Never Be the Same: Chapter Thirteen


“Okay,” Sierra said, glancing between Cammy, who stood staring at the stone as if mesmerized, and Elia, who also could not seem to take his eyes off of it. “We got what we came for. Let’s find the others and get out of here.”

Cammy started and looked up at them. “Of course,” she agreed, slipping the stone into a pocket.

Elia looked like he wanted to object, but she was already through the door, so he just turned and followed her, leaving Sierra to bring up the rear. Sierra paused in the hall, looking down at the guard that Cammy had subdued. “Wait up. I have an idea,” she told them. “Cammy, toss me the amulet. I’ll give it back,” she huffed when Cammy hesitated. Sierra put the amulet on the unconscious man’s chest, then grabbed him by his feet and dragged him back into the conference room. She picked up the amulet and stepped outside, bringing it back out with her. “That way even if he wakes up, he’s stuck, right?” she asked, glancing at Elia as she handed the amulet back to Cammy.

He grinned and nodded, then started down the hall. “Come on,” he said, “let’s find Bobby and Intira. The sooner we get out of here, the better chance we have to actually pull this off.” They reached the lobby and Elia paused, glancing between the two hallways they’d last seen their friends go down. After a moment, he said, “They’re both this way,” and hurried off.

Cammy and Sierra followed, Cammy quickly pulling ahead as Sierra clutched her burning side. She was not used to this much running around. Cammy and Elia disappeared around a corner, and then Cammy cried out, “Intira!” in a tone that made Sierra forget her pain and break into a run.

Bobby knelt over Intira, wiping at her bloody face with a handkerchief. She slumped against the wall, holding her arm at an awkward angle. Behind the pair of them, another of Orsino’s guards hammered on the windowed walls of what looked like a break room. Several zip ties had been strung through the handles of its double doors, preventing them from being opened. The woman shouted something, but Sierra couldn’t hear her through the thick glass.

Cammy ran to kneel beside Bobby, brushing the hair out of Intira’s face, while Elia kept a close watch on the woman in the break room. “It looks worse than it is,” Intira said in a weak voice, trying to brush Cammy’s hand away.

“What happened?” Sierra asked. Intira wrinkled her nose, then winced in pain. Sierra thought it might be broken. Her arm definitely was. Sierra’s breath caught as that sank in.

“I may have made the mistake of gloating,” Intira admitted. “I thought I had her cornered, but before I could secure the door, she just sent this huge blast of wind at it. Twisted me about and threw me into the wall. Splat.” She reached up to point at her nose and let out a dry laugh. “It’s all good. Bobby showed up just in time. She was so focused on finishing me, she never saw him coming. Tackled her like a pro and managed to knock her back into the room so fast she didn’t have time to react while he got it all locked up.” She gave him a gruesome grin. “You’d almost think he was an athlete or something.”

“Heaven forbid,” Bobby said, rolling his eyes. He turned to Cammy. “I got lucky.”

“What do you mean?”

He looked embarrassed. “The guard that chased me put some kind of whammy on me. I was trying to shove her into a supply closet and she grabbed my arm. Next thing I know, I’m standing in the lobby, with no idea where I am or what I’m doing. I was waiting for the elevator when Tira cried out. Snapped me out of my funk and I ran to check on her.”

“Wait,” Elia said, turning an intense gaze on Bobby. “Did you lock your guard up?”

“No,” said a voice from behind them. “He didn’t.”

Mierda! Sierra whirled around to find the last guard reaching out a hand to grab her.

“Don’t let her touch you!” Elia cried, but Sierra didn’t need the warning.

Already moving, she ducked out of the way. She darted to one side and scrambled out of the woman’s reach, moving away from her friends and back toward the lobby. The woman turned to follow, intent on Sierra. Elia moved in front of Bobby and Intira in a protective stance, and Cammy darted around another corner and out of sight. Hoping she had some sort of plan, Sierra decided to buy time by playing prey for the guard. She took a hesitant step backwards, then let herself tumble to the ground as if she’d tripped. It hurt like hell when she landed, jarring her elbow, but that was all to the good, since she didn’t have to fake her cry of distress. The woman grinned and advanced on her. Sierra tried to scramble back out of her reach. “First, I take care of you,” the guard said in a pleasant tone at odds with her expression, “and then your friends. Don’t worry. It won’t hurt. Besides, it’s better this way. None of you will remember just how badly you failed.” She paused, sucking in her breath as if at a sudden stab of pain. She reached up to rub her temple, giving her head a little shake before turning her focus back on Sierra.

