I flipped my hair over my shoulder with a flick of my wrist. “We made a bargain already. I didn’t knife you, and now you’re taking me home.”

“Ah, but I can do more than simply take you home. I can save your man…and take you to EenLi.”

He was deadly serious, no hint of teasing in his expression. The wicked twinkle was gone. I stood, watching him, bathed in indecision. Trust him. Not trust him. Either way, he’d just offered me something I couldn’t turn down, no matter the price.

“Deal,” I said, the word a hard knot in my throat.

He nodded. “The deal must be sealed in blood.” He kneeled, dragging me down with him, and unsheathed a blade from his side. I tensed, but didn’t move as he sliced the silver tip down his bare chest. Amber blood dripped down his rippled muscles. “Give me your arm.”

Tentative, I stretched my arm toward him. He clasped my wrist and slipped the blade over the skin, cutting. Not deep, just enough to draw blood. He lifted my wrist and meshed it against the wound in his chest. I could feel his heartbeat, a rapidbump, bump.

“You have my vow of aid, Eden Black. Your man and your enemy will be mine to give you.” He motioned to me with a tilt of his chin. “Now you.”

“You have my vow, Devyn,” I said, shaking inside. If there were any other way, I’d take it. But there wasn’t, and I knew it. “One night with me.”

After the words were spoken, the air around us thickened, became as dappled as the Skyway. A living force. I blinked and gazed around in shock. I even reached out, sliding my fingertips over the jelly-like air. It was as cool and ephemeral as a dream.

“To break either vow means death,” he said, standing. He pulled me up beside him. He watched me for a long while, then nodded. “The bargain is now struck. Come.”

We zigzagged through several more hallways and finally hit the top of the stairs. My arm burned, but I ignored the slight pain. Devyn grabbed my hand and tugged me toward the pool.

“I need a necklace, too,” I said, dragging my feet to slow him.

“Just hold on to me, and you will be fine.” He flicked me an unreadable glance. “There is still time to change your mind.”


“Very well,” he sighed.

“What happens if—” I wanted to know what would happen if we became separated, but he pulled me inside the oddly dry jelly before I could finish my sentence. I was sucked into a vacuum. My feet lost their solid anchor, and my heartbeat quickened, nearly exploding inside my chest. Screams erupted, winding around me like ivy leaves reaching for the sun. Too-bright stars buzzed past my head.

A terrible wind kicked up, shoving me from every angle. I had to fight to remain upright, and clutched desperately at Devyn’s hand. Round and round we began to spin, stars winking and flashing at me.

The wind became so violent, the Targon was ripped from my grip. “No!” I screamed. “Devyn!” He wore the necklace. I needed him to reach Earth. Didn’t I? Without him…Blindly I groped the air with both hands, searching for him. For any type of anchor.

Instead of finding him, I felt everything still. The screams ceased abruptly. The lights faded. My feet hit a solid foundation. I swayed. My pulse continued to hammer, but I regained my equilibrium. I opened my eyes. And gasped.

I stood in an open forest of tall, green trees. Cool air enveloped me, not dry but humid. Crickets chirped a lazy tune, and moonlight dripped hazy rays on the grass. I sucked in a breath, inhaling familiar scents of pine and dirt. Of Earth.

Golden tendrils of hair were glued to my temples, and I pushed them back with shaky fingers. I’d made it. I’d truly returned. I scanned the area for the Targon.

He wasn’t here.

I couldn’t concern myself with him right now. I had to find a phone. Had to call Michael. I sprinted through the trees, my determination giving me swift wings. Gnarled limbs whipped at my face, and stones and twigs attempted to trip my feet. I ran for over an hour, toward the buildings I saw towering on the horizon. Breath burned my throat and lungs, but I never slowed.

When I reached the first building, I realized they were homes. Only one glowed with internal lights. I ran to the front door and slammed my fists against the thick oak entrance. When no one answered, I banged harder.

“Stop that racket,” someone shouted from above. “I’m trying to sleep.”

