24 // SNARE

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'The problem with Rome,' Ethan said, 'apart from the overpriced coffee, the ruthless pick-pockets and the vicious gangs of zealous tourists, is that there's so many Watchers here that the worm-holes can only be used to travel short distances. They're just big enough to get over or under the next trip-wire, before we have to switch and find another route. It's not easy, but it's doable.'

He fiddled with his hair as he looked in the mirror, brushing it one way, before frowning and brushing it in the opposite direction.

'Of course, that's not taking into consideration the possibility that any of the worm-holes could have been discovered.'

'And if they have?' I asked, leaning against the bathroom doorway, my gaze coveting the firm lines of his shoulders and the nape of his neck, curling one lock of my own hair around my finger as I watched him. My hair was still slightly damp from the shower I had taken, starting out as hot as I could bear, only to give myself a blast of cold when I'd glanced over at the basin and remembered us standing there the night before, his body pressed against mine.

'Worst case scenario, game over,' he replied, grimly. 'At best, I kill the Watcher before it has a chance to alert anyone to our whereabouts.'

'What are the odds?' I said, not liking where this was going.

He turned and crossed the small bathroom to the doorway where I was standing, closing the gap between us that might as well have been a mile wide for the lack of warmth emanating from him. There was a stiffness to his frame, a tightness in his jawline and a stony obstinacy in his eyes that reminded me of that first night in his apartment. The guard was back up, whether because of the night before or because of what we were about to undertake, I wasn't sure, but this felt like a different Ethan. This was the Ethan who killed Watchers and disfigured Powers, this was the Ethan who didn't crack jokes to lighten the mood, this was the Ethan who could make the shadows converge and the light fade.

'Slim,' he admitted. 'Think of the lower-level angels like a CCTV network, all connected up to one another. As they're seeing you, processing what you are and what kind of threat you pose, those images are then being transmitted back to the other Watchers, and in turn, to the Powers and Dominions above them. I have a matter of seconds in which to end a Watcher's life before all Hell breaks loose and half the Council's agents are on their way. I'm using the word Hell there figuratively, of course, seeing as it technically doesn't exist.'

'Right,' I murmured, as he turned abruptly and walked into the lounge. From where I stood, I heard the distinct click of his lighter and I hesitantly followed him into the room, where he was looking out at the city, the smoke swirling around his head. He wafted it away with his hand as I approached.

'Aren't we better off doing this at night?' I asked, following his gaze out to where the city sat shrouded under a blanket of early morning mist which clung to the towers and domes, the double statues of the goddess Victoria resplendent on her chariots, rising through the fog.

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