Excerpts


Excerpts from The Endangered (Book 1):

Meeting Striden:
My bike’s tires screech against the damp wooden planks of the pier. Crina and Trent are carrying a battered Quinn from the boat. She has one arm around each of their necks and is drifting in and out of consciousness. She seems unable to put weight on her left leg. I dismount and run up to meet them.
“What happened?”
Quinn groans.
“Explosion. Fuel tank on the cargo ship caught a stray bullet.” Trent glances back at the ship. “I think it’s gonna blow.”
Black smoke billows from all angles. His assessment seems accurate.
“Where’s Catch?”
“He was on the ship with me, but I lost him. Thought he returned to the warehouse,” Crina explains.
There was no one in the warehouse. I take off down the pier and jump onto the deck of the ship. The heat instantly flushes my skin, smoke searing my eyes.
“Catch!” I run in the first opening I can find. Flames greet me in bursts from the floorboards. I stumble, squint and fight my way inside, calling Catch’s name. The smoke is blinding, but it is hard to miss the “Hazardous Materials” and “Flammable” warning labels on the rows of containers lining the ship. Not needing to breathe comes in handy for situations like this.
I trip over something solid. A body. A naked, badly burned body that used to belong to a werewolf.
“Catch!” I try again.
Flames illuminate the far end of the room and I spot a silhouette beside an overturned container. I run over and discover him trapped beneath a steal tank and some fallen beams. His right arm is crushed underneath the tank and a beam has impaled his left just below the shoulder.
I fall to his side and shake him awake; he blinks up at me through the haze and smiles faintly.
“Hey doll. They finally managed to crucify me after all.”
I heave my body against the tank. Its metal surface burns my skin, but it gives and rolls slowly off Catch’s arm. It is burned black and remains immobile.
The beam proves more of a challenge. Resolute in its position, it refuses to budge even an inch. Then an explosion above causes the roof to shift and cracks the beam just enough that I can leverage my shoulder under it and pry it loose. Catch crawls to his feet.
“Thanks luv, I owe you one. Now how do we get out of here?”
Good question.
The boat rumbles, another explosion is imminent. We stumble to a doorway and kick our way through. Catch’s arms are limp at his side and he has extensive burns over most of his body, but he manages a shaky walk. I try to help, but his arms hurt to the touch.
We emerge onto the deck. No sign of the pier. Wrong side of the ship.
“Shit. We gotta go around.”
“Bloody hell.”
The rumbling increases. An explosion rings out from the bowels of the ship. Debris flies and we are sent airborne. Water strikes my body and pulls me downward. This city girl never learned how to swim.
***
When light returns, I feel a hard surface against my body. I blink the light into focus and puke up the water I’d swallowed. I am back on the dock by the warehouse. The others stand around me. Catch kneels beside me.
“You all right?”
“Apparently…What happened?”
“Explosion tossed us overboard. Crina and Trent pulled us out.”
I stand and wring dirty bay water from my hair.
“Wow. Thanks.”
“Now I get what you see in her. She’s as crazy as you are.” Trent nudges Catch.
“We have to keep moving. Cops will be all over this place.” Crina is dousing our surroundings in gasoline. She is fighting a limp herself.
These wolves had done a number on us. They weren’t the newly turned beasts reacting out of terror and confusion that we were used to facing. These wolves are seasoned fighters and not new to their fury form. If this is a taste of what’s to come, we are in for a hell of a beating.
“I know where they are operating from. A hotel. Downtown.” I shake water from my ears. “The buyer, that teenager. He’s brought packages there. The, uh, Hyatt on 47th.”
“Good. We’re going.” Crina tosses the gas canister aside. “Trent, I need you to take Catch and Quinn back to base. Lori, brief me on the way there.”
Trent helps Quinn, who had been sitting on a crate, to her feet.
“Love you, babe. Be careful.” Catch tries to embrace me, but his arms won’t obey. I return the gesture with a quick kiss. It’s becoming harder and harder for me to hate him. More importantly, given what’s at risk, he needs me in his corner reminding him what we’re fighting for. Even if I’m not entirely sure what that is half the time.
“I’m driving,” Crina declares as we reach my bike.
“Hell you are—you can barely walk,” I protest, holding up the keys.
