Ben’s hand paused over the handle. When a hiss came from behind us, he shoved it open. Rider was stood inside with his back to us. In front of him was another guy. The stranger’s red eyes snapped to us and he disappeared, only to appear before us. He made a grab for Dusty but was suddenly pulled back by some unseen force.
The stranger was lying on the floor, struggling against the chains that held him down. But where did they come from? The metal seemed to glow red slightly, as if it was boiling hot. I looked up at Rider. He was breathing heavily, like he’d just run a marathon.
“It’s been a while since I’ve had to do that,” he muttered.
He leant against one of the sofas and quickly recovered, leaving us – well, me – in shock. Pushing away from the furniture, he lifted up the stranger by his arm and looked him in the eye.
“Leave,” he hissed.
When his skin made contact with the metal chains, they were absorbed into him – that was what it looked like at least. The stranger paused for a moment before disappearing. Rider slowly turned to face us.
“Sorry about that,” he said, smiling awkwardly.
Vance walked out from the shadows behind Rider, though I had no idea how he got there.
“Your very being here puts us all in danger, Rider,” Vance hissed.
“You don’t think I know that?” Rider snapped, raising his voice slightly.
“Let’s not argue about this again,” Dusty said, with a very authoritative tone. “Vance, we can handle ourselves, as can you, better than all of us put together.”
“Can I just ask,” I said, “what the hell’s going on?”
“That was my brother,” Rider informed me. “He often likes to turn up and remind me I shouldn’t be here. Spending ten years in a human prison didn’t make me particularly look forward to going home, so I didn’t.”
“Ten years? How old are you?” I asked.
“I’m seventeen. I persuaded them to release me last year. I saved the world from my brother’s stupidity and insolence, yet they can’t wait to lock me up again. You know the feeling, don’t you, Vance?”
Vance tensed with anger and glared at Rider.
“You can’t hurt me in that form, and we both know it.”
Rider sighed and ran his fingers through his white hair, muttering something about sorting things out. He stopped dead, his mind a million miles away. He suddenly jolted back to full consciousness and threw something at the floor, disappearing in a column of fire.
“I don’t know why I don’t just kill him,” Vance hissed, to no one in particular.
“Because you can’t,” Ben murmured. “No one can. No one here at least. He doesn’t trust anybody, with good reason.”
“I could. I could kill him,” Vance muttered resolutely.
“No, Vance, you couldn’t,” Liam snapped. “Just drop it.”
“I’m bored,” Dusty moaned, completely ignoring the conversation. “Why don’t Fallon and I go and do something, leave you guys to sort whatever out?”
“Um, okay,” I agreed.
She grinned and walked away. I followed her.