Two Months Later
Grant Borrows awoke on the ground.
A sharp yelp roused him and Grant was instantly aware of three things. First, he was flat on his back, staring into the snout of an imposing bronze horse statue, which sneered down at him from above. Second, the sky behind the statue was a dismal gray while in his periphery he saw the vivid greenery of trees on all sides. Third, what startled him awake was that he was holding someone's wrist.
Someone's wrist that didn't belong.
Rolling his neck to the left, Grant came face-to-face with a boy who couldn't have been more than fifteen. Bright eyes offset shaggy blonde locks, which framed his oval face in a messy sort of way. A faded polo shirt was untucked over a pair of jeans that looked like their best days were long behind them.
"You are him!" the boy exclaimed, eyes as wide with wonder as they were with fear. Grant turned loose of the boy's wrist and slowly sat up.
He was in the center of what looked like a very small park, surrounded on all sides by trees, a circumference of parked cars outside of them. Beyond the vehicles, a quadrant of buildings loomed, enclosing the park in a box-like perimeter.
The buildings were very old. Historic, even.
A dark-colored statue of a man riding a horse stood atop a white cement pedestal on his right, opposite the boy.
Grant's recognition of it was vague. He was sure he'd been here before, and he was quite certain he was still in London.
But how long...?
And why was I asleep out here in the open?
"Who're you?" Grant rasped, his voice dry, his thoughts spinning in too many directions at once.
Why can't I remember anything?
His heart rate was increasing with each new possibility that occurred to him.
"Didn't mean nothing by it, man!" the boy cried, tossing Grant's wallet back to him. "Just wanted to see if you had a real name, is all."
But Grant wasn't looking at the wallet. His eyes were still on the boy's wrist, which was bright red where Grant's hand had been.
He lifted one hand and found blood. His other hand was bloody too... and there were similarly dried stains scattered across his clothing...
Yet he felt no pain.
A chill curdled his pulse.
This blood was not his. And it wasn't the boy's, either.
Reflexively, he reached out with his mind and touched the minds of the Loci, checking off his friends, one-by-one. The process was a mere flash, lasting less than a second, and his heart skipped a beat when he felt it.
One of the Loci—one of his friends—was missing from Grant's internal radar. A single voice from the chorus, gone without a trace. As if there were a hole where that person had once been.
His eyes stubbornly refused to focus on anything but the blood covering his hands as his heart raced and the grass beneath him seemed to melt away.
For the first time in a long time, icy cold fear gripped the heart of the most powerful man in the world.
The Bringer was afraid.
Los Angeles, California
Eight Days Earlier
Leeza Martz never knew what hit her.
All of Los Angeles had gone mad, so she couldn't quite manage any shock that she'd fallen victim to the group insanity. The riots outside were loud, gunfire only blocks away. Fires spread through what seemed like every other building, and screaming came from all directions.
But the sight of her own blood oozing from her forehead... That hit a little closer to home.
"It's okay, baby," said the monolith of a man holding the pistol. "Just relax. Don't scream or nothing and I'll make sure you enjoy the ride as much as I do."
Leeza's young, desperate eyes searched for salvation. But the ramshackle apartment building in South Central where this predator had chased her was all but abandoned and practically falling apart as she watched it. She knew better than to let a crazed client chase her into an empty, enclosed space... The other girls had warned her, even Shade had given her strict guidelines...
You don't run into a place that makes it easier for the guy to kill you when he's done with you...
Her auburn locks fell across her heavily made-up face, mingling with the blood and dripping onto an expensive, sequined, black halter top and gold skirt. The copper smell was an incredibly strong sensation—perhaps her only remaining foothold on anything resembling reality.
But then, reality had changed, hadn't it? All over the world it had changed, but especially here in L.A...
"You scared?" the big man asked as he hunched over her shivering body on the floor.
"That's real smart," he replied, burying the gun's nozzle in her temple. "You should be."
Leeza began weeping openly just as a soft, calm voice from behind her assailant wondered aloud, "What is it with men and guns?"
The gun spun around dizzyingly fast and was instantly trained on this newcomer, while at the same time Leeza found herself pulled to her feet, choked in a vicious headlock.
Facing them both with an air of tranquil curiosity was a girl not much older than Leeza. She stood relatively short, with wavy brown locks. She wore no makeup. A simple tank top and a well-worn pair of jeans covered a slender frame.
Her appearance couldn't have been any more different than Leeza's if she tried. There was no jewelry around her neck, no watch on her wrist, and no shoes on her feet.
"So," she regarded them, cocking her head to one side, "is this little encounter a free-for-all or do I have to take a number?"
A long silence filled the air. Looting and rioting must still be going on, but in that moment only the building could be heard; the immediate surroundings were deathly silent.
"What?" the burly man finally answered in a bewildered voice.
"I saw what was up," the plain-dressed girl replied, tossing a fleeting glance at the half-opened fly in his pants, "and was hoping I could get a turn."
She's a junkie, Leeza thought.
Please, whoever you are, help me!
The woman's voice was light and airy, her hands casually clasped behind her back as if the riots, the city collapsing around her, were an everyday occurrence.
