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My house was cool and empty, undisturbed by the thunderstorm still laboring above the valley in the late evening hour. I sat on my sofa, worrying the loose threads of my grandmother's quilt between my bruised, aching fingers as ponderous silence ate at my thoughts. It sat upon my body like some clingy gremlin, his knobby hands clenched on my shoulders as it tried to force me down. I welcomed the distant rumbles of thunder disturbing the night and my mind.

Darius hadn't returned. I didn't know where the Sin had gone or if he was okay, if he was coming back.

had killed Gregor Eoul. Our best chance at information about the Exordium was dead because of me.

The briefcase Darius had bled upon and nearly died for was on the table. I hadn't opened it for fear of the disappointment lurking inside.

My gaze kept roving over the busted front door. I hoped the Sin of Pride would come strolling in and gift me with his usual pithy, antagonistic remark. "Awake, girl? Afraid of the big, bad demons in your dreams?"

Truth be told, yes. Yes, I was terrified of the things lurking within my subconscious, the things that came crawling to the forefront of my mind when I succumbed to my nightmares. I was terrified of literal demons: Balthier was out there, and his threat was more real than it had ever been before. I had called Amoroth and had begged her to destroy my employee file, which meant my address was no longer drifting upon the wind—but the murderous creature had my name. How hard would it be for him to find me?

My heart began to beat faster. Unsettled, I rose from the sofa and paced for the seventh time that night, all while Tara's cat—strange, flighty creature that it was—watched from his place across the room. All my wounds were painful, but none so much as the bullet wound or the injury in my side. The former was bundled in clumsy bandages, and the latter was swaddled by a small towel. I had taken the final little white pain pills lurking in the bottom of my purse and was fully expecting to lose myself in a muggy cloud of hydrocodone ignorance—and yet I paced. And worried.

I sat again with a moan. I snatched the red quilt into my hands and shouted, "Where is that idiot Sin?!"

The blanket, nor my house, had an answer. The thunder rolled.

Frustrated, I buried my face in the blanket's worn fabric and inhaled, trying to forget the pain, the uncertainty, and the gut-wrenching anxiety. The scent of my orchid conditioner still lingered in the fibers—but so did the headier smell of sandalwood, ash, and earth. I remembered Darius was using this blanket whenever he slept as I pulled the quilt from my face. Not that I'd ever seen the creature sleep. I imagined he had to do so at some point, however.

"Please be okay," I whispered to the quilt as tugged upon the loose threads again. My ministrations were ruining the embroidery. "Please...."



I fell asleep. I didn't remember doing so, but I could only surmise my liberal dose of pain medication had finally worked its way through my system to numb my mind and body. The next I was aware, I was slumped upon the sofa's cushions snoring like a grizzly bear. A shadow stretched above the sofa as a blurred figure blocked the wan morning light waiting outside the window. The figure sucked air through his teeth in a displeased 'tsk' sound.

"Sleep in your own bed, idiot." The figure flicked the middle of my forehead, and I sat up with a yelp.

Darius—red-eyed and frowning—sat upon the edge of the coffee table with his hands folded between his spread knees. The Sin wore a fresh pair of black jeans and a red cotton t-shirt. He was glaring at me, and I had never thought I would be so glad to see that creature's scorn. "You're alive."

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