Crina squeezes my shoulder where the arrow pierced and I flinch. She snags the keys and mounts the bike. I sigh and swing around behind.
“Call Xan; get directions.”
I reach for my ear. No comm. Must’ve lost it in the blast. We start navigating away from the sirens. I fish a palm-sized GPS out of the bike’s pack.
“On it. Head southwest.”
We zip around the city while I call out left or right until we reach the hotel. Crina cruises into the parking garage below street level.
“What’s your plan? Should we stake out the lobby? Back entrances?”
Crina slows the bike, coasting around till we reach a pair of doors marked ‘Service Entrance.’
“Uh—Crina.”
She steers the bike through and down a long hallway.
“What’s the deal?”
“I sense something feral…Hang on.”
She lurches the bike forward, nearly tossing me in the process. The hallway veers to the right. We turn and head straight for a second pair of doors, these ones are unmarked.
We burst through, the doors fly open dramatically. Crina spins the bike sideways as she slams the brakes.
Before us is a podium atop a makeshift stage. The man at the podium maintains a confident demeanor as he turns to see who has interrupted his speech. He wears an expensive suit and his eyes glimmer menacingly above a smug grin that broadens by the second. Beside him stands an equally tall but substantially bulkier man with similar features. His broad shoulders and bodyguard build look less comfortable in a suit—a volcano ready to blow at a moment’s notice. His hand goes reflexively to the massive chrome gun poking awkwardly from his shoulder holster, but he stops when the man at the podium places a hand on his shoulder.
Before the stage a row of half a dozen men stand at attention. They wear plain tees and cargo pants, all very military-esque. Unflustered, they turn to face the party crashers.
“So much for a subtlety,” I mutter.
“Striden!” Crina exclaims. She looks like she’s just seen a ghost.
If the man at the podium is as surprised to see us, he doesn’t show it.
“Well hello, Crina. How nice of you to join us. It really took you longer than I expected to find me.”
“You know him?” Clearly a rhetorical question, but I’m trying to break the mounting tension in the room.
Striden addresses the men before him. “Boys, why don’t you welcome them to the neighborhood?”
Already drooling at the sight of us, they don’t need any extra prompting. The group instantly begins to transform into wolves.
This is escalating quickly.
“Oh shit.” I slide the .22 from my ankle holster and risk a look at the clip, wishing I’d bothered to bring the P90. It is loaded, but after the dip in the Hudson I’m not sure it’ll still fire.
Won’t have to wait long to find out.
Crina revs the bike and steers us quickly out the way we’d came, wolves hot on our heels.
The hallway hadn’t seemed this narrow a moment ago. Our pursuers use their claws to scale the concrete walls as they morph onto all fours. The first to reach our bike gets a face full of exhaust and a head full of silver. His comrades jump over him, annoyed by the road block his body creates in the narrow corridor. I sit poised on the back of the bike, shifting my weight as I fire rounds of silver into the mess of fury bodies that fill the hallway.
Crina concentrates on driving while I do the best I can to fend them off and balance atop the rear tire. They are fast—really fast. One pounces from his position along the wall slightly above us. I have one shot left and I make it count. He takes the bullet square in the chest and balks backward midair.
The gun clicks. Empty. Damn.
The doors open with a bang as Crina accelerates through the garage.
“Take the gun off my ankle,” she instructs.
The pack comes barreling out after us. Full speed ahead. They pour into the parking garage and spread out. I empty Crina’s 9mm, hitting mostly cars and only managing a few flesh wounds on our attackers.
“Get us outta here; they’re trying to surround us.”
“Hang on!”
She maneuvers the bike around an oversized minivan and up the ramp. Within seconds we are out on the street and the wolves are forced to abandon their plan of attack. They regroup as they charge out of the garage. I’m sure it’s quite a sight for anyone walking down the street at that moment. Fortunately, given the hour, it’s pretty quiet. Or at least it was. My gun emits dull clicks.
“I’m out of ammo.”
“Side pocket.”
I turn to the side and grab the bag with my free arm. This proves quite a challenge. Crina turns and fires a few shots over my shoulder. The bike begins to teeter and she is forced to turn back to the road. I dig out a cartridge and jam it into the gun. None too soon.
