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Author: V. E. Schwab
Publisher: Tor, 2018
Titan Books, 2018
Series: Villains: Book 2

1. Vicious
2. Vengeful

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
Sub-Genre Tags: Low Fantasy
Superhero Fantasy
Avg Member Rating:
(7 reads / 4 ratings)


Magneto and Professor X. Superman and Lex Luthor. Victor Vale and Eli Ever. Sydney and Serena Clarke. Great partnerships, now soured on the vine.

But Marcella Riggins needs no one. Flush from her brush with death, she's finally gained the control she's always sought?and will use her new-found power to bring the city of Merit to its knees. She'll do whatever it takes, collecting her own sidekicks, and leveraging the two most infamous EOs, Victor Vale and Eli Ever, against each other once more.

With Marcella's rise, new enmities create opportunity--and the stage of Merit City will once again be set for a final, terrible reckoning.



Six Weeks Ago
The Merit Suburbs

The night Marcella died, she made her husband's favorite dinner.

Not because it was a special occasion, but because it wasn't-- spontaneity, people insisted, was the secret to love. Marcella didn't know if she believed all that, but she was willing to try her hand at a home-cooked meal. Nothing too fancy--a good steak, edges seared with black pepper, slow-baked sweet potatoes, a bottle of merlot.

But six o'clock came and went, and Marcus wasn't home.

Marcella put the food in the oven to keep it warm, then checked her lipstick in the hall mirror. She freed her long black hair from its loose bun, then put it up again, teasing a few strands out before smoothing her A-line dress. People called her a natural beauty, but nature only went so far. The truth was, Marcella spent two hours in the gym six days a week, trimming and toning and stretching every lean muscle on her willowy five-foot-ten frame, and she never left her bedroom without her makeup expertly applied. It wasn't easy, but neither was being married to Marcus Andover Riggins--better known as Marc the Shark, Tony Hutch's right-hand man.

It wasn't easy--but it was worth it.

Her mother liked to say she'd gone fishing, and somehow bagged a great white. But what her motherdidn't understand was that Marcella had baited her hook with her prize in mind. And she'd caught exactly what she'd wanted.

Her cherry red heels clicked across the wood floor, then the silk rug, as she finished setting the table and lit each of the twenty-four tapers in the pair of iron candelabras that framed the door.

Marcus hated them, but for once Marcella didn't care. She loved the candelabras, with their long stems and branching limbs--they looked like the kind of thing you'd find in a French chateau. They made the home feel luxurious. Made new money feel old.

She checked the time--seven, now--but resisted the urge to call. The fastest way to kill a flame was to smother it. Besides, if Marcus had business, then business always came first.

Marcella poured herself a glass of wine and leaned back against the counter, imagining his strong hands closing around someone's throat. A head forced underwater, a jaw cracking sideways. Once he'd come home with blood on his hands and she'd fucked him right there on the marble island, the metal shaft of his gun still in its holster, the steel hard against her ribs.

People thought Marcella loved her husband in spite of his work. The truth was, she loved him because of it.

But as seven became eight, and eight neared nine, Marcella's arousal had slowly turned to annoyance, and when the front door finally swung open, that annoyance had hardened to anger.

"Sorry, darling."

His voice always shifted when he'd been drinking, slowing to a lazy drawl. It was his only tell. He never stumbled or swayed, his hands never shook. No, Marcus Riggins was made of stronger stuff--but he wasn't without his flaws.

"It's fine," said Marcella, hating the edge in her own voice. She turned toward the kitchen, but Marcus caught her wrist, pulling her hard enough that she lost her balance. His arms folded around her, and she looked up into his face.

Sure, her husband's waist had widened a little, while hers had narrowed, that beautiful swimmer's body bloating a fraction with each passing year, but his summer brown hair hadn't thinned, and his eyes were still the rugged blue of slate or dark water. Marcus had always been good-looking, though she wasn't sure how much of that was his tailored suits or the way he moved through the world, as if expecting it get out of his way. It usually did.

"You're gorgeous," he whispered, and Marcella could feel the press of him, hungry against her hip. But Marcella wasn't in the mood.

She reached up, nails dragging down his stubbled cheek. "You hungry, sweetheart?"

"Always," he growled against her neck.

"Good," said Marcella, stepping away and smoothing her skirt. "Dinner's ready."

