… EPISODE 21…
….. Posted by uc beverly…..
“That’s not going to happen.” Draven’s tone is flat. He sounds completely immovable.
“My brother is the only one who might know about the lab relocation and might actually tell us where it is.”
“Who are you kidding? The perfect son of Rex Malone would spill the beans on the top secret hero hideaway?” Draven sounds bitter, angry. “That’s so not even in the realm of possibility.”
“Well, I didn’t mean we should just walk up and ask him,” she says. “Geez.” She gestures to Draven, Dante, Jeremy, and Nitro. “Between the five of us, we’ve got some serious power. He won’t be able to hold out against all of us. No matter how much he wants to.”
It still hurts a little—okay more than a little—to be counted as powerless, especially by my best friend. Just because I can’t move things with my mind or crush skulls with a thought doesn’t mean I’m useless. I thought I’d proven that tonight. Thought I’d shown Rebel and the others that I’m just as important as the rest of them. It sucks that she still doesn’t think I can contribute.
But now’s not exactly the time for self-pity, not when so much hangs in the balance. Deacon’s life. My mother’s freedom. Exposing the superheroes for their crimes. Saving the villains.
We don’t exactly have room in our schedule for my existential crisis, no matter how overwhelmed I feel. Ignoring my hurt and embarrassment, I force myself to concentrate. To think logically about our next steps since emotions are running high right now. They’re not reacting; they’re overreacting.
“Don’t you think Riley’s is the first place they’ll look for us?” I ask Rebel. “They know you and I are part of this now. It’s not a stretch for your dad to think you’d go to Riley for help or—”
“I’m not going to that kiss-ass for help,” Rebel says through gritted teeth. “I’m going to him because my dad trusts him. He knows everything that we want to know.”
I hold up a placating hand. “I’m not saying he doesn’t. But you didn’t let me finish. Even though your dad knows you and Riley don’t get along, your dad has to know that Riley would be the first one you’d try to break. You’ve made him cry more than once through the years.”
“And I’ll do it this time,” she tells me determinedly. “If we get in and get Riley under control fast enough, he won’t have time to notify anyone that we’re there and we’ll be gone before Dad can send in the troops.” “And if his security system alerts them first?” I ask.
“That’s what I’m here for,” Jeremy says. He’s trying not to show it, but I’m pretty sure he’s as concerned about this idea as I am. “I cracked into the lab’s mainframe. You think I can’t hack Riley’s home security system? I’d be insulted if I knew you weren’t just being Kenna—looking at every angle of the situation.”
“How many angles are there?” Rebel demands. “We’re out of options. Unless we find out where they’re holding Deacon, it’s game over. He’s as good as dead.” Dante sags as if he can’t handle the weight on his shoulders for one minute longer. I know exactly how he feels. That, more than anything else, has me saying, “Maybe you’re right. If we can get to Riley—” “I’m not okay with this,” Draven cuts me off.
I don’t know why he’s turning down what seems like the only solution to our problem. It’s not like I don’t agree it’s a long shot, but it’s the only shot we’ve got. Nitro must be thinking the same thing because he jumps in with, “Screw it. Does anyone have any better ideas?”
Nobody has anything to offer.
Draven’s eyes darken to nearly midnight. It doesn’t surprise me when he yanks open the door and jumps to the ground, stalking away from the group with his head bent and shoulders hunched.
“We don’t have any more time to argue,” Rebel insists, her voice rising with fear and impatience. “We need to go now.”
I hold a hand up to her to still her impatience and then go after Draven. He stiffens when my fingers brush against his arm. A part of me wants to pull him close and let him lean on me the way that we’ve been leaning on him for so much of this journey.
“I know this isn’t a great plan,” I begin. “But—” “It’s crap,” he tells me, scowling at the ground.
“I know.” I rub his shoulders. “I think so too. But we’re out of options.”
I give it a moment to sink in. “We need to get to Deacon. Before he ends up in one of those body bags. If Riley is our only access, then we have to suck it up.”
