39 // TALITHA

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'You are sure?' Blake said.

The sound of his voice popped in my ears, like a bubble of pressure bursting, pain stabbing in my eardrums and down into my throat.

My throat.

Something was in my throat.

I gagged and coughed up water. I watched, dazed, my eyes barely half-open as it trickled away of its own accord, sliding over the monochrome tiles until it reached an ever-shifting stream of water that I could see stretching round behind Ethan.

My cheek was damp, pressed against the floor and a lock of wet hair hung over my eyes. A tiny drop of water slid down the lock and grew fat, hanging there, before finally dropping to the floor and that tiny droplet moved of its own volition and joined the moving stream, like an ant, seeking the protection of its colony.

My clothes felt heavy and stuck to my skin. I shivered and tried to focus. Ethan was positioned just as I'd remembered, before the water had come, only now his bound hands were in his lap again and his shoulders sagged, his head slightly bowed so I couldn't see his eyes.

God, I wanted to see his eyes now.

As if he'd heard me, he raised his head a little, his gaze locking with mine and instantly I wished I didn't have to look in his eyes. I saw flashes of firelight and of Lucifer, the deep sadness in his expression that I could now see in Ethan's.

The Naiad spoke in her strange language and I could hear it, just like I had before, only now I realised I could understand it too, and I knew – somehow, I knew – that she was speaking Old Aramaic. She still sounded like a child, but the weight of her words hung heavy with age and I was gripped by the sudden image of a woman standing in front of a mirror, her skin the colour of treacle, tears running down her cheeks as she surveyed the flesh that had sagged and wrinkled with the onset of time, and lamented the dry, grey streaks in her long, black hair that looked like ash smeared on ebony.

'Of course, I am sure,' she snapped. 'The Endorian is mine. She is with the water now.'

'I hope for your sake you are not lying, witch,' Blake replied.

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