Home > The Keep (The Watchers #4)

The Keep (The Watchers #4)
Author: Veronica Wolff

CHAPTER ONE

It was a new semester, and this term my combat class was a martial arts intensive. We were practicing some basic Brazilian jujitsu, doing sweeps. Half the girls were on their backs, whisking the feet out from under a partner who stood above. But, apparently, my partner had different ideas. Before I’d regained my footing, she clipped my heel out from under me, sending me toppling.

“What the hell?” I hopped up, giving a shake to my ringing head.

“What?” she asked, playing dumb.

“You’re supposed to let me get into position before you sweep me.” I approached again, taking a tone that was more ridicule than reprimand. “This is practice, Audra.”

“It’s Frost,” she snarled, though I didn’t need to be reminded of her ridiculous new name. I’d become acquainted with her when she was Emma’s roommate and remembered the day she’d announced it, chosen in honor of her love of life on Eyja næturinnar.

I couldn’t help it—I smirked. “Isn’t that one of the X-Men?”

The girl was a nerd the caliber of which made me look cool. I mean, I might’ve been smart, but I wasn’t a dork, thankyouverymuch. But under that white-blond bob, she had a tiny heart and a brittle mean streak that, when combined with her slavish affection for everything the vamps represented, made her a shoo-in for the island.

She swatted at my leg, glaring at me with almost comically narrowed eyes, but I hopped out of her reach.

I stifled a giggle. “Are those your angry eyes?”

“I hate you.”

“I’m sure there’s a club.” I began to step over her h*ps to straddle her where she lay on the floor, but before I got into position, she grabbed my ankle and whipped my foot from under me again. I toppled like a tree to the floor, cracking my head on the thin mat.

I rolled up more quickly than before, mad now. It was wrong of her to catch me unawares during a simple workout, but I hadn’t tucked my chin, and falling incorrectly was definitely my bad. I hated when I messed up, especially in Priti’s class.

“Stop it.” I stepped over her and quickly bent my knees and found my balance positioned over her. “You’re not even doing the move correctly.”

She cupped her hands behind my ankles, but now I did all I could to make it difficult, imagining myself anchored to the floor, and this time it took her a few tries before she could topple me.

I felt Priti’s eyes on me, so I finally let the girl sweep me. It was an exercise, after all. When I popped back to standing, I asked sweetly, “Do you need me to give you some pointers?”

Frost and I had been butting heads since we’d found out we were to be placed together as roommates in the Initiate dorm. We both hated the situation—me because Frost was a kiss-ass with the vampires, and the last thing I needed was a snitch roomie, and she hated me…. Well…apparently there was a constellation of reasons I was still beginning to understand.

“I’m doing something right,” she said. “You fell, didn’t you?”

“This is class, not a fight to the death.”

“Kill or be killed,” she said, trying to sound cool.

I rolled my eyes. As if I hadn’t learned that lesson already.

Honestly, I blamed much of her attitude on jealousy. Enamored of anything with fangs, the girl fancied herself a bit of a scholar on island matters. But here I was, someone who was considered a genius, who’d also attracted the attention of two of the island’s most notable vampires.

First and foremost, there was Carden McCloud, the swoon-worthy Scottish vampire I’d bonded with. Nobody knew just how intense our relationship really was, but there was no hiding the fact that we spent a lot of time together. Increasingly, his eyes gleamed with desire and—somehow even more unsettling—fondness when he looked at me.

Then there was Hugo de Rosas Alcántara. I detested the ancient Spanish vampire, but I was undeniably obsessed with him, too. My best friend, Emma, was dead, and I blamed him. The dream of revenge had become the thing that spurred me out of bed in the morning. It was what drove my workouts. What kept me up at night. It might take me years to exact my vengeance, but I would have it.

“Look, I don’t like the new room situation any more than you do.” It was time to make peace. I’d already done the roomie-who-hates-me thing, but going to bed each night, wondering if I’d wake up alive in the morning or not, well, it really wore on a girl. I raised my brows, decided. “Truce?”

“Fuck off, Drew.”

“Alrighty then,” I mumbled, rolling my shoulders for the long fight ahead of me. “Don’t say I didn’t try.”

“Time for holds,” Priti called, drawing our attention to the front of the mats. Her bell-like voice momentarily elevated the place into something more transcendent than just a stinky, sweat-stained gym. Her lithe grace promised a female power that I, too, might carry inside. “On the floor, little birds. Time to grapple.”

