Chapter 42

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Cupid jumps back  over the counter and crouches down beside Cal and I

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Cupid jumps back over the counter and crouches down beside Cal and I. He shares a look with his brother then starts moving towards the window - keeping low.

"Come out to plaaaay" taunts the voice outside.

It sounds cold and inhuman. My breathing quickens.

When Cupid is crouched below the shop front he turns to us and gestures that we follow him.

"Stay low" whispers Cal.

I nod and we head through the booths - making sure to keep below the window line. When we reach Cupid we flatten ourselves against the wall beside him.

Moments later a shadow passes over us.

One of the enemies must be just outside the diner.

Adrenalin surges through my body and my heart rate accelerates.

I look at the two brothers.

"Now what?" I ask urgently.

Cupid peers up out of the window then looks back at me and Cal.

"I programmed three of them" he says. "The one with the black hair is set at a lower difficulty level - if you want to have a go Lila you head for him."

He pauses and looks at me in an uncharacteristically serious manner.

"You're not trained so we don't expect you to win your fight - but my brother or I will deal with taking him down when we have got rid of our enemies." he says. "I'll be right by your side the whole time. Ready?"

I take a deep breath and nod - lightly running my fingers along the bow slung over my shoulder.

Cupid grins and holds out his hand for me to take. I look at it hesitantly a moment then tentatively place my hand in his. His fingers curl around mine.

"Let's go!" he whispers.

Suddenly he stands up, pulling me with him. Behind I hear Cal doing the same. He starts to jog towards the door and I follow, my hand still enfolded in his.

We burst out into the square. I see them immediately.

There are three cupids stood in the centre by the fountain; two with blonde hair and one with dark. They could almost pass as real but there's something not quite right about them.

As they simultaneously turn to look at us I realise why. Their eyes are completely black.

My stomach drops and my body suddenly feels ice cold.

Out of the corner of my eye I see Cal reaching for his quiver as one of the blonde cupids shoots the first arrow. Cupid pulls me out of it's path then lets go of my hand - grabbing his own weapon.

Seconds later two black arrows are flying from our side towards the enemies in the centre.

One of them hits its target and the victim falls into the tired pool of water. The other misses.

The two remaining agents sprint towards us. Cupid gives me a quick grin then starts running to meet them. He grabs the blonde haired male by the throat and throws him down to the ground.

Cal grabs another arrow and fires it at the enemy heading straight for me.

The agent dodges and changes his course - tackling Cal down to the ground.

I grab my own bow as they grapple on the floor; hearing a groan from the Matchmaking Agent as the enemy hits his head repeatedly against the cobbled stone. A streak of blood snakes through his pale blonde hair. My heart beats fast.

I need to do something.

I look at the bow.

I have no idea how to use this.

Without thinking I throw it aside and pull out an arrow at random. With all the strength I can muster I thrust it into the back of the male enemy who is winning his fight against Cal. He cries out as the arrow turns to ash between my fingers.

I notice with disappointment that it is the Capax - not one of the deadly black arrows - but it serves as enough of a distraction for Cal to throw him off.

I glance to my left as Cupid plunges a black arrow into the heart of the enemy he has pinned to the ground. He grins as he gets up off the floor, brushing his hands together.

I feel a wave of relief and for a moment I am too distracted to see the dark haired agent - now stood a few metres away.

"Lila!" yells Cal, throwing himself to his feet.

I turn just in time to see the enemy loading up the Ardor.

He points it at me and my breath catches in my throat.

Then he shoots.

It almost happens in slow motion; the panic, the pre-empting of immense pain, the gold and red arrow coming towards me, and then Cal.

The Matchmaking Agent hurls himself in my path, the torture arrow sinking deep into his shoulder.

An unearthly scream escapes from his mouth as he falls to the floor. Cupid immediately rushes forwards, plunging a black arrow into the shooter's chest.

I rush over to Cal who is writhing in agony, his pale features flushed, his eyes watering.

This was the fate in store for me.

I can't bare to see him like this.

Especially when it's my fault.

I grab his arms.

"Cal" I blurt "Cal - take the chip out."

He ignores me, his body convulsing.

"Cal!" I shout.

His unseeing silvery eyes finally find me and I can see him struggling to focus on my face.

"You're OK" he whispers weakly.

Then his eyes close as he slips into unconsciousness.

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