Let Me In | ii

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Steele knew about the prisons in the city because Bile had told him before they separated. Amara was there. Steele ran his hand over his face again. The chances of them having Bile and the other rebels there would be slim. It would have been foolish to hold them all in the middle of the city. Duncan would have them somewhere locked up and heavily secured if he had not already killed them. He was operating on the chance that they were still alive.

He left the tunnels without Nerina. It was a risky move and one he had to do alone. He took every back alleyway he could remember, dodging the ever-vigilant werewolves that occupied every inch of the city. At one point, he thought he had been spotted and stood rooted against the wall in the shadows holding his breath.

The werewolf had started walking right towards him when something else had drawn his attention, long enough for Steele to beat a hasty retreat. He found the prison in not quick but good enough time, having to take the long way to avoid an army of werewolves. Here, he had expected another army. He found them but they were all asleep. Steele knew exactly what had happened.

"Nerina," he said when he stepped through the door that was left ajar.

She stood facing him. There was a thin tube in her hand. "Done anything stupid lately?"

"Not that I can remember," his smile only lit his eyes briefly. The woman really had changed, and he was grateful for it.

Nerina stepped aside gesturing him to proceed. "Lead the way. We only have a few minutes. Or until someone stumbles over a body in the streets."

Steele moved from one cell to the next seeing familiar faces but not the face he searched for. She was not there. Her scent never registered—new or old. He came to a cell where one solitary man laid sleeping.

"Nessus." He called the man repeatedly before he lifted his head.

"Steele. What are you doing here?" The man was visibly weak but the concern was strong in his voice. He used the little energy he had to drag himself along the floor to get closer to the bars. "Duncan will have you skinned."

"Where's Amara?"

The man solemnly shook his head. "I haven't seen her."

"Where are the others?"

There was a pause. "The Dungeons of O' Toran." The name came out in an ill-omened whisper.

Nerina saw the look on Steele's profile and knew it was no place good. No place they should probably even go. They managed to get away before the werewolves woke, and before any of the others stumbled across them. Steele had to leave the prisoners behind as the chance of them all making it out alive without raising an alarm was slim. They knew it and it took much convincing to make Steele see sense. In the end, he said his good-byes and left.

She did not know the people in the cells. For her, there were no emotions. They had been sitting in the middle of a lit powder keg, bailing off seconds before it blew. She allowed him to stew over what happened until they got back to the tunnels. He had lost people he considered friends.

"The Dungeons of O' Toran? Sounds like a lovely place."

"It isn't," Steele, answered gruffly.

Nerina raised a brow at his back. Obviously, he had missed the sarcasm. Dungeons were not nice places from her experience. She shuddered to think what one in a place like this would be like.

"So we go there and then what?"

He spun around. "We are not going anywhere. I am."

He walked off again.

"I believe you woke me from a perfectly good nap to ask for my help. You tracked me down Steele. The only way you could have found me was with Veda's help. "

"And you have helped me. I found them." Steele walked off again.

Nerina pinched the bridge of her nose. "As far as a man caged in a different place knows. How would he know if they were moved? Or killed?"

Steele blurred back to her, finger in her face. "They are not dead," he bit out between his teeth.

Nerina understood his need to hold on to that but the man had to see sense. His weakness, Nerina realized, was his blinding need to save his friends. That was not hers. "As is your assumption."

He stood there, finger pointing in her face before he curled it into a fist. He opened his mouth to say something then stopped. He blurred, leaving her to find her own way through the maze. By now, she had a good sense of where to go, making only two wrong turns this time around. Nerina found Steele pacing in the main area of the underground tunnels.

"I came here to help you," she pointed out again.

"To help, not to get yourself killed."

"And how does you getting yourself killed help your friends?" she countered. Nerina could hear herself as she dropped screaming into the welcoming bosom of hell. All this was madness. She had to be mad to even be considering it. To even be trying to convince him to let her help. Internally, she shook her head. She had learned how to fight. Learned how to stop running. And in the process, she had lost her sense of self-preservation. Nerina squared her shoulders. She was not a martyr. She did not intend to die.

"Tell me about this place."

"It's a transit realm."

"Because I know what that is," Nerina rolled her eyes. She was getting dizzy from watching him pace.

"A back gate to hell."

Nerina swallowed. Her brain told her to bow out gracefully, her pride flicked off the suggestion. She was not going to run screaming now after bullying him to make her go along. "How do we get there?"

"There is only one portal and if Duncan is using it for a prison it will be heavily guarded."

"Naturally. This Duncan sounds like a peach."

"A rotten peach." Steele ran his hands over his face keeping up the nervous pacing.

Nerina leaned back against the chiseled rock wall, thumbs tucked into the waist of her pants. "And who is Amara?"

This had him stopping his profile to her.

"Someone I care about deeply."

She nodded not pushing any further. "So, we," Nerina placed emphasis on the last word, "storm in and then what?"

"I've been to the dungeons once. It is a massive place. I wouldn't know where to start looking."

"Then let's just focus on getting in." Alive.

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