19.2 | A Brewing Storm

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At the next deafening crack of thunder, Ren walked straight into a puddle. He hissed a curse in Russian, then shook off his drenched boot and circled around the dip in the road.

He'd had enough of this. Of Nika's rebelliousness, of hunting her down, of expecting that she would finally listen.

But perhaps it was some kind of punishment. Perhaps he deserved it.

He peered into the window of Markos's SUV, the one Nika had driven here. It was empty, which meant she'd gone into one of the several shops lining the street.

Ren blinked away a few pesky raindrops and shoved his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket.

What the hell was she doing here? Could Misha's theory have been correct? Was Nika an accomplice to the theft and kidnapping? Had she played Ren for a fool?

Thanks to the storm's washing-away tendencies, he couldn't track her by scent. So he was reduced to mere luck, it seemed. He'd have to go into every shop lining the avenue. Every secret place in which she could've been hiding.

Sighing, Ren speared toward the boutique on the corner. As soon as he found Nika Dimitrovich, he had no idea what would happen. She was in terrible need of a lesson, but Markos wasn't here to scold or punish her, and Ren had no interest in taking on that role.

If he caught her in the middle of a traitorous deed, however...

He was bound by the Sacred Oath to turn her in, but he could at least give her a chance to explain herself.


He shook his head. He would decide what to do when he found her. So for the first time in his career as a keeper, Ren Romanovich walked into a potentially dangerous situation without even the semblance of a plan.

Like a finger plucking the string of a violin, the familiarity clicked. It was the woman who'd snatched Lu during the attack at Konstantin.

This time, Nika studied her carefully. Bright red hair and eyes blazing blue. Plum-stained lips, contrasted by gleaming white teeth, were a ribbon on a death wish. A dark green gown, seemingly a revival of medieval fashion, draped around her elegantly tall figure.

She's a Serafi, Nika realized.

The woman approached, and with each step, Nika grew tenser.

A glittering flash of red caught her eyes—a pendant hanging from the kidnapper's neck. It was some kind of ruby, perhaps. Around the stone was the contorted body of a serpent, and the creature's fangs sank into the rock. As if to be choking the life out of its prey.

"Won't you introduce us, Mizelle?"

Nika cast a bewildered look at the hedgewitch. Guilt flashed through her eyes, and rage flared in Nika's heart.

"Nika Dimitrovich," Mizelle said, "this is Tatiana."

Tatiana—there was something wrong with her. Something that prickled Nika's skin as she drew to a halt. This creature was unlike of the Daemonstri races. Not natural. Not normal.

Run run run

Nika ignored her instincts. Because there was nowhere to go. Mizelle now stood in front of the curtain to the other room, and Tatiana blocked the entrance.

She was trapped.


"Why have you come to this shop, halfblood?"

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