Everyone dropped to their knees, awaiting the next instruction.

“Begin in the cross-side position. Five minutes. Go.”

I moved quickly, pinning Frost on her back before she had a chance to get up. “I’ll go first.”

“This is such a joke,” Frost snarled. She bucked her hips, and I lurched forward, releasing my grip to catch myself before my nose crunched into the mat. “I can’t believe they put me with you.”

I felt Priti standing close by but out of view. She chuckled. “Ladies, please don’t kill one another.”

“We won’t,” I said, but my eyes on Frost added a silent…yet. I stole a glimpse of the girls next to us, going through their moves in a way that rehearsed mechanics, not gave bloody noses.

I resumed my original position, lying across her body, putting her in a hold. “You just can’t stand that the vampires like me”—I tilted my head, whispering for her ears alone—“more than you.”

“No.” She let out a feline snarl and grabbed my arm. Her nails dug into me as she wrenched my elbow to her chest, thrusting her h*ps and flipping me onto my back. She straddled me, pinning with her knees. “I can’t stand you because you think you’re better than everyone else. You think you know so much. But guess what, Drew? I know more.”

Little bits of spittle flew from her mouth, and I squinted against the onslaught. The girl was making this more than just a practice fight, and it was pissing me off. I hooked a foot around hers, propelled my hips, and flipped her back under me. “You need to learn, Audra. All this posturing just smells desperate. Vampires hate desperate.”

“Is that what you told Emma?” She wrapped her legs around my waist, hooking her feet at my back, but she was unable to get leverage.

“Screw you.” We were grappling for real now, but our strength and size were well matched. She bucked and squirmed, but I held on, keeping her pinned. “Don’t you dare mention Emma.”

“You think you’re the teacher’s pet.” She shifted her weight, and I just barely escaped a choke hold.

“There’s always Master Dagursson,” I said sweetly, referring to the remarkably unattractive ancient Viking vampire. “He loves you.”

“You think you’re better than everyone else.”

“And you don’t?”

“You think you’re the vampires’ little darling.” She wrenched her legs up and cinched my neck. “But I know better.”

I tried to tap out, swatting her repeatedly—the universal sparring language for stop killing me—but there was no stopping her.

“It’s your fault Emma’s gone,” she said.

I rolled to my side, forcing her legs to unclench, and sucked in a breath. “It’s a vampire’s fault that Emma’s gone.”

But deep down, I worried she was right. Deep down, I tormented myself with thoughts that I should’ve done more to save my best friend. Could I have found a way to sacrifice myself to save her? Two girls enter; only one will leave…. So why had I been the one to emerge alive?

The memory of her body, limp in Alcántara’s arms, brought fresh rage and anguish. Power shot through me, and I broke Frost’s hold, flinging her away like she weighed nothing. “Get the hell off me.”

“Your roommates are cursed.” She crouched on hands and knees, and I could see her mind working furiously, looking for her chance to pounce. “I refuse to be tied up like Emma, taken to that castle just because you’re some vampire’s pet.”

I froze. “What did you just say?”

But she’d frozen, too. “Nothing.”

“What do you mean, tied up like Emma?” Maybe if she’d said carried, it would’ve implied Emma’s body—her dead body. But she’d said tied up. Dead bodies weren’t tied up. “Was she still alive when they took her?”

“You saw her,” she replied, giving me a non-answer, but Frost’s eyes betrayed the secret she’d spilled.

“They took Emma to the castle…and she was alive?” The words came out slowly, a chill creeping over my body.

“How should I know?”

I could tell she was lying. Frost didn’t want to be forced to go to the castle…like Emma.

Emma was alive. Or she had been.

What happened to her after Alcántara slashed her down the middle? As with all the fallen girls, Tracers had come into the ring and taken her away. I thought of the vampires’ castle, a hulking granite keep, looming silently beyond the standing stones. Was that where they took her body? For what purpose?

Oh God, Em. It was unthinkable. Was it possible Emma still lived, enduring Alcántara’s tortures?

I needed to go, to find a way into the castle. I wouldn’t rest until I found her. I would find out what happened. I’d save her.

And then I would have my revenge. I’d take Alcántara down.

CHAPTER TWO

By the time I left the gym, I was shaking.

   
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