Home > Arcana Rising (The Arcana Chronicles #4)(10)

Arcana Rising (The Arcana Chronicles #4)(10)
Author: Kresley Cole

Sol said, “I still can’t believe the Empress is a real girl. For months, I’ve been hearing all these voices in my head, and then up pops one of them—in the very lovely flesh.” He’d been hearing our Arcana calls.

Matthew had told me mine was louder than everyone else’s. Apparently, my call had broadcast all the way to Indiana. Yet I’d never heard Sol’s.

He imitated my voice, “‘Come, touch . . . but you’ll pay a price.’” He raked his gaze over me. “Who wouldn’t pay it?”

Jack had. He would still be alive if he’d never met me. Or if I’d let him go after my battle against the Hermit Card.

Aric had paid over and over again.

He still hadn’t contacted me. Maybe the Arcana switchboard was down once more. After all, I hadn’t heard Sol’s call from mere feet away. Which would mean I had no mental link to my allies and friends.

And no idea where my enemies were.

Or maybe I just couldn’t consider the alternative: that Aric was too injured to respond. It wouldn’t matter anyway, because of time travel. Once I went back, I would keep him safe.

God, I could go nuts thinking about this! For days, I’d had zero sleep and little food. I wasn’t exactly tracking well. And the Sun’s leer wasn’t helping. “Are you done, Sol? Just pay attention to where you’re going.”

He wasn’t done. “I saw an image flash over you. You had your arms open, were beckoning me.” My Arcana tableau. “Some of the Azey soldiers spoke of supernatural people called Arcana. Even after so many baffling events—and my own powers—I scarcely believed.” I hadn’t either. “So if the voices are real, then the game must be too. I’ve heard enough to glean the basics. There are more than a dozen of us, right? And we’re all supposed to fight? To take each other’s—what are they called?—icons.”

I could confirm that a hand marking accompanied each kill. Instead, I shrugged. I didn’t trust this card whatsoever; keeping him ignorant seemed wise.

“You have icons, right? I thought I saw something on your new hand before you covered it.” When I didn’t answer, he asked, “Will there be other gods at Fort Arcana?”

Other gods. Ugh. Aric had called me a goddess, but he’d meant it figuratively.

“That makes sense,” Sol continued. “This fort of Arcana must shame my humble Olympus.”

The fort didn’t look like much, but it was strong. Jack had built it with his own two hands. “Fort Arcana was constructed out of anything available by people scrapping for a better life out in the Ash. Not everybody got to stroll into a ready-made stronghold.”

In a way, Sol was like the Hermit Card, a worm who slithered from one shell to another.

“Who started the game?” Sol asked. “What happens if you don’t wish to fight anyone?” Casting me a significant look, he said, “I’m a lover, querida, not a fighter.”

“No, you just make others fight. For your entertainment.”

“I could’ve drawn you a map to the fort, and then you could have killed me. Why kidnap me? Because I helped you regenerate?”

“I have plans for you.” If I was going to use Sol in the past to face the Emperor, would he need to be on Tess’s carousel with us? Would more people make it harder for her? Maybe I could go even further back in time, then drive up to Olympus to snag Sol before the clash.

Time-travel conundrums made my head hurt. I’d figure something out. . . .

Sol said, “Plans for me? Like using, then killing me?”

Bingo. But I didn’t want him to think his number would soon be up. “Drive faster.”

“Again, what’s the rush? We must be hurrying to meet other gods.”

I was stuck in this cab with a guy who thought he was divine. “Why don’t you concentrate on the road?”

“Sí. Okay.” Two minutes later: “Where are you from? With that drawl, I’m thinking Deep South.”

My heart ached to think of my native Louisiana. I tucked my hand into my pocket, touching the red ribbon.

Despite my silence, Sol said, “I’m from Barcelona. I came to the States for college. Do you speak Spanish?” Nope. Cajun French. “You don’t talk much, do you?”

Once upon a time, I’d been bubbly and friendly to everyone I’d met. “Maybe I just don’t talk much with murderers.”

“That’s rich, coming from you. I’ve learned enough about the game to say: takes one to know one, Empress.”

“I’ve killed in self-defense. You forced others to kill for sport. Even children.”

“Or perhaps I weeded out my followers based on their actions in that fight. I was well aware of the crying boy. My Bagmen referees wouldn’t have allowed the child to be hurt, and anyone who’d targeted him would’ve been disqualified from Olympus.”

“Yet there were no kids in your stands? Don’t lie to me again.” I tightened the Baggers’ collars in the back.

When they wailed, Sol clenched the steering wheel, and sunlight flickered from his face.

Thanks for the top-off. My body vine sprouted from my neck, nuzzling my cheek.

He grimaced at the sight, then said, “I sent children and parents on their way.”

I raised my hand to hurt the Baggers some more. I was glad I had two zombies to work with. I might have to gank one, just to show Sol I was serious.

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