Claws graze my leg. I steady myself on the bike and the creature throws its massive paw into the tire, ripping the wheel, rubber burning the flesh, tearing at his talons. He cries out and I manage to fire off two shots; one into his open mouth, the other directly into his snout.
Down a wheel, the bike veers sharply to the left, ejecting me in the process. The windshield of a parked car breaks my fall.
Covered in glass, my head throbbing, I sit up in the driver’s seat and look around. The wolves have not stopped to investigate my little accident. I find the gun in the footwell of the passenger side. Nice.
The car is an older model and I waste no time in ripping free the wires from under the steering wheel. I may not have learned how to swim, but living in the slums of New York City I’d learned how to jack a few cars in my day. After several different tries, I find the right combination of wires and the car roars to life. Time to get back in the chase.
Crina is losing speed. Rear wheel sparking along the asphalt, the bike wavers as she struggles to stay ahead of the pack. A couple blocks away, I gun the engine and power into the straggler of the pack. He doesn’t pay me any attention until the fender catches his hind legs. His body contorts backward as he flies over the hood and into my waiting gun. I unload several shots into his back, ease off the gas as he rolls to a stop, then plant one in his skull, painting the pavement with brain matter.
The bike swerves and Crina dismounts just as it strikes a wall and explodes against the brick. I push harder on the accelerator. Road-kill to-be number two loses ground and I slam into him, pinning his body against the wall a few feet from the burning remains of my bike. The beast is facing me and lunges forward with his upper body, his lower still trapped by my car.
I smile at him over the barrel of my gun and pull the trigger.
Click.
Empty.
Kind of luck I’ve been having.
When he fails to wriggle free, he flips the car. The next best option. Now upside down, I scramble out as he jumps atop to crush me under the car’s weight. I don’t make a clean escape. My foot gets caught and he jumps on the metal several times to seal the deal. I reach into the boot of my free leg. Fifty percent chance it holds my switchblade.
My luck has turned.
I slip the blade free and bring it up as the wolf leaps atop me. His teeth sink into my shoulder, but it is the opposite arm that holds the knife. I slice into his torso and force the silver blade upward. Bowels spill onto the pavement. I get a lapful of intestines. He releases his bite and howls. I slam both hands into the handle, driving the blade under the chest cavity and through his vulnerable little organ.
The howl becomes a whimper as he collapses beside me, reverting to human form. I sit up and lift the car off my leg.
Staggering, I catch sight of Crina fending off the last of our attackers.
They are grappling at the far end of the alley. From my angle it looks like she is losing, but it’s tough to tell. I sprint toward them, ignoring what is likely a broken foot. The wolf, propped on his hind legs, slams Crina into the wall. She sees me approaching from over his shoulder and raises her arm to catch the knife I toss. She doesn’t waste any time putting it to use.
The first blow catches his shoulder; he retreats enough for her to make a clean strike to his heart. I scoop up her gun from the ground but don’t need it. The second blow gets him where it counts and he falls to her feet with a thud.
The alley is littered with dead carcasses and mangled vehicles.
“They go and leave us looking like mass murderers,” I grunt.
“I got news for you, Lori: we are.”
A trail of bodies leading straight to us and no one would believe our side of the story. Not that we’ll stick around to tell it.
She picks some glass from my hair. “Where’d you get the car?”
“Same place I got the glass.” I shake the rest free from my hair.
Crina looks like she’d just climbed out of a blender. I doubt I fared much better. Hell, if I entered a Halloween contest, I’d win hands down.
“I need a rabies shot after tonight.”
“And a strong drink,” Crina adds.
First an arrow, then a hungry wolf; my shoulder has seen better days. Nothing is healing as fast as I’d like it to.
Sirens are heading in our direction. Took them long enough.
“Let’s get out of here.”
Crina points to the fire escape to her right. “Can you make it on that foot?”
I nod knowing my options are limited if we want to make a clean escape. Also desperate to front that I’m tougher than I am. As we ascend to the rooftop, I ask the question that’s been begging for an answer: “So who is Striden?”