My gaze followed the sound, and I found myself staring up at a silver-headed man with a wrinkled, irritated face. “I need to use your phone.”

“You need to learn how to shut up. I’m tired.”

Scowling, I grabbed a rock from the colorful, blooming garden and broke the window. I didn’t have time to pick the lock or mess with the ID box. Their security system erupted in a series of high-pitched beeps. I reached through the shattered glass, cringed when a sharp piece sliced my skin, adding another wound, and ripped the lock system from the side wall. The door opened of its own accord.

I shoved my way inside.

The silver-headed man was racing down the steps, and now he had a civilian pyre-gun in hand. “I’m armed,” he shouted, “and Iwill shoot to kill.”

I moved swiftly, met him halfway, and tripped him down the stairs. He squeezed off a shot, but the stream of fire whizzed past my shoulder. As he fell, I wrenched the gun from his hands. By the time he reached the bottom, I had the barrel pointed at his heart.

“Where’s your phone?” I demanded, my aim steady and sure.

“Don’t hurt me,” he cried.

“Just tell me where your phone is, and you’ll be fine.”

Tears streamed down his cheeks as he pointed a shaky finger to a nearby table. I hated that I had terrified the human, but I didn’t have time for niceties.

“You move and you die. Understand?”

A sob racked him, but he nodded.

Keeping the pyre-gun directed on him, I walked backward to the table. With one hand, I punched Michael’s number into the unit. The silver-headed man never moved a muscle.

“This is Black,” my boss soon answered.

How wonderful it was to hear his voice. “Michael, Lucius has been shot.”

“Eden?” Shock and happiness and relief mingled in his tone. “My God, Eden, tell me it’s you. You’ve been gone three days without a word. We lost your signal, and I thought—”

“I’m fine, but I don’t have a lot of time.” Three days had passed, yet only one had passed on Targon. “Have you spoken to Lucius? Has he checked in?”

“Last he checked in, he told me you had been abducted as planned and he was going in to buy you. After that, we never heard from him again. We’ve been searching for him but haven’t caught a trace. We had your location locked, and even checked there. Nothing. What’s going on?”

“Jonathan Parker shot him.”

“Is he de—”

“No!” I shouted. I still wasn’t ready to consider the possibility. “I think EenLi has him now and means to sell him as a slave. There are five women, too, meant to be put up for sale. Has EenLi been spotted at all?”

“No, but Jonathan Parker was found dead.”

“I know. I killed him. Michael,” I said, my voice shaky. “I need you.”

“Where the hell are you, sweetie? I’ll be there as fast as I can.”

“Where am I?” I demanded of the man at the foot of the stairs. My urgency made me sound fierce, lethal.

His already pale face went white at my renewed attention, and he gaggled out a few unintelligible sounds.

“Tell me where I am,” I said gently. “Please. I’m not going to hurt you.”

My gentleness lifted him out of his terror-filled shock. “New Mon-montana,” he stuttered.

“New Montana,” I told Michael. “Can you get my signal now?”

“Let’s see.” A moment passed, the sound of his breathing and the clicking of computer keys the only sound. “Got you now,” he said with satisfaction. “We’ll get you home, baby, we’ll get you home.”

“No. I need you to take me back to New Dallas. Back to the house they kept me in. EenLi is still here, I know it, and that means Lucius is here, too. They might still be inside. We’ve got to save him, Michael. The others, too.”

“We will,” he said, hearing my panic. “We will. I promise you.”

The sound of police sirens penetrated the background. Their blue and red lights soon followed. “Just get here as fast as you can,” I said and left the house the same way I’d come.

Chapter 26

You enlisted the aid of a Targon?” Michael growled.

His familiar voice boomed from the headphones covering my ears and was like a soothing spell from a voodoo priest. I gazed out the experimental hovercraft’s window, drinking in the dark, almost velvet sky and diamond-glistening stars. The vehicle’s engine was small and quiet, emitting only a slight hum as the twenty-three-million-dollar machine soared through the air.

