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The Sin of Lust sat behind her desk with an unsigned sheaf of documents folded between her hands. The afternoon sunlight poured itself upon her back through the uncovered window, and Amoroth shifted her shoulders in irritation, wondering if she should invest in blackout curtains.

Her guard Leon remained a constant presence at her flank—not that the man was necessary for anything aside from bloody appearances. He wore a thick jacket over his suit and a pair of lined gloves. Amoroth knew the office had grown too cold for a human, but she could not bring herself to control the temperature as she should. Frost occasionally stuck the man's boots to the floor, and he had to pry himself loose.

"Ms. Amoroth?" Dorian asked from the desk's front. Concern lined the young man's face. "Ms. Amoroth, if you'd please sign, I can let you get back to work."

Amoroth blinked, looking first at Dorian and then at the papers she had taken from him a minute before. "Yes, of course...." Distracted, she reached for her fountain pen.

I do not own him and he will not bear the burden of this contract alone.

Amoroth's gaze landed on the spot of floor Gaspard had stood upon a few days earlier.

I own you. Even after forty years.... Jackson's threats mingled with Gaspard's puny platitudes in Amoroth's thoughts, which aggravated the Sin to no end.

For forty years I've been a slave to that man, Amoroth seethed. For forty years, Jackson has treated me like trash, and yet Darius' host treats him like a goddamn king in a matter of weeks. Fairness does not exist in this world.

"Ms. Amoroth—."

"What, Dorian?" she snapped as she focused on her assistant again. He nodded toward her hand. Amoroth followed the nod and found that she had broken the pen between her thumb and forefinger, spilling ink across the desktop. Her displeasure cooled the ink into a congealed puddle as Dorian shivered and blew steam between his lips.

"Ms. Amoroth, I couldn't help but notice you've been...odder, than usual."

Amoroth's eyes narrowed. Her assistant wasn't usually one to mince words, nor one to voice his suspicions. Dorian dealt directly with Amoroth more than anyone else within the company, save for her own guards, who were paid quite handsomely to keep their attention averted from her...peculiarities. "What of it?"

"It's just—if there's anything I can do." Dorian coughed into his hand as his cheeks gained a blush of color. "For you. Any way I could help, please do not hesitate to ask."

Amoroth smirked as she used a tissue to blot her stained fingers. Dorian was a good lad. A bit blind and obvious, perhaps, but a good assistant and a caring individual nonetheless. Amoroth often had to restrain herself from picking at his naivety. Some days, she toyed with the idea of telling Dorian she was four hundred and thirty-three years old and thought his boyish crush upon her was ridiculous—but she kept quiet. As long as he continued to do an upstanding job, Amoroth would allow him to keep his delusions.

After all, had she not been a young woman with delusions once, too? Had she not desired the happy ended forever denied her?

The elevator dinged. Amoroth heard Leon raise his sleeve to his lips. "Who'd you allow up?" the guard muttered into the hidden mouthpiece. "I said to clear it with me first."

The response crackled, barely audible to Amoroth. "I didn't allow anyone up."

Amoroth stood. A man strolled into her office, one hand tucked into his pants' pocket as the other lofted a circular object into the air.

The Sin of Envy tipped his hand in salutation.

Amoroth's heart constricted with fear as time lurched to a halt. Balthier's green gaze connected with hers—and he grinned.

The grenade revolved as it began to descend.

"Down!" Leon bellowed, attempting to force Amoroth to the floor. She shoved his hands off her person, her arms snapping forward without a thought to grab Dorian by the lapels of his suit. Her assistant hadn't recognized the danger of the situation. His eyes rounded as Amoroth whipped him over the desk and threw him to the floor.

The grenade struck the floor just as Balthier winked and vanished into the Realm.

Amoroth landed on top of her stunned assistant. The small bomb didn't give any warning; it abruptly detonated in a raucous outburst of air and force. Amoroth's desk splintered as fragments of metal and stone flew through the air. The windows shattered and great, gasping inhalations of wind fell upon the Sin. Glass and sharp metal slivers pierced her skin. Amoroth gnashed her teeth and shut her eyes, bearing the pain.

It ended in seconds. The broken bits of window stopped falling and the debris settled. Amoroth opened her eyes as she inhaled a cloud of mortar dust, and small particles of concrete dripped from her lashes. Dorian lay beneath her, unmoving, his glasses cracked and his white face speckled with her blood. Amoroth grabbed the boy by the neck and felt for his pulse. She found it easily enough. He was out cold, not dead.

The same could not be said of Leon. The guard lay upon his back, his front riddled with jagged bits of debris and splotches of red.

The Sin could hear nothing. Her eardrums had been perforated by the blast and would take several minutes to heal. Unable to find her balance, Amoroth remained on the floor like a downed animal, helpless as a mewling babe. She felt the thrum of alarms sounding throughout the building. She knew the human authorities would come pouring into her building—would come running like wolves smelling the blood of a cut rabbit. With Dorian out cold and communications lost with the guards below, Amoroth didn't know who to send to shut down the basement levels before the police came snooping.

Through the lingering motes of dust lifted by the chaos, Amoroth could see the spot where the Sin of Envy had been standing moments before. Her blood chilled in her veins. What had this been? A warning? A game? A test?

A game, she told herself. Like a cat playing with his food. Eoul may be dead, but Envy was obviously still intent on dismantling Klau one brick at a time until Amoroth had nothing. Then, he'd kill her.

The Sin shuddered as she plucked shrapnel from her skin to accelerate the healing process. Amoroth was next on Balthier's hit list—she knew it. She had realized it at the assessor's office. Why else would he be killing her employees, picking them off one by one? But she didn't understand why. He had never done this before, and Amoroth could not decipher the logic in his madness.

There had to be logic to his actions. Balthier did nothing without an ulterior motive. Envy threatened her life, but he was doing so gradually, giving the younger Sin time to react and to think. He wanted something from her—some action Amoroth was capable of. Balthier was attempting to elicit a response from the Sin of Lust by toying with the woman and her host. He needed to provoke her into action, and Amoroth would be damned if she didn't know what action he desired from her.

If he truly wanted her dead, he would have killed her himself.

Amoroth would not submit to the elder monster. She had lived for too long to be offed like an unwanted head of livestock.

But what could she do? What was Amoroth going to do to avoid the inevitable?

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