The Girl with the Windup Heart Page 17

“No,” she replied, standing at his side, letting him lean on her. “I’m not leaving without you.”

“How touching!” Garibaldi grinned at them. “And you’re right, Miss Jayne. You’re not leaving. Ever.” He tossed a bolt of energy at her. She barely managed to dodge in time and the heat of it brushed her hair. She could smell the burn.

Griffin fired back, but his aim was off and the bolt struck the wall by Garibaldi’s head. He laughed. Finley had never wanted to kill anyone so much in her entire life—not even Lord Felix. She looked around for something to throw at him or use as a weapon or shield.

The light around Garibaldi’s hands grew even hotter and brighter. If he hit her—and he most likely would—it was really going to hurt. She didn’t fool herself that he’d kill her so quickly. She pulled Griffin toward the window. “We have to get out of here.”

“Oh, I don’t think so.” Garibaldi fired again, and just as Finley braced herself for the blow, putting herself between him and Griffin, she was grabbed by a pair of strong hands and propelled closer to the window. A man held up an odd-looking shield that seemed to absorb Garibaldi’s blast.

“Damn you, Thomas!” The Machinist shouted.

Thomas? Finley glanced at their savior as he shoved both her and Griffin out the window. Good God, it couldn’t be... Then, he looked at her as they plummeted toward the ground, and she knew for certain who he was.

Her father.

* * *

Falling. It felt a lot like flying.

Garibaldi watched them from the window as they plummeted to the ground. He smiled at Griffin—even raised his hand in farewell. It wasn’t over between them, not by any stretch of the imagination. It wouldn’t be over until one of them was destroyed completely.

The fall seemed to take forever even though the wind tore through his hair, and The Machinist fell away. Griffin could still see his enemy so clearly, was aware of so much around him, as though time had slowed. Was this how it felt to be Jasper?

He should have told Finley about her father, but there hadn’t been time. Should have prepared her. Thank God Thomas had come back when he did. When he’d disappeared Griffin had thought Garibaldi had something to do with it—that the villain was onto them. He was now.

He wasn’t a violent person, but he’d like to kick Garibaldi’s smug smile off his face. He couldn’t even feel the Aether. Damn it, where was it? It was all around him, why couldn’t he feel it?

“Let go,” whispered a voice.

Griffin turned his head. Out of the corner of his eye he could see the ground rushing up to meet him, but somehow they were still miles above it. There, in the forefront of his vision was a beautiful young woman. He recognized her immediately—she was his mother. She smiled that serene smile he always associated with times he’d been naughty in a way that amused her.

“Just let go,” she told him. “Let it all go.”

He frowned. How could she tell him to do that when Garibaldi was such a threat? Or did she mean that he should let go of life and die? That would make sure Finley was protected, wouldn’t it? No, but it would make it easier for him to fight Garibaldi.

God, he didn’t want to let go. He didn’t want to say goodbye to his friends, to Finley. He would, though, if he had to. Drawing a deep breath, Griffin closed his eyes and waited. He waited for death.

Then he hit the ground and there was nothing.

* * *

Finley had no memory of her father, but she had seen photographs of him. In an odd twist of fate, most of those photographs had been in Griffin’s possession as Thomas had worked for the former duke as something of a chemist. It was that partnership that eventually led to her father inventing a potion that was supposed to bring out a man’s full potential, but instead brought out an aggressive nature. Finley was conceived while her father tested the elixir on himself, and the mutation was passed on from father to daughter. Thomas was led to his death during one of his “episodes” by Leonardo Garibaldi. He was shot to death in the street by police who thought he was some sort of lunatic.

She’d only learned the truth about her birth and his death since taking up with Griffin. Prior to that she’d simply thought of herself as a freak, with a monstrous side to her nature that couldn’t be controlled. When her mother revealed the reality of it to her, it had been something of a relief to know that it hadn’t been her own fault that she was different. And then Griffin had helped her with the rest.

She looked a lot like her father, Finley realized. He was tall and lean and his eyes were the same amber color as hers. It was odd that he looked so much younger than her mother, but then he’d been dead for almost fourteen years.

There were so many things she wanted to ask him, not the least of which was how had they managed to escape Garibaldi. One second they were falling out a window and the next they were sitting in a comfortable drawing room with no windows. Griffin had lost consciousness and any questions vanished in the shadow of her concern for him. She sat on the sofa with his head in her lap, running her fingers through his hair as he slept, and looked around.

The room was comfortable, though a bit on the small side. The walls were dark green paper and oak panels, and the floors were highly polished slabs of wood covered with elegant carpets. Nothing fussy or the least bit feminine. There was a photograph of her on the mantel from when she was a baby, and another more recent one that she didn’t remember having taken sat in a frame on the writing desk. Maybe the dead didn’t need cameras or film. Maybe they could just capture a moment whenever they wanted. She turned to her father; he fidgeted under her gaze.

“I’d offer you tea,” Thomas said, “but it’s not as though there’d be any sustenance gained from it.” He looked uncomfortable, as though he didn’t know what to say, but couldn’t stop staring at her. This probably wasn’t how he’d intended for them to meet.

“What is that thing?” she asked, pointing at the shield he’d used against The Machinist.

“Absorption shield,” he replied simply. “It does just what the name implies, takes and stores Aetheric energy.”

“Did you make it?” Griffin inquired, his eyes still closed.

Finley started. She hadn’t known he was awake. She tried to withdraw her fingers from his hair, but he reached up and touched her hand. She went back to combing.

“I did construct it, yes,” Thomas admitted. “Come to think of it, why don’t you sit up there, son. Let’s see if we can redirect her and give your batteries a bit of a boost. You might want to move, Finley, my girl.”