* * *

A bead of red wine slid like sweat down the side of the raised glass, tracing its way toward the white tablecloth. Marcella had filled it too full, her hand made clumsy by her worsening mood. Marcus didn't seem to notice the stain. He didn't seem to notice anything.

"To my beautiful wife."

Marcus never prayed before meals, but he always made a toast, had since the night they met. It didn't matter if he had an audience of twenty or if they ate alone. She'd found it endearing on their first date, but these days the gesture felt hollow, rehearsed. Designed to charm instead of being genuinely charming. But he never failed to say the words, and perhaps that was a kind of love. Or perhaps Marcus was simply a creature of habit.

Marcella lifted her own glass.

"To my elegant husband," she answered automatically.

The rim was halfway to her lips when she noticed the smudge on Marcus's cuff. At first she thought it was only blood, but it was too bright, too pink.

It was lipstick.

Every conversation she'd had with the other wives came rushing back.

His eyes start to wander yet?

Keeping his stick wet?

All men are rotten.

Marcus was busy cutting into his steak, and rambling on about insurance, but Marcella had stopped listening. Behind her eyes, her husband traced his thumb across a pair of stained lips, parting them around his knuckle.

Her fingers tightened on the wineglass. Heat was flushing her skin even as a cold weight settled in her stomach. "What a fucking cliché," she said.

He didn't stop chewing. "Excuse me?"

"Your sleeve."

His gaze drifted languidly down toward the bloom of pink. He didn't even have the decency to look surprised. "Must be yours," he said, as if she'd ever worn that shade, ever owned anything so tacky and twee--

"Who is she?"

"Honestly, Marce--"

"Who is she?" demanded Marcella, gritting her perfect teeth.

Marcus finally stopped eating, and leaned back in his chair, blue eyes hanging on her. "Nobody."

"Oh, so you're fucking a ghost?"

He rolled his eyes, clearly tired of the subject, which was ironic, considering he usually relished any topic that revolved around him. "Marcella, envy really doesn't suit you."

"Twelve years, Marcus. Twelve. And now you can't keep it in your pants?"

Surprise flickered across his face, and the truth hit her like a blow--of course this wasn't his first time cheating. This was only the first time he'd been caught.

"How long?" she asked icily.

"Let it go, Marce."

Let it go--as if his cheating were like the wineglass in her hand, something she'd just happened to pick up, could just as easily set down.

It wasn't the betrayal itself--she could forgive a lot, in the interest of this life she'd made--but it was the look in the other women's eyes that Marcella had always taken for envy, it was the stoic warnings of the first wives, the twitch at the corner of a smile, the realization that they all knew, had known, for God knows how long, and she--hadn't.

Let it go.

Marcella set the wineglass down. And picked up the steak knife. And as she did, her husband had the nerve to scoff. As if she wouldn't know what to do with it. As if she hadn't listened to all his stories, hadn't begged for details. As if he didn't go on and on about his job when he was drunk. As if she hadn't practiced with a pillow. A bag of flour. A steak.

Marcus raised a single brow. "What do you plan to do now?" he asked, voice dripping with condescension.

How silly she must look to him, with her perfectly manicured nails gripping the monogrammed hilt of the blade.

"Dollface," he crooned, and the word made Marcella seethe.

Dollface. Baby. Darling. Was that how he really thought of her, after all this time? As helpless, brittle, weak, something ornamental, a glass figurine designed to shimmer and shine and look pretty on a shelf?

When she didn't let go, his gaze darkened.

"Don't you turn that knife on me unless you plan to use it..."

Perhaps she was glass.

But glass is only brittle until it breaks.

Then it's sharp.


She lunged, and had the thrill of seeing her husband's eyes widen a fraction in surprise, the bourbon spilling as he jerked backward. But Marcella's knife had barely skimmed his silk tie before Marcus's hand cracked across her mouth. Blood poured across her tongue, and Marcella's eyes blurred with tears as she tumbled back into the oak table, rattling the china plates.

She still had the knife, but Marcus had his hand wrapped around her wrist, pinning it to the table so hard the bones began to grind together.

He'd been rough with her before, but that had always been in the heat of the moment, signaled by some unspoken pact, and she'd always been the one to signal it.

This was different.

Marcus was two hundred pounds of brute strength, a man who'd made his living breaking things. But mostly people. He clucked his tongue now, as if she were being ridiculous. Blowing things out of proportion. As if she'd made him do this. Made him fuck another woman. Made him ruin all that she'd worked so hard to build.

"Ah, Marce, you've always known how to rile me up."

