The Drafter

Page 144

The bullet winged away and Peri came up into a fighting stance, staggering when her wounded leg gave out. Jack followed her down, pinning her to the pavement, and she stopped, feeling the hard blunt end of a pistol against her kidney. He was inches away, feeling both familiar and threatening atop her.

How many times have we played this out? she wondered, then gasped when chunks of concrete peppered them, cutting her face and making Jack look up.

“Why do you care!” Jack shouted, and the pistol lifted from her to point at Silas.

Peri jerked her arm free and smashed her palm into his already broken nose.

Jack screamed. His fist lashed out. She couldn’t move to escape it, and it hit her full-on.

Pain exploded in her face. She couldn’t see. She struggled to keep from vomiting as vertigo swamped her.

And then she could breathe as Jack was ripped off her.

Bleary, she rolled to her stomach. Silas and Jack fought hand-to-hand on the concrete. Gasping, she sat up and looked for the gun, spotting it flung off to the side. Holding her stomach, she pushed herself up and staggered toward it. He’d hit her so hard she couldn’t walk straight.

“Silas, get clear!” she shouted, and he howled, getting in one last punch before he rolled to his feet and away.

Jack lurched upright. Expression wild, he didn’t see her as he screamed and went for Silas. Her hand trembled, and she shot at the ground at his feet. Shrapnel sprayed up, and Jack halted, his head snapping around. Arms held out before her, Peri pointed the gun and shook. She had him!

“Peri?” Silas shouted, hunched and afraid to move. “Oh God. Don’t kill him. He’s your past. You need him to tell you your past!”

“I don’t need him!” she raged. She wasn’t scared. She was angry with herself for being tempted, knowing that it would always be there. The cracks would never mend. She wanted what only Jack could give her, and she hated that part of herself, even as it kept her alive.

Slowly Jack pulled himself to his full height, his eyes going from her to Silas. “You’re not going to shoot me, babe.”

Her arms shook, but her gaze never left him. “Stop calling me that!” she shouted, her throat going raw. “And why not? You killed me first.” The words were hard as they fell from her. Hands quivering, she said, “Silas? Will you take this for me?”

Silas eased up beside her, and the muzzle of the weapon steadied as he took it. Jack’s expression went grim. Being careful to stay out of Silas’s line of sight, Peri eased up to Jack. She was almost light-headed from spent adrenaline. It would pass. Grunting, she kicked the back of his legs to make him kneel, and he hit the pavement hard. “I want very much to shoot you,” she said from behind him, her words hardly above a whisper. “But Silas is right. You’re useful.” Reaching behind her coat, she brought out the damaged diary and tapped it against his bloody face. “One way or the other.”

Jack clenched his teeth, and she backed up, not trusting that his desire to remain unshot was stronger than his desire to throttle her. “If he moves, shoot him,” she said, retreating to stand with Silas. “Can I use your phone?”

“Back pocket.”

Her eyebrows rose, and she gave Jack a smile as she fished it out. “You knew Jack was alive, didn’t you?” she asked Silas.

“I didn’t know he was in Allen’s car,” he said, and Peri made a sad laugh. “Fran wouldn’t trust you until you settled it with Jack. Peri. It’s truly over. Are you mad at me?”

Over? It wasn’t over. She’d almost said yes to Jack. She’d wanted to say yes, and even though she had said no, it sickened her. She couldn’t go back to the alliance now. She didn’t trust herself—and they would never trust her.

“You can’t stop this,” Jack said softly, the blood flowing from his nose. “They will come for me. And when I get free, I will find you. I will—”

Peri took three steps forward. Hands in fists, she snapped a sharp front kick at him, flicking his head back and knocking him down. Grunting, he levered himself up, hand on his chin as he sat on the pavement and stared silently at her.

Shaking, she backed up to lean against the car. She shouldn’t have done that. Her leg was in agony. Swiping the phone app on, she called Fran. The line clicked open, and Fran’s intent voice barked, “Silas? Talk to me.”

Peri’s eyes went to Silas, his aim unwavering from Jack. The wind gusted, drawing her attention to the loose pages of her diary, shifting in the wind.

“Silas, are you there?”

Peri jerked herself back to the present. “It’s me. Silas and I are at the ferry dock. Can you send someone to pick up Jack? Silas has him at gunpoint. I’d appreciate you locking him up. And thanks for the offer to work for you, but I’m going to have to pass.”

Silas’s face became ashen, and Jack chuckled, his eyes on the muzzle fixed on him.

“I’m leaving now,” Peri said into the phone but talking to both of them. “Don’t follow me. Tell Allen I need his car for a few days but I’ll leave it parked illegally somewhere next week so he can pick it up at impound. Oh, and, Fran? You suck.”

“Agent Reed—”

Peri ended the call, setting the phone down on the pavement where she wouldn’t run it over when she left. Almost immediately it began to hum.

“What are you doing?” Silas asked, but she said nothing as she dropped her diary next to it, not caring if more pages blew into the water. Head high, she limped to the car. The keys were still in it.

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