A peevish part of her wanted to inform him that she wasn’t his girl because he’d gone and gotten himself murdered before she even knew his face, but she kept her silence. Instead, she gently lifted Griffin’s head so she could scoot out from under him and step aside. She stayed close, however, just in case he needed her.

Finley watched as her father lifted the shield, directed it at Griffin and then slid a lever on the back. A low buzzing sound came from the device, then it turned into a crackle as blue light danced along the polished surface. A bolt of pure, gorgeous energy shot from the shield straight into Griffin’s chest. He jerked back on the sofa. She jumped toward him, but then she saw the bruises on his wrists begin to fade and the holes from the wires on his chest shrink a little. The darkness beneath his eyes faded some, as well.

“It’s all right, Finley,” Thomas said. “It will heal him.”

“How?” she demanded. If he’d been wrong he could have killed Griffin. She didn’t relish the idea of breaking her own father’s face. “I thought absorbing too much Aether was dangerous for him.”

“Having no place for it to go is what’s dangerous, but taking it in? No, that just feeds his talent.”

She sat down beside Griffin, and placed her hand on his arm. His shirt hung open, revealing his healing chest. She fastened the buttons to keep him warm. It wasn’t much, but it made her feel helpful. “How do you feel?”

“Better.” He looked at her father. “I owe you a debt, sir.”

Thomas waved a long hand. “You owe me nothing. You’ve been good to my daughter, and that’s worth a fortune to me.”

What was she supposed to say to that? The man obviously loved her, and she knew that on some level she loved him, as well, but they didn’t know each other, not at all. And she wasn’t certain how much they could trust him. Thus far, everything and everyone she’d encountered in the Aether had been malevolent.

“Why are we still here?” she asked. “We got you away from Garibaldi.”

“Getting away from him isn’t enough,” Griffin explained. “If I leave now, he’ll only come for me again, and he’d come for you, too.”

She stared at him. “Don’t tell me you plan to stay here?”

He wasn’t the least bit intimidated by her, blast him. “I do intend to stay here, until I’ve destroyed Garibaldi once and for all. I could use your help, Mr. Sheppard.”

“Of course, Your Grace. As soon as Finley returns to the living world I would be more than happy to assist in any way I can. Garibaldi is a monster that must be stopped. He thinks he’s God now.”

“He’s more powerful that he ought to be,” Griffin remarked. “Obviously he’s been working toward this for some time.”

“I’m not returning anywhere,” Finley informed them both. “I’m staying right here and I’m helping in any way I can.”

Griffin turned to her. She hated how tired he looked. How defeated. “Having you somewhere safe while all this is going on would give me peace of mind, Fin.”

“But I’m not safe—you said that yourself. So long as Garibaldi exists in any plane, he’ll hunt for us. I’m not going to sit around and wait for him to come for me. I’m fighting him—with you.” She looked at her father. “With you, as well. Shame on you for thinking you could just show up and dismiss me.”

Thomas shook his head, but there was a smile on his face. “I suppose I’d hoped you were more like your mother than me in regards to this sort of thing.”

“Garibaldi took you from me.” Her voice shook with anger. “He’s trying to take Griffin. I take both of those things very seriously. Personally.” Not to mention that all the fantasies she’d ever had about what she’d say if she somehow met her father had played out completely differently than this. She couldn’t even enjoy it. Couldn’t ask him all the things she wanted to know, because of bloody Garibaldi. God, she didn’t even completely believe he was good! Part of her wanting to stay was so she could protect Griffin from him if necessary.

“All right,” her father capitulated. “You have as much right to take part in this as we do.”

“But not him,” she pointed at Ipsley, who had been quiet all along. “You need to tell Sam and Emily not to bring me out unless it’s absolutely necessary. And then you need to stay out of Garibaldi’s way. This isn’t your fight.”

“Perhaps not,” the medium agreed, “but I’m in it, regardless.”

Finley’s opinion of the young man rose several notches.

“Silverus, do you think you could organize a séance at my house?” Griffin asked. “Use our friends and a couple of yours who are the most sensitive to the Aether?”

“I’m sure I could, even on short notice. What do you have in mind?”

“If you could summon Garibaldi to a séance, he would be less of this realm and perhaps easier to defeat.”

“But we also run the risk of him possessing one of those summoning him.”

Griffin made a face. “He has too much power in this realm. He won’t give that up for a human suit, but he can’t resist the urge to brag.”

“It could work,” Thomas agreed. “Weaken him just enough to give us a power advantage.”

“You’ve been here longer than him,” Finley said. “Why aren’t you as strong?” It wasn’t an insult, just curiosity.

Her father smiled. “Most of my strength has gone into anchoring myself to this realm rather than moving on as Edward and Helena have done.”

She turned sharply to Griffin. “Your parents aren’t here anymore?”

He shook his head, old sadness reflected in his eyes. “After the last time Garibaldi tried to use them, we agreed it would be better if they passed over.” He turned away and Finley’s eyes narrowed. What wasn’t he telling her? He was usually honest to a fault, so the fact that he was keeping secrets irked her.

“Why are you still here if your friends are gone?” Finley asked of her father. “Why not go to heaven or, wherever?” She certainly hoped he wasn’t bound for hell!

The three men looked at her as though she should know the answer.

“To watch over you, Fin,” Griffin said, voice strangely gentle.

“Oh.” She didn’t know what else to say. Fourteen years was a long time to drift around in limbo—purgatory—especially for a man who was insatiably curious about the secrets of the universe and how everything worked. “Thank you.”

“You don’t thank a father for doing his job, my dear,” her father informed her with a smile. “Now, we have work to do. Griffin, I’m going to get started on rebuilding your strength. Mr. Ipsley, you have a séance to plan, and Finley—you and I have something that needs to be taken care of before we can engage Garibaldi.”

Source: www_Novel22_Net

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