"Let me go," she hissed.

Marcus brought his face close to hers, ran a hand through her hair, cupped her cheek. "Only if you play nice."

He was smiling. Smiling. As if this were just another game.

Marcella spit her blood into his face.

Her husband let out a long-suffering sigh. And then he slammed her head against the table.

Marcella's world went suddenly white. She didn't remember falling, but when her vision flickered back she was on the silk carpet beside her chair, her head throbbing. She tried to get up, but the room swayed viciously. Bile rose in her throat, and she rolled over, vomited.

"You should have let it go," said Marcus.

Blood ran into one of her eyes, staining the dining room red as her husband reached out and wrapped his hand around the nearest candelabra. "I always hated these," he said, tipping the pole until it fell.

The flame caught the silk curtains on the way down, before the candelabra hit the floor.

Marcella struggled to her hands and knees. She felt like she was underwater. Slow, too slow.

Marcus stood in the doorway, watching. Just watching.

A steak knife gleamed on the hardwood floor. Marcella forced herself up through the heavy air. She was almost there when the blow hit her from behind. Marcus had knocked over the second candelabra. It came crashing down, iron arms pinning her to the floor.

It was disconcerting how fast the fire had spread. It leapt from the curtain to a puddle of spilled bourbon, to the tablecloth and the rug. It was already everywhere.

Marcus's voice, through the haze. "We had a good run, Marce."

That fucking prick. As if any of it had been his idea, his doing. "You're nothing without me," she said, her words unsteady. "I made you, Marcus." She heaved against the candelabra. It didn't move. "I will unmake you."

"People say a lot of things before they die, sweetheart. I've heard them all."

Heat filled the room, her lungs, her head. Marcella coughed, but couldn't catch her breath. "I will ruin you."

There was no answer.

"Do you hear me, Marcus?"

Nothing, only silence.

"I will ruin you!"

She screamed the words until her throat burned, until the smoke stole her vision, and her voice, and even then it echoed in her head, her last thoughts following her down, down, down into the dark.

I will ruin you.

I will ruin.

I will.


* * *

Officer Perry Carson had been stuck on the twenty-seventh level of Radical Raid for the better part of an hour when he heard an engine rev to life. He looked up in time to see Marcus Riggins's sleek black sedan peel out of the slate half circle that formed the mansion's drive. It tore down the road, a good thirty over the suburb-mandated speed limit, but Perry wasn't in a patrol car, and even if he had been, he hadn't spent the last three weeks in this shit-heap eating greasy takeout just to bust Riggins for such a minor infraction.

No, the Merit PD needed something that would stick--and not just to Marc the Shark. They needed the whole crooked sea.

Perry settled back against the worn leather and returned to his game, cracking the twenty-seventh level just as he smelled smoke.

No doubt some asshole setting a poolside bonfire without a permit. He squinted out the window--it was late, half past ten, the sky an inky black this far from Merit, and the smoke didn't stand out against the dark.

But the fire did.

The officer was out of the car and across the street by the time the flames lit the front windows of the Riggins mansion. Calling it in by the time he reached the front door. It was unlocked--thank god it was unlocked--and he threw it open, already composing his report. He'd say it was ajar, say he heard a call for help, even though the truth was he didn't hear anything but the crack of burning wood, the whoosh of flame sliding up the hall.

"Police!" he called through the smoke. "Is anyone here?"

He'd seen Marcella Riggins arrive home. But he hadn't seen her leave. The sedan had gone by fast, but not fast enough to leave any doubt--there was no one in the passenger seat.

Perry coughed into his sleeve. Sirens were already sounding in the distance. He knew he should go back outside and wait, outside, where the air was clean and cool and safe.

But then he rounded the corner and saw the body trapped beneath a coil of iron the size of a coatrack. The tapers had all melted, but Perry realized it was a candelabra. Who even owned a candelabra?

Perry reached for its stem and then recoiled--it was searing to the touch. He cursed himself. The metal arms had already burned through Marcella's dress wherever they touched her, the skin raw and red, but the woman didn't cry out, didn't scream.

She wasn't moving. Her eyes were closed and blood slicked the side of her head, matting the dark hair against her scalp.

He felt for a pulse, and found one that fluttered, then seemed to fall away beneath his touch. The fire was getting hotter. The smoke was getting thicker.

