According to the Feiru legends she’d obtained from her contact in Merida, the observatory building of Chichen Itza was the last known Talent message center, used in either 1917 or 1918. Cam needed to see if any of the Talents had already awakened, and if they were using this place as a message center.
Unlike in the past, when there hadn’t been cell phones or computers, it should’ve been easy for the Four Talents to reach out to one another in the 21st century. But with the Feiru High Council’s current stance on elemental magic, along with the mandatory AMT system, it would be safer to rely on older methods of communication to avoid discovery by the authorities.
She only hoped that if the Talents were real, they were smart enough to reach the same conclusions as her superiors.
After dark, when Cam and her team could sneak up to the top of the observatory alone, they would go inside for a closer look. But in broad daylight, it was much easier to scope out the building and make preparations as part of a tour group.
Luckily, there hadn’t been any sign of a shadow-shifter, or anyone suspicious for that matter, since Marco had fled deep into the jungle last night. Even so, Cam had her usual precautions in place—Zalika was further back in the same tour group as her, while Jacek was wandering the ruins and keeping an eye out for any kind of tail.
Since the ruins were crowded with humans, using any sort of elemental magic or latent abilities would result in imprisonment. Due to the growth of anti-Article I sentiment—where many Feiru wanted to repeal the laws preventing Feiru from holding powerful positions in human companies and governments—offenders would probably receive harsher punishments, maybe even up to, and including, a death sentence.
Plus, the only Feiru she’d met crazy enough to risk their own lives for petty goals, regardless of punishment, had been some of the members of the anti-AMT fringe group she’d belonged to in her late teens and early twenties. During the years she’d been a member, the group had avoided recruiting any first-borns or Feiru with latent abilities. The shadow-shifter, if he existed, was probably working with someone else.
In truth, she was more concerned about Marco Alvarez.
Despite dream-speaking with Neena—the DEFEND co-leader had the ability to communicate with people via dreams—in the wee hours of the morning, she’d learned next to nothing new about the Four Talents. She’d learned even less about Marco, except that Jaxton had indeed sent him to Mexico to help her.
The tour group finally stopped about ten feet in front of the observatory ruins. While the guide rambled on about ancient Mayan history, Cam looked around for security cameras and floodlights on the perimeter. By her count, as long as they disabled the few security cameras dotting the site, getting inside the observatory wouldn’t be a problem—provided that there weren’t any sensors inside the structure. Given the lack of funds by the organization who maintained the site, it was highly unlikely they could afford such sophisticated technology.
The tour guide motioned to his watch and told them that they had fifteen minutes to explore the nearby buildings before they moved to the next section of the ruins. Right as the group started to disperse, she had the feeling she was being watched.
Her phone was silent in her pocket, so neither Zalika nor Jacek had spotted anything of concern, but Cam’s gut had never failed her before. She did a sweep until her eyes landed on Marco Alavarez, who was standing near the trees along the left side of the rectangular stone platform.
He smiled when their eyes met, but she looked away and started for the stairs. In broad daylight amongst the humans, he couldn’t use his elemental water tricks to stop her.
Cam looked up at the top of the observatory building and decided that even if the inner staircase was too dilapidated to use, they should be able to find a way to climb up to the small windows and slip inside. The jungle behind the building would provide all the cover they’d need.
She walked around the outside of the building, searching for an alternate route to reach the top of the platform without using the stairs. She soon ran into a dead end, where the outer wall fused with the observatory building. The wall surrounding the observatory wasn’t falling apart like most of the other sections of the ruins, and with the cover of the jungle behind it, should be easy enough to scale without being seen. This was how they were going to get in later tonight.
Cam turned and started to head back toward the stairs to rejoin her tour group when she heard a scuffling sound coming from behind the wall. She extended her claws on one hand and took a few steps back in case she needed to attack and possibly tackle someone to the ground. There were no other tourists in this corner, so she could use her latent ability if either the shadow-shifter or the people from her past had found her.
Two beats later, a deeply tanned hand reached up and grabbed the top of the wall, followed by another. She reached with her claw-free hand for the knife hidden under her top just as a man’s head popped up into view.
Cam let out a curse. “Why don’t you use the stairs like a normal person? We can’t afford to draw unwanted attention.”
Marco grinned as he pulled himself up and over the wall with a grace that belied his strength. He jumped and landed three feet away from her. “We?” He dusted off his hands. “I was hoping you’d recognize my talents and invite me to join your team. I’d be delighted; although, you might want to ask directly next time, to avoid confusion.”
She narrowed her eyes. “You left me restrained on the ground in the middle of a jungle.” She took a step closer and raised a claw. “You were supposedly sent to help me, but team members don’t leave each other behind, especially when there’s a possible danger lurking in the shadows.”
Marco shrugged. “I kept watch over you. It was quite a show, watching you writhe on the ground in your wet tank top. I was too far away to tell, but I swear I saw the outline of your bra from where I was perched.”
Cam growled. “I don’t have time to deal with you and your skeevy comments right now. I’m trying to do some reconnaissance work, so go annoy someone else.”
The sudden sound of distant voices prevented Marco from replying, but they gave her the out she needed. If she could reach the safety of the tourists approaching them, Marco would have to leave her alone, unless he wanted her to scream and draw attention. Having him carted away by the police would make tonight’s operation easier. Too bad she was required to help and protect other DEFEND members unless they tried to hurt or betray her. And so far, he hadn’t done either.
She turned, but when she tried to move her legs to walk, they wouldn’t budge. She looked down and saw that her boots were encased in ice. When had that happened?
She looked over her shoulder and said, “You’re risking a hell of a lot to get my attention. So say what you have to say, and quickly.”
Marco came up behind her, and despite it being at least ninety degrees outside, the heat of his body permeated her tank top and thin cotton skirt. His head was facing her cheek and his breath tickled her skin as he said, “Why do you have to be in overkill-mode twenty-four/seven? I already know you’re a badass, but your hot badass self could use my help. I know the area, the language, and how to charm information out of people.” He leaned his head around further until it was facing her, his lips a scant few inches away from hers. “You’re the only one who seems immune.”
His dark chocolate eyes were heavy lidded, and between the heat of his body and his spicy male scent, Cam’s pulse sped up. This was a man used to getting what he wanted.
Then she remembered the rumors of Marco’s conquests. She would not be one of them.
She cleared her throat and got her heart rate under control. “The simple answer is that I just don’t trust you. I’ve been burned in the past, and with something as important as finding the Talents, I’m trying to avoid any risk that might cause me to fail.”