Chapter 30

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When the bus pulls into our station it is nearly four in the afternoon. We step onto the paved platform, squinting in the already lowering sun. Neither of us seems eager to look at the other. Strangers stream around us, eager to be out of the frigid air.

"Thanks for coming with me," I finally manage.

"I'll see you soon," his eyes meet mine briefly. I nod and he turns away. I watch him disappear from sight, jostled by the crowd, and it feels as though there was something more I should have said.

I walk in the opposite direction from the one he has taken, trying to puzzle out this lack of closure. Trying to understand how I could feel so light after such a trying day. My introspection is deep enough that I'm surprised to find myself two blocks from home when I finally take note of my surroundings. I'm also surprised by the tall figure only steps ahead of me.

My insides jolt as I lift my gaze to Mirena's. A bead of sweat glides down my neck despite the cold.

"You've been annoyingly elusive these past couple of days," she coos. Her slanted smirk is nauseating.

Instinct says to run but I know panicking will only encourage her. I've been under her scrutiny for weeks; she could have kidnapped me multiple times if that were her intention.

"What do you want?" I ask, amplifying my anger and indignation to conceal the fear beneath it.

"I'm impatient," she answers, tilting her head playfully, "I know you have connections with Hunter. He's probably the one who stole you from me isn't he? Conveniently for you, the guards couldn't remember anything. But father isn't convinced that he's a threat. So it seems I need some proof."

"I told you I don't know what you're talking about. A friend of mine found me and helped me out. I only met that red-haired guy once. Why is this so important to you?"

"Johannes is dead because of him," her voice is cold and almost detached, "He's my student. If he's a traitor then it's my responsibility."

"You said your family doesn't see him as a threat, so what does it matter anyway? Johannes is dead because he murdered innocent people!"

Her smirk dissolves into a deadly sneer; I've touched a nerve – still raw and exposed from Johannes' death. She reaches out, gripping my forearm. I clench my eyes shut as I pull away from her with all of my strength. I'm prepared for pain or unconsciousness, but instead I fall to the ground as she lets go of me effortlessly.

I open my eyes to find her lying on the ground, unconscious. A small, blue stone rests against her right foot. Large hands lift me from behind and as relieved as I know I should feel, I'm also afraid of the person who stands behind me.

"Are you okay, Selene?" Yagher asks, walking around to face me.

I open my mouth but resort to nodding, too disoriented to speak. What the hell is happening? How do I handle this?

Yagher walks towards Mirena's body, prone on the cracked sidewalk. I glance around but the street is deserted. I wonder if this seclusion is by design, whether Yagher's or Mirena's, or by chance. Yagher opens a pouch on his belt and pulls out some leather gloves. He puts them on before cuffing her hands behind her back, removing the crystal, and leading her into the back of an unmarked police car parked around the corner. I follow dumbly behind him.

"Get in the car," he says to me as he walks to the driver's side.

"Look Yagher, I'm almost home anyway... I'd rather walk..."

"Get in the car," he interrupts before slamming the door behind him.

I linger for another moment, staring blankly at the passenger door as I try to fabricate an explanation. The revving engine jolts me into action and I take my place beside Yagher. Mirena sits behind me, separated by a plexiglass divider; she's dazed, but clearly coming around. Yagher's expression is one of pure rage.

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