Author's Notes: I got a book published! My new book 'The Blood that Flows' will be available on Amazon on October 1, 2011. If you go to my profile and click on my webpage, you'll be directed to my blog, which has a preview of the cover and the synopsis for the back of the book. Please come and check it out and come buy my book when it goes on sale.
Thanks to everyone who read this story. Thanks to crownie for betaing. But thanks most of all to my loyal reviewers. Instead of updating here weekly, I'll now be updating my blog (accessible through my webpage link) every Thursday. I also made a new facebook account (to help promote my book). Come see me as Stephanie Van Orman. Don't forget me now that I can't be Sapphirefly any more. Thanks again for reading and reviewing. Love is all around the world.
Chapter Twenty Three
Trina and Brock agreed that he should be the one to talk to Nicoletta, but that proved unnecessary when she came up to Trina voluntarily and apologized for hitting her. They sat together at the kitchen table and ate the canned soup Nicoletta warmed up with big pieces of buttered bread.
"I shouldn't have done that," Nicoletta said candidly, giving her a slice of bread as a peace offering. Her hair was now cut in a foxy pixie and her eyebrows penciled in, so she looked more normal. "You were right about leaving Megan if it meant abandoning Carter and me. It's just that Jeremy has tried so hard to find her and there have been no clues as to where she might be. Redd has kept her so well concealed, and all personal differences aside, I really do want to help Jeremy find her."
Trina nodded, and hugged Nicoletta, telling her she forgave her.
"What did Brock have to say?" Nicole asked uneasily.
"About what?" Trina asked, wanting only to answer the most obvious questions herself.
"About my slapping you?" she asked quietly.
"He was going to talk to you about it, but I don't think he was planning to unleash the fires of Hell on you. He's not like that."
"Yes he is. Not that he'd roast me alive, but I was sure I'd get a good tongue lashing from him."
"Even if he would on a normal day, right now he's really out of it. Actually, he asked me to do some things for him, but I'm not sure I want to do anything until he's thinking clearly."
"What did he ask you to do?"
"He wants us to dissolve the Foxes until Jeremy is freed," Trina admitted.
"No, that's Brock thinking very clearly. We don't really have much choice at this point. Besides Jeremy, the Ravens have three of our people captive. Rob is in the hospital and Brock has been shot. Not to mention all the other losses we've suffered lately. We don't really have a choice. If that's really what he wants to do, I'm sure everyone will understand. But how will we save Jeremy and the others if we don't organize some counter measure as a group?"
"That's already taken care of," Trina said. "Redd gave us an offer before we left, and Brock will meet the terms of it."
"That's awfully big of him. What do they want him to do?"
"They want him to go to a bar in six weeks to pick them up," Trina said, rehearsing what she and Brock decided to say to that particular question.
"Oh," Nicoletta said flatly.
"So, you're okay with that?"
Nicoletta paused thoughtfully before she answered, "This is the kind of thing Brock's good at – damage control. This is really where he shines. I don't think Redd will get the better of him. Brock will show up, get our people and whisk out without anyone the wiser."
"What about his leg?" Trina asked seriously.
"You'll see. Even if he went in on a stretcher, he'd somehow find a way to make everything work out. He's a rock!" Nicoletta said confidently. "As a matter of fact, he's such a rock that there was a fuss awhile ago about 'certain' members wanting Brock to be our leader instead of Jeremy. I didn't buy into it. I supported Jeremy through it – womanizer or no – he's a man with a purpose."
"How can you tell?"
"Well, he's a mess over what happened to Megan. He pretty much abandoned her when he was a teenager and she didn't have anyone watching her, so she ended up running with the wrong crowd until she just didn't come home from school one day. He was a mess when their mother contacted him to help find her. Of course they didn't, but her tracks led them to Red Morning. He's been obsessed ever since and horribly guilt-ridden, especially since their mother died."
"And what about Brock?" Trina asked, trying to pry secrets from Nicoletta that she was too scared to ask Brock directly. "Why is he in this?"
"Oh, come on. Brock wants to get his mystery girl. From what I've seen, she's somehow involved with the Ravens or maybe even Red Morning directly. I think he'd give us all up if he could find her. Besides, I don't think he wants to be the tank of the group forever, which is unusual when so many of our strapping young lads admire him so openly. No matter what anyone says, he no longer invites members with him on missions. Since Kristy, I don't think he wants to involve others in his pursuits. He's a loner."
