"For your information," Meena replied, and her voice was sharp as a razor, "That line is so cheesy. And it's not how much pain we're going to pay, it's how much you want to suffer before you hand those over."
"Oh, really?" Allan replied with obviosu amusement. He glanced over at Willow, who was crouched over by the wall, face cupped in her hands and blood dripping through her fingers and spotting the bare floorboards like rust. I was stood immobile between Meena and her, and deciding whose need was greater I hurried over and dropped to my knees beside her. She lifted her head out of her hands a fraction, looking at me sideways with the green eyes that seemed to flash yellow as a wolf's. She was absolutely fine, not in pain at all - she had realigned her nose herself, and it was already healing rapidly. Another perk of being immortal. I also understood what she was doing.
I straightened up and walked back over to Meena. I looked at William, who stood there as handsome and broad and strong and armed as ever, yet there was something different about him. There was a new, cruel twist to his mouth and his eyes were hard as marbles, and not quite the same colour.
Allan moved further into the room, forcing us both to take several steps back. He was wearing a rucksack, which he shrugged off and unzipped, only to pull out, bizarrely, a small cage containing a white dove.
"A peace offering?" Meena asked incredulosuly, and Allan laughed without mirth.
"Hardly. I don't exactly need to negotiate. You both know you aren't going to take my guy by surprise and he can take both of you down at the same time without getting his hands dirty."
We both glanced again, involuntarily, at William, who stood watching the blood that still dribbled, though much more slowly, through Willow's clamped fingers with some kind of sick enjoyment. That wasn't William. It just couldn't be.
"This, ladies, is an example of just what you mgiht have to deal with if you don't comply with me. I'm sure you already know what kind of people I have behind me," Allan continued. Even though I couldn't see his face, the smirk was evident in his tone.
I had to look back at Allan - he demanded attention - as he unlatched the cage door and immediately the dove flew out. It fluttered weakly before landing on the floor near to our feet. To my shock, it transformed into a figure I knew.
"Amber?" I gasped, as she uncurled from the foetal position she was lying in, and clambered to her feet. Her face was pale, her wild hair a mess, her eyes even wider with fear and confusion. She grabbed hold of me tightly, and I knew this was the real Amber. This girl and the one who attacked me last night in the gallery were not the same. Allan had just proved it - how long had he kidnapped her for?
I turned my gaze on Will. Someone had the ability to transform into other people. They might be able to carry off appearance perfectly, but they couldn't get the personality completely right, could they? And I was willing to bet whoever was stood there right now as William was the same person who had been in the gallery, waiting for me as Amber.
I caught Meena's eye, and somehow I knew that she had just figured it out too. A silent message seemed to pass between us.
"We haven't got time for your mind games any more, Greymark," Meena said, her eyes flashing with the disgust she regarded him with. "Whatever games you and your traitor of a father are playing at, they're over."
Allan's eyes flashed too, this time dangerously. I was seriosuly considering the fact that he might be mentally unstable.
"Oh , I don't think - "
"Guess what," I cut him off, drawing his attention to me. "We do."
Then Meena hit him, snapping his jaw back with an upper cut that sent him reeling, dropping the papers which slitthered out over the ground, and then followed by knocking his feet from under him with a swift sweeping kick that sent him crashing to the floor.
This happened in less than a second.
Will - or whoever was in his form - lunged, but I got in the way.
Thanks a lot, Meena, I thought. Leave the tough guy to the inexperienced one while you beat the crap out of a teenager. Though I supposed I had the advantage of my Infettare strength - but did it work in daylight?
He blocked my punches with one forearm, and the force of my fists connecting with what felt like stone jarred my arm. I guess not.
Thankfully, Willow joined in the fray, unexpected as she leapt at the impostor from behind and made him stumble forward, if only by a mere footstep.
He shook her off easily and gave one last malevolent glance to his bloody-faced companion, being rained upon by a series of blows from Meena, who was paying him back in kind for his friend's attack on Willow.
I knew he could crush her, yet he didn't. He glared at us all - a look that clearly said, next time we meet you're dead - and then blew out of the room like a tornado, leaving the door banging against the wall, squealing on its hignes, and the papers strewn everywhere.
Amber, throughout all this, had ran into the kitchen, apparently looking for an emergency phone or something. She came back in, looking more terrified than ever I dropped to my knees and gathered the papers up, not bothering to try and work out their order.
"Come on," Willow said thickly, wiping the blood from her face with one sleeve while Meena dragged Allan's limp unconscious form - he hadn't been able to take the beating Meena had dished out - into the kitchen and left it there. "We'll have to get out of here."