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As Elise stepped out of her room, she pulled up short. Her father was just emerging from his suite down the hall, and he paused, too.

Clearing her throat, she said, “Father, I—”

He turned away without a word, his hand rising over his shoulder in classic stop fashion. “Not now.”

“Then when,” she demanded.

Her father did not respond. He simply kept going, striding down the hall to the formal staircase and disappearing on the descent.

Short of throwing herself in front of him, she didn’t know how to force him to engage. And even then, he was likely to just Conrail over her.

“Son of a bitch,” she hissed.

Maybe it was time to move out. But undoubtedly, he would cut her off, so how would she pay for anything?

The only reason she was able to go to university now was because of scholarships she’d earned. And they didn’t cover things like room and board.

A sudden urge to throw something had her turning her head toward an antique side table. That vase of flowers would be perfect, the thin neck at the top fitting easily in her palm, the weight of the water and the imported roses heavy enough to make her feel like she could do some damage, but not enough to hinder distance.

Shifting her eyes across the way, she stared at the closed door of the suite where her aunt and uncle stayed.

Her uncle would be out and about soon, but her aunt was no doubt still sleeping. Usually the female stayed in bed until after Elise got back from uni, rising only long enough to do her hair and makeup before returning to her satin pillows. It was no way to live, but after what had happened to her daughter? And the loss of her son?

Elise cursed … and then found herself on the move.

The next thing she knew, she was standing in front of her dead cousin’s door. From a distance, she watched as her hand reached out, clasped the knob, and turned it. When she pushed inside, she caught a whiff of the perfume Allishon had always worn. Poison by Dior—old school, to be sure, but it had fit so well on the female.

Elise had always thought that if the color purple had had a scent, that fragrance would have been it.

Without a sound, she shut herself in and flicked the light switch.

Illumination bloomed in the room, emanating from the crystal chandelier in the center of the high ceiling. The bed was across the way, strewn with pale blue linens that had white and gold accents, and sporting enough pillows to put a Macy’s display in the shade. The walls were papered with handmade Stark, the French scene of peach-and-yellow birds frolicking between blooming fruit trees something you could see down in the gardens during the good months. On the floor, the carpet was thick and of a cream that was so pale, it was nearly white, and the drapes framing the windows were the pale blue of a summer dress and just as diaphanous.

The decor was perfect for a young female of worth.

And yet Allishon’s possessions were the off-notes in the room: a black robe that was part priest, part demon worshipper; a crystal skull on the mantel over the fireplace; books with black and blood-red leather covers scattered in the far corner by a tapestry-covered pallet. There were also chunky black boots that were tall enough to go up over the knee … a high-heeled shoe without a mate that had a gun for a heel … black duffel bags filled with God only knew what else.

It was hard not to see the evidence of her cousin’s other life like potholes in a perfectly paved road. But how judgmental was that.

“No way to think,” she groaned as she rubbed her stiff neck.

The reality, though, was that something evil had come across Allishon’s path as she had searched for herself on the wild side. And that was Felixe’s point, wasn’t it.

Elise frowned as she thought about that trainee with the tattoos. He was everything that her sire was worried about her finding. Except she hadn’t met him at university—and that was her point.

“Just as well,” she muttered to the vacant room. “I’m not going to see him again.”

SEVEN

The Brotherhood’s training center was a state-of-the-art, hundred-thousand-square-foot bunker of holy-shit-how-is-this-not-the-government–level facilities and equipment. Located underground, and preceded by a gating system of gradually more secure and intimidating G.T.F.O.s, the place was off-limits to vampires, humans, and lessers.

As well as the trainees who were technically allowed to be in it.

When the “school bus” slowed again at yet another checkpoint, Axe could tell by the angle of the descent that they were getting close to the entrance to the facility. The blackout windows next to him didn’t offer much visual, but he imagined the last couple of stop-heres to be like something out of Jurassic Park, all concrete walls that were as tall as the Hoover Dam and topped with miles’ worth of barbed wire.

For the last month, the trainees had been meeting at designated locations in and around Caldwell and getting on this nothing-yellow-or-schoolish-at-all tank with its bulletproof body plating, thick-as-your-arm windows, and deep bucket seats.

Yeah, sure, Fritz, the old doggen at the wheel, could have worked for Caldwell Central Schools. But that was about it for comps.

And what do you know. Tonight’s ride in from a deserted factory in the old industrial part of town had been about twenty-five minutes of Peyton glaring a hole in Axe’s skull.

Good times, good times.

Everyone else was minding their own damn business. Novo had her Beats on up in front. Boone was reading—Kierkegaard’s Enten-Eller, whatever the fuck that was. Paradise and Craeg were trading an iPhone back and forth like they were searching for PokéStops on the way and getting bad reception.

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