"Shit shit shit," muttered Perry, scanning the room as sirens wailed outside. A pitcher of water had spilled across a napkin, leaving it unburnt. He wrapped the cloth around his hand and then took hold of the candelabra. The damp fabric hissed and heat shot toward his fingers as he heaved the iron bar up with all his strength. It lifted, and rolled off Marcella's body just as voices filled the hall. Firefighters came storming into the house.

"In here!" he wheezed, choking on the smoke.

A pair of firemen cut through the haze right before the ceiling groaned and a chandelier came toppling down. It shattered against the dining room table, which split and threw up flames, and the next thing Perry knew, he was being hauled backward out of the room and the burning mansion, and into the cool night.

Another firefighter followed close behind, Marcella's body slung over one shoulder.

Outside, the trucks were splayed across the manicured lawn, and ambulance lights strobed across the slate drive.

The house was going up in flames, and his hand was throbbing, his lungs burned, and Perry didn't give a damn about any of it. The only thing he cared about right then and there was saving the life of Marcella Riggins. Marcella, who had always flashed a wan smile and a pert wave to the cops whenever she was followed. Marcella, who would never, ever snitch on her crooked husband.

But judging by the gash in her head, and the house on fire, and the husband's swift departure, there was a chance her position had changed. And Perry wasn't about to waste it.

Hoses sent jets of water into the flames, and Perry hacked and spat, but pulled away from an oxygen mask as two medics loaded Marcella onto a stretcher.

"She's not breathing," said a medic, cutting open her dress.

Perry jogged after the medics.

"No pulse," said the other, beginning compressions.

"Then bring it back!" shouted Perry, hauling himself up into the ambulance. He couldn't put a corpse on the stand.

"Ox-sat levels tanking," said the first, strapping an oxygen mask over Marcella's nose and mouth. Her temperature was too high, and the medic pulled out a stack of cold packs and began to break the seals, applying them to her temples, neck, wrists. He handed the last one to Perry, who grudgingly accepted.

Marcella's heartbeat appeared on a small screen, a solid line, even and unmoving.

The van pulled away, the burning mansion quickly shrinking in the window. Three weeks Perry had spent outside that place. Three years he'd been trying to nail Tony Hutch's crew. Fate had handed him the perfect witness, and he'd be damned if he was giving her back without a fight.

A third medic tried to tend to Perry's burned hand, but he pulled away. "Focus on her," he ordered.

The sirens cut through the night as the medics worked, trying to force her lungs to breathe, her heart to beat. Trying to coax life out of the ashes.

But it wasn't working.

Marcella lay there, limp and lifeless, and Perry's hope began to gutter, die.

And then, between one compression and the next, the horrible static line of her pulse gave a lurch, and a stutter, and finally began to beep.


Four Weeks Ago

"I won't ask you again," said Victor Vale as the mechanic scrambled backward across the garage floor. Retreating--as if a few feet would make a difference. Victor followed slowly, steadily, watched as the man backed himself into a corner.

Jack Linden was forty-three, with a five-o'clock shadow, grease under his nails, and the ability to fix things.

"I already told you," said Linden, jumping nervously as his back came up against a half-built engine. "I can't do it--"

"Don't lie to me," warned Victor.

He flexed his fingers around the gun, and the air crackled with energy.

Linden shuddered, biting back a scream.

"I'm not!" yelped the mechanic. "I fix cars. I put engines back together. Not people. Cars are easy. Nuts and bolts and fuel lines. People are too much more."

Victor didn't believe that. Had never believed that. People were more intricate perhaps, more nuanced, but fundamentally machines. Things that worked, or didn't, that broke down, and were repaired. Could be repaired.

He closed his eyes, measuring the current inside him. It was already in his muscles, already threading his bones, already filling his chest cavity. The sensation was unpleasant, but not nearly as unpleasant as what would happen when the current peaked.

"I swear," said Linden, "I'd help you if I could." But Victor heard him shift. Heard a hand knocking against the tools strewn across the floor. "You have to believe me..." he said, fingers closing around something metal.

"I do," said Victor, eyes flicking open right as Linden lunged at him, wrench in hand. But halfway there, the mechanic's body slowed, as if caught in a sudden drag, and Victor swung the gun up and shot Linden in the head.

The sound echoed through the garage, ricocheting off concrete and steel as the mechanic fell.

How disappointing, thought Victor, as blood began to seep across the floor.

He holstered the gun and turned to go, but only made it three steps before the first wave of pain hit, sudden and sharp. He staggered, bracing himself against the shell of a car as it tore through his chest.

