The guard laughed. I snapped my elbow into his throat, cutting off the laughter, dropping him to my feet. He writhed but I ignored him and his gurgled attempts to breathe. From behind the men, a hand snaked out and grabbed the second guard, yanking him backward; Ash was doing what he could to help.
Vetch glared at me and Coal approached from the other side. I lifted my hand and touched the armband, twisting it forward. Ash had bought us enough time, but we wouldn’t be able to come back to the Rim after this.
At least, not without Father.
I yanked the armband clockwise, which would take us to London. The world started to dissolve and a hand clamped around my leg.
Pain danced up through my nerve endings and arched my back. My mind felt as though it were being pulled in two directions. I fought it, but the enormity overwhelmed me.
“Lark, use Spirit to pry him off! You must!” Peta’s voice cut through the pain, and I latched onto her words. Spirit flowed through me. In the distance Ash’s voice rose up and I knew he was fighting for me, for all of us. I slammed Spirit into Coal. There was no attempt at delicacy, no way to be gentle; I grieved I had to do it at all. But it was not only my life I felt drifting on the lines of fate, but Cactus’s and Peta’s. They were attached to me, and if I died, they would too.
I couldn’t lose either of them. With a final shove of Spirit, I pushed Coal away.
Coal’s heart burst with the power, and his hand dropped from my leg. The armband sucked us through the globe, like an elastic band held too long and finally released as we were catapulted. Yet a memory hovered, thoughts fleeting even as their owner died.
I loved her. I hate her. I loved her again. She took my hand. Yet I still loved her. I hate her. Damn her. I want to save her. She doesn’t want me.
She broke me and now she is my end.
The words were echoes of all the things Coal had said to me. They swirled over and over in my mind as we were taken across the world. I couldn’t escape them, or the feeling of betrayal that came with them.
Coal had loved me still.
With an audible pop, we split the air and landed on a soft, mossy turf.
A hard, throat-tearing gasp wrenched through me. My legs wobbled as I tried to get my footing on the grass, yet it was as if I were learning to walk again. Coal’s emotions stung, biting at me even as I knew he was gone.
I’d killed him.
Perhaps I was the monster so many thought I was.
I stumbled to a stop, my hand coming to rest on a gravestone, forcing myself to put Coal away for a moment. The etched name and date in the stone blurred and I used them to help center myself once more, focusing on the details.
Brittany Ann, beloved daughter taken too soon. 1912
I looked around. Night darkened the sky here. A slow circle showed me we were in a human graveyard. In the distance was a church with a high steeple. Where were Cactus and Peta? “Peta?”
“Dirt Girl, that was not a ride I want to repeat,” she said as she stumbled out from behind another tombstone. I crouched and picked her up, burying my face against her neck.
“I killed him.” My words were a bare whisper. “I didn’t want to hurt him, Peta.”
“I know.” She licked my cheek, and it was only then I realized I was crying. Coal was not the man I’d thought him to be, but he had been the one I’d thought I’d marry for a long time. For me to be the one to end him . . . my heart lurched and with it my stomach. Biting down on the roll of nausea, I took a step. “Cactus?”
A groan led me around to the back of a stone winged angel. Cactus lay face down with his hand over the back of his head. “Lark. Remind me not to Travel with you anymore. I have a headache that could split stones.”
Anger snapped through me at his callousness. How could he think only of himself when we were lucky to be alive? When we were lucky it was only Coal who’d had to give up his life? “May I remind you I could have left you there, which would mean Vetch would have killed you? I killed Coal to save us, and you’re lying there complaining you have a headache? Grow up, Cactus.”
I spun on my heel and strode away. My emotions ran with me, and at the forefront of them, grief.
No, I would not cry any longer for Coal. A strange twist began in my gut, like an uncoiling serpent.
Coal didn’t deserve my tears. Not only had he tried to manipulate me during our relationship, he’d been a bastard afterward and tried to make me think I was weak. I strode through the cemetery. Peta kept up easily. “You can’t blame Cactus. He didn’t know what you had to do.”
“Doesn’t matter. I have to find the Tracker. We need to look for something chaotic near the Tower of London.”
Peta bobbed her head. “That would be the easiest thing to do. Though you might want to calm yourself.”
I swallowed hard, struggling to do what she suggested.
We’d been walking for ten minutes before Cactus caught up. “Want to tell me what the hell that was all about? I thought we couldn’t Travel with more than one person?”
I opened my mouth but Peta spoke for me, bless her. “Coal grabbed Lark as we started to make the jump. She was forced to use Spirit on him to make him let her go and it killed him. She felt him die.”
Cactus grabbed me and spun me around so fast I didn’t even try to stop him. He wrapped me up in his arms and held me tightly. “Mother goddess, Lark. I didn’t know. I wasn’t trying to be flip back there.”
His apology was all I needed to let the anger go. I hung onto him. “I know. I . . . we have to go, Cactus. We are running out of time. I feel it.”