blood. Ronan looked impressed, but Ben's eyes began to flicker blue, his beast stirring from just the evidence of violence.
Hair trigger. I've been there. I am there.
"Easy, Ben," Munro said. "Get control of it."
Ben inhaled deeply, clenching and unclenching his fists.
Once Ben's eyes finally cleared, Ronan waved a computer printout. "We've got a present for you, Head Case."
Will glowered at him. "I want nothing you have," he said, still unsure how the two had ended up here. What was the clan thinking, foisting lads on the twins? Aye, their orphan situation was similar to Will and Munro's-and their lines were closely related, with only about forty or so generations between them. But for fuck's sake, if the boys needed to learn how to control their beasts, you didn't send them to Crazy Uncle Will's.
He suspected fixer Munro had lobbied to take them in.
"The clan just got a message at the den," Ronan said. "A Lore-wide alert. There's to be an auction at the demon crossroads at midnight, hosted by the House of Witches."
Witches. Devious creatures.
Ronan read from the paper: "Members of the Pravus Rule and the Vertas League are both welcome to bid on this capture, a female who will have tactical value against a common enemy."
Wide-eyed, Will exclaimed, "Someone was captured? No shite? Wonder what that's like!"
Munro asked, "Who's the female?"
Ronan raised his brows. "The highest wire transfer will win that which all the Lore covets. . . ."
"Chillin' by the fire while we eatin' fondue," crooned Justin Bieber. "I dunno about me but I know about you. . . ."
About an hour ago, Chloe had awakened on the floor of an RV to the tunes of J.B.-with a strip of cloth gagging her mouth and shackles around her wrists and ankles. The RV was strewn with Mardi Gras beads and the air outside smelled of marsh and jasmine. She was definitely no longer in Seattle.
Because her front doorstep had been replaced with a trapdoor to hell.
Three teenage girls were inside the RV with her, listening to the music, doing their makeup, stepping over Chloe with little regard. For the most part they looked human. One was a Scandi-looking blonde, one a pale brunette, one a willowy Asian-all pretty, like post-modern Charlie's Angels.
But Chloe sensed something was off about this trio. There was an eerie grace to their movements, and their eyes seemed to flicker under different lights.
Once she'd roused, two realizations had struck Chloe: Detrus were totally real. And she was about to suffer at their hands. She'd started struggling against her bonds, trying to squeeze her contorted hand through one manacle.
Earlier the three had cracked open wine coolers to celebrate their catch. "We are the tanda of twenty-thirteen!" the brunette said.
"This is our year!" the Asian beauty said. "Our auction will be talked about for eternity!"
Was Chloe about to be . . . auctioned?
"Long live the House of Witches!" They all clinked bottles.
Witches. Going to vomit. The Book of Lore said that Wiccae were mystical mercenaries, obsessed with amassing wealth. They sold their spells and tonics-and apparently, they weren't above human trafficking.
But then, Chloe wasn't quite human, was she?
Rub some dirt on it, rub some dirt on it. She realized that her optimism had gotten benched tonight, and might never return to the game.
She could only conclude that the Order was real, her dad's mission was real, and he'd made some immortal enemies carrying it out. Having met some of these detrus, Chloe wished Dad all the success in the world with his extermination endeavor.
Except she was one. That house of cards had come tumbling down. Time to face facts, Chlo. If detrus existed, then she was transforming into one of them.
Because her mom had been one. Chloe's eyes widened. Her mother could never have passed away from cancer! That had been just a cover story. So how had she died?
I need answers! Filled with impotent frustration, she yelled against her gag, "Ey! Elp a itch out! Ake is ag ov!"
The witches ignored her, turning up the stereo. She cringed when yet another Bieber song pumped away. Great, she'd been captured by fucking Beliebers.
They planned to sell her at auction? When "Beauty and a Beat" played for the fifth time, Chloe decided she was ready for the block.
With a huff, she renewed her struggles. If she could get free, she could yank up that removable table-the one with all the old wads of teenage-witch gum stuck to the underside-and use it as a weapon.
The RV door opened, revealing a young black-haired female with luminous brown eyes. Definitely not human; no one's hair could possibly be that glossy without Photoshop.
She had a clipboard in hand, a walkie-talkie attached to her belt, and a backpack slung over her shoulders. The others greeted her with a chorus of "Belee!"
At the sight of the wine coolers, this Belee's shoulders stiffened and a weird electricity began to fill the air. "Drinking on the job?" The RV briefly shook as the other girls scrambled to dump their drinks.
Alpha-bitch alert. If this was a team, Chloe had just met the playmaker.
Belee's walkie-talkie hissed. "Bee, you said there might be a few hundred people here tonight," another girl's voice said. An audible swallow sounded over the line. "We've got about five thousand, and they're still filing in. What are we going to do?"
"Hellooo, then start charging for admission," Belee snapped. "You're acting like this is your first rodeo."
"It is. We're worried. If Mari and Carrow find out, they'll bring the heat," she added in a Mom and Dad'll bust the party tone. "Maybe I shouldn't have added that last part to the auction announcement."
"What last part?" Belee asked.
"That they had to forward the message to ten other people or something bad would happen to them."
Chloe rolled her eyes. You have got to be kidding me.
Belee pursed her lips. "Mari and Carrow are deep in the bush, offplane for all we know. They'll find out after we've staged this coup! Belee out."
The walkie-talkie continued transmitting. Two girls spoke:
"Belee scares me."
"All the transfer students from Blåkulla do. What do you think that coven must be like?"
Blåkulla? Chloe had never read about that.
Belee radioed: "Your transmitter's still on, idiot!" After gazing up at the ceiling for patience, she turned to Chloe, telling no one in particular, "The package isn't displayed as well as it could be."
I'm the package? Kill her!
From her backpack, the witch produced a white, nearly transparent nightgown.
Chloe preferred to wear loose jerseys, looser shorts. Now she was supposed to wear a see-through gown?