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"Most of us would do almost anything for those we love. Especially those whose lasting effects are in our memories. Eight years and I'd still do anything for my mother."

—Eli Leonger, in an interview with Martin Ferrara, The Martin Ferrara Show

Backup arrived thirty-seven minutes after the bomb exploded. Marlee's forcefield contained the brunt of the blast and protected the building. Other than the deep gray smoke filtering out through the fire exit door and up towards the clouds, there was nothing.

I wanted a giant explosion. I wanted screams and dramatic flames, glass shattering, metal melting inward.

Marlee got nothing but a gray puff of smoke.

Two black trucks skirted to a stop next to us, pouring out fully outfitted military personnel. They surrounded the building and entered in groups of two.

Tony ran over, "Is everyone alright?" He turned over his shoulder, "We need a medic!" He shouted.

A tan, rugged man approached us with a field med kit. "Agents, my name is Rivera," he had us lay Wes down and began to check him over. "Anyone else needing attention?"

Tony glanced around, "Where's Marlee?"

Neither Eva or I answered.

Tony paled.

I couldn't stand here any longer. Despite my worry for Wes, he was breathing on his own and the medic treating him had slow, calm movements. He would be okay. The relief from knowing that was a blip compared to the massive explosion that had shredded my chest.

"Aria, wait!" Tony called after me.

Wes was in good hands—Rivera would take care of him. By the time I got back, he'd be up and moving and I'd be there to support him, I just...I needed a moment.

The pavement of the warehouse parking lot dug into my bare feet. Agents continued roamed the area, fire trucks and police arriving onsite in a blaze of color and sirens.

I got past the craziness, rounded the corner of a standard black SUV, and threw up onto the pavement. The tears followed—blinding, fire hot streaks down my face. My fingers speared through my hair. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry." A deep gasping sound, one of pure anguish left from my throat.

I don't want to die. Marlee's voice rang through my head. It was all I could hear. I don't want to die.

I don't want to die.


I slammed the Ace into the dumpster, only slightly satisfied when his head hit the metal with a clang.

He was hardly more than fifteen, nothing more than a street kid in the wrong alley at the wrong time. The pungent smell of body odor emanated off of him, mixing beautifully with the hot garbage from the dumpster.

"Ow! Watch it, lady!"

I pressed my forearm into his throat and bared my teeth. "Tell me about the drugs."

He had the balls to stick his nose up at me. "I ain't sayin' nuthin'."

I grinned.

The current built deep in my gut and traced my stomach muscles all the way up into my left arm. I pressed a fingertip to the metal green dumpster.

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