Five years ago, it would have been a simple matter of flipping that internal switch, killing power to the nerves, escaping any sensation.

But now--there was no escape.

His nerves crackled, the pain ratcheting up like a dial. The air hummed with the energy, and the lights flickered overhead as Victor forced himself away from the body and back across the garage toward the wide metal doors. He tried to focus on the symptoms, reduce them to facts, statistics, measurable quantities, and--

The current arced through him, and he shuddered, pulling a black mouth guard from his coat and forcing it between his teeth just before one knee give way, his body buckling under the strain.

Victor fought--he always fought--but seconds later he was on his back, his muscles seizing as the current peaked, and his heart lurched, lost rhythm--

And he died.

Five Years Ago
Merit Cemetery

Victor had opened his eyes to cold air, grave dirt, and Sydney's blond hair, haloed by the moon.

His first death was violent, his world reduced to a cold metal table, his life a current and a dial turning up and up, electricity burning through every nerve until he finally cracked, shattered, crashed down into heavy, liquid nothing. The dying had taken ages, but death itself was fleeting, the length of a single held breath, all the air and energy forced from his lungs the moment before he surged up again through dark water, every part of him screaming.

Victor's second death was stranger. There had been no electric surge, no excruciating pain--he'd thrown that switch long before the end. Only the widening pool of blood beneath Victor's knees, and the pressure between his ribs as Eli slid the knife in, and the world giving way to darkness as he lost his hold, slipped into a death so gentle it felt like sleep.

Followed by--nothing. Time drawn out into a single, unbroken second. A chord of perfect silence. Infinite. And then, interrupted. The way a pebble interrupts a pond.

And there he was. Breathing. Living.

Victor sat up, and Sydney flung her small arms around him, and they sat there for a long moment, a reanimated corpse and a girl kneeling on a coffin.

"Did it work?" she whispered, and he knew she wasn't talking about the resurrection itself. Sydney had never revived an EO without consequences. They came back, but they came back wrong, their powers skewed, fractured. Victor felt gingerly along the lines of his power, searching for frayed threads, interruptions in the current, but felt--unchanged. Unbroken. Whole.

It was a rather overwhelming sensation.

"Yes," he said. "It worked."

Mitch appeared at the side of the grave, his shaved head glistening with sweat, his tattooed forearms filthy from the dig. "Hey." He drove a spade into the grass and helped Sydney and then Victor up out of the hole.

Dol greeted him by leaning heavily against his side, the dog's massive black head nestling under his palm in silent welcome.
The last member of their party slumped against a tombstone. Dominic had the shaken look of an addict, pupils dilated from whatever he'd taken to numb his chronic pain. Victor could feel the man's nerves, frayed and sparking like a shorted line.

They'd made a deal--the ex-soldier's assistance in exchange for taking away his suffering. In Victor's absence, Dominic clearly hadn't been able to keep his end of the bargain. Now Victor reached out and switched the man's pain off like a light. Instantly, the man sagged backward, tension sliding like sweat from his face.

Victor retrieved the shovel and held it out to the soldier. "Get up."

Dominic complied, rolling his neck and rising to his feet, and together the four of them began filling Victor's grave.

* * *

Two days.

That's how long Victor had been dead.

It was an unsettling length of time. Long enough for the initial stages of decay. The others had been holed up at Dominic's place, two men, a girl, and a dog, waiting for his corpse to be buried.

"It's not much," said Dom now, opening the front door. And it wasn't--a small and cluttered single bedroom with a beat-up sofa, a concrete balcony, and a kitchen covered in a thin layer of dirty dishes--but it was a temporary solution to a longer dilemma, and Victor was in no condition to face the future, not with grave dirt still on his slacks and death lingering in his mouth.

He needed a shower.

Dom led him through the bedroom--narrow and dark, a single shelf of books, medals lying flat and photographs facedown, too many empty bottles on the windowsill.

The soldier scrounged up a clean long-sleeve shirt, embossed with a band logo. Victor raised a brow. "It's all I have in black," he explained.

He switched on the bathroom light and retreated, leaving Victor alone.

Victor undressed, shrugging out of the clothes he'd been buried in--clothes he didn't recognize, hadn't purchased--and stood before the bathroom mirror, surveying his bare chest and arms.

