“Because you gave me a fake ID that enabled me to be a complete idiot and come here in the first place?”

He snorted. “Uh, no.”

“Because you think Zoe would’ve smacked me upside the head if I asked her?” When he nodded, I smiled. “Then you’re right. I knew you’d go with me and you wouldn’t smack me.”

At least I had a plan. Not the greatest, but someone had to be there during the day. Well, unless everyone got arrested, but hopefully someone was there, and I was prepared to beg and plead to be allowed to check out the room I’d dropped my phone in.

“You think anyone is going to answer?” he asked.

I exhaled loudly, let go of the steering wheel, and turned off the car. I hadn’t told him about the raid last night, which probably made me a bad person. “I don’t even know if anyone is in there.” Truth was, after the raid, Luc and everyone could’ve cleared out. “You sure you want to come in?”

He slowly turned his head toward me. “I know what kind of place this is, so if I stay behind in this car, I’m pretty sure I’m violating some kind of friend code.”

“Probably,” I agreed, and reached over, tweaking the bill of his cap.

He opened the passenger door. “What’s the worst that could happen?”

I lifted my brows. There was, like, a metric crap ton of things that could happen, but I didn’t point that out. I grabbed my purse off the backseat and then climbed out of the car to join James. Once there was a break in traffic, we hurried across the street, narrowly avoiding getting run over by a speeding taxi that seemed to come out of nowhere.

I hopped up on the curb and stepped around a man dropping coins into a parking meter. Without warning, my heart started thumping heavily against my ribs as I walked under the awning.

A tremor coursed down my arm as I stopped a good foot in front of the doors, the red paint reminding me of fresh blood. Being here felt . . . It felt final somehow, like once I walked through these doors again, there was no going back. I didn’t even fully understand that sensation or where it truly came from. It was overdramatic, because all I was doing was coming back to get my stupid phone, but the feeling of dread was filling my pores and seeping through my skin.

Instinct roared to the surface, forcing me to take a step back, and my shoulder bumped into James’s chest. Something primal inside me demanded I turn around and get the hell out of there.

Tiny hairs all over my body rose. Air hitched in my throat and pressed down on my chest. The tips of my fingers started to tingle.


I was feeling fear.

The dark and cold kind that rose from a deep well. I could taste it in the back of my mouth. Bitter. The last time I’d felt this kind of bone-chilling fear that bordered on panic was . . . It had to have been during the invasion. Those moments were vague and a blur, but it would’ve been that kind of fear.

Mr. Mercier, high school counselor extraordinaire, would say what I was feeling right now was just a symptom of living through the invasion. Post-traumatic stress. That was what I kept telling myself as a shiver curled its way down my spine.

The feeling didn’t go away.

Get away, whispered a voice that sounded like mine. It came from the recesses of my mind, an inherent, elemental part of me that I wasn’t even sure I recognized.

I had no idea why I felt this way or why, with every second, the sensation of going too far increased. My heart rate skyrocketed into cardiac arrest territory. I opened my mouth, but I couldn’t get my tongue to work.

James reached around me for the handle, but the door swung open before he could even touch the tarnished metal, and I knew right then.

It was too late.


The bouncer named Clyde blocked the entryway, one muscular arm bracing the door open, the other lifted to the top of the door, showing off a bicep that was about the size of a tree trunk. A gray shirt stretched across his broad chest and shoulders. Was that unicorn on his shirt spewing . . . rainbows out of its mouth?


That was definitely a unicorn shooting rainbows out of its mouth.

The razor-edge panic and biting fear receded as quickly as it had swept over me. Gone so fast, it was like it had been a figment of my imagination.

“Whoa,” James murmured, dropping his hand to his side.

Maybe I should’ve warned him about Clyde.

Sunlight glinted off the numerous piercings in Clyde’s face as I snapped out of whatever stupor I was in. “I don’t know if you remember—”

“I remember you,” he said, and I was sure that wasn’t a good thing. He fixed his gaze on James. “But I don’t remember you.”

James was apparently struck silent.

“We’re not here to, um, go clubbing or whatever,” I tried again. “I was here last night.” I winced. “You already know that. I lost my phone.”

Clyde turned that huge bald head toward me. “And you came here because . . . ?”

I thought it was pretty obvious, but I went ahead and explained. “I lost my phone when I was with . . . Luc.”

“Luc?” murmured James.

I’d also left out the part about Luc when I’d talked to James.

Clyde didn’t blink. Not once. “So you’re here to see Luc?”

“Not necessarily.” I really didn’t want to see him. “We were in a room last night, and I just need to check out that room for my phone.”

“You were in a room with some dude named Luc?” James repeated. Then he said under his breath with a grin, “You hussy.”

I ignored him.

One pierced brow rose. “Are you here to see Luc or not?”

Every muscle in my body tensed. For some reason, I didn’t want to say that I was, but if that was the only way I was going to be able to get into the club, I would. I gritted out, “Yes.”

Saying nothing, Clyde stepped back as he held the door open. Relief smacked into me. He was letting us in. I exchanged a quick look with James as a horn blew from a car passing by. I stepped forward. James didn’t. I grabbed his arm and pulled him through, squeezing past Clyde. The door swung close behind us, shutting out the sunlight and sealing us inside. I let go of James’s arm.

I ignored the bubbling nervousness as Clyde shuffled around us in the small space. He opened the door to the club. I hesitated for a moment and then followed him. What I saw was nothing like the last time. The lights over the dance floor were on, pressing the shadows back to the bar and the alcoves. Most of the chairs were off the floor, placed upside down on the round tables. Only a few tables remained set. There were two people at the bar, but they stood half in the shadows, and I couldn’t make out who they were.

Gone was the scent of overpowering perfume and bitter liquor. The place smelled like someone had recently scrubbed down every surface with a lemony disinfectant.

There were no signs of the raid. All the bottles behind the bar had been replaced. It was as if it hadn’t happened.

“I can just go look in the room. I remember—”

“Sit.” Clyde gestured at one of the tables that had the chairs down, and kept walking, disappearing past the bar and into a narrow hall to the right, one I hadn’t been down before.

James dropped onto a stool. “That is the biggest dude I’ve ever seen in real life.”

“Right?” Too nervous to sit, I stood behind the stool.

Dragging the bill of his cap around so it was on backward, he then lowered his hand to the smooth surface of the table as he looked around the club. “Interesting place.”

I eyed the hall Clyde had gone down. Was he going to find my phone or, God forbid, find Luc? My stomach knotted. I really didn’t want to see Luc again.

“So, you told me you came here last night with Heidi,” James said, cocking his head to the side. “But you didn’t tell me about being in some random room with some random guy.”

My cheeks heated. “It’s not like that. At all. It’s, well, it’s a long story.”

“We have time—wait. Hold that thought.” James leaned in, squinting as he stared across the club. “Don’t we go to school with him?”