I’d already explained to him how the solar flare worked, and about the necklace. I told him about EenLi’s man having an electro-gun. He had listened in stony silence. I wasn’t sure how I felt that the first thing he’d reacted to was my involvement with the Targon.

“Do you realize,” he continued, speaking into his small black mouthpiece, “that the Targon king, whatever the hell his name is, could right now be warning EenLi about you? Your cover could be completely blown.”

My coverwas blown, but I didn’t point that out. “Saving Lucius matters. Saving the women matters. Nothing else.” And after Devyn’s vow, I didn’t think he’d betray me. That vow had seemed so…official. So life-threatening, just as he’d claimed. “Maybe Devyn has told EenLi I’m here and after him, maybe he hasn’t. Either way, I’m hunting him down.”

Michael expelled a frustrated breath through his teeth. “All right,” he said. “I’ll let you go to the building, but you’re taking Ren and Marko with you. They’ll—”

“No. I go alone.” I was willing to use the Targon. He had powers that could work to my advantage. I wouldn’t be taking humans—especially not Michael’s agents. After seeing EenLi with that electro-gun, I knew there was a very real possibility Michael had a leak. I couldn’t risk EenLi going underground again.

I explained this to Michael, but he shook his head. “EenLi and I worked on that gun together. There isn’t a leak. You’re taking my men, and that’s final.”

Maybe there wasn’t a leak. I still wasn’t willing to risk it. “I guess that means I quit.” At last I turned and faced him. His expression was hard, resolute. I think he had more gray hair than the last time I’d seen him. “Now try and give orders.”

Something cold and hard glistened in his eyes—a glint that had never been directed at me before. “You’re willing to give up your place within the agency, to give up everything you and I have worked toward, just to save Lucius on your own?”

“That’s right,” I answered without hesitation. “It’s safest that way.”

“Well, guess what? The man you so desperately want to save, the government didn’t pay him to be your partner.I paid him to keep you safe. Me personally. And he failed.”

“Excuse me?”

“Hewas to keep you from EenLi and kill him himself.He was to protect you and bring you home unscathed. He did none of those things. He failed.”

My stomach clenched as his words sunk in and brought a memory to the forefront of my mind. Once, when I’d first met Lucius, he’d said something about being paid by Michael. At the time, I’d thought nothing of it, that it had been a slip of the tongue. A mix of shock and anger poured through me.

Lucius should have told me. He’d had plenty of opportunities while we were in bed together. I didn’t like that he’d lied to me. Still, that didn’t change how I felt about him. I’d punish him for lying, of course, but first I’d save his life.

“You want me to be mad at him, and I am. But I’m also mad at you. You paid him, Michael. Do you really trust me so little?” My voice was quiet. Hurt. “Do you really see me as so incapable?”

When he realized the darkest heat of my anger wasn’t directed at Lucius, but at him, he experienced his own wave of shock. “I love you. I’ll do whatever I have to do to keep you safe. Please. Take a few of my men with you.”

That was it. That was all he had to say to me. Sadness beat through me. “I know you love me, Michael, but I see now that you’ll never see me the way I want—need—you to. As a woman of strength and courage—a woman who can successfully complete any task. The way Lucius sees me,” I said, and realized it was true. He’d told me he was proud of me, that I’d done a good job.He’d released me into the lion’s den, so to speak, and trusted me to find my way out.

“My resignation stands,” I said. “I go alone.”

His nostrils flared and his cheeks flushed, obvious signs he was angry at my lack of capitulation. “If you’re no longer an agent, you have no business going after Lucius. I’ll take you home. You need the rest, anyway.”

“Take me to New Dallas,” I snapped, “or I swear to God I’ll join EenLi and become his right-hand woman.” I’d do it, too. I’d do whatever was necessary for Lucius and the women. “When I was a little girl, you used to count to three when I refused to do your bidding. And if you made it to three and I didn’t act, I’d be punished. Not that you’d ever see the punishment through.”