Paris is for Lovers:
I’ve never been to Paris. It is a stunningly beautiful city. One which I promise myself I’ll return to when it isn’t for…business. We pace around a towering 32-story apartment building located along the Seine. This skyscraper that nearly dwarfs the nearby Eiffel Tower is the residence of our target. Alex’s apartment is unit 2902; from there you can most likely see the entire Paris cityscape.
“Game plan?”
“We tranquilize him, restrain him, and when he comes to we find out what his end game is. He is likely working for someone, so we have to keep following the chain until we reach the alpha.”
“Okay, let’s see if he’s home.”
The guard at the front desk is absorbed in whatever game he has on his tablet. We walk by casually and hop the elevator. The hallway is uninhabited and we make our way to the door displaying 2902 in shiny rounded pewter. Catch presses his ear against the door.
“I hear music.”
We both listen to the David Bowie track playing.
Catch works on the lock, pops it, and we quietly inch open the door.
Coast clear.
We enter.
Untouched Chinese food sits on the kitchen counter next to a half-drunk bottle of wine. We cross the empty living room. I grab Catch’s arm. He turns.
“Two glasses,” I whisper, pointing at the counter.
“Bollocks. Okay I’ve got the tranq gun. Pull yours too just in case.”
We walk down the hall in the direction of the music. A man and a woman can be heard from what we assume is the bedroom.
With Catch in the lead, we inch the door open enough to slide inside. They are a little distracted, to put it mildly, and we enter unnoticed.
Catch trains his gun on them. The man’s naked backside makes for an easy shot. He fires.
At that, the man appears to leap buck naked from the bed upwards at Catch, who ducks and fires off another shot. Momentum propels his body forward and Catch moves clear and throws him into the wall. I keep my gun aimed in his direction, but he is not turning. Catch has successfully tranqed him and he collapses against the wall unconscious.
Except that he didn’t leap at us, he was thrown. My brain processes this just as something sharp tears through my shirt, penetrates my skin, and flings me sideways toward the balcony.
“Lori!”
The sliding glass door is cracked open, but only a few inches.
The glass shatters upon impact, more from the wolf’s force than my own. Claws and glass tear through my skin.
I land on my side and feel the gun fly from my hand. I manage to force my knee between us and grip her snout with my free hand. This does little, but keeps the mess of claws and teeth out of reach of my body long enough for Catch to dive into her side.
Over the balcony they go.
I jump up and grab Catch’s arm as he goes over the railing.
My side screams, ribs cracking as the force slams my body against the metal rail. Every muscle flexes and my grip on his wrist tightens.
No way in hell am I losing him.
I double over the rail as he swings down below the balcony ledge. I prop my legs against the rail, get some leverage, and lean back, straining to pull Catch upward. As I lift him, he grabs the rail with his free hand and hurdles over. With both our feet now planted firmly on the concrete balcony, I release my grasp.
“Phew, that was a close one.” Catch helps me pick glass from my back.
My wounds are healing quickly, but my body is trembling from the aftershock. It takes a few minutes for the worst of the pain to subside.
“You’d think Dade could’ve mentioned Alex was a she.”
“He’s not one to concern himself with details. Then again, that wolf he questioned might not have specified.” He smirks.
“That was scary.” I peer over the balcony. “What would a fall like that do to us?”
“I imagine a plunge that far would do us in. At the very least, liquefy us into something unrecognizable.”
I cringe.
“There’s no recovering from a fall like that. If it didn’t off me, I’d want some bloke to finish the job. Promise me you’ll stake me instantly should something messy like a 30-story fall occur. End my suffering.”
“Only if you promise to return the favor. And to stop diving recklessly off buildings.”
“It was a compulsive reaction, I admit.”
“And we didn’t get to question her…”
We both look down at the ground below. Street lights illuminate a small but quickly growing crowd.
“We should get out of here. Fast.”
Catch points at a neighboring building.
“We’ll cross over there via the roof and then make a clean getaway.”
Catch and I quickly raid the apartment but can’t find any clues pointing to Alex’s objectives.
“Phone!” Catch announces, picking it up from the nightstand.
I check the body of the man who’d been hurled at Catch. Still human, I wonder if Alex had planned on biting him. His wallet IDs him as Benoît Laurent, a local Paris resident. I know a little French: Benoît means blessed. Ironic.
Satisfied with the phone, Catch is already in the hall.
“Come on, while the coast is still clear.”
“We just leave him here?”
“Yeah, he’ll be fine. Stop searching the place, the cops are on their way, we have to abort!”
I sigh, knowing he is right but not wanting to leave empty-handed.
We split before the Paris prefecture swarm the complex.


