Home > Rogue (Relentless #3)

Rogue (Relentless #3)
Author: Karen Lynch

Chapter 1

“Oh my God! I can’t believe I let you talk me into this.”

“M-me?” I wobbled on stiff legs toward the dilapidated building that used to be the Butler Falls lumber mill. My wet clothes hung heavily on me, and the cold wind was an icy lash across my face. If my teeth chattered any harder they would surely break. “You’re the one wh-who insisted on coming along.”

Jordan huffed as she caught up to me in three long strides, her short blond hair flattened wetly against her head. She passed me and pushed open the wooden door, which groaned loudly on its rusty hinges. By the time I entered the building she had shed her wet coat and pulled a small flashlight from the plastic bag she carried. She set the flashlight down on an overturned wooden barrel and began stripping off her clothes.

Shivering violently, I pulled off my own wet clothes. My numb fingers fumbled with the button of my jeans for thirty seconds before it finally came undone. Down to my bra and panties, I ripped open the plastic bag I had tucked inside my coat and pulled out dry clothes and sneakers. My breath fogged the air around me as I struggled to pull the jeans up my damp legs, and I nearly fell over from the effort.

Jordan swung her flashlight in my direction, momentarily blinding me. “You said you could keep us warm in the river, but you forgot to mention that I’d freeze my ass off when we got here.”

I sighed when my thick sweater settled over my body. It wasn’t as warm as a coat, but it was a vast improvement over wet clothes. I slipped on my dry socks and sneakers before I straightened up to answer her. “I said I could get us down the river, and here we are. Okay, I forgot one tiny detail. You have to admit it was a brilliant plan.”

“Bloody genius.” I couldn’t see her face behind the flashlight, but I knew she was wearing her signature smirk. “If we don’t die from exposure, this will go down as the most awesome getaway ever! I still can’t believe what you did back there. Or that we just rode that crazy river all the way to town and we’re still alive to talk about it. They’ll be talking about this one for years.”

“You know me, wild and unpredictable.” I picked up my plastic bag, which still contained a folded blue T-shirt, and tucked it into the waistband of my jeans under my sweater. From an inside pocket of my wet coat I pulled my sheathed silver dagger, which I also tucked inside my jeans. I didn’t have to ask Jordan if she had weapons on her. She probably wore a knife to bed.

“I’m starting to believe you’re capable of anything.” She lowered the flashlight. “Do you think they know we’re gone?”

I wrung the water from my ponytail and started for the door. “Yes – or they will soon enough. And you know the first place they’ll look is town. We need to get a move on before he... they get here.”

Jordan followed me outside. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near Nikolas when he realizes you gave him the slip. He’s going to lose it. I’m telling you now, if he catches up with us, I’m using you for a shield. He’ll be too focused on you to start raging at me.”

“Wow, what a friend.” I blew on my hands and rubbed them together before tucking them under my arms. Why hadn’t I thought to bring a pair of gloves? And a cap? Peering through the darkness, I saw the faint outline of a road to my left, and I started jogging in that direction.

Jordan ran beside me. “I happen to have a strong survival instinct, which is why you asked me to come with you.”

A laugh burst from me. “I didn’t ask you. You blackmailed me, remember?”

“I merely pointed out that you might have cool powers but you can’t fight for shit, and you’ll need someone with my skills out here.”

“You also said you’d tell Nikolas what I was planning if I didn’t let you come.”

She coughed. “Um, I wouldn’t really have done that. I just didn’t want to stay there with you gone and Liv...”

“I know.” We fell silent, neither of us ready to talk about Olivia. I’d known Olivia for only month, but her death had affected me deeply. I knew Jordan was grieving the loss of her friend even though she kept it inside.

The road was dark and the night was quiet except for the sound of our breath and our feet slapping the pavement. After five minutes, it felt like my hair was frozen to my scalp, but at least the exercise was warming the rest of my body. It was another five minutes before we hit the main road. Fear of being out in the open made us quicken our pace, and I was panting heavily by the time we reached the farmhouse belonging to the only person I knew in Butler Falls.

Jordan rang the doorbell and Derek Mason opened it to stare at us with wide eyes. “What happened to you two?” He ushered us inside and the wave of heat made my cold face tingle. “Where are your coats, and why is your hair wet?”

“Long story.” Jordan walked over to stand in front of the blazing fire in the living room. “I thought your friend Wes was going to be here.”

“He’ll be here at six. It’s only quarter ‘til.” Derek looked from Jordan to me like he wasn’t quite sure what to make of us. “You girls must be freezing. Do you want a blanket or something hot to drink? I can make some hot chocolate or tea.”

I gave him a grateful smile. “Hot chocolate would be awesome. And I wouldn’t mind a hair dryer if you have one.”

“Sure. There’s one in the bathroom at the end of the hall upstairs. I’ll put the kettle on.” Derek was a great host. I’d met him at a party here two weeks ago, and he had gone out of his way to make us feel at home. Of course, that was before his best friends showed up as newly-made vampires and tried to kill us. Thank God, Derek didn’t remember any of that. The Mohiri healers had used a drug to modify his memories, and he thought his bruises were from falling from the loft while giving Jordan and me a tour of the barn. I had no idea what story Tristan had come up with to account for Derek’s missing friends.

   
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