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I woke in an unfamiliar place on an unfamiliar couch. The material pressed to my cheek was rigid, well-made, yet harsh and unyielding. I only recognized Darius by his silhouette against the sweeping plate-glass window. Beyond him was a yellow sky cast in the tired shades of the afternoon sun. I rose slowly, wincing at the fresh bruises the accident had given me as I squinted toward the couch beneath me. It was of a modern style, made with sharp angles and rigid, square cushions.

As my senses returned, I realized the entire space was modern and styled with vaunted appeal. I was in a large, cavernous room comprised of slate floors, concrete walls, and contemporary furnishings. The sofa and the armchair stood sentinel at the side of a glass coffee table. The hearth was paved with the same dark slate as the floor and did not appear to have ever been used. There wasn't a television to be seen and there were very few colors in the eerily monochrome room. There were lavender sprigs in a white vase on the coffee table. A gold throw had been arranged over the sofa I lay on in a bid to keep the dirt and blood from staining the spotless cushions.

There was a single picture framed above the hearth. It was crafted in a Romantic style, painted with oils and soft blushes of color. The image brought to mind the work of Fuseli's The Nightmare; a woman lay prone upon a velvet settee, her dark tresses tumbling in a waterfall of russet-colored curls. A man loomed over her, partially enveloped by the painting's thicker shadows. His horns spiraled from his temples, and he had a hand upon her throat, his narrowed eyes burning like liquid gold.

It was an awfully intimate piece, and after studying it for a moment I averted my eyes.

The floor to ceiling window Darius stood at was the only source of light for the clinical room. A balcony stretched outside part of the window, holding a solitary chair, a wicker end table, and an ashtray.

I groaned as I sat up and brushed my hand across my brow. There was a small, fresh cut in my hairline zigzagged with sore stitches.

Darius turned his head to gift me with what was undoubtedly a grim expression. I couldn't tell with the sunlight pouring around him in soft, tawny bands. "So...how did you manage this latest example of prime idiocy?"

I leaned on my knees as my shoulders slouched. It figured the demon wouldn't even give me enough time to catch my breath before jumping down my throat. "I went to lunch. I saw a man in the café—a cultist. It was the one who had killed Tara. I recognized his face, so I followed him—and, well, you know the rest."

Darius muttered something under his breath as he faced the window again. "Stupid."

The Sin's arrogance ground on my already frazzled nerves. "What was I supposed to do? Let him get away?"


"What would that accomplish?!"

"The same end chasing the man accomplished; absolutely nothing."

I swallowed my next retort, allowing it to simmer in my throat. I couldn't argue the creature's logic; I accomplished nothing by following the cultist. In fact, I had inadvertently put others in danger. Any of those bystanders could have been hurt in the resulting collision. "The driver...I didn't see what he looked like." I remembered his terrified screams and shuddered, grateful I hadn't watched the man die by Darius' hand. "What did he look like?"

"Swarthy. Bearded, dark-haired."

I bit the inside of my lip. Neither of the men who had held me in the van had been Tara's murderer. "No. That wasn't the man I chased, either." I didn't understand how the bastard had gotten away. How had he...? The phone, my tired thoughts provided. He called the men in the van and led me to them while he made his escape.

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