Twenty-Eight: New Endings

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A/N: GUYS!!! ONE MORE CHAPTER AND BOOK 1 IS DONE!


My heart probably stops for real this time, and Kyros freezes like a statue with his jaw slack at the sight of her.

"Ariadne Simon and Kyros Turman! She knew you two pretty well," not-Thea sneers, a sickly curved and rusty machete in her right hand and an old handgun in her left. Her voice is like that of Dakros in the desert: it sounds like Thea's voice was taken, dragged across sandpaper, and stitched back in with careless hands. It's more of a growl than a speaking voice, if nothing else. And it's terrifying.

She's barefoot, having ditched her shoes who knows when or where. She wears only the top half of the dark t-shirt she had worn in the desert, and her pants and filthy and tattered at the knees.

They didn't kill her, no. But this is worse. Oh, this is so, so much worse.

My heart pounds in my chest, a shiver pinching at my fingertips and sending a deadly mix of fear and another shot of adrenaline coursing through my already buzzing veins. My thoughts roll about like a drunken tumbleweed, so much so that the only thought I can form is this:

Titus.

That's it. I realize later on that I'm thinking of how heartbroken he will be, but in the moment, all I see is a Burned Thea slowly stepping towards us.

Kyros takes Callie from me and gently lies her on the floor, reaching for his handgun and aiming at her head.

"Don't come any closer," he says, voice taught and icy as he glances at me, and then at Thea. A sadistic grin spreads across her face, but she stops walking forward.

"Why? You're gonna shoot me? I look too much like Thea for you to do that," she sneers, and I still can't force my limbs to move.

"What're you calling yourself these days, then?" Kyros asks her. It would frighten me, how well he deals with infected people, if it weren't for this... shell of my friend in front of me.

"Terra, if you must know. It's much better than the lovestruck idiot's old name," Thea laughs. If I wasn't dead before, I am now.

"Ari, down!" Kyros yells, tackling me to the ground as bullets from Thea's minions suddenly rip through the air.

By some cruel mistake, they don't hit me in any way, shape, or form. I wish they had hit me. I wish I was dead. It'd be better than this.

Kyros is shooting even as we fall, striking three of Thea's men with deadly accuracy before...

No. Not him. Please.

But the bullet slams against his side, and he crumples, still shooting and knocking out one more so that it's only Thea and one of her minions left. And he lets out and angry grunt and clutches at his quickly reddening side.

"Kyros!" I shriek, reaching for him but having him push me away.

"You can take them," he says, his amber eyes reassuring as he motions towards Thea and the other Burned.

With fury tinging the corners of my vision, I whirl with an angry yell and fire three quick shots at Thea's minion.

Burned Thea looks surprised, her eyes wide and showing hints of... fear?

"I didn't think any of you had the guts to spill blood over your hands. I guess I was wrong," she says, a confident grin still spread across her face.

I freeze. I can't kill Thea. I can't do it. But she'll kill any one of us.

"Ari!" I hear someone yell, and glance backwards only long enough to see Mikhail standing on the roof behind me, a sniper rifle aimed at our friend.

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