Vengeance:
I am not your hero.
I am the embodiment of hatred, lust, greed, fury, and envy.
Every repulsive trait, every inherent desire repressed, all that is disgraceful and desecrating: you see in me.
I am the intangible and undeniable craving buried inside yourself that you try to ignore.
But always know deep down it’s there.
And it’s hungry.

I am not your hero.
I am mine.

My grip slips and I begin to fall. My feet hang lifeless.
Then the world falls away into dark sinister obscurity.
And something snaps.
My claws grasp at the ledge and the toe of my boot catch a crevice. I shoot my body in an upward arch as if propelled by an unknown force.
I fling my body over the roof edge, feet just making the landing. I spring across to the closing door.
The screams inside the stairwell are deafening.
Maybe that’s why I don’t hear them.
I am a fever of grief and rage.
And he is in my way.
The cries stop as the crunching persists.
Bones shatter and blood spews from the open wound in his back.
Then there is silence.
I move quickly past the corpse, stepping on and breaking his crossbow as I do.
He is not my only target. There are many to blame.
There isn’t enough blood on my hands.

Crina spins with a start as I burst through the stairwell door. If her presence surprises me, my expression doesn’t show it. I glance around. Crina eyes my fist, still clenched around Gavin’s heart.
Blood runs down my arm and drips on the floor.
“What are you doing here?”
Crina points to the comm in her ear.
“Sounded like you could use some backup. Frankly, I was already halfway here when I heard you two engage. Jiro managed to get the camera feeds from this building online and we saw Deacon organizing his men.”
She points down the hall.
“Are you seeing this? I mean, seriously. Damn. Look at this place. Lab equipment I was expecting; lab rats I was not prepared for.”

The hallway contains numerous cells. None of which are empty.
Bodies: some human, some wolf, some indiscernible.
“They’re testing the virus here. From what I’ve seen, most of the floors are designed for the same purposes.”
Stark white corridors of padded walls and Plexiglas.
And nothing alive on either side.
We are standing amid the answers we’d sought for so long.
And I want no part of it.

The heart drops from my hand and hits the floor with a sickening thud.
Some people handle grief well.
I am not one of those people.
The elevator pings and I dart for its doors.


