“It’s not that simple.”

“Isn’t it?”

Addie shakes her head. “You see only flaws and faults, weaknesses to be exploited. But humans are messy, Luc. That is the wonder of them. They live and love and make mistakes, and they feel so much. And maybe—maybe I am no longer one of them.”

The words tear through her as she says them, because she knows this much is true. For better or worse.

“But I remember,” she presses on. “I remember what it’s like, and Henry is—”


“He is searching,” she counters. “And he will find his way, if you let him.”

“If I let him,” says Luc, “he would have leapt off a roof.”

“You don’t know that,” she says. “You never will, because you intervened.”

“I am in the business of souls, Adeline, not second chances.”

“And I am begging you to let him go. You will not give me mine, so give me his, instead.”

Luc exhales, and sweeps his hand across the roof. “Choose someone,” he says.


He turns her to face the crowd. “Choose a soul to take his place. Pick a stranger. Damn one of them instead.” His voice is low and smooth and certain. “There is always a cost,” he says gently. “A price must be paid. Henry Strauss bartered his own soul. Would you sell someone else’s to have it back?”

Addie stares out at the crowded roof, the faces she recognizes and the ones she doesn’t. Young and old, together and alone.

Are any innocent?

Are any cruel?

Addie does not know if she can do it—until her hand drifts up. Until she points to a man in the crowd, heart plunging through her stomach as she waits for Luc to let go of her, to step forward, and claim his price.

But Luc doesn’t move.

He only laughs.

“My Adeline,” he says, kissing her hair. “You have changed more than you think.”

She feels dizzy and ill as she twists to face him.

“No more games,” she says.

“All right,” he says, just before he pulls her into the dark.

The roof drops away, and the void surges up around her, swallowing everything but a starless sky, an infinite, violent black. And when it withdraws again an instant later, the world is silent, and the city is gone, and she is alone in the woods.

New Orleans, Louisiana

May 1, 1984


This is how it ends.

With candles burning on the sill, unsteady light casting long shadows across the bed. With the blackest part of night stretching beyond the open window, and the first blush of summer on the air, and Addie in Luc’s arms, the darkness draped around her like a sheet.

And this, she thinks, is home.

This, perhaps, is love.

And that is the worst part. She has finally forgotten something. Only it is the wrong thing. It is the one thing she was supposed to remember. That the man in the bed is not a man. That the life is not a life. That there are games, and battles, but in the end, it is all a kind of war.

A touch like teeth along her jaw.

The darkness whispering against her skin. “My Adeline.”

“I am not yours,” she says, but his mouth only smiles against her throat.

“And yet,” he says, “we are together. We belong together.”

You belong to me.

“Do you love me?” she asks.

His fingers trail along her hips. “You know I do.”

“Then let me go.”

“I am not holding you here.”

“That isn’t what I mean,” she says, rising on one arm. “Set me free.”

He draws back, just enough to meet her gaze. “I cannot break the deal.” His head falls, black curls brushing her cheek. “But perhaps,” he whispers against her collar, “I could bend it.”

Addie’s heart thuds inside her chest.

“Perhaps I could change the terms.”

She holds her breath as Luc’s words play along her skin.

“I can make it better,” he murmurs. “All you have to do is surrender.”

The word is a cold shock.

A curtain falling on a play: the lovely sets, the stagings, the trained actors all vanish behind the darkened cloth.


An order whispered in the dark.

A warning given to a broken man.

A demand made over and over and over for years—until it stopped. How long ago did he stop asking? But of course, she knows—it was when his method changed, when his temper toward her softened.

And she is a fool. She is a fool for thinking it meant peace instead of war.


“What is it?” he asks, feigning confusion, until she throws the word back in his face.

“Surrender?” she snarls.

“It is just a word,” he says. But he taught her the power of a word. A word is everything, and his word is a serpent, a coiled trick, a curse.

“It is the nature of things,” he says.

“In order to change the deal,” he says.

But Addie pulls back, pulls away, pulls free. “And I am meant to trust you? To give in, and believe that you will give me back?”

So many years, so many different ways of asking the same thing.

Do you yield?

“You must think me an idiot, Luc.” Her face burns with anger. “I’m amazed you had the patience. But then, you’ve always been fond of the chase.”

His green eyes narrow in the dark. “Adeline.”

“Don’t you dare say my name.” She is on her feet now, singing with rage. “I knew you were a monster, Luc. I saw it often enough. And yet, I still thought—somehow I thought—after all this time—but of course, it wasn’t love, was it? It wasn’t even kindness. It was just another game.”

There is an instant when she thinks she might be wrong.

A fraction of a moment when Luc looks wounded and confused, and she wonders if he meant only what he said, if, if—

But then, it is over.

The hurt falls from his face and it passes into shadow, the effect as smooth as a cloud across the sun. A grim smile plays across his lips.

“And what a tiresome game it’s been.”

She knows she drew it out, but the truth still crashes through her.

If she was cracked before, now she is breaking.

“You cannot fault me for trying a different hand.”

“I fault you for everything.”

Luc rises, the darkness drawing into silk around him. “I have given you everything.”

“None of it was real!”

She will not cry.

She will not give him the satisfaction of seeing her suffer.

She will not give him anything, ever again.

This is how the fight begins.

Or rather, this is how it ends.

Most fights, after all, are not the work of an instant. They build over days, or weeks, each side gathering their kindling, stoking their flames.

But this is a fight forged over centuries.

As old and inevitable as the turning of the world, the passing of an era, the collision of a girl and the dark.

She should have known it would happen.

Perhaps she did.