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"Tell me when you've seen enough," I said, averting my gaze as I turned and paced the ship's deck, moving along the shadowed length until I emerged once more in the sickly moonlight bathing the bow. The rising breeze coming off the ocean brought some relief to the oppressive smell of flat, stale brine, but not enough. It still burned in my nose.

Guilt rose like a moon swept tide until it gripped me with physical tension, assuming a taste much like bile on the back of my tongue. "Mercenary" was a word people used too freely, and it lacked a certain gravity when I applied it to Mitch—Derek, him—but it was apropos nonetheless. A mercenary sold himself, his skills, and sometimes his life to the highest bidder; he did what he meant to do, washed the blood from his hands, and felt nothing for those he ruined along the way.

I couldn't have recognized his duplicity. The man's livelihood depended on his acting skills, on duping fools, and I could no more blame myself for being a fool than I could blame the rest of his victims—and yet guilt rankled my wounded pride. I was smarter than that, wasn't I? Wasn't I?

My hands gripped the boat's rail. The sudden urge to kill Mitch—Derek—myself, to wrap my fingers around his throat and squeeze, frightened me as much it soothed my ragged, frayed sensibilities. Craving violence never satiated the desires of an aggressive man, and though some ingrained notion of morality told me all that I had asked for from the Sin and all I would see him do was wrong, that voice broke apart under the louder, horrific flashbacks of cultists chanting and Tara screaming.

It wouldn't bring her back, but I thought it might make me feel better.

Sighing, I worked up the nerve to return to the Sin and turned—when my foot slid out from under me, and I landed on the deck with a yelp.

I'd never been on a ship before. Nearly drowning after Tara inadvertently threw me from a cliff had bequeathed a lifelong aversion for deep water and the ocean in particular. In my limited experience, I expected decks or docks to have water on them, so I ignored the subtle, liquid sheen on the bow when I walked its length—but now, thrown down, the liquid seeped into my clothes and splashed in my face. What is this?

A huddled range of metal drums and colored canisters surrounded me, the containers stacked in a rough formation along the edge yacht's rail and part of the structure I had no name for. I lifted one hand to my nose, sniffed, and choked on the unmistakable stench of gasoline. I could smell the gas before landing in it, and I'd blamed the odor on the ubiquitous cargo vessels floating nearby—but I'd been mistaken. Gasoline shimmered over the deck and caught the moonlight.

Christ, did he not secure these? I stood, wiping gas from my hands, and it trickled from where it soaked through my blouse. Grunting, I gripped the rail for support, set on returning to Darius—after all, Derek wasn't going to be enjoying this boat for very long, so I cared little if it caught fire from his shoddy maintenance—when I happened to glance at the containers once more. Through the warbling moonlight, I glimpsed the jagged knife marks marring the plastic gas canisters.

Those...someone made these. On purpose. I knelt, running my fingertips along the wet, bent edges. Why? Who?

Fear choked me when I spotted the bomb. I'd never seen one before—on television, yes, but television was hardly indicative of reality—and so it took a moment for my mind to make sense of the tangled wires, the mechanical detritus, the strange, plastic block, and digital counter half-hidden by a slip of cardboard, the cardboard I'd shifted when I'd fallen. Metallic prongs held the counter in place, and the tiny red numbers flickered, counting downward, with only five of those precious little numerals left.

My breath stuttered in my chest, and I screamed, "Darius!"

The Sin arrived in an instant, ripping through the veil of sulfur and ash as he struck me with the full force of that otherworldly heat, moving through time and space in a mere blink of an eye. His gaze landed on the bomb. Hardly a breath passed between us before Darius—eyes widening—had his arms locked around mine as he threw us from the yacht's deck.

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