“Don’t know about that,” Cammy said, coming up behind the woman. She held a metal office chair by the legs, and before the guard could turn, hefted it up and swung it as hard as she could, cracking the woman in the head. She fell to the ground in a graceless pile. “You all right?” Cammy asked Sierra. At her nod, Cammy let out a sigh of relief. “Good. Help me tie her up.”

They secured her and dragged her into an empty office, shutting the door and wedging the chair under the handle. “Did you get the stone?” Bobby asked as he helped Intira to her feet.

“We’ve got it,” Elia confirmed, shooting a look at Cammy.

“So let’s get out of here,” Intira wheezed. She wiggled a bit and glared at Bobby, who hadn’t let her go. “I can walk, you know.”

He snorted. “What’s wrong with your ankle?”

Sierra noticed that Intira was only putting her weight on one of her feet and she bit back a groan. They needed to get moving. There was no telling when Orsino’s people would start getting out of their makeshift containment.

“It might have gotten a little twisted when I was thrown,” Intira admitted. “But I can walk. I’ll be fine,” she insisted. “Come on, we need to go.” She started hobbling down the hall.

Bobby let out a heavy sigh and rolled his eyes, then hurried to catch up and ducked his shoulder under one of her arms. “Just let me help, okay?” he said before she could object. Despite his flippant air, worry rang clear in his voice.

Sierra followed behind them, watching Intira with her own worried expression. The fact that she wasn’t making a big deal about her injuries said a lot about how hurt she really was. For a drummer, a broken arm wasn’t anything to shake off. Maybe there was a chance she was wrong about the extent of her friend’s injuries, but she didn’t think so. “We need to get her to a hospital,” she murmured to Elia.

“We get back to Cammy’s place first,” Intira spoke up, turning back to look at her. “Then we can talk about getting me to a doctor, all right?”

Sierra didn’t like it, but she nodded, biting back her arguments. Intira was a grown up. She knew the consequences to holding off on seeking care. They made it back to the stairwell unhindered and descended to the first floor as quickly as they could manage. Just before they left the stairwell to go back into the main building, they heard a door slam open a few floors up and someone shouted after them. Pounding feet sounded above. “Come on, come on, come on,” Cammy muttered, pulling open the door and ushering them out into yet another hallway. No one really needed the urging. Intira didn’t even protest when Bobby scooped her up and they all ran for their intended exit. Sierra glanced back and saw two guards chasing them. Sierra recognized one of them as the one she’d locked up. They stopped outside the door to the stairs and cast about wild glances, one shouting when he saw them.

Sierra returned her focus to getting out of the building, and they all sped up as they rounded the next corner, tearing past confused office workers. They hit the exit and pounded down the street. Cammy fished out her keys and pressed the button to unlock the car the second it came into view. They threw themselves inside in a tangle of limbs. Intira let out a small wimper that made Sierra wince. Cammy had the engine started before all of the doors were shut. Sierra turned around as they pulled away from the curb and saw the guards reach the side street just before it fell out of view. “We made it,” she breathed, facing front and grabbing at her seatbelt, finally remembering to buckle it. “We really made it.”

“Not yet,” Cammy said. “Let’s get home first. Then we can celebrate.”


No one spoke much on the drive back. Sierra thought they were just so relieved to be done with their criminal enterprise that they didn’t have words. This was only the first step, though. She had the sneaking suspicion the hard part was still to come. A wave of tiredness washed over her and she rested her head against the window, letting her eyes drift shut.

“Would you stop that?” Intira huffed.

Sierra startled awake and looked around. A glance out the window told her they’d made it back to Bowieville. They were nearly at Cammy’s place.

“Stop what?” Elia asked from the backseat.

“Watching me like you’re afraid I’m going to break at any moment. I’m fine.”

Elia frowned, a look of regret crossing his face. “Your arm is broken. Possibly also your nose, and your ankle–“

“I’ve had worse after a good bike ride,” Intira scoffed. “I can take a few broken bones.”

Bobby snorted. “Hospital won’t even be surprised to see her,” he agreed. “Girl plays rough. Although,” he paused and frowned, the concern creeping in again. He glanced back at Intira. “You’ve never broken your arm before. That’s…a big one.”

