Home > Day Zero (The Arcana Chronicles #3.5)(15)

Day Zero (The Arcana Chronicles #3.5)(15)
Author: Kresley Cole

Dad genuinely liked the dude. He’d told me he’d never met a smarter—or lonelier—man.

I could see both. The boss had never had a visitor out to this isolated compound. The only calls he got were about supply shipments. If his phone rang, he never glanced down at a number and smiled as he answered. In fact, I’d never seen him smile at all.

His solitude had confused me. He was rich and hot, tall with a great body, and he had this really cool accent. Latvian or something. Which explained the weird-ass last name.

I’d told him once, “Your name sounds like death, as in dying.”

His face had been completely expressionless as he’d said, “Does it, then?”

I’d wondered why he was alone—until he’d hinted that the Big One was coming. He was fortifying his mountain compound for some catastrophe.

Everything had begun to make sense. He’s a crazycakes prepper. His insanity had kept him from finding friends or a girlfriend. He probably had a germ phobia too; dude wore gloves at all times.

I turned the corner—and almost ran into him. My breath strangling in my throat, I craned my head up to meet his gaze. “You scared me!” I was as nervous as a cat on hot bricks. “Uh, what’s shaking, Boss?”

“We must return to the castle. A storm is coming.”

Weird. “I’ll be there in a sec. There’s been a little, uh, situation”—bloodbath—“with the animals.” How was I going to worm my way out of this?

“Yes, I scent the blood and death. But that doesn’t matter. We return. Now.” He grabbed my elbow, startling me.

“Um, the cougars aren’t totally secured. And there’re some injuries that need tending.” My little wolves . . .

“Later.” He steered me toward the exit.

Outside, a hot wind blew, so different from the cool breezes we normally got up here. Then I nearly stumbled. The sky was alight with gorgeous streams of color. Even the boss paused, staring up at the sight.

My concern for the animals faded as I lost myself in those lights. I murmured, “God, they’re so beautiful.”

“Beautiful?” He started dragging me to the castle. “Remember: beautiful means we must turn away.”

But I couldn’t! I never wanted to turn away. “I need to look at them a little while longer. Please, Boss!”

He forced me inside. I was tempted to slip past him for another peek, but he pressed some buttons on a wall keypad.

Whirring sounded all around us. It took a moment to register—he was closing the shutters over the windows and the doors! How would I get out? “Why are you battening down? I have to go check on the animals as soon as possible.”

“The menagerie will be protected against whatever approaches.”

The little hairs on my nape rose. “What’s approaching?”

“A catastrophe.”

Crazycakes! “Like the Big One?” My situation grew brutally clear. I was trapped in a mountaintop fortress with a madman. “Uh, I really need to get in touch with my dad.”

“Be my guest.” He waved one gloved hand. “Tell him to turn away from the light and seek immediate shelter.”

I yanked out my phone, hitting redial. Pick up, Dad, please pick up! Voice mail. Dialed him again.

I’d just stowed my phone when my vision dimmed—and dimmed some more—until I couldn’t see at all. “Oh, God, what’s happening??” I blinked over and over. Suddenly, I could see again from within the menagerie. I cried, “What is going on?” Across the central pen, I caught sight of the pups. The three were growing before my eyes, their wounds healing over and scarring.

They were massive, bigger than any wolf I’d ever seen. “I-I think I’m going crazy!”

“Fauna, stay calm,” Boss said. “This is to be expected.”

I blinked. Hard. And again. As quickly as my vision had gone wonky, it was restored. I stared at Mr. Deth. “Who the hell is Fauna?”

“You melded your senses with one of your creatures. You saw through the eyes of an animal.”

“A) What are you talking about? And, B) What I saw can’t be happening.”

“What did you see?”

“The wolf pups were growing. They were . . . huge.”

He glanced down at my injured leg. “Did they happen to taste your blood?”

I nodded.

He raised a brow. “That was unexpected. Yes, the trio will become quite large.”

“Why? What does this have to do with my blood?”

“Come with me,” he said, heading to the security room. I hesitantly followed. “Sit.” He pointed to a chair in front of the camera feeds from around the castle.

I perched on the edge of the seat. “You’ve gotta tell me what’s going on ’cause I’m about to freak out.”

With his gaze on the screens, he said, “The trump cards of a Tarot deck—the Major Arcana—are real. You are Strength. Also known as Fauna.”

Why did that sound so . . . right?

“I am the Death Card.”

“Like y-your last name? Deth?”

He shook his head. “Like the Grim Reaper.”

A low roar buzzed in my ears. He sounded so far away as he continued his wackadoodle explanation:

“. . . twenty-two players in a lethal game . . . reincarnated every few centuries . . . special powers individual to each card . . . out to smite one another . . . deadly killers with but one aim.”

He must be mad as a March hare, with bats in the belfry. Yet I felt as if puzzle pieces were clicking into place.

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