“It doesn’t have to be like this,” Mist said in a gentle voice. “Tell us what we want, and this can be over. You know you’re going to break sooner or later.”
“Probably.” The word slipped out before I could stop it. Damn. Stop talking, Riley. “Though I don’t see why I shouldn’t drag this out as long as I can,” I went on, as my mouth refused to cooperate. “You’re going to kill me as soon as this is over.”
Mist didn’t answer, which told me everything I needed on that front. Deliberately, I jabbed myself with the item between my fingers, and the instant flare of pain cleared my head for a moment. “Just tell me one thing,” I gritted out, meeting the other dragon’s cool gaze. Hoping she wouldn’t notice the blood dripping from my hand to the floor. “Since I’m going to be spilling my guts here shortly, I think I deserve at least one straight answer. How much was Griffin paid to sell us out?”
Mist’s slender eyebrows rose. “Enough,” she replied, her gaze almost impressed. “Mr. Walker’s deal with the respective parties is not important right now, but I am surprised you know about him.”
“I didn’t,” I said, making her blink. “I was guessing a second ago. You just confirmed it.”
Mist’s gaze hardened. Crossing her arms, she leaned back and watched me, saying nothing more. My vision grew blurry, and everything became dreamlike and surreal. I felt like I was floating, and strange images filled my head, hazy and fragmented. Where was I? How did I even get here?
“Are we ready?” A clear, quiet voice cut through the drunken fog. I didn’t know what it meant by that, but another question followed before I could wonder about it. “What is your full name?”
“Depends on who you ask,” I heard myself saying, though my voice sounded slurred and detached, like it belonged to someone else. “I’ve had a lot of names.”
“Your real name, then. The one given to you when you were hatched.”
“Cobalt,” I replied. That was an easy answer; no use in trying to hide it.
“And how many humans do you have in your network right now, Cobalt?”
“I don’t know, exactly.” I shrugged. “I’ve lost count. Maybe a few dozen?”
“All from Talon?”
“Excellent.” The girl looked pleased. She placed a chair in front of me and sat down, then leaned forward to peer into my face. I stared blankly at the floor between us and felt cool fingers against my sweaty cheek.
“Cobalt, listen to me,” the voice cajoled, and I raised my head to meet those intense blue eyes. The rest of her face blurred in and out, and I blinked hard to clear my vision. “Where are your safe houses located?” she asked in a firm, direct voice. “Your resistance has been admirable, but you will answer me, now. Where are Talon’s hatchlings? Tell me where you hide your rogues.”
I stared in disbelief as the other girl smiled and stepped away from the man in the suit, brushing at her sleeves like she was trying to wipe away filth. The human didn’t even glance at her, keeping his gun pointed directly at me. The six men behind us didn’t move, either.
“What’s going on?” I asked, my voice sounding small and weak in the vast chamber. Faith dusted off her hands, tossed back her curls and shot me a look of supreme disdain.
“Oh, I think you know the answer to that,” she replied, with a smile that was completely different from the shy, terrified girl of a moment ago. “You’re smart enough to figure it out. You wouldn’t be one of her students if you weren’t. By the way, do you like where I staged this little encounter?” She raised her arms, as if showing off the room around us. “I thought it would bring back memories.”
And everything hit me with a jolt. The warehouse. The maze of crates and shipping containers. The armed men surrounding us. I stared at Faith, horror and rage creeping over me. “Lilith,” I growled, making her smile widen. “You’re one of her students, aren’t you? You’re a Viper.”
Faith chuckled. “Her only other student. Before you came along, anyway.” For a second, her eyes glittered, a flash of hatred crossing her expression, before she shook it off and smiled again. “She told me to tell you hello, and that she fully expected you and Cobalt to fall for such an obvious trap. A beginner’s mistake, if you ask me. If you had only completed your training, this never would have happened.”
“Where’s Riley?” I snarled, making the men surrounding us raise their weapons higher. “You know where he is, don’t you? Tell me!”
“He’s dead,” Faith replied offhandedly. “Or he will be soon. Mist should be nearly done.”
“Oh, sorry. That’s Ava to you.”
The floor dropped out from under me, and for a moment, I couldn’t breathe. Not only was Faith a Talon operative, Ava was one, too. This whole thing was an elaborate plot by the organization. If they had sent a Viper, Lilith’s other student, of all people, I must have really pissed them off. And Riley…might already be gone.
I clenched my fists as my dragon snarled in defiance. “No,” I said, as Faith’s eyebrows rose. “You’re wrong. You don’t know Riley. He’s more than a match for any Talon agent.” He had to be; I refused to believe anything else. If he was dead…I would know. My dragon would know. “It’s Mist you should be worried about,” I told Faith.
Faith shrugged. “Regardless,” she said, seemingly unconcerned about her partner, “he’s not here. And he isn’t the one you should be worried about right now.”
Her gaze shifted away from me, turning calculating and cruel as it fixed on Garret. “A soldier of St. George,” she mused, and my blood chilled. “How very…interesting. You have fallen quite far, haven’t you?” She shook her head and glanced at me with obvious contempt. “Consorting with the enemy? Allying yourself with a soldier of St. George?” She tsked, a mock-sorrowful look crossing her face. “For shame, really. What would Lilith say? What would Talon say?”
My throat felt tight with panic. I didn’t know what was happening with Riley, what Mist was doing to him, but I did know what would happen to Garret. Talon would kill him, right now, for no other reason than he had been part of St. George. It didn’t matter that he was on our side now. It didn’t matter that the Order itself was hunting him. They would show a soldier of St. George no mercy, unless I could somehow change their mind. Fighting right now would be suicide. With half a dozen guns trained on us, even if I survived, that first volley would kill the soldier.