“Exactly!” Elia jumped in, “With it in the course of helping me, I can’t help but feel responsible. Perhaps…” he bit his lip, “…it is possible that if we are successful in ridding Bobbi Leigh of Orsino’s interference, she might be willing to have one of her healers–“

“No!” Intira declared, eyes wide. “No way! I don’t,” she swallowed down a choked little laugh, shaking her head, “I can deal with magic being real after all of this. Probably. But no way I want someone using it on me. Not gonna happen. I’ll heal like a regular old muggle, okay? Don’t worry about it, kid,” Intira told him, reaching out with her good hand to punch him in the shoulder. “I was helping a friend. We get you out of this mess, it was worth it.”

“But you won’t be able to play while it heals,” Bobby pointed out, hesitant, “and even after that, there’s no guarantee your playing will be the same. Maybe you should consider it.”

She shot Bobby an annoyed glare. “I said no.” She sighed and glanced at everyone, taking a second to meet Cammy’s eyes in the mirror. “Look, so I’m out of the drumming game for a while. It’s not like that’s my job. Dragonfly can get a sub for the next couple of months–“

“Bloody hell, that’s not happening,” Cammy quipped, hands tightening on the wheel.

Intira rolled her eyes. “Or,” she continued, “I get creative with my kit and see what I can do with one arm. I’ll heal, and I’ll practice, and I’ll be back at it eventually. Worst case, the band takes a little hiatus and we write a million amazing new songs in the down time. It’s all good, really.”

Confident as she sounded, Sierra was pretty sure she was trying to convince herself as much as everyone else. It dawned on her that a hiatus probably was in the cards for the band. Cammy wasn’t just being stubborn. Sierra knew none of them would want to play without Intira. No Tira, no band. She closed her eyes and took a few slow breaths, trying to fight off the overwhelming sense of loss that crashed into her at the realization.

Elia sat in silence for a few long moments, thinking over what Intira said. “Grazie,” he said at last. “To all of you. I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t–“

He cut off and Sierra opened her eyes to find Cammy pulling into her driveway. Elia dropped his gaze to his hands, and Sierra reached back from the front seat to give one a squeeze. He looked up at her with a grateful smile. Despite everything, she managed to smile back. Intira was right about more than the hiatus. If they could get Elia free and clear, all of this would be worth it.

“All right,” Cammy said, opening up the back door and helping Intira slide out. “Now it is time to get you some medical attention.”

“I’ll take her,” Bobby said, sliding out behind her. “Then she can come rest at my place until you three finish this.” He fixed Cammy with a hard look, then Sierra. “You’ll keep me in the loop? Let me know if you need me?”

“We will,” Sierra promised, leaning in to give him a hug. She moved to Intira next, giving her a much gentler squeeze.

“Aw, come on,” Intira said, “I don’t even get to see the whatsit?”

Cammy laughed and fished it out of her pocket, holding it out for Intira and Bobby to see. “Pretty,” Intira said after looking it over. “Hard to believe it can do what Joey said.”

“It can,” Elia said in a hard voice.

Cammy slipped the stone back into her pocket and gave Intira a peck on the cheek. “Now, go, get yourself seen to. We’ll keep you informed, loves. Promise.”

Bobby helped Intira into his car and Cammy waited for them to drive away before shooing Elia and Sierra into the house. They walked into the living room to find Joey asleep on the couch with a deflated bag of chips on his chest and several empty soda cans on the floor beside him. The television was stuck on a DVD menu screen. Cammy picked up a remote control and turned the television off. Joey woke with a start, blinking and looking around at them. Then he seemed to remember where they’d been. “Did you get it?” Before they could answer he shuddered and his face contorted in a grimace. “Oh, hell, you did. I can feel it.” He shuddered again.

Sierra blinked and glanced at Elia. She couldn’t feel anything. Was it really that bad for people with magic? From the set line on his face and the way he held himself apart from Cammy, she supposed it must be. The sooner they could get rid of this thing, the better. She frowned. “The question is, now that we have it, what do we do with it?”

“Yes,” Cammy agreed, “it is time to figure that out. She led them into the kitchen, where she pulled the stone out of her pocket and set it on the counter. Then she opened the fridge and began getting out food and drinks while they settled around the table.

Sierra’s stomach let out a loud growl and she realized they’d missed lunch. She eagerly grabbed some bread and lunch meat to make herself a sandwich, taking a few bites and washing them down with a sip of water before asking, “Can we give the stone to Bobbi Leigh?”

“No,” Cammy said, at the same time Joey replied, “Probably not.” Elia was shaking his head too.

