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Eli nodded. “Regeneration.”

“Show me,” said Serena.

“How?” asked Eli.

Her eyes glittered. “Do you have a weapon on you?”

Eli hesitated a moment, then withdrew a Glock from his coat.

“Give it to me,” said Serena. Eli handed it over, but he had the self-possession to frown as he did it. Serena stepped away from him and took aim.

“Wait,” said Eli. He looked around. “Maybe not out here, in the street? Let’s go inside.”

Serena considered him for a long moment, then smiled, and led him in.




“VICTOR sent you a message,” said Serena, brushing her fingers over Sydney’s stick figure in the drawing. There was a fleck of brownish red on the corner of the paper, and she wondered whose blood it was. “Are you going to send one back?”

She watched as the answer climbed up Eli’s throat. “I don’t know how,” he said under his breath.

“He’s here in the city,” she said.

“So are millions of other people, Serena,” growled Eli.

“And they’re all on your side,” she said. “Or they can be.” She took Eli’s hand, drew him up from the chair. Her hands slid around his back, pulled him close until his forehead rested against hers. “Let me help you.”

She watched his jaw clench. Eli couldn’t resist her, not really, but he was trying. She could see the strain in his eyes, in the space between his brows, as he fought the compulsion. Every time she asked a question. Every time she gave a small order. There was a pause, as if Eli were trying to reprocess the command, twist it until it was his. As if he could take back his will. He couldn’t, but she loved to see him try. It gave her something to hold on to. She took it in, savored his resistance. And then, for his sake, she forced him to bend.

“Eli,” she said, her voice, even and unmovable. “Let me help you.”

“How?” he asked.

Her fingers slipped into his front pocket, and drew out his phone. “Call Detective Stell. Tell him we need a meeting with the Merit PD. All of them.” Victor wasn’t the only one in the city. Sydney was here, too. Find one, and they would find the other—the drawing told them as much. Eli stared down at his phone.

“It’s too public,” he said, fingers punching in the numbers even as he struggled to think. “It makes us too public. I haven’t made it this long by standing in spotlights.”

“It’s the only way to flush them out. Besides, you shouldn’t worry. You’re the hero now, remember?”

He laughed drily, but didn’t say no again.

“Do you want a mask?” she teased, pulling the glasses from her hair and sliding them back onto his face. “Or will these do?”

Eli ran his thumb over his phone, hesitating for one last moment. And then he connected the call.




SERENA Clarke lived alone. Eli could tell from the moment they walked in, when she slipped her shoes off by the door. The place was clean, calm, and unified. It had one cohesive taste, and Serena didn’t look around for anyone before turning on him and raising the gun.

“Hold up,” said Eli, shrugging his coat off. “This is my favorite. I’d rather not have holes in it.” He took a small cylinder from the pocket, and tossed it to her.

“Do you actually know how to use a gun?” he asked.

Serena nodded as she screwed the silencer on. “Years of crime dramas. And I found my father’s Colt once, and taught myself. Cans in the woods, and all that.”

“Are you a decent shot?” Eli unbuttoned his shirt and took that off, too, draping it over the entry table with his coat. Serena gave him an appreciative head-to-toe-and-back look, and then she pulled the trigger. He gasped and staggered backward, red blossoming against his shoulder. The pain was brief and bright, the bullet passing straight through and lodging in the wall behind him. He watched Serena’s eyes widen as the wound instantly began to close, his skin knitting back together. She gave a slow clap, the gun still in her grip. Eli rubbed his shoulder, and met her eyes.

“Happy now?” he grumbled.

“Don’t be so sour,” she said, setting the gun on the table.

“Just because I heal,” he said, reaching past her for his shirt, “doesn’t mean that didn’t hurt.”

Serena caught his arm in one hand and his face in the other, and held his gaze. Eli felt himself falling in. “Want me to kiss it?” she asked, brushing her lips against his. “Will that make it better?”

There it was again, in his chest, that strange flutter, like want, dusty and a decade old but there. Maybe it was a trick. Maybe this feeling—this simple, mortal ache—wasn’t coming from him. But maybe it was. Maybe it could be. He nodded once, just enough to bring their lips together, and then she turned and led him toward to the bedroom.

“Don’t kill me tonight,” she added as she led him into the dark. And he never even thought of it.

* * *

SERENA and Eli were lying together in a tangle of sheets. They faced each other, and she ran her fingers down his cheek, his throat, his chest. Her hand seemed fascinated with the place where she’d shot him, now only smooth skin shining in the near dark of the room. Her hand wandered, then, over his ribs and around his back, and came to rest on the web of old scars there. She drew in a small breath.

“They’re from before,” he said softly. “Nothing leaves marks anymore.” Her lips parted, but before she could ask what happened, he added, “Please. Don’t ask.”

And she didn’t. Instead, she drew her hand back to his unscarred chest and let it rest over his heart.

“Where will you go, after you kill me?”

“I don’t know,” he said honestly. “I’ll have to start again.”

“Will you sleep with that one, too?” she asked, and Eli laughed.

“Seduction is hardly part of my method.”

“Well, then, I feel special.”

“You are.” It came out in a whisper. And it was true. Special. Different. Fascinating. Dangerous. Her hand slid back to the bed, and he thought perhaps she’d fallen asleep. He enjoyed watching her this way, knowing he could kill her, but not wanting to. It made him feel like he was in control again. Or closer to it. Being with Serena felt like a dream, an interlude. It made Eli feel human again. It made him forget.

“There must be an easier way,” she wondered sleepily. “To find them … if you could access the right networks…”

“If only,” he whispered. And then they slept.

* * *

THE sun streamed in but the room was cool. Eli shivered, and sat up. The bed was empty beside him. He found his pants, and spent several minutes searching for his shirt before he remembered he’d left it by the front door, and padded out into the apartment. Serena was gone. His gun was still on the table, and he tucked it into the back of his pants and went into the kitchen to make coffee.

Eli was fascinated by kitchens. By the way people ordered their lives, the cabinets they used, the places they kept food, and the food they choose to keep. He’d spent the last decade studying people, and it was amazing how much could be gleaned from their homes. Their bedrooms, and bathrooms, and closets, of course, but also their kitchens. Serena’s coffee was in the lowest cabinet over the counter, just beside the sink, which meant she drank a lot of it. A small black, two-to-four-cup coffeemaker sat tucked along the tile backsplash, another clue she lived alone. The apartment was far too nice for an underclassman, one of those lottery-only wins, and Eli wondered absently as he pulled out a filter if she’d used her talents to get this, too.