Trina was pleased Nicoletta was talking to her again like they were old friends. She didn't know they could be that comfortable with each other after such an incident. They were probably like a couple of guys after a fist fight. Nicoletta respected that Trina hadn't backed down and Trina was happy Nicoletta apologized without having her arm twisted.
When Trina didn't comment on what was said, Nicoletta asked her, "Do you still like Brock? Have you given up on him?"
"I know you said it was hopeless, but I can't help it. As a matter of fact," Trina said slowly. "I'm going to go get my dragon tattoo as soon as possible."
"Don't do that," the older girl advised. "If the Foxes dissolve, we might not get on our feet again, especially since they burned Brock's house down. Then you'll be marked like the rest of us for no good reason. You could still go home to your parents, you know. Actually, right now would probably be a great time – during all this mess. Don't you think?"
Trina had hardly thought about her parents since she sent her postcard, she was sort of startled by Nicoletta's suggestion. She was also surprised by her own thoughts on the subject. "Go home now?" Trina asked with eyebrows drawn together. "There's no way I'll go home now. Nothing has changed. Redd is still after me, and I can't leave Brock now. If we part, I might never find him again."
"He doesn't love you," Nicoletta said. "He's just a player."
"Even so," Trina said, knowing that Nicoletta meant well. "I don't care if he loves me. I've already made up my mind that this is the way I want to spend the last of my teenage years – with him."
Freda chose this very opportune moment to enter the kitchen and hear what they were saying. She didn't comment, but instead went over to where the pot the soup was stewing in and drew a portion into a bowl.
"Well, if you feel that way, Trina," she said as casually as though eavesdropping was a perfectly acceptable hobby. "Why don't you take Brock some food? I'm sure he's hungry. I don't think he needs to be spoon fed, but if he does, I'm sure you'll take care of that, won't you?"
Trina took the soup and spoon without attitude, even though she didn't exactly like Freda's way of putting things, and headed for Brock's room.
As she left she heard her say quietly to Nicoletta, "Poor child. She doesn't realize that she can't win no matter how hard she tries."
Trina frowned. Brock wasn't prepared to tell anyone about the two of them still, but she wouldn't let herself doubt him. There was no way she wasn't the girl of his dreams. Eventually, they'd all know the truth.
Brock held what seemed like a media circus the next day. A crowd of members drove out to the farm for it, while a few others watched online. Carter set up a webcam for them by the couch where Brock was moved specifically so he wouldn't have to greet everyone from his bed. He was still resting.
Trina wondered if he would be uncomfortable talking to so many people. At least fifteen were huddled in the living room, with several other interested parties online, but he wasn't the least bit nervous as he announced the state of things.
"Well, as some of you have heard, last Friday night Jeremy, Nicoletta, Carter, Scott, Nathan and Devon, were kidnapped by the Raven's Edge. And as some of you haven't heard, my roommate Vincent is, and always has been, a Raven. Now I'll tell you all what happened over the past few days." Brock was carefully selective with the information that he chose to announce to everyone. He didn't tell them that Trina had stabbed Vincent, and implied that Vincent let her leave in order to have a chance to burn down their headquarters.
Everyone listened to him with grave eyes. They trusted Brock as he spoke to them. It hurt Trina a lot more than she expected, since they were lying to everyone. Besides not telling them the truth about Vincent, Brock omitted to tell them many other things. For instance, he didn't tell them about seeing Megan. Most of the members were recruited by Jeremy; they all knew the tragic story of his little sister, and since they would have walked through fire for him, had Jeremy asked them, they would undoubtedly do the same for his sister. Brock didn't want them doing anything stupid. It was better if they just waited quietly for Jeremy to come back.
Brock also didn't say a word about Trina's abilities, but Trina knew he wanted to keep that secret above all things. He kept saying to her when they were alone that as soon as Jeremy and the others were safe he was done with the Foxes. He said he originally thought that they might be able to do something to stop the Raven's Edge or Red Morning, but now he knew that he and Jeremy were merely endangering more lives. There had to be a better way to go about this, and he said he needed some time to think about it before he proceeded.
