Chapter Twenty-One

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Eva doesn't think she is holding his neck hard enough to choke him, but his face contorts in pain and her grip loosens in hesitation. 

She's surprised herself, somehow her fiery rage defeating the simmering fear. She can feel it; an almost corporeal stream of anger, coursing jaggedly through her body, devouring all other emotions. It's as empowering as it is terrifying. 

He tried to hurt her once before. She won't let it happen again. 

"I can explain," the guy from the graveyard says in the voice of the feline. It's not so much a plea as jaded exasperation. 

"I don't want any explanation from you," she tells him, her voice soft with menace. "Everything that comes out of your mouth is a lie." 

A smile plays on his lips. "Not everything," Grey murmurs. "And besides, I'm not the only one who's being... economical with the truth." His eyes slip to her hand, still clasped at his neck, and Eva quickly drops it, the anger spluttering out. 

"Don't worry," he smirks, "I won't tell. Unless you give me a reason to." 

The threat is not lost on Eva; of what he might let slip if she goes back on their agreement. And as much as she hates to admit it, she still needs his help. Even if he is her would-be murderer. 

He'd seen it so easily; her weakness. Had so effortlessly picked a hole in her facade. She hates him for it. Whatever goodness Adalee sees in him is indiscernible, or perhaps non-existent. 

"You tried to kill me," she says, her voice steady but at the point of fracturing. "I trust you about as far as I can throw you." 

He laughs, running a pale hand through his inky hair and leaning against the wall; the image of nonchalance, despite the heat of Eva's glare. "It wasn't my choice, you see. I got myself into a bit of a sticky situation with a Favour. I'm sure you can understand." He shoots her a sly smile, sharp teeth flashing wickedly. 

Eva grinds her own teeth, wishing she could rip his smug head off right there and then. 

"But it's gone now, see?" he continues, gesturing to his bicep, the pallor of his skin clear and unmarked. 

"Because Atlas is dead," Eva says slowly, searching for some kind of confirmation - a reassurance of sorts. 

She's sure she sees the flicker of fear pass across his face. Like a flash of light, gone in an instant. 

"Because he was dead," he corrects. "He's a stubborn bastard, though. Doesn't go down that easy." 

But Atlas' body had been destroyed, the image of his bloodied husk invading her mind before she has a chance to shut it out. Surely... surely there's no coming back from that, no amount of healing that could salvage something so thoroughly ruined. But Julian - Julian had survived death, brought himself back from over that hollow, endless edge. Perhaps Atlas can do the same. Perhaps he shares in Julian's affliction. 

"How?" A breathy release of air in the word. 

"Didn't your boyfriend tell you?" he asks, amusement dancing on his face, though there are cracks, splinters in his reaction. It's rehearsed. A mask. "I was under the impression that they are old friends." 

Julian had indeed greeted Atlas with an amicable familiarity. Though as far as Eva is aware, friends don't usually murder each other. 

"What is it?" she demands, every word clipped. She's so tired of only knowing half the story. Or discovering the whole truth far too late to avoid the usually dire consequences. 

"Atlas is an Ouroboran demon. He ages naturally, but when he dies a newer, younger body is born from his corpse," he laughs mirthlessly, bitterness catching on the sound. "You've only made him stronger by killing him. And pissed him off." 

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