III

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III         INA


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"IF IT'S ALL the same to you, I'd rather just go home. I can walk myself."

"No."

"Ina," Zander sighed.

"If we were followed, we'll only know it from my apartment. I can't keep you safe if you're somewhere else."

"I'll be fine on my own. I don't need your fancy alarm system."

As their carriage rolled to a stop a few blocks from Ina's apartment, she found she was grateful the storm they'd gotten caught in when they left Evron's club had ebbed. Rain fell steadily, but it's appeared to have lost its rage.

Zander climbed out first and waited for her on the sidewalk, using a hand to shield his eyes as he scanned their surroundings. Ina followed him out and tossed the driver a silver.

She knew that Zander was right. He could take care of himself, especially if he was on the lookout for any sort of threat. It's when they caught him off guard that he tended to find himself in trouble. But she already made the mistake of letting him follow Evron into that bathroom, and she wasn't going to take any more chances. He might have his own ways of watching for danger from his little rundown place in the slums downtown, but in Ina's apartment, they'd know someone was coming for them far enough in advance that they would have time to escape.

Or at least time to come up with a plan.

Thanks to all the trouble she's gotten herself into in the last nine months, Ina's little security system was necessary. She only wished she'd have thought of it before Nicola was murdered in her own bedroom, right beside Ina's own.

Of course, Ina hadn't been home that night anyway. Of course.

Bile rose in Ina's throat at the memory, and she quickly pushed it away, begged her stomach to settle.

"Just stop arguing, please. You can go home in the morning," she told Zander. "It's raining anyway. Why would you want to walk in this?"

They'd reached Ina's apartment building, and with a final cursory glance around her, she pulled one of the last pins from her hair to pick the lock. She didn't like to carry her key, especially in a dress like this where there had barely been a place to hide her precious dagger. Which, she just remembered, was lost to her forever. Great.

With next to nothing holding it up, her hair fell loose as they hurried inside. It was dripping wet, and despite the unseasonably warm weather, a chill shuddered over her.

Ina's apartment on the third level was hard to call home now, but for three years that's exactly what it was, and she couldn't imagine leaving it. At least not right now. Not until she found Nic's killer, if Evron Hankort wasn't him.

But who's to say he wasn't? That stranger of hers? How would he know anyway?

She shook her head as she picked the lock to her apartment. She didn't want to think about him or Faren ever again.

Zander went straight for her sofa, unbuttoning his bloodied shirt and letting it fall to the floor. Ina relocked her door and began securing the place - locking the windows, closing the curtains, making sure all her alarms were set. Only when she was confident that she could let down her guard, just for a moment, did she turn to her injured partner.

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