After Ren had seen Nika bolt out of the Ministry assembly, it was clear that she needed time to recuperate from the intense interview. So he'd waited at the back of the hall.

And waited.

And waited.

Fifteen minutes had passed when he'd decided to look for her. That had been two hours ago, and every minute since was a relentless hunt.

Ren hadn't dared mentioning her disappearance to Markos. The Minister had trusted him to be Nika's keeper, and not four days after being given the assignment, he'd lost the girl.

Never—not once during his four years in the Vigil had he misplaced the person he was supposed to protect. So, naturally, he was pissed.

Coming to the nightclub had been his last choice. After checking the Lazarov house, then the Vigil base, then Dimitrovich Manor, he hadn't found a single clue as to where she could have gone. But when he'd overheard Viktor Kostopoulos's keepers saying the Rogue Minister and Halfblood Bastard had gone out for a night of fun, he'd sped through the town immediately.

When the security guard dragged a little-bodied, bronze-headed figure into the alley, his stomach felt hollow with relief. Good. Nika wasn't half-dead in a ditch, and now he could take her to Dimitrovich Manor and be done with his shift.

"What the hell?" she exclaimed when she saw him.

She tried darting into the nightclub, but Ren grabbed her wrist.

"Thank you," he said to the guard, offering a generous tip for his services.

The man accepted it, then turned back inside and slammed the door, silencing the blaring music.

"Hey!" Nika called, banging the metal surface. "Come back."

Ren pulled her away with ease, despite her attempt to latch onto the handle.

"I'm taking you home," he ground out.

As he half-dragged her down the alley, Nika stumbled, crashing into him with a huff.

"Stop moving so fast. Everything is spinning."

Oldbloods save me, Ren thought. She's drunk.

Yanking herself out of his grip, Nika scowled. "And haven't you heard of manners?"

"What are you doing here?" he hissed. "You know better than to run off like that."

"I was having fun! Maybe you should try it sometime."

Ren studied her, then the nightclub. "My idea of fun never involves Viktor Kostopoulos."

He didn't misunderstand Viktor's popularity with women—and men, too, for that matter—but Ren had been raised to make use of his life instead of wasting it on booze and blood-whoring.

Nika crossed her arms defiantly. "Then you won't mind if I return to my evening. Alone."

Before she could even take a step, Ren slid into her path, wielding every inch of height and muscle against her.

She groaned, eyes narrowing. "You might be bigger, but I'm smarter. Remember that."

"Getting yourself addicted to blood is far from smart. Keepers aren't supposed to participate in such things."

She fumed. "That is not—I've never tasted a drop of blood in my life!"

At that, Ren could only blink. Then lift an eyebrow in suspicion.

"Not even once?"

"Nope."

"And here I thought you're the rebellious type."

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