He fisted the paper. Shit. She was going to self-sacrifice herself to protect her friends. If Ekstrom really was as unstable as he’d sounded, then even badass Cam would need some extra help.
He glanced at his watch and saw he still had an hour to reach the marketplace.
She might have a few tricks up her sleeves, but so did he. Marco had conditioned his body to various poisons during his Elemental Master training. Most people would be out cold for another few hours, but thanks to his slight immunity, he could now go and watch Cam’s back. He refused to let that stubborn woman get herself killed.
He splashed some water on his face and exited the room. After checking to make sure he still had his wallet, he hailed the first taxi he saw and climbed in.
After negotiating a price to use the driver’s cell phone, Marco dialed up one of his DEFEND colleagues in Merida, and explained what he knew about Zalika, Jacek, Ekstrom, and the boat, careful to use as many code words as possible so the driver wouldn’t understand his conversation. When his colleague assured him he’d get on it, Marco gave the phone back to the driver and tried to figure out how he was going to play this.
Most people would be angry at Cam’s actions and label it as a betrayal, but he was pretty sure he understood the why behind it. After what had happened to her cousin, Adella, and now with Zalika and Jacek, she didn’t want Richard to have any more people to use as leverage against her.
Ekstrom probably had people watching Cam’s movements, and if they saw him and Cam go into a room together, they would assume Marco was of some value to her, and exploit the weakness.
Hence, the poison. A small part of him hoped Cam’s actions last night meant he was starting to mean something to her, while another part warned him to not be fooled by desire.
Whatever the reason, once they’d dealt with Ekstrom, he and Cam were going to have a few words. He’d told her about his powers, and next time, she was going to tell him the finer details of her latent ability, starting with the name of it.
The taxi stopped outside one of the other entrances to the market. Marco took a quick look out of the window to check for threats before he paid the driver and exited the car.
He made his way inside the massive warehouse-like building that held the Lucas De Galvez market. As he walked down the packed aisles toward the entrance where Cam would be waiting, he kept an eye out for anything suspicious. Ekstrom would probably have people watching out for any kind of back up, but Marco was good at blending in.
The crowded marketplace was filled with produce stands, people selling spices, and even clothes and shoe vendors, and he admitted Richard Ekstrom knew what he was doing tactically. With a few rare exceptions for holidays, there were always crowds of people here during the day.
It was hard not to see trouble around every turn, but Marco had been scouting locations for years, and had yet to see anything that set off warning bells. Still, Cam had said Ekstrom was a master of slipping in and out of locations without being seen. There was a small chance Ekstrom would do the same with Cam.
He wished he’d been able to contact Neena, Aislinn, or Jaxton to get more back up, but he’d just have make do.
He approached th
e entrance Ekstrom had mentioned, and scoped out his surroundings. His best bet was to loiter near the blended fruit drink stand down one of the aisles. A few people stood with their drinks, watching the soccer game on TV. He went over, ordered a drink, and kept one eye on the TV and the other on the general wares stall Ekstrom had described.
Five minutes later, Cam walked into the building, and started scanning the stalls for one with general wares. Marco leaned closer to the blended juice drink stall and made a murmur of agreement about the ref’s call for the game on TV. He waited to see if she’d tell him to get lost, but if she’d spotted him, he couldn’t tell.
Marco reached a finger to the west, and waited. Even in this crowded market there were a few things he could do with his elemental water to help Cam without attracting too much human notice.
Just as he took a sip of his drink, a humid breeze brushed against his legs. He tried to step to the side, but something pushed at his feet. Marco tried to resist, but the force was too strong, and he could do nothing but walk away from where Cam was standing or risk falling over, and cause a commotion. A commotion that could end up costing Cam her life if Ekstrom suspected she hadn’t come alone.
As he was pushed farther and farther away from Cam, he wondered if Ekstrom had an elemental wind user nearby. He tried to think of what options he had when the invisible force pushed him into a dark corner. He felt a tugging at his ankles before the world went black.
Cam had made it to the market, but Richard the Asshole was late.
Since she’d run a few errands before arriving, Cam had triple-checked the time at first, but she’d actually been fifteen minutes early. Then she’d realized that not sticking to a meeting time or to a schedule helped disturb the person waiting. It was an old Fed League tactic: If your child or loved one’s life was in danger, each second past the deadline would fray a parent’s nerves, making a takedown easier and quicker to accomplish.
Precisely because she cared for Zalika and Jacek, Cam wasn’t about to fall for that trap. She was not the love-blind woman who, at twenty-two, had expected love to be stronger than ambition and selfishness. Four years later, her eyes were wide open and ready to take on the man who’d nearly destroyed her adopted sister’s life.
She’d heard a few rumors over the years about Richard sealing himself off from the world two years ago, but even without knowing the “new” Richard, Cam knew it wouldn’t be easy to find a way to save her friends and take him out. Part of her wished Marco was here to help her, since his elemental water tricks would be able to take Richard down quicker. But the last thing she needed was another person to be used by Richard as a pawn, especially as he would exploit Marco’s abilities to help with whatever “end goal” he was working toward.
Not only that, if Richard knew of Cam’s interactions and intimacies with Marco, he would probably make him suffer just to force her hand.
Even in the Fed League, she’d always put those dearest to her—Richard, her adopted family, and her sister Kiarra—as top priorities. She didn’t know what the hell was going on between her and Marco, but given Richard’s somewhat disturbed behavior over the phone, she wasn’t going to risk Marco’s life or sanity.
So she’d used one of her abilities she’d kept secret from Marco, and pumped him full of the venom from her claws. Not enough to kill him, but enough to knock him out long enough for her to meet Richard, and be done with it.
The move had been a tactic, to help her reach her goal. But for some reason, she felt guilty.
Marco had, after all, turned to her for orders and had offered his help. He hadn’t tried to take control, and when she’d been trying not to let her past catch up with her, he’d noticed her tension and had wrapped his arms around her, and the contact had relaxed her. She had wanted to stay encircled by his strong arms and watch his water tricks for hours. Then she’d remembered how she’d nearly destroyed Adella’s life, and Cam refused to be the reason something similar might ever happen to anyone else.
She only hoped she’d made the right decision. Richard wasn’t the man she’d once known, and no matter what had happened in the past, he might kill her. Hopefully, the only old Fed League contact she still trusted, the one she’d contacted before coming to the market, would pull through and help her.