Read the full Prologue:
“Drive faster.”
80…85…90. The pedal vibrates under my foot.
“I’m pushing a hundred. These winding roads make it hard.”
Crina climbs over the front seats and settles into shotgun. She’d been taking care of Xan, who is unconscious in the back.
“How’s he doing?”
“He took one hell of a blow to the head, but he’ll be okay.”
I turn up the radio to drown out the sound of the police sirens behind us. My eyes keep darting to the rearview.
There are two of them back there. At least.
They’d caught our trail while we were tearing through the city. You could say we had a police escort out of Los Angeles.
“How far till Mexico?” Crina is wiping blood off her hands.
“Far. Dunno. At this rate we’re not gonna make it.”
“Where the hell are we anyway?”
“Somewhere mountainous,” I respond dryly.
“You shouldn’t be driving. You lost a lot of blood.”
“Well right now that’s the least of our problems.”
I’d hotwired an old 90s roadster while Crina was hoisting an unconscious Xan through the hatchback. An easy steal, but the old beast of a transmission is fighting me on every turn. It is a miracle we’d made it out of the city at all.
Headlights glimpse the guardrail. We hit a sharp curve, catch some stones in the tires and skid through the gravel for a spell. I grip the wheel tightly, downshifting. Crina claws the dash. Xan remains sprawled across the backseat. We fishtail, then straighten out.
I shift gears and keep my focus on the road ahead.
The speedometer climbs back over 80 mph. Crina shoots me a nervous glance.
“Just keeping the cops on their toes.”
“They’ll be sending out backup and lots of it…likely include a chopper. We aren’t going to make it much farther in this car. We gotta bail.”
“Yeah…”
I hate when she’s right.
Crina rolls down her window.
“We should’ve stolen a convertible.”
I grin. “Next time.”
“There’s a ravine nearby. I smell the water.”
There is a valley down to our left, a fitting host for water. And our escape.
“Something to aim for. What about Xan?”
An over-confident Crina is halfway out the window; she ducks back in.
“Can’t toss him. Gotta pull him from the wreckage.”
My stomach churns. Not what I wanted to hear. Cops are still in tight pursuit. They will not be relenting anytime soon. Someone blew apart several blocks of downtown LA, and we presently carry the titles of Suspect One, Two, and Three.
Our options are limited at best. There is a tight bend up ahead.
“Get ready to bail.”
My foot slams the accelerator. Crina climbs most of the way out the window, bracing her feet on the door handle.
“See you at the bottom,” I promise Xan under my breath.
The road curves sharply to the right.
We do not.
The car runs out of road and we eject mid dive over the rocky and tree-filled terrain. The car clips the tops of a few trees and nosedives into the jagged landscape below. Its short-lived plummet is followed by a dramatic landing as it bounces into tree trunks, flips over laterally and eventually rolls to a stop.
I have similar luck.
My feet strike the ground, but I don’t stick the landing. Hurling forward over some rocks, I bounce along the mountainside until a tree brings me to an abrupt halt. Still conscious, I lie at its trunk watching the world spin.
Ouch.
Stumbling, I force my feet to keep me vertical. My head is spinning. I stagger toward the light supplied by flames now emanating from the pile of metal and gasoline that used to be a car. My eyes start to focus as I near the overturned vehicle.
“Xan?” I hope for a response while I press against the broken bones in my rib cage.
Nothing. Had that fall not jolted him awake? Lucky bastard.
I look around. No sign of Crina.
Hastily, I pry back the driver’s side door and am relieved to see Xan inside, still intact. The fall had tossed him onto the footwell of the back, but he seems no worse for wear.
Folding the driver’s seat forward, I climb in and slip my arms under his shoulders. Grasping his underarms, I slide him out from the burning car. Crina catches me as I fall backwards under his deadweight. She pulls us both to safety, beating out my pant leg, which had caught fire in the process.
We take shelter in some dense underbrush. From there we can see the police cars up the hillside. They are parked, headlights beaming out across the night sky, illuminating the treetops. I spot the silhouette of an officer as he crosses the front of a car. He’s the only one I see. None of the rest appear to be making their way downhill. Perhaps they are waiting for a fire truck or a medical unit.
“How are you doing?”
“Okay. Caught a hold of a tree branch mid-flight. Made for an easy descent. You?”
I feel my sides. Some of the earlier wounds have healed, but the fresh ones still carry some sting.
“Had a kinda rough landing. Cracked a few ribs.”
Xan begins to stir.
“Xan!” we both exclaim.
“What happened?” His voice is hoarse and weak. I bend down to hug him.
“Lori!” He wraps his arms around me. They remain clenched as I straighten up. I grimace at his weight on my half-eaten shoulder. Crina takes his arms from my neck and helps him to his feet.
“You sure you can stand okay?” she asks. He is looking around, a dazed expression on his face.
“Where are we?”
“Somewhere outside LA,” I mutter, bracing myself against a tree. I look over at the car a few yards up the hillside. Cops are shining flashlights around, but they don’t quite have the range. The car is now completely engulfed in flames.
“We have to keep moving,” Crina states. “I lost my comm a ways back.”
“I have mine.” I pop it out of my ear. Somehow it managed to stay in through all that. I tap the button, stick it back in. Not even static.
“Nothing.”
“Damn.”
***
We continue downhill. Crina had been right about the water. We trudge along the crooked path cut by the river, crossing when it narrows. It isn’t long before we are out of range of the sirens.
The silence manages to feel both refreshing and disconcerting.
Crina leads the way, hacking through the foliage. Xan and I stumble along behind. A good hour passes with none of us speaking. I feel dizzy, nauseous, exhausted.
Eventually we reach a clearing.
“Break time,” I proclaim, dropping flat on my back and letting the soft earth break my fall. Crina and Xan join me.
We lie there taking in the beautiful, crystal clear night sky. And a full moon, apparently, illuminating the field around us.
“Full moon tonight. With everything else going on I’d completely forgotten.”
“So had I,” Crina sighs. “Ironic now, I suppose.”
“Where are the others?” Xan asks absently.
“That’s a good question.”
I reach into Xan’s cargo pocket, fishing around.
“Feeling frisky?” he jokes. I remove my hand, displaying the cigarettes and Zippo he’d been holding for me.
“Oh, right,” he laughs as I wink at him.
I light one and briefly feel human as the smoke fills my lungs. Some vices are worth clinging to if only for the memories.
Crina reaches across and slides one from the pack. She doesn’t smoke, normally. I don’t comment. Just flip open the lighter. I give them back to Xan, who hasn’t moved since our collapse.
“And yet you still managed to start a fire.” Xan plays with my Zippo. He takes a cig from the pack, now resting on his stomach, and cranes his neck to light it.
After a moment, Crina props up onto her elbows.
“Does this mean it’s over?”
“I don’t know.” I close my eyes and picture the bomb detonating.
She arches her neck for a better glimpse of the moon.
Xan groans. “My head is splitting.”
I reach out and run my fingers through his hair.
“My head is…is full of static. The comm!”
I sit up with a jolt, hand on my earpiece.
Static comes over my ear piece, followed by a faint voice. I can’t make it out. My ears are still ringing from the blast. I hand the comm to Crina.
“Thought I heard a transmission. See if you have any luck.”
Crina holds the piece to her ear, pushing the button in.
“Hello. Anyone hear me? Hello.”
I close my eyes, relaxing on the moist earth. The blades of grass prick my skin. It is a warm night. A perfect night.
It is not enough.
I had heard a voice over the comm. A voice that sounded like Catch’s.

 

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