Holy shit, babies. “Seriously?”

Theresa bestows another saint-worthy smile.

Their plans aren’t all that different from our own. Refusing would be childish, I realize. A sign that my hard-earned obstinacy and paranoia have finally vanquished common sense. It doesn’t have to be forever. It doesn’t have to mean we get complacent and go down with the houseboat, should their fortunes take a turn for the worse.

I glance at Levi. “What do you think?”

“I’ll see you back to the lab, however you choose to go.”

I catch a whiff of a suppressed “at least” before the “however,” and my tension uncoils like a cobra. “Goddamn it, Red! Give it a rest, will you? I asked what you want. Don’t you have an opinion? I don’t need you to take me to the lab. In fact, I won’t let you. It’s stupid and suicidal. There’s a woman out there who’s the closest thing you’ve got to kin. What the hell are you doing in here with me?”  

I flash hot with anger and humiliation. His lips part, but he just stares at me. He doesn’t even look surprised, and that pisses me off even more.

I snap my gaze back to Theresa. “We aren’t connected. Not a couple. Not a family. Not even friends. He made a deal only a lunatic would make with my dead father, and he’s clung to that obligation with the tenacity of a tardigrade.” It takes everything I’ve got to choke back the tears that threaten to complicate this shit even more. I rise to my feet, gripping my knife. “I’ll take your deal. He can do what he likes.”

Full-on possessed by a crazy woman, I shove open the door and stomp out.


Die, asshole.

Thwack. My knife digs into the wooden post at the end of a long dock at the back of the manmade island. I let out the breath I’m holding. I had nothing but moonlight to go on, and if I’d missed, my knife would now be on its way to the bottom of the lake.

“That was lucky.”

Her voice catches me by surprise and I spin.

So. I take a stupid risk to prove I haven’t lost my edge — that I can drop a flesh-eater at a dozen feet in the dark — and I get so wrapped up in it that Sasha — a woman who makes the dock vibrate just by walking on it — is able to sneak up behind me. My stomach lurches from the sheer idiocy of it.

Thwack. She fires an arrow at the post, and the tip digs in just above my knife. In three long strides she reaches the target and plucks out both our weapons.

She walks back and hands me my knife with a grin. “No offense.”

I was lucky, so I take my punishment without a retort. “Thanks.”

“Best two out of three?”

I shake my head. “I’m not into tempting fate.”

She slides the arrow into the quiver with its siblings, and she folds her arms over her chest. “How long have you known Levi?”

I shrug, and I study her big round face. Her whiskey-colored eyes. “What time is it?”

She gives a grunt of laughter, but somehow neither her size nor her gruff manner detracts from her pleasing aesthetics. From her glorious, Artemis-like presence. I feel my shoulders slump and force my backbone to straighten.

“You?” I ask.

“Since Seattle, and Paladin. About five years, before he disappeared.”


Her eyes move over my face now. “You look like Dr. Cheung.”

It makes sense she would know him, but it knocks the breath out of me anyway. “That’s because he’s my dad.”

“Levi left for you, didn’t he?”

I blow a lock of hair out of my eyes. “I told you I just met him.”

Her head tilts, and she smiles. A hawk eyeing a mouse. “You’re saying he didn’t?”

“It’s not what you think.”

“He left without a word, you know. I thought we meant something to each other.” She’s staring at me hard, and I don’t need anyone to translate her expression. Don’t get too close; he’ll do the same to you. Or possibly: Don’t get too close; I’ll tear your arms off.  

“I thought it would be easier for us both. I was wrong.” Levi joins us, completing the triumvirate of awkward.

“Awesome as it is hanging out here in Asgard,” I interrupt, “I’ll never forgive myself if I miss my first taste of river rat. So if you’ll excuse me …”

I move to step around them, but Levi snares me with his icy blues. “I need to talk to you.”

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