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“Will if I can find him.”

Eli’s brow furrowed. “What do you mean?”

“I just got back from the scene at the bank with your boy Lynch, and there’s no sign of Dane. Must have stepped out for a smoke.”

“Must have,” echoed Eli. “Keep me posted.” He hung up and hesitated a moment, turning the phone over and over in his hand.

“What’s wrong?” asked Serena.

Eli didn’t answer. He was able to resist answering, but only because he didn’t know. Maybe nothing was wrong. Maybe the cop had gone on break, or cut out early. Or maybe … his senses tingled the way they did when Stell’s words tipped up. The way they did when he knew he was following Serena’s will instead of his own. The way they did when something was off. He didn’t question the feeling. He trusted it as much as the quiet that followed his kills.

Which is why Eli dialed Officer Dane’s number.

It rang.

And rang.

And rang.

* * *

VICTOR paced the gutted room of the half-built high-rise and pondered the problem of Serena Clarke who, it seemed, was quite an influential person. No wonder Eli was keeping her around. Victor knew that he would have to kill her very, very quickly. He looked around the space and considered its potential and his options, but his attention drifted invariably back down to Dane’s body, which lay sprawled in the middle of the floor on its plastic sheeting. Victor decided to do what he could to minimize the signs of torture, for Sydney’s sake.

He knelt beside the corpse and began to straighten it up, align the limbs, do what he could to give the body a more natural appearance. He noticed a silver wedding band on Dane’s finger—he slid it off, and into Dane’s pocket—then placed the man’s arms at his sides. There was nothing he could do to make the body look less dead; that would fall to Sydney.

Several minutes later when Mitch returned, holding aside a curtain of plastic and showing Sydney in, Victor was quite proud of the job he’d done. Dane practically looked peaceful (aside from the shredded uniform and the blood). But when Sydney’s eyes snagged on the body, she stopped and let out a small sound.

“That’s bad, isn’t it?” she asked, pointing to the badge on the corpse’s chest. “Killing a cop is bad.”

“Only if it’s a good cop,” explained Victor. “And he wasn’t one. This cop was helping Eli track down EOs. If Serena hadn’t turned you over, this man would have.” So long as he was under Serena’s spell, he thought, but didn’t say it.

“Is that why you killed him?” asked Sydney quietly.

Victor frowned. “It doesn’t matter why I did it. What matters is that you bring him back.”

Sydney blinked. “Why would I do that?”

“Because it’s important,” he said, shifting his weight from foot to foot, “and I promise to kill him again right after. I just need to see something.”

Sydney frowned. “I don’t want to bring him back.”

“I don’t care,” snapped Victor suddenly, the air humming to life around them. Mitch shot forward, putting his hulking form in front of Sydney, and Victor caught himself before he lost control. All three seemed surprised by the outburst, and guilt—or at least a pale version of it—tightened in Victor’s chest as he considered the other two, the loyal guard and the impossible girl. He couldn’t afford to lose them—their help, he corrected himself, their cooperation—certainly not today, so he drew the energy back into himself, wincing as he grounded it.

“I’m sorry,” he said, letting out a low breath. Mitch took a small step to the side, but didn’t abandon Sydney.

“Too far, Vic,” he growled in a rare display of boldness.

“I know,” said Victor, rolling his shoulders. Even with the energy grounded, the desire to hurt someone still coiled inside him, but he willed it to stay contained, just a little longer, just until he could find Eli. “I’m sorry,” he said again, turning his attention to the small, blond girl still half-hidden behind Mitch. “I know you don’t want to do this, Sydney. But I need your help if I’m going to stop Eli. I’m trying to protect you, and Mitch. And myself. I’m trying to protect all of us, but I can’t do it alone. We have to work together. So will you do this for me?” He held his gun up for her to see. “I won’t let the cop hurt you.”

She hesitated, but finally crouched beside the body, careful to avoid the blood.

“Does he deserve a second chance?” she asked softly.

“Don’t think of it that way,” said Victor. “He only gets a moment. Just long enough to answer a question.”

Sydney took a breath and pressed her fingertips to the clean spots on the officer’s shirt. An instant later Dane gasped and sat up, and Sydney scrambled back to Mitch’s side, gripping his arm.

Victor looked down at Officer Dane.

“Tell me again about Ever,” he said.

The officer met his eyes. “Eli Ever is a hero.”

“Well, that’s discouraging,” huffed Victor. He fired three more shots into the officer’s chest. Sydney turned and buried her face in Mitch’s shirt as Dane thudded back against the plastic-covered concrete, as dead as before.

“But now we know,” said Victor, toeing the body with his shoe. Mitch looked at him over Sydney’s pale hair, his face caught for the second time in as many minutes between horror and anger.

“What the fuck was that about, Vale?”

“Serena Clarke’s power,” said Victor. “She tells people what to do.” He slid his gun back into his belt. “What to say, what to think.” He gestured to the body. “And even death doesn’t seem to sever the connection.” Well, the officer’s death, amended Victor silently. “We’re done here.”

Sydney stood very still. She’d let go of Mitch and now had her arms wrapped around her ribs, as if for warmth. Victor came over to her, but when he reached out to touch her shoulder, she cringed away. He sank to one knee in front of her so that he had to look up a fraction to meet her eyes.

“Your sister and Eli, they think they’re a team. But they’re nothing compared to us. Now come on,” he said, straightening. “You look cold. I’ll buy you a hot chocolate.”

Her icy blue eyes found his, and she looked as though she had something to say, but she didn’t get the chance, because that’s when Victor heard the phone ring. It wasn’t his phone, and he could tell by the look on Mitch’s face, it wasn’t his, either. And Sydney must have left hers back at the hotel because she didn’t even reach for her pocket. Patting down the officer, Mitch found the device and drew it out.

“Leave it,” said Victor.

“I think you want to take this one,” said Mitch, tossing him the cell. In the place of the caller’s name, there was only one word on the screen.


Victor flashed a sharp, dark smile, cracked his neck, and answered the call.

“Dane, where are you?” snapped the person on the other end. Everything in Victor tensed at the sound, but he didn’t answer. He hadn’t heard that voice in ten years, but it didn’t matter because the voice, like everything else about Eli Ever, hadn’t changed at all.