Cammy arched an eyebrow and nodded at Joey to go first. He rubbed his good hand through his hair and said, “Orsino will know if she has it. The whole point is to take away his leverage. If he thinks she stole it, he’ll just come down on her and the crew like a thundercloud.”

“He’s right,” Elia agreed. “I don’t think Bobbi Leigh will agree to help me if there’s any chance of Orsino thinking she had a hand in the stone’s disappearance.”

“Besides, if we give it to her,” Cammy chimed, “who’s to say she isn’t likely to try using it herself?” She shook her head, then glanced over her shoulder at the stone. “It’s too much power for one person. We should destroy the thing.”

“Bobbi Leigh can’t use it,” Elia said, giving Cammy a blank look.

“She can’t? Why?”

“It’s a fae stone,” Joey chimed in. “Gotta have fae blood to use it. I guess Orsino must have some.”

“He’s half-fae,” Elia confirmed, eyes still on Cammy. “His magic is that of influence. It’s how he manages to keep such a tight hold on his court.”

“Okay,” Sierra said, trying to rein in the conversation. “So. We can’t give Bobbi Leigh the stone. Which means Cammy’s probably right and we should destroy it. Do we do that before or after we tell her we’ve got it?”

“After,” Elia said. “It still gives us leverage.”

“How? It’s not like we can use it.”

“But you can give it back to Orsino,” Joey said. At their indignant looks, he held up his hand. “Hey, look, I know you’re not going to do that, but Bobbi Leigh doesn’t. So you go see her, tell her you have the stone, and it can either go away or go back to Orsino. It’s a safe bet which option she’ll take.”

Sierra frowned, thinking it over. “Orsino’s people saw Elia with us. He’ll know who stole the stone.”

“Bobbi Leigh can think of some way to explain that away,” Elia said, waving his hand. “She just has to deny knowing anything about the theft when her people caught up to me and say I didn’t have it on me. If Orsino has used the tuar ceatha before, he’s linked to it. He’ll feel when it is destroyed. Maybe we can time it so he’ll think that I destroyed it before I was caught.”

“Do you really think he’ll buy that?” Sierra asked.

Elia shrugged. “It doesn’t matter what I think. What matters is if Bobbi Leigh thinks she can sell it.”

“Okay,” Sierra said, nodding. “Okay. So. I guess the next step is that we go talk to Bobbi Leigh.” She bit her lip, glancing at Elia. “You can’t go with us.”

His mouth opened and he started to say something, but then stopped. He looked down at the table and clenched his hands. “No, I suppose you’re right. Besides, someone needs to stay and guard the stone.”

“Joey,” Cammy drawled, catching his attention, “can you set up a meeting for us?” She smiled sweetly.

“‘Course,” he agreed with a nod. “You got a phone I can use?” Cammy handed him her cell phone and he fumbled with it, dialing a number. “Can I speak to Miss Williams, please? Tell her it’s Joey Brown.” There were a few moments of silence and then Joey sat up a little straighter. “Yes ma’am, it’s me. No, I’m all right. Got a little banged up but it’s nothing a healer won’t set right.” Sierra winced, realizing she hadn’t even bothered worrying about Joey’s wrist, despite all that he’d helped them. His conversation continued. “Got myself taken hostage. Sorry about that ma’am. No, they haven’t threatened me. They say they’re willing to let me go. Just wanna meet with you, first. Uh huh. Okay. I’ll tell them. Thank you, ma’am. I’ll try.”

“Well?” Sierra asked as he hung up and handed back the phone.

“She’ll meet with you tonight, at her headquarters. I can give you directions and whatnot.”

“No need,” Cammy said with another smile. “You’re coming with us.”

Joey’s eyebrows shot up. “I thought you’d want to wait until she agrees to your deal.”

“You should go,” Elia agreed, nodding at Cammy. “The stone is leverage enough, and you can confirm what Sierra and Cammy have to say.”

“Yeah,” Joey said, nodding thoughtfully. “You have a point. No disrespect, but Bobbi Leigh’s not likely to take two mundanes that serious.”

“Except we’re not sending two mundanes to meet her, are we?” Elia asked, leaning forward.

Sierra laughed. “Elia, what are you talking about?” She glanced at Cammy, expecting similar confusion, but instead her friend had gone very, very still. “Cammy?” she asked.

“I thought I was imagining it,” Elia said, shaking his head. “But all the little pieces kept piling up.” He turned to Cammy, holding up an accusing finger. “She’s fae, Sierra.”


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