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Red. Hold on. Just stay with me. Tom's fingers wrapped around my ankle and his sweet, mental voice pulled me back into the moment.

I looked down at him. From the ground his gaze met mine. Sorrow filled his eyes. He knew my heart was breaking and probably wanted to stand and pull me into a hug, but he couldn't move for fear of alerting Sean and whomever he was talking with.

How could Sean betray me-hell-betray TLC and all the Agents-like this? In line with the demons? To kill me and Tom?

How could he do this?

"That Shifter, Chip, almost had her. Then the Shifter who took your shape..."

"But then he showed up," Sean said.

No wonder Sean never liked Tom.

"Yes. Melace is quite strong. But at least he was unable to unite with his Patronus on all levels. We got to them just in time as their relationship was progressing to that very rapidly."

"Huh?" Sean asked.

"Never mind. It's of no consequence now. It seems a low-level demon was able to do what you could not."

"What about TLC?" Sean asked.

"We'll go on doing what we do. Without the Melace and Patronus, it's back to what it was. A weak attempt to balance good and evil."

Sean sneezed then sniffed. He was allergic to purple sage bushes, and I'd noticed three of them while scanning the backyard. My heart broke again. My friend. My trainee. My partner had betrayed me to the very evil he'd helped me slay for three years.

Had he been in with them all that time?

"You loved Dakota," the man said.


"She was special. An amazing woman and very strong. But now you'll lead TLC with her gone. You're the next oldest."

"But-" He coughed. "How can I go back there? There's been no check ins, no codes."

"Most of the agents are dead. You'll lead the new ones that will come in."

"Not all were killed. How can I face them?"

"You'll face them with no memory of this. Just like it's always been. I will cloud your memory of anything to do with me and the demons. You'll continue to do what I need you to do, whether you like it or not."

"You erase my memories?"

"Quite well, I must say, because you say this every time we have this discussion. I let you remember what you need to, then cloud it from any mind readers and then erase the rest."

Hold on, Red. There's more coming. Be ready.

I wasn't sure I could handle anymore without making a sound. A rock formed in my stomach.

It's Mr. Smith.

I fought the urge to suck in a breath. Darkness nipped at my eyesight as the blood drained from my face and pooled in the pit of my stomach. Mr. Smith? The founder of TLC?

"Mr. Smith, you're human, how can you make me forget?"

A wicked chuckle followed, and my pulse drummed in my ears.

"I have my own gifts, given to me by the one I serve."

A chair squeaked against the sandstone tiles. An icy shiver slid down my spine, and I secured my hand over my mouth, stifling a scream of anger and rage. I wanted to show myself and fry them both. Why shouldn't I? There were only two. They were betrayers. I could take them. I should take them out. My heart assaulted my ribs.

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