Chapter One

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An erosive burden that suffocates what could be for the sake of what should. A crushing weight fueled by ancestors’ dreams—hopes—fears.

A simple path born as a dewdrop centuries before but by the time I appeared, had grown into a torrential river with a momentum like none other.

The Pur Heir, Book of the Weir, Vol. II

Part One

When we close our eyes, the illusion is that we are safe.

Chapter One

Ian dropped his arms, took a step back, and wedged himself into the upright crate. The door shut so close to his face that the heat from his breath bounced back carrying a whiff of sawdust with it. An itch caused him to twitch his nose and clench his teeth, willing the sneeze to stay at bay. Metal slid outside the wooden box, scratching the surface like an animal struggling to get to its prey. It stopped with a click of the padlock.

Outside, a swish and then a muted screech overhead pricked Ian’s ears, a warning that his timing might have been off. Two of the massive swinging axes crossed each other on their sweeping pattern with the merest of contact. At the next approach, his upright prison would be in their direct path.

He blamed the sweltering space for the beads of sweat that bristled across his neck. Ian sensed as much as heard the overhead gear slip into the last notch a second before hundreds of gasps swept across the auditorium. Every muscle stiffened at the ready as he crossed his wrists. At the same time, he kicked the escape hatch lever with the toe of his boot.

Nothing happened.

Shit! Ian jammed his knee into his chest and stomped on the trapdoor as half a dozen axes shredded the panels surrounding him.

He tumbled down the hidden chute then came to a stop when his cheek smashed against the basement mat. A kaleidoscope of sparks sizzled behind his eyes. He rolled onto his back while remnants of the crate followed him down and floated in the air like confetti. The moment the overhead hatch closed, the audience’s screams became muffled noise.

“Talk about cutting it close,” Patrick said, leaning over him.

“I’m nearly sushi, and you’re smiling.” Ian gave in to a groan as Patrick helped him to his feet. He paused long enough to catch his breath then started up the ladder. “I can’t believe you climbed down here. Admit it; the illusion had you nervous.”

“Why would I waste the energy?” Patrick touched the mat. His tone turned serious. “Ian, is this blood?”

“The price I pay for playing with knives.”

“Keep that attitude and you won’t make it to your twentieth birthday.”

Ian climbed onto the stage and sidestepped the crew pushing the next prop into place. A shiver licked his spine. The cut on his hand stung when he swiped the drizzle of blood on his leather pants. Nestled in the thick folds of the curtain, he steadied the pounding in his chest and held his breath against the surging nausea. The occasional near misses taunted him, reminders that any semblance of control was the greatest illusion of all.

The rock music turned melodic and melted into the background. A hush came over the room.

Three, two, one—up went his arms, bathed in blinding light right on cue. Ian’s pulse quickened as he stepped forward for his favorite, and last, illusion of the night.

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