House of Royale (Secret Keepers #4)(11)

“Is there any way to see the porch clearly?” I pressed in closer, not even caring that I’d have to touch the prickly Daelighter. I just needed to see Doc.

Xander didn’t say anything. He pressed a few more buttons and the angle of the image changed. All my breath whooshed out of me as Doc’s familiar grizzled face came into view. He was staring out across the ocean, looking somewhat peaceful.

I only realized I’d slumped forward in relief when Xander shifted his arm slightly—I’d fallen right against him.

“Sorry,” I muttered, stepping back. “Thanks for checking on him for me.”

Chase finished talking to Lexen, dropping his phone to the table. “He said they’re going to head straight back. He wanted to know if you want him to bring Doc back to this safe house?”

I shook my head. “He won’t leave, trust me. He’s a very stubborn old man, and he hardly ever leaves his house. If Laous hasn’t found him yet, it should be fine.” It had to be fine, because if I cost Doc his life—even if the old dude was ready to die—I would never forgive myself. Never.

Chase nodded, keyed in a message, and sent it off.

“We can check on him through this satellite as well,” Xander reminded me. “At least until we head back to Overworld. After that, I’ll have some of the House of Royale members stationed close by check on him.”

Wow, that was so much more thoughtful than I had expected. Especially from Xander. “Thank you,” I said, focusing on the fact that Doc should be safe. I wasn’t quite ready to think about leaving Earth for an alien world. I was just going to pretend he didn’t say that.

“How many Daelighters are here at the moment?” Maya asked, dropping into Chase’s lap. He wrapped an arm around her.

“We have a few hundred from the different houses,” Xander said. “More arrived last night. They’re here in case Laous got his hands on Avalon first. We would have had to fight him and his army then.”

“Army?” I asked.

Xander let out a short laugh. “Yeah, he’s managed to get the Gonzo on his side. Black ops military group, very big into war and rebirth of the world.”

Well, great. This story just got better and better. It did explain why there were so many guns shooting at us yesterday.

“I’m going to program Ava into the security system,” Chase said, and then he turned to me. “If you get locked out or separated from us for any reason, you can always get back here and hide out.”

I nodded, feeling somewhat happy that they were including me. They had said I was a huge part of this, that we were a family. But people said a lot of things that they didn’t follow through with. This was a small step toward building trust between us.

Chase was typing away. “I’m going to need handprints, and you’ll get a code as well.”

My left hand curled in even further than normal, and I wondered how it would work for this sort of security system.

“Will one hand work?” I asked, not embarrassed exactly, but wanting to put it out there. I waved my left hand at them, showing the ropy scar tissue on my palm and wrist and the way my fingers curled in. “I was attacked by a shark years ago. My hand is pretty shot now. I won’t be able to get it straight enough to press flat.”

It took a lot of guts for me to just throw my flaws out in the world like that, and in the moment of silence that followed, my heartbeat pounded in my ears.

Maya was the first to react. She jumped up off Chase’s lap and wrapped her arms around me. “That is so freaking scary, but also amazing. You were attacked by a shark and survived!”

I didn’t know how to react to her hug. It had been months since anyone had even attempted to hug me, aside from those few people I saved from drowning. And they were more about keeping themselves above the water.

I patted Maya’s back. “Yeah, it was scary, but I still love sharks. He didn’t mean to hurt me, I just got in the way of the fish he was going after.”

Luckily it had only been a baby great white. Any bigger and I’d have lost my entire arm.

“We don’t have the same marine life in Overworld,” Xander said, relaxing back in his chair. “The meglam would be the closest, a cross between an alligator and a shark. Outside of Royales, they rule the waters.”

I froze, just a little, because the mental image of what he described was scary. “Sharks are the kings in our waters, and I respect them.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” Xander replied. “Humans are notorious for thinking they are the only creatures that matter. Everything else is expendable.”

I was no normal human, but there was no point telling him that. Xander clearly had a thing against my kind, and I really didn’t have time to care.

Chase went back to the previous subject. “In regard to the security, I can definitely just use one hand.”

Nothing more was said, and no one seemed grossed out by my mangled hand. That made me feel another level of comfort with them.

Once all the security stuff was done, Maya twisted around so she was facing Chase. “So, I think you should tell us now what your theory is about Ava and the map to the stone.”

“I think we need to take Ava back to the waters of Royale,” Chase said. “Back to wherever she was born. I assume that’s the place that will reveal the map. Somehow.”

Jaymin Eve's Books