When he was finished telling everyone his (grossly understated) tale, everyone wanted to ask him questions. Gwen was sitting on the floor in front of him, crying her eyes so loudly that no one could really hear his answers. Finally, Freda took her out of the room and showed her to the bathroom so she could get hold of herself.
Brock was brief, but he answered the most important question with power and authority.
"So, what are you going to do to ensure Jeremy and the others come back safely?" someone called out from the back.
Brock cocked his head and answered clearly, for everyone in the room to hear, "I'm going to give myself up."
A hush fell over everyone as they processed what he was said.
"But you can't do that!" someone else debated.
"I can, and I will," Brock said, looking strong, even with his leg heavily bandaged and his bare foot resting on the cushions. He was wearing soccer shorts, but he still managed to look like a warrior.
"Then you can't go alone," a little blonde haired girl was saying.
"You're right. I need someone to drive everyone back home after we're finished."
Trina saw more hands come up than if someone burst in on a kindergarten class asking who wanted ice cream. It looked like everyone who had a driver's license was volunteering – including Carter, who didn't have one.
Brock settled them quickly enough by saying, "I've already decided that Rob is the man who will be going with me. The Ravens already know who he is since he's been into trouble up to his neck."
"Will he be well enough?" Carter asked. He hadn't been part of the discussions that had taken place beforehand.
"I talked to him on the phone this morning. They're letting him out of the hospital tomorrow or the day after so he'll be in fine shape in six weeks. He's already agreed," Brock explained to everyone when they looked skeptical.
Trina didn't like talk like this. She didn't want to give Brock up, but he had to have a plan. There was no way he'd let himself be caught, but he might let Harker and Redd think that he's caught if only to give Rob and the others enough time to drive away. He just didn't want to talk about the details in front of a collection of people he wasn't positive were loyal. There was only one thing; Brock had not discussed his plan with her. That left her only to believe that his plan did not include her.
"So, all of us are going off-line?" someone asked, once the deal with the Raven's captives was settled.
"I had a talk with our lawyer and he's more than capable of running our different cases to completion and Gwen has promised me that she'll watch out for Kristy. If anyone has any pressing information, I'd encourage them to report it to me before they leave today. Everything else can wait until Jeremy gets back," Brock said.
"But surely, you can lead us just as well as Jeremy, even with that leg," another person was saying. "There's no reason for us to close up shop, is there?"
By this point, it seemed to Trina that Brock was getting tired. "That would be a perfect solution," he said carefully. "If it was what I wanted, and I can't be sure that that's what all of you want either. In any case, I'm simply not willing to take on the job. I'm hurt, and I have a dangerous task ahead of me, and to put it quite simply – I have something else I have to do with the time in between. Does that answer your question?"
"No," someone pouted.
"What are you doing?" someone else yelled. "Law school doesn't start until the fall, and you've already graduated."
Brock flashed a good-tempered smile at everyone. "I'm glad my private life is of such wild interest to all of you. Maybe you'll understand one day why I keep it under wraps."
"He confessed to her!" a girl's voice shrilled from a corner Trina couldn't see.
"Is it true?" someone burst. "Did you tell her you loved her – your moon tattoo girl?"
"Does she love you back?" one guy demanded.
Trina laughed aloud and wondered how he was going to work his way out of this.
Brock smiled and avoiding Trina's eyes said, "Not on your life. If this is all we're going to talk about - Carter, cut the power." When Carter refused, Brock continued, "I'm not doing this. Stick to serious questions or I'm kicking you all out."
After everyone had gone, Trina drove Vincent's orange car into the barn and parked it where Brock's aunt used to keep cows. Now that it was empty of livestock there was enough room to comfortably hide the car. Brock told her not to worry about it – that he'd drive it to The Voltage Room when it was time for him to meet Harker (a name he only whispered to her when he seemed most certain that they were alone), and he'd leave it there for them to deal with.
"Are you sure you'll be able to drive?" Trina asked.
Brock shrugged his shoulders. "There's no use worrying about it now. I've still got almost six whole weeks left in which to heal. Maybe I'll be doing better by then."
Trina nodded, though she didn't think he would be, since he utterly refused the wheelchair and wandered around using only one crutch.
"Besides," he continued. "We still need to go on our vacation. To tell you the truth, that's the only thing I'm thinking about. I need to spend as much time as I can with you."
Trina swallowed hard. Looking around to make sure no one saw her, she reached up and kissed him.