Chapter Forty-Nine

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"It'll be much easier for everyone if you come out on your own, ladies." The voice of Wyndam Aviar drifted in through the shattered living room window. He sounded confident and pleased with himself. "I don't recommend making us come in to get you."

From where they lay out of view on the floor, May and Em looked at each other.

"Us?" May whispered in terror.

"Shit," Em swore. "Shit, shit, shit."

The sound of tires crunching over gravel could be heard from outside. Doors—too many to be from one vehicle alone—opened and closed. There were footsteps. Somewhere in the distance, a thrumming from the sky seemed to be drawing near.

"You can't hide in there forever."

Instinctively, May reached for the Star cannon. Instead, her hand met her bare forearm and her heart sank. She hadn't thought to put it on that morning—she hadn't even planned on getting out of bed. In her head, May cursed herself out; Welkin had built her a weapon for this very reason. For a second she wondered if she would be able to sneak upstairs undetected to get it.

Something outside let off a thunderous bang. The couple flinched in fearful surprise.

"Let's run," May said, reaching across the broken glass to grip Em's hand. "If we can get upstairs I can grab my cannon and we can leave out a window—"

Suddenly, the sound of crying—the loud, terrified howls of a child—cut through the air.

May and Em froze.

"If you won't come out for me, perhaps our young friend can persuade you instead?"

Eyes locked, bodies trembling, neither May nor Em needed to confirm with the other what they had to do next. They shuffled first to their knees then got to their feet, raising their hands above their heads as they did so. The scene framed by the window made May's blood run cold. Black cars and vans with tinted windows were parked at random angles throughout the front yard. Loyal agents, each excessively armed, stood at the ready. The sound of footfalls through the back screen door let May know they were already surrounded. Halfway down the drive, a sleek helicopter was making its descent.

And in the middle of it all, looking like he had just stepped out of a high-powered business meeting, was Wyndam. To see him now, May wondered how she didn't notice the family resemblance between him and his son the first time she saw him on that monitor at the Rookery. Jeremy was the spitting image of his father: they shared the same bronzed skin and svelte frame. Jeremy had even inherited Wyndam's dark, knowing eyes—though where Jeremy's gaze was generally defiant and wary, his father's was filled only with cruelty. The only feature they didn't share was by way of their hair; where Jeremy's was untamed in a scorching shade of red, his father's was brown and neatly styled.

Standing before Wyndam was a little boy May recognized instantly from Rue's locket. He had his mother's wavy hair and his father's surreal green eyes, which swam with tears that had already drenched his soft cheeks, still baby plump.

"Gaten," Em breathed.

The little boy let out another wail that made May feel sick to her stomach. Once, when Omi was still a toddler, he had gotten himself locked in the tiny linen closet in his grandparents' house. He had been so frantic and afraid that, even after May found and freed him, it took a long time to calm him down again. Children, May knew, didn't downplay their fear. Gaten wasn't just scared—he was hysterical with terror.

"Let him go!" May shouted, eyeing the vise-like grip Wyndam had on the back of the child's shirt. Gaten's hands were bound with plastic straps, as if he was somehow dangerous or even capable of defending himself. May felt dizzy with rage.

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