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“But why not?”

“Because he is no more my grandfather than I am my father’s son.”

I stare at Warner for a long time before I realize there’s no point in continuing this conversation. Because I think I understand. He and Delalieu have nothing more than an odd, formal sort of respect for each other. And just because you’re bound by blood does not make you a family.

I would know.

“So do you have to go now?” I whisper, sorry I even brought up the topic of Delalieu.

“Not just yet.” He smiles. Touches my cheek.

We’re both silent a moment.

“What are you thinking?” I ask him.

He leans in, kisses me so softly. Shakes his head.

I touch the tip of my finger to his lips. “There are secrets in here,” I say. “I want them out.”

He tries to bite my finger.

I steal it back.

“Why do you smell so good?” he asks, still smiling as he avoids my question. He leans in again, leaves light kisses along my jawline, under my chin. “It’s making me crazy.”

“I’ve been stealing your soaps,” I tell him.

He raises his eyebrows at me.

“Sorry.” I feel myself blush.

“Don’t feel bad,” he says, serious so suddenly. “You can have anything of mine you want. You can have all of it.”

I’m caught off guard, so touched by the sincerity in his voice. “Really?” I ask. “Because I do love that soap.”

He grins at me then. His eyes are wicked.


He shakes his head. Breaks away. Slips out of bed.


“I’ll be right back,” he says.

I watch him walk into the bathroom. I hear the sound of a faucet, the rush of water filling a tub.

My heart starts racing.

He walks back into the room and I’m clinging to the sheets, already protesting what I think he’s about to do.

He tugs on the blanket. Tilts his head at me. “Let go, please.”


“Why not?”

“What are you going to do?” I ask.



“It’s okay, love.” His eyes are teasing me. “Don’t be embarrassed.”

“It’s too bright in here. Turn the lights off.”

He laughs out loud. Yanks the covers off the bed.

I bite back a scream. “Aaron—”

“You are perfect,” he says. “Every inch of you. Perfect,” he says again. “Don’t hide from me.”

“I take it back,” I say, panicked, clutching a pillow to my body. “I don’t want your soap—I take it back—”

But then he plucks the pillow out of my arms, scoops me up, and carries me away.


My suit is ready.

Warner made sure Alia and Winston would have everything they needed in order to create it, and though I’d seen them tackling the project a little more every day, I never would’ve thought all those different materials could turn into this.

It looks like snakeskin.

The material is both black and gunmetal gray, but it looks almost gold in certain flashes of light. The pattern moves when I do, and it’s dizzying how the threads seem to converge and diverge, looking as though they swim together and come apart.

It fits me in a way that’s both uncomfortable and reassuring; it’s skintight and a little stiff at first, but once I start moving my arms and legs I begin to understand just how much hidden flexibility it holds. It all seems strangely counterintuitive. This suit is even lighter than the one I had before—it hardly feels like I’m wearing anything at all—and yet it feels so much more durable, so much stronger. I feel like I could block a knife in this suit. Like I could be dragged across a mile of pavement in this suit.

I also have new boots.

They’re very similar to my old ones, but these cut off at my calf, not my ankle. They’re flat, springy, and soundless as I walk around in them.

I didn’t ask for any gloves.

I’m flexing my bare hands, walking the length of the room and back, bending my knees and familiarizing myself with the sensation of wearing a new kind of outfit. It serves a different purpose. I’m not trying to hide my skin from the world anymore. I’m only trying to enhance the power I already have.

It feels so good.

“These are for you, too,” Alia says, beaming as she blushes. “I thought you might like a new set.” She holds out exact replicas of the knuckle braces she made for me once before.

The ones I lost. In a battle we lost.

These, more than anything else, represent so much to me. It’s a second chance. An opportunity to do things right. “Thank you,” I tell her, hoping she knows how much I mean it.

I fit the braces over my bare knuckles, flexing my fingers as I do.

I look up. Look around.

Everyone is staring at me. “What do you think?” I ask.

“Your suit looks just like mine.” Kenji frowns. “I’m supposed to be the one with the black suit. Why can’t you have a pink suit? Or a yellow suit—”

“Because we’re not the freaking Power Rangers,” Winston says, rolling his eyes.

“What the hell is a Power Ranger?” Kenji shoots back.

“I think it looks awesome,” James says, grinning big. “You look way cooler than you did before.”

“Yeah, that is seriously badass,” Lily says. “I love it.”

“It’s your best work, mates,” Brendan says to both Winston and Alia. “Really. And the knuckle—things . . . ,” he says, gesturing to my hands. “Those are just . . . they bring the whole thing together, I think. It’s brilliant.”

“You look very sharp, Ms. Ferrars,” Castle says to me. “I think it quite suits you,” he says, “if you’ll forgive the pun.”

I grin.

Warner’s hand is on my back. He leans in, whispers, “How easy is it to take this thing off?” and I force myself not to look at him and the smile he’s surely enjoying at my expense. I hate that he can still make me blush.

My eyes try to find a new focus around the room.


He’s staring at me, his features unexpectedly relaxed. Calm. And for one moment, one very brief moment, I catch a glimpse of the boy I once knew. The one I first fell for.