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Page 3


"-if we keep to the south tunnels I think we can-"

Danni stopped listening as she closed her eyes and took deep calming breaths. Her headache was on the verge of becoming unmanageable. If they didn't move their asses and do this soon, she'd be completely useless. Maybe she should-

"What do you think you're doing?" Greg suddenly demanded.

Her eyes flew open half expecting to find Greg looking at her. Instead she found Greg glaring towards the right side of the tunnel. She followed his eyes and wasn't too surprised to find Caine throwing one of the explosive packs over his shoulder as he made his way to the tunnel entrance.

Actually, truth be told, she was a bit surprised the Pyte actually sat here listening to any of Greg's repetitive bullshit in the first place since he couldn't stand Greg. Never had. That had been very clear to her even when she was a young child when Caine had appointed himself as her self-appointed protector. Anytime Greg came too close to her, Caine would stare the boy down until Greg had no choice but to piss himself and run away. Caine never explained why he disliked the little boy so much and she never asked, too happy to have an adult to spend time with her and one that actually cared about her. That happiness ended abruptly when she was seventeen and he suddenly acted like he didn't know her.

The familiar ache started in her chest at the reminder of that lost friendship. He'd been her idol, her protector, and teacher. Losing his friendship was still one of the most painful experiences of her life. Her eyes darted to Greg. Thanks to the life lesson Caine taught her about being foolish enough to let someone get close to her, she'd been able to handle the humiliating end to her relationship with Greg three months ago.

If she was going to be completely honest with herself she'd probably allowed things to progress with the lying bastard because she knew it would bug the hell out of Caine, probably one last act of childhood rebellion that she'd forgotten to release all those years ago. Then again if it had bothered Caine it never showed. Not once during her entire four month relationship with Greg had Caine behaved as if he cared or even noticed. That wasn't surprising since he hadn't spoken one word to her in the eleven years since he ended their friendship. Not that it mattered to her anymore. She wasn't that seventeen year old kid who got her heart broken by the only person she ever trusted anymore.

"We're not finished here yet," Greg stated loudly, making Danni wince when the echo seemed to ring inside her head.

Her stomach twisted painfully as nausea rolled through her. She needed to get out of here. Throwing her small pack over her shoulder she got to her feet and as casually as she could she headed for the tunnel opening. Thankfully, no one looked her way. They were too busy watching the pissing contest.

"I am," Caine said, staring down the much smaller man.

As she progressed towards the tunnel opening she noted Greg's wince, but he didn't back down. He never would in front of a crowd. He really thought he was tough and worked hard to make everybody believe it.

"You're staying here until I say we're ready," Greg snapped.

"I'm not your bitch, boy," Caine said between clenched teeth. He took a menacing step towards the smaller man. "Or do we need to have another talk?"

Was it her imagination or did both men just shoot glances at her? Whatever. Danni didn't have time for this. She was about thirty seconds away from losing her aspirin dinner.

When she thought she was far enough inside the long, dark tunnel so no one could see her, she broke out into a run. She stumbled several times, but didn't stop, desperate for fresh air. She ran until she spotted a lone figure guarding the ladder. Without pausing, she nodded to him and quickly climbed up.

Once she made it out she quickly ducked behind the old restaurant's rusty dumpster and not a moment too soon. Before her knees hit the pavement she was vomiting. Closing her eyes, she welcomed the frigid assault of the cold January air against her face and in her lungs. It quickly suppressed the remaining nausea and acted like a balm to her splitting headache.

She took a moment to calm her breathing, knowing she should walk the block to where their vans were parked, crawl in the back and wait to go home, but she couldn't. This was her job, her responsibility, and her life. She couldn't turn her back on it.

After the last wave of dizziness left her she returned to the tunnels, determined to get this over with quickly so she could go home to her painkillers and bed.

********

Caine rammed his fingers through his hair as he fought back the urge to turn around and rip that ass**le's throat out. He didn't, but he was so f**king tempted.

The little bastard was on a massive power trip. He still couldn't understand what the hell Thomas had been thinking setting his son up as team leader tonight. Such blatant nepotism was only going to come back and bite him in the ass, especially when his golden boy f**ked up and sent half the team home in body bags.

He could easily think of five people out of that group of humans who were more qualified to lead this mission than the little prick. He didn't bother counting himself in that number since he was technically still a prisoner of the Sentinel Council. They liked to say he was on "probation," but it was all just sugarcoated bullshit as far as he was concerned.

They didn't trust him and for good reason. Twenty-five years of good behavior wasn't enough to erase five hundred years worth of destruction no matter how many lives he'd saved. He didn't bother getting pissed about it, because he didn't hide from his past or tried to excuse it. He knew exactly who he was and what he'd done. Hell, if he were them he wouldn't trust him either.

The Council would probably trust him more if they could control him or had some leverage over him, but they couldn't and didn't. They all knew that nothing short of a bullet in the head or heart would incapacitate him long enough for them to throw his ass back into a cell. Then they'd have that little problem of keeping his ass locked up until they could figure out what to do with him. Considering how easily he escaped twenty-five years ago, he didn't have much faith in them getting the job done right this time around.

Remorse wasn't enough to make him stay here and bust his ass day after day and they all knew it. He could just as easily do this on his own or do the whole self-denial, self-punishment bullshit in the mountains, living off squirrel blood to make up for his past sins. Truth was, this job was nothing but a rest stop for him until he figured out what he wanted to do with the rest of eternity. There wasn't much he hadn't done or seen in his nearly thousand year existence and now he was truly stumped on what his next step should be.

It's funny how twenty-five years hadn't changed that. When he'd escaped from his cell his only thoughts had been to get away to clear his head. He could still hear the blaring alarms that echoed throughout the large mansion as he made his way to the front door since he refused to crawl out of a window like some coward.

Somehow he ended up in one of the residential wings. Women grabbed their children and fled behind locked doors as he stormed down the hall. He remembered cursing at himself for his stupidity at getting caught in the first place when this little girl, a toddler really, with pretty violet eyes and midnight black hair stepped into the hall right in front of him, halting his escape.

She looked up at him for a moment, just studying him. He waited for her to scream for help as she ran away crying from the monster stalking the halls. What he hadn't been prepared for was the little girl nodding firmly as if she'd decided something important and grabbing his hand.

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