Clark and I emerged from the room to the smell of pancakes cooking. Ruby sat on one of the countertops eating a piece of bacon when we walked into the kitchen. Eli carefully poured pancake batter into the shape of a star in the pan. Would they even want the future I was imagining? If we shut down Newton’s operation, neither of them would have to run anymore. Clark and I were in a different situation. He’d deserted them for me. The only way they’d welcome him back at this point was if he walked into their compound with me in custody. I knew he wouldn’t do that now. Even if we hadn’t confessed our feelings moments before, his actions spoke loud and clear. You don’t put yourself in the crosshairs of the most powerful magical organization in the country for a booty call.
“I need to talk to you guys about something,” I said once we were all sitting at the dining room table. I wasn’t too worried about Eli’s reaction. He’d already suggested that I kill Newton before we ran from Georgia. If anything, he’d probably be excited about my decision.
“What’s up?” Ruby asked.
“I think we should go to Vegas,” I said.
“No.” There was no hesitation in Ruby’s voice.
“You want to take Newton out?” Eli asked. I was right. There was a bit of excitement in his question.
“We’re not going,” Ruby said.
“I think we have to,” I said.
“Why?” she asked.
“He’s a powerful cerebremancer who is using his magic for personal gain,” Clark said.
“I know that. Why do you think I ran?” Ruby asked.
“The Coven should have intervened by now. The fact that they haven’t means that he’s found a way to stay under their radar,” I said.
“So we tell them about him and run the other way,” she argued.
“They can’t trust us. Two deserters, a mercenary, and a hacker,” Eli said.
“They’re spread too thin,” Clark added. I hadn’t considered that. “They’re scaling up as quickly as they can but revealing magic is testing their limits.”
“So that makes it our responsibility? You know what he’s like, Eli. Why would you want to go anywhere near Vegas again?” Ruby started sounding panicked.
“The only way we’re truly safe is if Newton is in the ground. You found our best shot at making that happen,” he said.
“You told me you weren’t an assassin,” Ruby said. She was looking at me with a pleading expression. It had only been a few weeks since I said that. Things had changed so much since I met her.
“I’m not. But I can do this, if it means keeping us safe,” I said. If she said no again, I wasn’t sure I had it in me to argue more. I didn’t want to kill anyone else. There were so many reasons to do this; our safety was a small piece. I would kill for it, whether I wanted to or not. Part of me wanted Ruby to shut us down, though.
“We need a plan,” she said. “If we can’t come up with one that I like, we’re not doing it.”
“Sounds fair to me,” Eli said.
“Do you want to start planning today?” I asked.
“No. We should move again today,” Ruby said.
“All right,” I said.
We packed ourselves back into the car and started driving again as soon as we finished breakfast. Silence fell over us. Eli and Clark took turns driving, Ruby worked on her laptop, and I maintained spells disguising our vehicle. The radio played high-energy dance mixes of pop songs from Ruby’s phone just loud enough to make it hard to start a conversation. I was fine with that. I was trying to make peace with the idea of killing another witch. It wouldn’t just mean safety for us. Killing Newton meant setting everyone under his control free. That thought almost allowed me to feel like it would be justice. How many people had he killed? How many people had he turned into murderers against their will? Giving them their ability to choose back was the right thing to do.
I couldn’t convince myself fully that doing this would put everything right. Killing him would create a power vacuum and we wouldn’t be sticking around to help deal with that. People would get hurt in the aftermath. I would have to live with that. The thing that ate at me, though, was that this was a step down the path Vincent wanted for me. If he’d had his way, I would have finished my training and doing jobs just like this. Maybe I would have been given this exact assignment if things had gone according to Vincent’s plans. I hated the idea of him getting his way even after I’d taken my revenge on him. Agreeing to do this felt like accepting that I was the monster that he wanted to turn me into. Maybe I was.