BOOK 1 // FIFTEEN: Vanishing Girls

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At this point, I found my voice. "She's not dead."

"She's not?"

"I know she isn't," I said, much louder than necessary. "I just know."

"But she's... not here?"

"Obviously not. And you know why that is?" I couldn't quite keep the lashing tone from my voice; Jace's infuriatingly oblivious look was drawing it out of me. "Because of your dad."

"What?"

"Oh, is this something Daddy hasn't told you?" I asked tauntingly. "What a surprise. Someone in government so honest he won't keep his own son in the loop."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"And that's just it. Do you even know what your dad's fighting for over in City Hall? Do you have any idea what the cause you're lending your face to even does? Because I find it hard to believe that anybody with conscience would stick around."

"What happened to Nova?" Jace asked again. "Where is she?"

"I don't know," I snapped. The pricking in my eyes was taking some serious blinking to keep at bay, but I was determined not to well up in front of Jace Snowdon. The last thing I wanted was him thinking I was a vulnerable, emotional mess – it would only give him more sense of power. "Someone ratted her out. Someone close enough to know about the side effects – I still don't know who. But the next thing we knew, a dozen police officers had our house surrounded, and they wouldn't leave until they had her bundled in the back of their car."

"They wouldn't," he said quietly, but it seemed like he was trying to convince himself more than anything. "It doesn't happen like that. They can't just take somebody away without reason, without at least offering bail..."

"You really think that's how it goes?" I looked at him almost pityingly. "Maybe that's what they say happens, cooped up nice and safely over in City Hall. In real life it's not so flexible."

"Well, maybe if they're deemed dangerous."

"Dangerous to whom?" With no attempt to keep my voice down, I could only hope the small office had some kind of soundproofing. "To you? Your dad? The ridiculous ideal that you're trying to impose on the city?"

"It's not ridiculous."

"Do you think that? Or just your dad?"

"I do."

"Then you're an idiot."

He seemed to choose to ignore this, keeping his eyes fixed on me like the moral argument somehow balanced on eye contact. "You mentioned side effects," he said. "What kind?"

"It doesn't matter."

"It matters if they make somebody dangerous."

I wasn't about to tell him. It was too close for comfort, especially when it already felt like he was closing in on me. How long would it take for him to put two and two together? To realise Nova's downfall was repeating itself, determined to drag me down the same ending? Jace's loyalties may have been tangled, but I wasn't about to rest my life on the knot anytime soon.

"She wasn't dangerous," I said instead. "They were what I said they were – side effects. Not part of her."

"How can you be sure?"

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