Author’s Note: So I had the part that followed this in mind, but it wasn’t supposed to be this soon in the narrative. Maybe I won’t leave it where it is, I might move it around and adjust it.
Her eyes opened to the sound of running water, and she lifted her head, looking around for Cress, though he’d never been the type to break and enter, even with his occasional trouble with boundaries. She snorted—that was Cress’ biggest problem. He didn’t have the same boundaries as the others. People could drain him near death, and he couldn’t stop them. She looked over at her fountain, picking up a stone from the waterfall, shaking her head. She’d forgotten about that. She didn’t indulge in a lot of decorations—the more things she had the more she could burn—but this she’d had to get. The running water reminded her of Cress and Oceana—though more him than his sister—and the rocks were Stone and Terra.
She kept the wind-chime to remind her of Moira and Sherwin, and she swore she could hear it twisting in the wind just at the thought of them. Even together, they didn’t have that kind of reach, but it was nice, sometimes, to feel less alone.
Enya closed her eyes. The fountain was not like Cress, could not soothe and relax a person in an instant. She would not be sleeping tonight. She needed to accept that.
Stone was dead.
All this time, all these years, no one had died since their parents, and the idea of Stone being the first to fall… She put a hand in her hair, shaking her head. Stone had always been the strongest of all of them, and they’d never been able to resist teasing him about being like a rock. He’d had a better sense of humor than that, not living up to his name in that respect, but he was still the strongest, the one they turned to if they had doubts or needed protection.
She had wanted him for a brother, and she’d hated Terra for getting Stone when she never seemed to appreciate him. That was family, though. No one knew what they had until that was all gone.
She let out a breath. She didn’t want to do this. Stone was one thing, and thinking about him was a sign of respect, the kind she’d always owed him, but her family was different. Forbidden. She had rules about that, and she knew better than to disobey them.
Reaching for her robe, she slipped it on and rose, heading for the kitchen. She stepped into the hall and stopped, frowning. She swore she’d heard something that was not water, and if that was what she thought it was…
Just because Stone was dead didn’t mean they’d found her. They wouldn’t have followed Cress to their meeting, they’d have taken him. He was the most valuable prize, after all. He was the leader, and he’d been able to use his talents earlier than any of the other kids, with more skill and natural ability than anyone. He’d tried to teach her control, the only one who would—who could—because anyone else would have been dead.
It didn’t make sense to ignore everything he was for what she was.
She leaned against the wall, trying to keep calm. Her mind could be pushing all of this way out of proportion, and she didn’t need to scare herself into losing control. A bit of paranoia was good, but not this much. Never this much.
The creak came again, a different board giving under the weight of someone else. She stiffened. Maybe it was nothing. Maybe she had rats again. She refused to let the monster free for a few rats. That was too high a price to pay.
Another creak, this one behind her. Her bedroom. She should have known they’d send a team. She tightened her grip on the rock she’d never set down, knowing that it was not enough.
She looked back, knowing she had nowhere to go. She could duck into the bathroom, maybe, yank the cover off the mirror and defend herself the only way she knew how—No. She would not. She could not. That was never an option.
“Tell us where they are.”
She stared at the gun, tempted to laugh. “Is that a tranquilizer?”
“It should be.”
“Look, lady, we don’t care about you. We just want your boyfriend and his friends.” This time the words came from behind her, and she took a brief glance to confirm that he was also carrying an automatic weapon. They must not have learned anything in fighting the others. That thing was as good as useless.
“So tell us where they are, and we’ll let you live.”
“You’re idiots. You think I’d fall for that?” She did laugh then. She knew more about what they were up against than they did, and they should have been better prepared for someone like her. Maybe Cress had managed to keep her secret, maybe they had forgotten that there were four elements, not three, but maybe they were just that stupid.
They had called him her boyfriend, so she’d say they were.
The man in front of her smiled. “Well, there are a few reasons to keep you alive…”
She rolled her eyes. “Don’t you get it? I’m the most dangerous one of them all.”
“You?” The man snorted, but she heard his finger shift on the gun, preparing to fire.
She reached into her pocket, fingering the makeup case. She knew better. She wouldn’t. She kept this thing for a reason, always had one nearby, but she didn’t want to use it.
“She’s going to talk before she dies,” the other one said, smashing her and the compact into the wall. The glass fell to the floor, and the room started to heat even before the monster was free. She could feel it all over her, claiming her, and when she spoke, she didn’t recognize her voice.
No, no, no, but she could not stop it, not any of it.
“Coming here, you chose to play with fire. Now you get to burn.”