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As I’m standing there, listening, I feel David’s presence slide into the world next to me, and a complex web of energy clicks together. Fulfilling me, and finishing me.

He says, “I don’t want it to be this way. Jonathan, please, don’t let it be this way.”

“I don’t have a choice,” I tell him, and turn to look at him. She’s done him damage, his human girl. Not really human anymore, although I guess she doesn’t know that. David’s barely Djinn anymore, sliding on that fragile slope back into the dark.

“You have to stop this,” he says. He’s talking about the storm, of course. But he doesn’t really know what he’s talking about.

I shrug. “I already stopped it once. Look how that turned out.” In the distance, I can feel Ashan and the others waiting, hearing the song of the storm, responding to its call. They’re coming for me, and together they’re strong enough to take me. I know Rahel is coming, and Alice, and dozens more, and if they get here in time it’ll be a pitched battle and the world will bleed. Not be destroyed, because the Earth is tougher than that, older, harder. But everything on it is, in one way or another, fragile.

Life is fragile.

David’s eyes are flickering copper, then black, then copper, then black. He is trying desperately to hang on.

“Jonathan, don’t do this. You don’t have to do this.”

“I do,” I say, “because I love you, brother.”

And I turn and walk into the storm.

I feel him change, behind me, and even over the burning wail of the storm I hear his scream of mortal agony as he changes, as he loses control of who and what he is.

This is how it has to be, I think, just before the Ifrit sinks its talons into my back.

And it hurts just about as much as I expected it to.

Chapter Nine

Well, both Eamon and Detective Rodriguez had point-blank warned me that I’d better watch my back. Of course, Eamon had then proceeded to stick a knife in, but that was just his way. At least he’d warned me first.

The cold metal of the gun barrel under my chin made a pretty dramatic statement as to my new friend’s intentions. He wasn’t the subtle, sinister type like Eamon; he was more like me. Just state your business and get it done.

I respected that.

“I don’t have Quinn’s stash,” I said flatly. No point in doing the I-don’t-know-what-you’re-talking-about tango. “It blew up with his truck out in the desert, and I’ve told this story about five times in the past week so excuse me if I don’t go over it again except to say, sorry, you’re out of luck.”

I really was out of adrenaline. My pulse stayed steady, even when he jammed the gun harder into the soft skin under my throat. It made me want to gag. I opened my eyes and looked at him, and close up, he made Quinn look warm and puppy-friendly. Stone-cold killer, this guy. I could feel the lost lives crowding around him like smoke.

“Then I don’t need you,” he said, “and you need to be taught a lesson, bitch.”

“You think you have time?” I shot back. “We’re in a little bit of trouble here, in case you haven’t noticed. Unless you came in a Sherman tank, I think you may have a little trouble making your escape after—”

Windows blew at the far end of the lobby, and wind screamed in, flapping Delgado’s coat in ways Burberry never intended. One of his musclemen rapped something out fast in Spanish, too fast for me to catch. I wanted to turn my head and see what was happening to Sarah, because she was quiet again, and I was worried.

“My friend reminds me that we have a plane to catch in Miami,” Delgado said.

“And the roads are very bad. So I don’t have time for you or your bullshit. Do you have my stuff? Yes or no.”

I kept holding the stare. “No.”

“You have anything I might be interested in?”


“Too bad.” He shrugged and put the gun back in his pocket. “Take them outside. You know what to do.”

His guys didn’t hesitate. My feet scrabbled for purchase on the floor, but they just lifted me up by the elbows as he stepped away, and carried me like a paper doll toward the big, thick glass doors. There was some discussion about how to open them, given the wind pressure. They finally decided on the one on the right. When they opened it, the hurricane blast caught it, slammed it back, and shattered it into safety-glass fragments against the stone wall. The metal backstop had been ripped totally out of the concrete.

“Wait!” I screamed. It didn’t matter, and in the next second the two men carrying me had me outside and whatever noise I made was drowned out by the piercing, constant shriek of the storm as it crept ashore.

We weren’t anywhere near the worst of the storm yet, and the wreckage was awesome. The two musclemen were having a time of it, shuffling along hunched against the wind; they got to one of two giant palm trees that were bending and thrashing like rubber toys and threw me up against the rough trunk, facing out.

I saw Sarah out of the corner of my watering eye, joining me. Our fingers instantly locked together.

Muscleman number one grabbed a roll of duct tape out of his jacket pocket and started wrapping it around me, Sarah, the tree trunk. Tough, sticky tape binding my hands together, then looping over my knees, my hips, my breasts, my shoulders, my neck.

Same with Sarah. We were duct-taped to the tree, facing the storm. The rain hit like needles, agonizing and unstoppable. I had no leverage, and I knew Sarah couldn’t do anything, groggy as she was.

Muscleman grinned at us, wrinkling his tattoos, and he and his cronies shuffled off to join Big Boss Delgado inside his huge black Hummer. Which, if you didn’t have a Sherman tank, was probably the best idea for a storm like this.

Delgado didn’t even turn to look at us as they drove away. He was already on his cell phone, punching numbers. We were yesterday’s to-do list.

I couldn’t get my breath. The wind was pummeling us hard, in bruising gusts that were going to turn bone-breaking before long. My skin already felt as if it were being burned off with a soldering iron from the constant impact of the rain—water torture in fast-forward.

I screamed in rage and tried to draw power. I got a weak stir of response, but nothing that could counter the awesome power of this storm, nothing that could break duct tape. It was resistant to water. Over time, it might weaken enough for me to break free, but they’d done a damn good job of making sure I didn’t have any stress points to work on.

I heard more windows blow out over the scream of the wind. I tasted salt and blood, gasped for breath, and closed my eyes against the relentless, pounding rain.

Sarah was screaming. I could hear her in the brief lulls before the next waves of gusts. Delgado hadn’t wasted a bullet on us, but he’d executed us in fine style. If we were lucky, we’d pass out from the pain before debris started hitting us and slicing us apart, one piece at a time—or blown sand began to blast our skin off, layer by layer. We might suffocate from the pressure of the wind on our chests, since we couldn’t move to relieve it.

But we were already dead. We were just going to take a long time getting to the end of it.

I summoned up enough breath to scream, “David!”

Because he’d come. He’d said he’d always come, and I needed him, God, I needed him right now more than I ever had…

He didn’t come. Nobody came.

I felt something sharp slice my cheek—blown metal, maybe, or maybe only a palm frond—and saw blood whip red in a stream into the wind.

I wasn’t ready to die. I didn’t want to die like this. Not like this. I’d faced it so many times already, and it was all bad, but this

Please, I prayed.

A figure appeared out of the blur of the storm, leaning into the wind, grabbing hold of the trembling metal railing on the building ramp for stability, and when he turned his head toward me I saw that it was Eamon. Wind-bruised, streaming with rain. All his polish was gone, and what was left was frighteningly primal.