Desert Fire

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He only stares at her for the longest time, in which she grips her legs, breathing heavily, holding his gaze. She just got shot, but somehow she has the strength to take Cadmar on. “With everything Scarlet said today, we deserve answers,” she says this all slowly, sounding agonized, as if every word drains her energy. “Reiley especially deserves them.”

He continues staring for a small eternity and I’m certain he isn’t going to say anything, but anticipation still thrums through my veins, through my entire body. I want my answers more than I want air right now. Finally, finally, he sighs in defeat. Oh man! Is he going to tell me about my parents? Give us more details on this crazy mission? Tell us who this mystery contact is?

Tell us, tell us, tell us! I want to shout, or maybe bounce in my seat, but that would only make him shut down again.

He gives me a sorrowful look before staring out the windshield, gripping the steering wheel while he continues onto the road. “Scarlet really has a knack for opening her mouth at the worst possible moment,” he growls, sounding as if he’s saying it more to himself than to us.

Giving me a sideways glance, he sighs again. “Something you need to know about your mother, Reiley.” My heart pounds in my chest, my palms coated in sweat. “She isn’t like Scarlet, or even Payton’s mom. She actually wanted you.” He pauses, moving through the evening traffic. The suspense literally kills me!

“We worked together long before you were even thought of,” he continues and I almost whoop in excitement. “It was around when I joined my first agency, before I even met Scarlet. We were both young, ambitious, slightly stupid, but we were…close.”

It sounds as if he’s reminiscing, which I’m totally cool with, since he’s talking about my mom! And he was close to her! This insight to his past is more than I could have bargained for.

“Anyway.” He shakes his head, as if he was lost in an old memory. “After I left that agency and joined the Elites, something happened. She never gave me details, but she tried leaving the agency and something went badly. They started hunting her—much like what happened to Payton—and she went on the run. When she found out she was pregnant, she panicked and came to me, having heard through the grapevine what Scarlet and I were doing. She wanted to keep you more than anything, but she didn’t want you constantly in danger, always in hiding, always on the run. She begged me to take you, knowing we could protect you, but made me promise never to allow you to have anything to do with the Elites.”

OMG! That’s all I can come up with.

“I never told Scarlet who you were, who you came from, because she wouldn’t have kept you. But as you grew, you looked more like your mother every day. I was naïve to think Scarlet wouldn’t figure it out.” Shaking his head again, he twists his hands on the steering wheel.

Who gives a shit about Scarlet?

My mom sounds awesome and I don’t even know her. I want to meet her, like now. I understand now why Payton insisted on going to see her mom, even if she says it was to get some help. It’s a need deep in my bones.

“But what about my dad?” I ask before my eyes bug out with a ridiculous thought. “When you say you two were close, did you mean, like together? Are you my real dad?”

He shoots me an incredulous look with his mouth hanging open slightly. Okay, so maybe not.

“Reiley,” Kay’s the one to say something and a pang of guilt shoots through me for having forgotten she was even in the Jeep with us. “He was with Scarlet when she found out she was pregnant,” she says as if that completely negates the possibility.

I don’t voice the fact there are such things as affairs and I actually feel bad for even having the thought. Cadmar does not seem like the cheating type. And no matter how much I despise the bitch, he probably used to like Scarlet, maybe even loved her. Lunatic!

Finally closing his mouth, eyes back on the road, he grips the wheel tighter. “We were together a long time ago,” he actually tells us. Holy cow! He dated my mom. Hmmm…we may need to discuss her taste in men if we ever meet. Not that Cadmar isn’t a great guy but he was with Scarlet; something’s got to be wrong with him.

“And no, I am not your biological father. She never told me who it was, but when one of our old colleagues, Jerome, popped up, following Bryn and Eva only a week ago, I had the suspicion it was him. He may have only just found out about you and went looking for you, since neither Bryn nor Eva’s parents are connected to our past in any way. It couldn’t be a coincidence that it was him following them.”

Again, holy crap! My mind may explode. I have never had this long of a conversation with Cadmar; certainly not one in which he divulged so much. But I can’t stop now, not when he’s finally giving out free info.

“What are we doing at this database place?” I ask and he sighs in relief, but I ignore it. “For that matter, what is the place?”

“It’s the Elite’s main database,” Kay is the one to answer, making me spin around to look at her. The color in her cheeks is a huge relief and so is the excited look in her eyes, as if she’s thrilled to share her knowledge of the database. “They have a Cloud type system, which allows them to access all information from anywhere in the world, but the database has the main system along with multiple underground floors, housing all paper documents, which date back to the early 1900’s.”

She pauses to take a few deep breathes, as if she’s winded, but continues, “If one were to infiltrate their main system with the right software, they could wipe someone or, in this case, multiple persons, from the entire system, making it almost impossible for them to ever find said person. The probability of them ever being found would go down even more so if they knew how to hide properly.”

“Is that the plan?” My gaze jerks to Cadmar. “We’re going to wipe our records from their system?”

“Yes.” He nods, giving me another actual answer. “If we are able to do so, I can secure all your safety. And it must be done now that you are in their database. I will keep my promise.”

Wow! His urgency makes so much more sense now. Why didn’t he tell us all this to begin with? I would have been much more compliant. But no, getting information from Cadmar always has to be like pulling teeth with rusty pliers.

“Now, that’s enough talk,” he says, shutting back down, but for once, I don’t mind. There’s so much to process. “Kay, you need to lie back down and get some rest.”

She does what she’s told and I fall silent while he gets on yet another highway. Luckily, it appears to be heading toward a city, rather than the middle of nowhere. I finally pull my phone out, reading the super cheesy text from Payton. Man, I miss her. I wonder what she would think of all this. I want to call her to tell her everything, but we agreed not to stress her out and I’m not ready for her to hear about what I did. But I can’t help sending her a short text, because I’m sure she’s worried about us. With that sent, I fish my iPod out of the back of Cadmar’s seat, glancing at an already sleeping Kay. I sigh in relief once I have the buds in and The Glitch Mob blasting.

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