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He lunged and caught hold of the duct tape around my waist, holding to it with those long, bloodied fingers.

For a frozen second, I couldn’t say anything at all. He looked insane. Insane and oddly turned on.

“Ask me,” he shouted. Even six inches away, the wind nearly ripped his words into nonsense. He tugged on the duct tape binding me. “Ask me!”

“Please,” I screamed. “Please—”

He grinned, showing teeth, and reached into his pocket. Came up with a switchblade knife that he flicked open with a practiced twist of his hand. The blade was at least six inches long, and gleamed wetly in the dim light.

“Please what?” he asked, and put the knife to exposed skin just under the notch of my collarbone. “Articulate, my love. Speak up.”

“Please save my sister!”

He froze, eyes blinking, and slowly took the knife away.

“Save my sister, you bastard. You owe me that.”

Eamon Drake, bastard at large, stepped back, sliced through the duct tape, and dragged Sarah away from the tree. He tugged her flapping bathrobe back into place, yanked the knot tight, and hugged her in both arms to protect her from the wind.

And in that moment I knew, absolutely, that she wasn’t just a means to an end to him. And maybe never had been.

He was still watching me, with a curious kind of light in his eyes.

“Beg,” he shouted. I could barely catch the tattered rag of sound. A blast of wind nearly toppled him over and he braced himself with his knife hand against the tree, over my head. Leaning close.

“Fuck off!” I screamed back.

He grinned and leaned back, and drove the knife straight at me.

I jerked my head to one side, gasping, and felt the duct tape pull as he cut it barely a quarter inch from my neck. I felt the cold kiss of the knife drag down and bury itself shallowly in the skin of my shoulder.

He wasn’t as careful in cutting the others. Quick, careless slashes. I felt the pinsparks of pain.

“You can beg me later, love,” he said, and picked Sarah up with a sudden heave, dropping the knife to the ground. The wind skittered it away. He threw my sister’s limp weight over his shoulder and staggered away toward the parking garage.

I fell forward, or tried to, but the storm held me up, anchoring me against the tree as firmly as the duct tape had. I managed to strip the remains of the restraints off, and staggered sideways, rubbing skin from my back against the harsh triangular scales of the tree, and when I turned the wind slammed me violently off balance, back toward the building.

Cherise was still inside.

I don’t know how I made it back to the lobby—clawing the whole way, bleeding, nearly blind—and fell face-first on the glass-scattered, rain-slick marble.

Shock was setting in. I felt distant and dreamy, and nothing seemed to matter much just now. Sarah was with Eamon, and that was bad, but at least she wasn’t getting her skin abraded off out in the hurricane. I’ll fix it, I promised myself. I’ll fix everything, soon.

David hadn’t come to save me. I tried not to think about that.

When I staggered to the closet and threw the door open, Cherise was huddled under the cot, wrapped in a blanket. All china-pale skin and huge, blue eyes.

“I stayed,” she said in a small voice.

“Good job. And we’re going,” I said, and started to laugh. It wasn’t a good kind of laugh. I choked it off and took her hand.

The less I say about making it from the building to the parking garage, the better. The tunnel was a shattered-open concrete bridge, a deathtrap only a complete idiot would attempt; we somehow made it by crawling across the open ground and made it into the relative shelter of the garage.

Stairs were a misery. I made it somehow, with Cherise tugging me this time.

I think I blacked out. When I came around again, Cherise was driving the Mustang out of the garage, chanting something under her breath that sounded like please please please, and the wind hit the car and shuddered it five feet to the left, violently, and I knew we weren’t going to make it.

Something loomed out of the darkness to our right. I saw it at the same time as Cherise, and we both screamed.

Apparently Eladio Delgado’s Hummer had caught a bad gust, and once it was on its side, it was like a giant sail. It was being shoved along at highway speeds, and it was heading straight for us.

It hit a broken chunk of concrete and flew into the air, flipping uncontrollably. I covered my head, uselessly, and saw Cherise do the same…

The world stopped.


I felt Jonathan die, and it was a terrible thing, like every mouth in the world opening to scream. The fabric of things unraveled, and time twisted on its axis, and the sky went black and red and gold and green and a color that should only exist on the aetheric, but the aetheric was burning, everything was burning at levels that could never catch fire because this shouldn’t happen…

And the storm died with him.

Nothing just stops, of course; the wind kept blowing and the waves kept surging ahead of it, but I felt the sentient black anguish of that hurricane extinguish itself in a blaze of heart-destroying sorrow, and time skipped two beats for a period of mourning, and then…

… then Eladio Delgado’s Hummer slammed to the ground two feet to the left of the Mustang, rolled, and exploded into flame so hot that I felt it on the passenger side of the car, through layers of steel and glass.

Cherise, screaming, hit the gas and got us the hell out. We skidded wildly, pushed around by the wind, but made it to the road.

I looked back and saw the windowless, shattered outline of the TestosteroneTowers shivering and swaying in the wind. Not quite breaking, but almost.

Over the ocean, the black clouds slowed down their manic swirl, and while the rain kept lashing, the winds slowly decreased in speed.

Cherise drove too fast, skidding around debris and wrecks, trembling like a leaf. I didn’t stop her. I was listening to the silence on the aetheric.

I’d never felt anything like this before, this… absence.

“Stop,” I said suddenly. Cherise didn’t seem to hear me. I lunged and grabbed for the steering wheel; she hit the brakes and fought me, but we somehow got the Mustang safely pulled over to the side of the road. Gale-force winds continued to shudder the car. “Stay here,” I said, and got out.

My legs almost folded, but I found that inner core of strength David had always told me I had, and crossed the slick, hurricane-buckled surface of the road to what had once been the beach. More ocean than sand, now. Blue-white foam. Not really water, not really air; you could drown in it but never sink.

I’d lost my shoes somewhere. My feet sank deep into wet sand, and I kept walking, unsteady, wandering left and then right.

I saw the Djinn standing in the surf. Ashan, looking gray as death. Inhuman.

Alice in her wet pinafore, with long golden hair whipped straight by the wind.

Rahel, on her knees in the foam, staring out to sea.

Dozens of them.

Then hundreds, forming in whispers of mist and fog and ocean, all staring out to sea.

I felt the heat move through me, and went to my knees, too. Moaned and pitched forward on my hands, panting against the pressure.

Something was talking. Something huge. I couldn’t understand it, only feel it, and humans weren’t made to contain this kind of emotion. I wanted to scream, and laugh, and die. In a blinding rush I knew; I knew what it was all about, I knew love in its most intense, furious, burning form, and it was like nothing I had ever felt, even as a Djinn.

All around me, the Djinn were lifting up their heads, staring at the sky. Eyes closed. Drinking in the flood of light and love.