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Of all the horrid nights I'd ever experienced, this particular night had swiftly become one of the worst.

I sat dripping and shivering in the shadow of wilted hydrangea, where Darius had deposited me so he could retrieve the car. Shock weakened my legs, and when I failed to stand under my own power, the Sin went on and I stayed behind, trembling from head to foot, bloodied and bruised and more than ready to get the hell out of here. Certainly, Darius could've hefted my weight over his shoulder and carted me around the marina, but the explosion had drawn too much attention—the kind of attention that would notice a soot-stained man dragging a drenched, bloodied woman away from a crime scene.

So I waited.

From my vantage, I watched the roving cruiser lights dance upon the tossing waters, alternating blotches of red and blue, ambulances wailing, my fingers wiping at the ash and salt and debris clinging to my skin. I gagged when I inhaled the stench of gas and brine, still feeling the tainted water in my lungs, crawling in my throat. The DPC cargo vessel peeked above the waterline like a cracked iceberg, the oil leaking from its hull catching fire when sparks from Mitch's incinerated boat writhed in the breeze. The whole harbor seemed to ripple with the light like a lake filled by flame.

The ambulances were unnecessary. No one on that yacht was still alive.

Another woman might've been hysterical in my situation. Mere days ago, I watched my sister and her fiance die, got stabbed, shot a man, and now I'd been blown up—all within a week, and though I believed a meltdown was well within my rights, I didn't feel hysteric. I felt...angry.

Mitch, or his girlfriend, would have told us everything we needed to know. I suffered no illusions as to the character of my would-be suitor; Mitch was a coward, the woman a sadist, and they would've thrown the cult to the Sin's tender mercies in a heartbeat to save themselves. Vengeance against the bastard had been ripped from my hands, and our only lead into the cult's identity now sank to the harbor's bottom.

I rubbed the ash and blood between my fingertips as I picked at the grime lining my nail beds. The cult had done well covering their tracks. I couldn't know what might have happened had the bomb not gone off. Perhaps I would have balked when faced with cold-blooded murder, though I doubted it, not in these circumstances. Perhaps I would have lost my nerve.

Whatever the outcome, the results were lost in the water now. Had I an ounce of mercy to be found in killing Mitch, the cult had drowned it with that wretched boat.

Headlights flared, then moved away, leaving spots in my wavering vision. Water splattered the pavement when I squeezed my shirt's hem, wringing out what I could, but the salt had ruined the fabric, as had the blackened, charred spots burned by stray sparks and flames. Shiny red burns decorated my arms and legs where Darius' body hadn't shielded them from the blast, though the marks didn't hurt—not yet, at least, not while I vacillated between shock and disbelief. Even the wound in my side didn't hurt despite the torn stitches and red fingerprints bleeding strange patterns into my drenched attire. It would, though. I'd pay for this later.

The ringing in my ears relented as the bleeding eased, and I peeled the mess from my cheeks in dark, sticky streaks. The sirens continued echoing over the water, twined with voices raised in fear and worry, the entire port smelling of melted plastic and corroded metal from the sooty plumes seeping into the clouds. Ash coated the hydrangea at my back. I watched part of the dock catch fire, and one of the dry, rotted wood industrial structures across the fence line began to smolder.

Just more destruction laid at the cult's feet.

Headlights flared again, and the car swiveled in an illegal u-turn, brakes wailing in protest as the Sin came to a halt at the curb by my feet. The passenger's door popped open, and I crawled into the seat, grunting at the stiffness encumbering my limbs. The door barely had the chance to latch shut before Darius shifted gears and shot forward, swerving around a parked vehicle as he took the next left onto a lighted byway. The harbor was whipped from view.

The creature had a white-knuckled grip upon the steering wheel and snarled at the windshield, restless movement shifting the fine bones in his hands and the muscles in his neck. The water plastered his hair to his head in a prickly crown of black thorns, and when he breathed, the air hissed through his bared teeth. Again, I witnessed that strange, unearthly bioluminescence flit through his skin like hellfire moving in his veins, a sudden cold assailing the car, fog clinging to the windows, the fillings in my teeth aching as I trembled.

The soft, terrifying glow reminded me I sat next to a murdering, possibly unstable demon. Albeit a murdering, possibly unstable demon who had saved my life tonight. Again.

Heat returned the farther we drove from the harbor, Darius shaking off the fit, color leaching from his eyes as small bruises on his cheek finally healed. Perturbed, I stared at the Sin as I dripped on the upholstery, watching how he quivered like a live wire waiting to be tripped, my eyes landing on the solid arch of his tense shoulders. He'd thrown on his leather jacket and zipped it shut. It must have been the first thing he did upon finding the car.

He doesn't need the warmth, I told myself. And he doesn't strike me as the modest type—Sin of Pride, indeed. He wanted the coverage, wanted to hide—.

Again, I looked at his shoulders and what hid behind them.

"Who...who hurt your back?"

Darius stiffened, and the steering wheel creaked under his squeezing hands. "That is none of your business."

"Isn't it?"


The chill returned, an unsubtle warning against this avenue of thought, and so I turned to the window, hunching myself against the mounting cold. Verweald passed us by in blurs of neon and sparkling light, the three towers waiting always on the horizon, dark against a sky too polluted for the stars to shine. Smoke rose in the west from the harbor.

Betrayer. What did it mean? How could someone like Darius, who weathered bomb blasts without batting an eye, be scarred in such a way? Who had the power to do something like that to him?

Shaking my head, I sagged in the seat, leaned my head against the window, and shut my eyes. "What now?" I whispered. "What now?"

His reply came minutes later, drifting between one tired breath and the next. "I don't know," he admitted. "I don't know, Sara."

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