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Darius drove the wheezing car through Verweald's afternoon traffic as I read him directions off my phone's GPS app. I had never traveled to Weatherly before, and seeing as nothing concerning our contract had ever taken the Sin out this way, Darius had never visited the area either. We drove south until Verweald's streets and lights were swallowed by the rising hills.

I think the Sin and I both exhaled with relief when the city faded from view.

"So this...Weatherly," Darius asked as he adjusted the rearview mirror to his liking. The noon sun blazed overhead, filling the car with intolerable heat and the smell of evaporating rainwater. The thunderstorm had dispersed during the night. "It's not part of Verweald?"

"Not exactly," I mumbled as I watched the address flash closer on my phone's screen. Distracted, I was not in the mood for idle chatter, but I understood Darius's desire to redirect my thoughts. "It's in Verweald County, but it's its own...township, I think you'd call it. Technically, so is Evergreen Acres and another suburban area known as Lindengrove in the east. I think Winfield once tried to petition the city of Verweald to become its own town, but city council shot them down. Has something to do with skewing the per capita wealth of Verweald or something. Would have ruined market values."

Darius snorted. "Market values. I'll never understand why humans are so stupid. What a preposterous thing to worry about. I remember when a decent cave and a chance at seeing the next dawn were sufficient enough for you people."

I covered my mouth to hide my smirk. Honestly, what he had said wasn't funny but my thoughts were frazzled and my emotions temperamental. "Was that back in your day, grandpa?"

The Sin peered at me sidelong as he continued to drive. A frown marred his lips. "Are you mocking me?"


Darius made an irritated sound. "Do remember what I am, girl."

"How could I forget?" I continued to smile despite his frightening expression. "The legendary Sin of Pride who's going to devour my soul once all those names within that briefcase on my dining table disappear." I waved a hand over the sun-bleached console separating us. "If anything, that gives me more license to mock you, not less. Tell me about those dinosaurs now."

Darius grumbled. "There were no dinosaurs by the time we came. Just bloody humans."

I chuckled—but my amusement soon fled as he found the turnoff for Weatherly. A cheery sign stationed along the roadside welcomed us to the neighborhood, and the first manor became visible through the scruffy oak trees. Weatherly was a small place, comprised of roughly one hundred private residences and a demure town center offering a convenient store, a post office, and a trendy café. I personally didn't know a single person who lived in one of these more exclusive homes—but Tara obviously had.

Someone living here had paid money to have her killed. Someone who wanted me alive.

Shaking my head, I returned my gaze from the window to the GPS. "It's, uh, two drives down from this one on the right."

Darius had to continue for another mile through the twisting California hills before we arrived at the address Eoul had provided us. The house built at our destination suggested the owner was capable of financing a hitman. It sat upon a raised foundation, many of the sharply angled walls covered in thick windows while a wraparound deck offered an expansive view of the Pacific Ocean from the side of the lot's cliff. The detached garage was almost as large as the modern art deco house, and beyond a grove of oranges, I spied a fence guarding a tennis court.

Who was this person? Who had Tara made an enemy of without my knowledge?

"There's a slider ajar on the deck." The demon pointed toward the available entrance point as he parked the car in the shade of a shedding eucalyptus tree. The deck extended outward from the second level, so I wasn't sure how the demon expected us to get up there, but I didn't argue. I got out the car and together we crossed the soggy lawn until we stood beneath the ledge of the redwood deck. We were out of sight of the entryway, but it would not be wise to linger.

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