The attacker's demeanor suddenly changed. He loosened his grip on Leeza's neck and smiled. "Oh yeah, baby. I'll even let you go first."
"You sweet-talker, you," the girl replied, a grin spreading over her face. "You're going to get me all riled up."
The man turned loose of Leeza and flung her against a wall, where she fell into a heap on the floor.
"Don't go anywhere, sweetheart," he said, winking at her, still smiling with a wicked glee. "This'll be five minutes, tops."
He turned and approached the brunette, who stood there waiting for him, unmoving and apparently unconcerned with the danger she'd just placed herself in. Leeza looked about for an opportunity to crawl away. To her right, ten feet down the hallway, she saw a door cracked open leading to what was likely a derelict apartment. If she could only get there, maybe once the two of them were at it, they might not notice...
"Five minutes?" she heard the strange girl repeat, incredulous. "That all you got?"
Despite herself, Leeza couldn't keep from watching the two of them. The big man quickly turned gruff and ill tempered.
"No," he barked, stepping right up into the girl's face, "five minutes is all you get!"
The girl's arms crossed across her chest and the smile disappeared. When she spoke, her voice had changed from casual to cold as ice. "Sweetie... in five minutes, you won't even have bladder control."
Incredibly, this only seemed to excite the man even more. He grabbed the girl by the shoulders, but a distant look crept across her face as she locked her eyes onto his.
In seconds, he fell suddenly to the floor, hot tears streaming down his cheeks. He clutched his knees to his chest, lying on his side. His reddened face was howling in... was that agony?
The plain-dressed girl stepped around him as if he were a dilapidated ottoman and glanced at Leeza. Suddenly, it felt as if they were the only two people in the room. She approached carefully, kneeling next to Leeza, who still lay terrified on the floor.
"My name is Alex," she said softly. She stretched out a hand and carefully asked, "What's yours?"
"Um..." Leeza stammered, still trying to figure out what just happened, "Leeza."
"Are you okay, Leeza?" Alex asked in a kind voice. It wasn't a question about her physical well-being; it was as if Alex were asking if she was going to be okay now.
And somehow Leeza knew that she would. That this ordeal was over, and that she would be fine. The soothing sensation washed over her, and with it came a bravery that had escaped her only moments ago.
She nodded slowly.
Alex smiled. "Come on," she said, helping Leeza to her feet, "let's get you out of here."
Leeza stood on shaking knees. She was still unable to take her eyes off of the man in the fetal position on the floor, who continued howling as though he were a newborn having a nightmare. "What... What happened to him?"
"Fear's a powerful weapon," Alex replied with knowing eyes. "The ones who try hardest to make others afraid are always the first to want their mommies when things get really scary."
Leeza felt a wave of nausea but quickly found Alex's arms stabilizing her. She was so tired... so tired...
Like everyone in this city, she was so tired of being afraid.
Alex watched her as they walked down a creaking set of stairs, a steadying hand braced against wallpaper that was peeling off of the wall beside them.
"This life you lead," Alex said carefully. "You're burned out, aren't you? I can see it in your eyes—a newfound resolve, a readiness to start life over, and get things right this time."
Leeza was amazed to find herself nodding, tears forming in her eyes. She knew this girl called Alex was right, yet she had no explanation for why she'd suddenly made a life-altering decision on the spot, why she knew it was right, and why accepting it felt so good.
As Alex kept her eyes on her, Leeza immediately felt as though the fear and shock and trauma had been flushed out of her body. Her skin began to warm, her pulse steadied, and her equilibrium returned.
She felt an overwhelming sense of resolve sweep through her, and it struck her as astonishing that she'd ever been afraid of the sad, weeping man that lay coiled in the hallway behind them.
"I know a place you can go to get a fresh start," Alex was saying as they walked carefully outside. Leeza simply nodded gratefully, overwhelmed by all this.
The center of the riot seemed to have moved west toward downtown; the immediate area looked safer now than it had when Leeza had first run inside.
A cab was already at the curb waiting for them. Alex helped Leeza enter the backseat first, then she gave the driver an address. Alex was about to take the seat beside Leeza when she froze and looked into the distance. She seemed to be listening, but Leeza couldn't figure out what she was listening to. She gave a barely perceptible nod to no one in particular.
"I'm sorry," Alex said, shutting the car's door and sticking her head inside the window. "I can't come with you—they need me," she explained, without ever bothering to clarify just exactly who "they" were.
"But you're safe now, I promise," Alex said, a strong grip tightening around Leeza's hand one last time. "Things are going to get better now."
Alex glanced at the front seat and caught the cabby's eyes in the rearview. "Protect her until she safely reaches her destination," she said in a tone that left no room for discussion.
The driver gave no argument. His shoulders seemed to set firmly and a new determination lit up his otherwise dull eyes.
As she saw it happen, Leeza finally understood what was going on. The realization shocked her as all of the pieces of this puzzle fell into place. It all made sense now.
She knew who this Alex was.
"You... you're one of...!" she cried excitedly. "You're with him!"
Alex smiled, and then she turned and ran.
Fearless (Dominion Trilogy #2) by Robin Parrish
Copyright © 2007; ISBN 9780764201783
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.