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I         INA


THE AIR HUNG hot and heavy, even indoors. It licked the nape of Ina's neck, down between her shoulder blades, the creases behind her knees. She hoped in the hazy neon glow she merely looked as though she glistened.

On their way over here, the wind had steadily picked up. It was a warm breeze, of course, but perhaps it would cool down. Perhaps a storm was nearly upon them.

Zander's knuckles brushed down her arm as he turned toward her. "It's been over an hour."

She'd been on her tiptoes to hear him, and she used the vantage point to scan the floor for a face that, in her mind's eye, she only saw in red hues. But he wasn't there yet.

So she raised her glass to her lips. "He'll come."

Now, Zander's touch ghosted just above the small of her back, and with his other hand he gestured toward the bar. A gentleman courting his date. The music grew louder, more feverish, and the lights began to flicker in time with it. The dark freckles on Zander's face appeared to dance along.

They found a corner of the bar with enough space for the two of them to stand. Ina was nearly finished with her third drink, nearly confident enough to simply order Zander to drop a smoke grenade and clear the entire club out. Evron would undoubtedly make a hasty appearance then.

"He'll come through there." Ina jerked her chin to an unassuming door in a dark corner of the lower level, wedged between the bathroom and the space behind the bar where additional liquor and glasses were stored. "Nobody will pay attention to an entrance from back there. It'll be as though he just appeared."

"We have a good view of it here," Zander nodded.

"Yes, but we should stop staring at it. Somebody might notice. Pull me in by my waist and stare at my lips like you want to kiss me."

She wasn't sure if anyone was paying attention to them now, but better to be safe than sorry. Though the cocktails filtering through her veins desired otherwise, Ina didn't want to cause a scene here if she could avoid it. She was no stranger to the south side of Pryvoltov, and her disguise would only hide so much. If the wrong person's gaze lingered too long on her, Zander could be in danger.

She wouldn't allow that.

So when Zander's touch returned to the glittering silk-clad small of her back and slid further around to press her into his hips, she let her palm flatten against his chest. This wasn't the first time they've been undercover in this way, which made it easier. He gazed openly, longingly at her face, her lips, just like she'd once taught him. And in turn, she trailed her fingers up across his exposed collarbone, the curve between his shoulder and neck, the soft skin in the hollow where his jaw met the bottom of his ear.

With this grip, she pulled his face closer to hers as though she really might kiss him. But she brought her lips to his ear instead as her eyes zeroed in on a figure over his shoulder, emerging from a forgotten door in a forgotten corner of the club.

"There's our murderer," she said, daring to mumble it only loud enough for Zander to strain to hear her.

Beneath her touch, Zander stiffened. She felt him restrain from spinning around to see for himself. Her grip on the back of his neck tightened, like if she didn't cling to her companion she wouldn't be able to stop herself from making a mad dash for Evron Hankort and slitting his throat before he could even blink in her direction.

Certainly efficient, but not quite stealthy enough for this operation of theirs.

"Any companions?"

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