He wasn't free of scars--far from it--but none of them belonged to that night at the Falcon Price. Gunshots echoed through his mind, ricocheting off unfinished walls, the concrete floor slick with blood. Some of it his. Most of it Eli's. He remembered each and every wound made that night--the shallow cuts across his stomach, the razor-sharp wire cinching over his wrists, Eli's knife sliding between his ribs--but they left no mark.

Sydney's gift really was remarkable.

Victor turned the shower on and stepped beneath the scalding water, rinsing death from his skin. He felt along the lines of his power, turned his focus inward, the way he'd done years before, when he'd first gone to prison. During that isolation, unable to test his new power on anyone else, Victor had used his own body as a subject, learned everything he could about the limits of pain, the intricate network of nerves. Now, bracing himself, he turned the dial in his mind, first down, until he felt nothing, and then up, until every drop of water on bare skin felt like knives. He clenched his teeth against the pain and turned the dial back to its original position.

He closed his eyes, brought his head to rest against the tile wall, and smiled, Eli's voice echoing through his head.

You can't win.

But he had.

* * *

The apartment was quiet. Dominic stood out on the narrow balcony, puffing on a cigarette. Sydney was curled on the sofa, folded up carefully like a piece of paper, with the dog, Dol, on the floor beside her, chin resting by her hand. Mitch sat at the table, shuffling and reshuffling a deck of cards.

Victor took them all in.

Still collecting strays.

"What now?" asked Mitch.

Two small words.

Single syllables had never weighed so much. For the last ten years, Victor had focused on revenge. He'd never truly intended to see the other side of it, but now, he'd fulfilled his objective--Eli was rotting in a cell--and Victor was still here. Still alive. Revenge had been an all-consuming pursuit. Its absence left Victor uneasy, unsatisfied.

What now?

He could leave them. Disappear. It was the smartest course--a group, especially one as strange as this, would draw attention in ways that solitary figures rarely did. But Victor's talent allowed him to bend the attention of those around him, to lean on their nerves in ways that registered as aversion, subtle, abstract, but efficient. And as far as Stell knew, Victor Vale was dead and buried.

Six years he'd known Mitch.

Six days he'd known Sydney.

Six hours he'd known Dominic.

Each of them was a weight around Victor's ankles. Better to unshackle himself, abandon them.

So leave, he thought. His feet made no progress toward the door.

Dominic wasn't an issue. They'd only just met--an alliance forged by need and circumstance.

Sydney was another matter. She was his responsibility. Victor had made her so when he killed Serena. That wasn't sentiment--it was simply a transitive equation. A factor passed from one quotient to another.

And Mitch? Mitch was cursed, he'd said so himself. Without Victor, it was only a matter of time before the hulking man ended up back in prison. Likely the one he'd broken out of with Victor. For Victor. And, despite knowing her less than a week, Victor was certain Mitch wouldn't abandon Sydney. Sydney, for her part, seemed rather attached to him, too.

And then, of course, there was the issue of Eli.

Eli was in custody, but he was still alive. There was nothing Victor could do about that, given the man's ability to regenerate. But if he ever got out--

"Victor?" prompted Mitch, as if he could see the turn of his thoughts, the direction they were veering.

"We're leaving."

Mitch nodded, trying and failing to hide his clear relief. He'd always been an open book, even in prison. Sydney uncurled from the sofa. She rolled over, her ice blue eyes finding Victor's in the dark. She hadn't been sleeping, he could tell.

"Where are we going?" she asked.

"I don't know," answered Victor. "But we can't stay here."

Dominic had slipped back inside, bringing a draft of cold air and smoke. "You're leaving?" he asked, panic flickering across his face. "What about our deal?"

"Distance isn't a problem," said Victor. It wasn't strictly true-- once Dominic was out of range, Victor wouldn't be able to alter the threshold he'd set. But his influence should hold. "Our deal stays in effect," he said, "as long as you still work for me."

Dom nodded quickly. "Whatever you need."

Victor turned to Mitch. "Find us a new car," he said. "I want to be out of Merit by dawn."

And they were.

Two hours later, as the first light cracked the sky, Mitch pulled up in a black sedan. Dom stood in his doorway, arms crossed, watching as Sydney climbed into the back, followed by Dol. Victor slid into the passenger's seat.

"You sure you're good?" asked Mitch.

Victor looked down at his hands, flexed his fingers, felt the prickle of energy under his skin. If anything, he felt stronger. His power crisp, clear, focused.

"Better than ever."

Copyright © 2018 by V. E. Schwab


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