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I woke early the next morning. I gathered my work attire and stumbled to the restroom, where I shut the door and stared at myself in the circular mirror. The woman reflected within was too thin, too pale, and too tired. Her bruises and abrasions had convalesced beneath the persistence of witch magic, but the ghost of their presence remained like the imprint of footsteps pressed upon wet sand. My eyes were ruddy from shedding guilty, furious tears in the privacy of my own bedroom throughout the night.

I looked horrid.

The shower ran and the heat fogged the glass. Angry, I swept my hand across the mirror and fancied I saw a spark of red bloom within my right eye. I touched the eyelid, startled, and ran my finger through the wet lashes. On further inspection, I decided I had been mistaken.

I stepped under the stream of scalding water. It sluiced over my hunched shoulders and dispelled some of the unsettling aches from my bones. It seeped through the bandage strapped to my side, peeling the used tape and gauze from the skin until the wound was revealed.

Pink water circled the drain as I placed a hand upon the tiled wall and gritted my teeth against the pain.

Get a grip, Sara! I told myself as I exhaled a forceful breath. Darius was right. Remorse is a useless emotion; I cannot change what I did, but I can give Tara the vengeance she deserves. I can try to do right by her.

I lifted my head, allowing the spray to course over my face and steal my breath.

If only it were as easy as I make it sound.



The typical crowd of morning workers flowed on the avenue around me and the Sin of Pride. We stood on the rain dampened sidewalk outside Klau Tower, subverting the listless tide of nameless people corralling themselves to their respective jobs. Weeks prior, I would have been another one of those faceless people. I would have bowed my head to society's parameters and would have walked the line.

If not for IMOR Advances and the Exordium, I would have remained a corporate drone until the day I died.

Darius lowered his sunglasses as he peered at the smaller tower housing IMOR Advances. It sat as innocuous as it ever did in Klau's impressive shadow. After a full breakfast and evening of rest, the demon's eyes had resumed their scarlet hue and were vivid beneath the rim of his dark lashes. "I don't see many employees within IMOR today. Perhaps they are closed."

A fair number of suited professionals passed IMOR's entrance or ducked beneath its glass awning to find relief from the misting rain—but none of them entered the building. "Why do you think that is?" I asked the Sin, unable to stomach looking at the building for long. Instead, I looked at Klau and the handful of protesters who had braved the intemperate weather today.

"I am not sure, but we can assume it does not bode well for us." Darius adjusted his sunglasses again before shoving his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket. He was underdressed compared to those around us—but the Sin didn't care. He carried himself with his usual cold, indifferent posture. "Go to work, Sara. I will look into IMOR with more...scrutiny before we begin planning."

With that, the Sin began walking across the street and vanished between two groups of oblivious businessmen enamored with their phones. Shaking my head, I turned upon my heels and marched through Klau's guarded doors.



My morning manning the receptionist's desk at Klau proved to be as prosaic and uneventful as any other day. I was distracted by my guilt-ridden thoughts, but there was little else to command my attention. The phone rang and irate clients demanded I transfer their calls to various departments—which I did, pleased to find that I had finally managed to learn most of the extensions.

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