13.1 | Fight and Flight

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In the days following the incident at the Vigil's base, Nika's escape stunts ceased. Ren found himself relieved, because his considerably low patience was no match for her impetuous behavior. But at the same time, he was disappointed. No—he was bored.

He settled back into his routine, organizing security, checking on Nika almost every hour. She rarely left the manor, as there was a swarm of Serafi reporters outside the gates of Lirovin Square, eager to interview the Halfblood Bastard about the Volkari attack on Konstantin Academy.

They wanted to ask if she was a traitor, no doubt. Ren wondered if they knew about the Ministry's secrets and lies. Probably not. The Prime Minister had addressed the public and claimed to have been as unaware as everyone else that the Volkari were not extinct. And even if she'd admitted to the deceit, Ren knew that the Ministry would have been forgiven.

Nika, however, was just as much of a villain as the Volkari. It bothered him that people were so quick to condemn her, to use her blood status as proof of ill deeds. It was ridiculous, and cruel, too. But he kept those opinions to himself, of course.

In the middle of night, the Daemonstri world was a hive of activity, and Ren swept through Dimitrovich Manor to make sure the keepers under his command weren't getting lazy. He was walking down a corridor on the second floor when it happened.

The lights went out.

"What the hell?" said a muffled voice from another room.

As confusion rippled throughout the property, Ren stalked downstairs to find a cluster of keepers in the foyer.

"Why did the power go off?" he asked.

"We don't know," one replied.

After sending someone to check the electrical panel in the basement, he peered out the window. The rest of Lirovin Square—and indeed, all of headquarters—was still alight.

Best case, the electricity inside this old house had malfunctioned. Worst case, there was an intruder. Ren assumed it was both.

He turned to the keepers. "You and you, take the perimeter. Look for signs of forced entry. The rest of you, sweep the interior. If someone got in, you know what to do."

In unison, they peeled off to carry out his orders. Meanwhile, the keeper he'd sent to the basement returned.

"Well?"

The woman held up a cord. "I think this came unplugged."

Ren frowned. The basement had no access points from the outside. He hadn't stationed a guard anywhere near it, as Markos primarily used it for storage. Which meant—

He swore, bolting for the front door.

Lo and behold, a streak of red was blurring across the front yard. He'd seen that bold jacket before—on Nika.

In a heartbeat, he was outside, racing down the stone path to intercept her. He skidded to a halt in front of her with barely a heartbeat to spare.

Nika titled her head to the sky, groaning her annoyance. "Don't you have anything better to do than chase me around?"

Ren crossed his arms and glowered. "I guess that means you're responsible for the power outage."

She bared her teeth. "Get out of my way."

When he didn't obey, she tried to step around him, but he moved into her path.

"Turn around, get inside, and we'll pretend like this never happened," he said.

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