33.1 | Requiems for Lonely Souls

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Dragging himself away from the window, and the serene night beyond, Ren answered the knock on his door. He didn't know who he'd expected to find on the other side, but disappointment twinged inside him as he greeted Misha.

"What are you doing here?" he added after the uneasy hello.

"It's been two days since..."

He didn't have to remind Ren, for the fact had been pressing on his mind all evening. Two days since everything went to hell.

Misha ran a hand through his ash-brown hair and sighed. "Can I come in?"

Without a word, Ren stepped aside, and Misha made himself at home—as usual. He plunked onto the leather sofa in the middle of the apartment's main room and tossed his keys on the coffee table. Ren lingered by the door and watched with a frown.

Since they'd parted at the Vigil's base, neither of them had endeavored to reach out, despite all the unanswered questions. So what was the purpose of this visit?

Before he could ask, Misha said, "Have you heard anything about Minister Laguna's replacement?"

Shoving his hands into his pant pockets, Ren returned to the window and watched a trio of keepers walk across the street below, their shadows stretching ominously.

Minister Laguna had never remarried after her first husband's death, and as such, there'd been no children to name heir. It had been a tumultuous time as the Ministry decided how to deal with the rare occurrence.

"Markos says that a few candidates from headquarters' notable Serafi have been nominated," Ren replied, "but the vote won't take place until the funeral is over."

He caught Misha's nodding reflection in the glass. "My dad is anxious about it. He's hoping they'll elect an equalist to support him as High Keeper."

Ren wouldn't count on it. Right now, the equalist faction was outnumbered. And it was difficult to determine how Markos would vote. Despite being an equalist, Nika's father had a tendency to side with the purists. It was all a strategy, though. He did nothing without a good reason.

"I'm sure that's not the only thing Emil is anxious about," Ren said, turning around.

Misha stiffened.

"What did he tell you?"

A deep inhalation. Then another. Ren wanted his to look into his eyes, but Misha stared at his folded hands instead.

"He did it."

The words were almost soft enough that Ren missed it.

"He told the Volkari where to find the journal. And he disguised two wolves as keepers so they could take Nika..."

Waves of emotion crested within Ren, and he imagined they weren't dissimilar from the hurt and frustration that twisted Misha's features as he added, "But he didn't know that she would be tortured."

"Bullshit."

The growl tore through him, and it required every ounce of energy to stay motionless. He thought of calm things—quiet mountain lakes, hooting owls, crackling embers. He thought of home, which had popped into his head far too frequently these days.

"Please." Misha eased to his full height, as if it required tremendous effort to do so. "You know my dad. Yes, the Ministry has been trying to oust him from his position as High Keeper. But he would never help the Volkari just to spite them."

It took a moment to register. Ren was distracted by the weight of this news, the fear he'd harbored all along. That he'd trusted Emil with things no one else knew—not even Misha—and the man betrayed him, and all of the Daemonstri community with him.

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