The Drafter Page 134

“Fran, it’s not Peri’s fault!” Silas shouted as he was shoved to the elevator.

A security man yanked Peri to her feet and all but dragged her to the carpeted stairs. A frustrated anger was spilling through her, but she wasn’t ready to act. She’d been ready to put herself at the alliance’s mercy—and they had condemned her. Going back to Opti wasn’t an option, but neither was the alliance.

“It is over, Silas,” Fran said as the elevator filled with Howard, Taf, Silas, and the bulk of the security. “Either she just gave us to Opti, or they’re using her without her knowledge and will continue to do so within the alliance’s shadow. Either way, she needs to be ended.”

“I won’t mutilate her,” Silas argued with Fran as the doors slid shut to leave the tech guy panicking over his equipment.

“Downstairs!” Brian demanded, his nice white shirt bloodied by his nose, his Glock pulled and pointing at her. Peri turned, catching herself against the railing when he shoved her.

The thumping of the helicopters was a heavy pulse she could feel through the walls. Tension pulled like a ribbon through her, shredding her mental fog and bringing on a new clarity with each step. She was not going to an Opti cell, and she was not going to stay and be lobotomized by the alliance. There were two guards and one of her. Doable—even if she was cuffed.

“Keep going!” Brian said. “All the way to the garage,” he added, shoving her a third time as they reached the first landing. Peri caught herself with a little hop. Pissed, she put her back to the wall, staring at the two men with their weapons pulled. She could hear gunfire coming up from the great room. Someone was screaming. Opti had the house. She had to get out of here. Not without Silas.

“Brian, push me again, and I’m going to jam your balls into your esophagus,” she said, inviting him to try.

“Yeah?” He reached for her. Leaning back into the wall, Peri kicked up and out. Brian screamed, doubling over to put his head conveniently within her reach. Cuffed hands clenched around themselves, she slammed them down on the back of his head.

“Hands up!” the first man screamed, and she head-butted him, sending him cascading down the stairs in a pinwheel of arms and legs. His handgun went off, and plaster flaked down.

Jaw clenched, Peri dropped to Brian, her cuffed hands searching for the key. “Thank you,” she sang out merrily when she found it, unlocking her cuffs and taking his weapon before leaving him in a puddle of misery.

She found the second man groaning on the second-floor landing. “Now, aren’t you glad you weren’t shoving me?” she said as she locked him to the railing and took his weapon, too.

“Don’t leave me here,” he said, eyes desperate and holding pain as another flurry of gunfire rang out. It sounded like a war down there, and Periwatched through a narrow window as another of those big helicopters landed, its blades assaulting the air to make it beat like a heart about to explode. Twelve people in assault gear got out and ran to the nearby barn.

From below, more gunfire sounded. “Come back with my daughter, you sons of bitches!” Fran screamed, and Peri went cold.

Silas.

He’d been with Fran in the elevator. Numb, Peri ran down the stairs to the great room. The biting scent of gunpowder grew thick, and she jerked to a halt as she reached the end of the stairs and looked beyond.

The elevator stood open, riddled with bullets and splattered blood. An alliance guard was facedown before it in a pool of blood. The front door was shot to hell and missing, fire-suppressive smoke drifting lazily through the landscaped grounds beyond it. Five men in Opti-issued gear were crouched behind an upended couch, changing out their clips as they prepared to reopen fire on a small cluster of people pinned in the kitchen. It had to be Silas and Taf. There hadn’t been time for anyone else.

“Now!” one of the Opti men yelled, and four agents stood together, peppering the kitchen with fire as they slowly advanced.

“Will someone give me a friggin’ gun!” Fran screamed from behind the stove, and Peri strode forward. If Silas was hurt, she was going to lay down some serious pain.

The man who had remained behind the couch looked up at her. Mouth open in surprise, he raised his weapon. He was too slow, and Peri’s foot connected with him, knocking him back. His weapon arched into the air and she caught it, using its own momentum to smash it into the man’s windpipe. Gagging, he dropped, his hands clutching his throat as he choked.

The butt of the rifle smacked her free palm, and she checked the clip and the safety in one smooth motion. Good to go, she thought, wiping the man’s spittle off it before bringing it to her shoulder and shooting out the drone hovering in the middle of the room. Spinning wildly, it crashed into the fireplace.

“It’s her!” someone shouted, and all hell broke loose as Silas bellowed in fury and came out from behind the counter, big gun blasting.

Peri shot once, twice, and actually hit someone on the third try. Shrapnel peppered her, and she ducked behind an overturned desk. “Mmmm, nice,” Peri whispered as she stretched a foot out and dragged two discarded handguns into her reach.

“Get off!” Fran screamed in outrage, wrestling with a man. Teeth clenched, she dropped out from his grip, pulling him off balance and knocking him to the floor. “Will someone give me a goddamned gun!”

“Here!” Peri shouted, checking the clip and throwing one to her.

Fran caught it, and Peri gasped when someone grabbed her from behind. It was Brian, and a jab to his kidney and then his throat, and he was out again—this time for good.

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