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“David,” I said, “come out.”

That was all it took.

A black blur that Eamon couldn’t see, and suddenly Valentine was falling, screaming, ripping at the black shadow that formed over and around him. It was a nightmare to watch. David had changed into something more horrible than I could stand to see, and something that even my eyes wouldn’t properly focus… I caught hints of sharp edges and teeth and claws, of insectile thrashing limbs. I stumbled off to the side, well away from them, until my hip banged painfully into Eamon’s desk.

Eamon was thrown. “Valentine! Kill her!”

Valentine wasn’t in any shape to obey commands. He was down flat on his face, screaming, and the Ifrit’s claws were ripping him apart into mist.

Killing him.

Devouring him.

Eamon hadn’t expected this, and for a long moment he was frozen, staring at his Djinn dying on the floor, bottle still held useless in his hand.

I called lightning and zapped him. Not fatally, because I didn’t have it in me, but he screamed and jerked and slid bonelessly off the arm of the couch into a twisted pile on the carpet.

The bottle rolled free. The gun bounced under the couch.

The Ifrit finished its meal and began its transformation, taking on weight and shape and human form.

A trembling, naked human form.

David fell to his hands and knees, gagging, gasping, and collapsed on his side, his back to me. I stared at the beautiful long slide of his back and wanted so badly to run to him and stroke his hair, cover him in kisses, and hold him close and swear that I’d never let this happen again, never…

He turned his head and looked at me, and what was in his eyes burned me to ash.

Nobody, human or Djinn, should live with that kind of guilt and horror. That much longing.

“Let me go,” he whispered. “I love you, but please, you have to let me go.”

I knew he was right. And it was the only time possible I had left to do it.

I hardly felt the bottle shatter as I slammed it against the desktop. Even the slashes in my hand hardly registered. That kind of pain was nothing, it was insignificant against the bonfire burning in my soul.

I felt him leave me, a sudden cutting of the cord, an irrevocable loss that left me empty inside.

He stood up, clothing himself as he moved. Faded, loose khaki pants. A well-worn blue shirt. The olive drab coat swirling around him, brushing the tops of his boots.

He was warmth and fire and everything I had ever wanted in my life.

He fitted his large, square hands around my shoulders, slid them silently up to my face, and pulled me into a kiss. His breath shuddered into my mouth, and I felt his whole body trembling.

“I knew it had to be this way,” he whispered. “I’m so sorry, Jo. I’m so—I can’t stay in this form for long. I have to go.”

“Go,” I said. “I’ll be fine.”

One last kiss, this one fierce and devouring, and in the middle of it he turned to mist and faded away.

I cried out and lurched forward, reaching with a bloody hand for nothing.

At the other end of the room, a window blew out in a silver spray of glass, and buried shrapnel in the wall above the couch.

I gasped and lunged forward, nearly tripping over Eamon, who was moving weakly, and grabbed Sarah to pull her upright. She couldn’t walk, but she mumbled, something about Eamon; I slung her arm across my shoulder and half walked, half dragged her to the door.

As we reached the safety of the hall, another window let loose with the sound of a bomb exploding. Oh God. The whole building was shaking.

I dragged Sarah to the stairwell and leaned her against the wall, then ran back to get Eamon. I just couldn’t leave him there, helpless, to get shredded, no matter what he’d done. He might deserve to die, but this would be a kind of death I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

I pelted in and was blinded for a second by a blaze of lightning that hit close enough to make the hair on my arms tremble. Eamon was still slumped on the floor, bleeding already from a dozen deep cuts; I grabbed him under the arms and pulled, groaning with the strain in my back, across wet carpet and wedges of glittering glass. He twisted around, trying to help or fight; I screamed at him to stop and kept hauling.

Somehow, I wasn’t really sure how, I got him into the stairwell and rolled him onto his bleeding back on the concrete. Sarah was on the steps, clinging to the railing, looking pale and vague-eyed and in danger of tumbling; I left Eamon there and jumped over him to catch her when she stumbled. “You’re on your own!”

I yelled back at him as he reached slowly for the handrail to pull himself up to a sitting position.

I put my arm around Sarah’s waist to guide her down the steps.

It was a long, long, long way to the bottom. One torturous step at a time.

Sarah’s bare feet were scratched and bleeding by the time we made it, and she was more or less coherent.

Coherent enough to turn in my arms and look back up the stairs and mumble, “But Eamon…”

“Eamon can go to hell,” I said grimly. “Come on. We need to get out of here.”

She didn’t want to, but I wasn’t going to take any crap from Sarah, not now. And not over her abusive psycho boyfriend.

We banged through the door to the stairs into the lobby…

… and into a group of men standing there looking at the touch screen, just the way I’d done earlier. Rescue! I thought in relief, just for a second, and then I realized that these guys weren’t exactly dressed like they were public servants on patrol. Three of them looked tough as hell—tattooed, greasy, muscled up past any sensible point of no return.

The fourth one had on a Burberry trench coat that had gone from taupe to chocolate from the force of the rain, and under that a half-soaked hand-tailored suit with a silk tie. I felt sorry for the shoes, which surely looked Italian and not hurricane-safe. He had an expensive haircut even the rain couldn’t dampen, a dark mustache, and a cruel twist to his mouth.

He took one look at me, nodded to his Muscle Squad, and they rushed me. Sarah went flying. One of them knotted a big, tattooed hand in her hair and dragged her upright; she wasn’t medicated enough not to scream. I didn’t fight. I knew I didn’t have much of a chance, especially when the Suit pulled out a gun that looked remarkably similar to the one Eamon had been using upstairs. Apparently it was a model much favored by sleazebags.

I wasn’t really scared anymore. The kind of day I’d had, adrenaline starts running low after a while. I just stared at him, dumbfounded, and he stared back with lightless dark eyes.

“You’re the one,” he said. “You’re the one who killed Quinn. Drake said you’d be coming. Nice to know I don’t have to cut his tongue out for lying to me.”

Eamon had sold me out. I don’t know why that didn’t surprise me.

He walked up to me and shoved the gun under my chin. “I am Eladio Delgado, and you have something I want.”

I shut my eyes and thought, Here we go again.


I’m still sitting on the beach when the storm makes landfall. It closes around me like a black fist, trying to crush me as it’s crushing the things born of man all around me—boats shattered into splinters, buildings ripped from foundations, metal twisted and bones crushed.

It can’t touch me.

I stand up and walk into the storm surge; it foams around my feet, then my knees, then my thighs… not that I have any of those things, really, they’re just markers, symbols of what I am. Or was.

I stand in the storm and I listen to it, because it’s talking. Not talking in mathematics and physics, the way the Wardens measure things, but in symbols and poetry and the music of a broken heart. It’s the mourning of the Earth, this storm. It’s the scream of a wounded creature that can’t heal.

It’s part of me.