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The Sin of Lust continued to watch the hallway long after Sara disappeared. She sank onto the sofa as she shot Darius a filthy look. "What's wrong with your mortal?"

He didn't reply. He shifted enough to retrieve the gun from his waistband and dropped it on the coffee table stretched between them, where it landed with a startling bang. "Did she get this from you?"

Their voices sibilated through the cold, stretching shadows. They spoke in an ancient tongue, their words unintelligible to mortal ears.

"Me?" Amoroth mocked, splaying a hand on her chest. She wondered if the irascible girl had gotten the chance to use it before Pride confiscated it. "Darius, I think you underestimate just how mischievous that one can be."

Again, Darius did not reply. He wore the same blank, haunted face Amoroth had seen on the man for the past four hundred years, his expression formed from cold iron as it always had been. Cuxiel once told Darius hadn't always been this way, but that time was fading quickly into the abstraction of time and memory, having come and gone before Amoroth's own grandparents were born.

"You were the one who suggested the Gray Arcanum is behind her attempted murder."

Amoroth crossed her legs as she lit a cigarette. The small flame burned like a single ember in a blackened hearth. "It's a possibility. The Arcanum has been butting heads with the Itherian mages for decades. They may see an opportunity in trying to topple my empire. Hypothetically, if they were able to destroy my power base and 'free' Verweald from my influence, their standing would improve drastically and sway smaller syndicates to join their fold. With larger numbers, they could potentially challenge Blue Fire's western hold. That, and they could expand their Reave trade."

Darius eased forward, arms braced atop his thighs. "They think to cut the head off the snake, never imagining its hydra." He took the cigarette from Amoroth's lips and crushed it in his hand. The cruel light in his eyes warned Amoroth not to complain. "Your thoughts are worth my attention. I will investigate the Arcanum."

Her brow rose. "You? You're going to interrogate a bunch of mages?"

"Why not? You are aware of the lengths I will go to get my way."

Amoroth was aware. She was well aware.

"Hmm...." The Sin of Lust parted her lips, intrigued by the idea. "I will join you. It will give this snake a chance to show off her fangs. I'm always interested in snuffing a few of those overblown sparklers."

As was typical for the Sin of Pride, he said nothing at all, only blended into the shadows again as his eyes darkened beneath the brume of his thoughts. Amoroth laughed, and her laughter added to the encumbering chill of Sara Gaspard's home.

* * *

Saule did, in fact, do house calls. She didn't do them willingly—but when a preoccupied Sin dropped her off in a woman's bedroom with a box of her talismans and a solemn word of his promised return, the young witch worked with surprising alacrity. She cursed at me for getting her involved with a Sin and an "idiot" before attending to my wounds.

It was nearly dawn before Darius reappeared and escorted the twitchy woman home.

When I woke in the morning, patched up and feeling better than I had in several days, I discovered my car outside the garage and my keys left in the freezer with two empty TV dinner boxes. Darius, however, was nowhere to be found. I didn't have any idea where he had gone, or what he was up to. The door hadn't been fixed, but the main chunks had been fitted into place, lending the illusion of a barrier to my house's entrance. Unsure of what else to do, I packed my laptop in my purse, dressed in my Klau uniform, and headed out.

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