“Suck it up?” he asks incredulously. “You want me to put the fate of my cousin, my best friend, in the hands of a hero?”
I wince at his virulence. “You kind of already have, haven’t you?”
He doesn’t answer. Then, reluctantly, “I don’t trust the Malones.”
“Neither do I. Neither do any of us at this point. But you trust Rebel, right?”
Again he doesn’t answer.
“Draven, come on. You know Rebel would never do anything to hurt Dante.” I’ve only known for a couple days that they’re together, and even I know that much. “I know.”
“You’re starting to trust Jeremy,” I press. “And I’m not technically a hero, but you trust me, too.”
He shrugs, not arguing.
“Then maybe we need to give this a shot. We’ve tried everything else. Besides, if it’s a trap…if it’s a trap, we can find a way out, right? Between the six of us, we can do a lot.”
“I’m not worried about getting caught,” Draven says, and I can tell from the slant of his shoulders and the clench of his fists that his comment is not bravado. Besides, except for that heights thing, he hasn’t been afraid once since this whole nightmare started—at least, he hasn’t shown it. He’s never hesitated. Never backed away from anything we’ve had to do.
So whatever this is—whatever’s going through his head right now—has to do with something else, something inside him that I can’t see, can’t reach. There’s so much about him that I don’t know, and never has it been more apparent than right now.
I mean, we may be team members. He may have kissed me. We may have kissed
each other. But on this, I’m flying blind.
“What are you worried about?” I ask.
He looks me straight in the eye. For a moment, I can see the real Draven, all alone behind the badass, beneath the layers of darkness and angst he wears like a second skin. And then it’s gone. In its place is the smirk I’m coming to hate even as it makes me smile.
“I’m worried about busting into Riley’s place and being blinded by all his glory and goodness,” he tells me. “There’s only so much superheroic awesome a villain like me can take at any one time.”
He delivers the line well, his voice cocky and his sneer perfect. But there’s a
tension in him that says it’s so much more than what he’s letting on. And just like that, all the trust we’ve been building crumbles.
“When are you going to tell me the truth?” I demand. “I’ve done everything I could to prove that I’m committed to rescuing Deacon. That I deserve your trust. You don’t have to trust Rex Malone, but when are you going to really trust me?” “Trust you?” His look turns incredulous. “You locked me in a refrigerator.” I roll my eyes. “Be glad it wasn’t the freezer.”
“Seriously? That’s the best you’ve got? No apology, no mea culpa? Just ‘be glad it wasn’t the freezer’?”
“I was trying to save your life! If you got caught—” “If I got caught, it wouldn’t be your problem.”
I recoil. He’s right. I know he’s right. We’re not together. We’re not dating, despite the kiss we shared—well, kiss and a half. We’re not even friends. We’re barely acquaintances. But we are partners in this mission. We’re on the same team. And if something happens to him… My stomach lurches violently. If something happens to him, I’m not going to be okay.
Only a few days ago, I despised villains as much as he clearly despises heroes.
I’ve changed, but he obviously hasn’t.
It hurts more than I want it to.
But this isn’t about me or my messed-up feelings. It never has been. “Yeah, well, if you get caught it’s everyone’s problem. That’s what it means to be part of a team.”
He stares at me like I’m speaking Greek. And maybe I am. Because up on that roof, I stopped thinking of Draven as a villain and started thinking of him as a person I care about.
“Come on,” I reach out a hand to urge him along. “I’m not sure this Riley thing is a good idea either. But Rebel seems to think it’s the only way and I trust her. So let’s just suck it up and get it over with.”
He doesn’t move. I expect more arguing, more sarcasm.
But then he does the most extraordinary thing. He grabs my hand. Slides our palms together. Interlaces our fingers.
Sparks race along my spine at the contact, and though I know it’s the wrong time—that there are so many other things I should be thinking about right now—I can’t help the way my breathing becomes shallow or my heart beats faster.
When he says, “So how far is Riley’s place from here anyway?” I know I was right to trust him.