Carrick settled into the raised mahogany chair of Keir’s office. He placed his revolver on the table, spinning it in front of him absently, two, three times. Blood soaked the rugs and the floorboards. Rot still hung heavy in the air from the murders. But he felt the need, the desire, to come here. He’d claim it before long, but first he’d bury Keir.
He pulled a pristine cigarette from his jacket pocket. Fishing out his lighter, he lit it in a smooth motion. Taking a drag, he stared at the ceiling, trying to think his way through this mess.
It didn’t matter that he knew Raine had sent Urban to kill Keir. Raine would have supporters and they’d try to take this new authority away. He’d be damned if he’d let them pry it from him.
A long trail of smoke curled in the air. He searched through the drawers. Pulling out the seven coins, he rolled them between his fingers. He never understood the old man’s obsession. Maybe he knew he’d be snuffed out one day. Penance for all the things he had to do to protect his family.
“Those are awful portraits of us.”
Carrick’s head snapped up, gun in hand. The coins scattered against the desktop. One struck the table, spinning to the ground.
“Oh please, put that thing down.” Theon emerged from the shadows.
Carrick recognized the man. “You. You convinced the crowd to spare Urban.” His voice seethed, revolver holding steady.
“Of course.” Theon smiled. “I’ve seen many rulers like you who bent their followers by fear. Know what happened to them?” He blew through the curling smoke. “They were killed by the few they trusted. Give them compassion and you bend them to anything. As long as you’ve got the brains to do it.” He leaned forward, placing his elbow on the desk. Theon rolled the coin in his hand. “Awful.”
A light caught Carrick’s eyes, flickering from the portrait to the man. “You mean you’re—”
“A god. Yes, my boy.”
A sly grin spread across Carrick’s face.
Staring down the barrel, Theon tapped the gun with a light, playful finger and Carrick’s finger reflexively squeezed. The gun clicked as if empty.
Carrick’s voice caught in his throat.
This time Theon grinned. “It’s a miracle.”
Carrick dropped the weapon, which hit the desk and fired. The bullet lodged deep in the bookcase and Carrick’s guards appeared.
Carrick waved them away, eyes never leaving his guest.
“You should be more careful. Those things aren’t for kids.”
“What do you want?”
“We have a small problem. One you might help us with.”
A light shone in Theon’s eyes. “You’re quick.”
“How is he tangled up with,” he paused as if trying the word on for size, “a god?”
“He’s becoming one of us.”
The color drained from Carrick’s face, then a flush of anger rose. “What?”
“I know! I can hardly believe it myself.” Theon crossed the room, avoiding the blood stains as he inspected the titles lining the bookcases. “But I’ve got some good news for you.”
Carrick stared at Theon, unease filtering through him. “What’s that?”
“He can still die.”
Carrick’s mind reeled, trying to piece together this information. “Doesn’t sound like much of a god to me.”
“True, but it’s a transitory stage, I assure you. Miss out on this opportunity and the little fucker will be around forever.”
“What do you want from me?”
Theon sat on the edge of the desk. “First, we have to exterminate that pest. Take him out, destroy him. And once you become the leader, commission me a new temple. Then you can have what he stole from you.”
“It’s that simple?”
“Yes. I will welcome you with open arms.” Theon offered his palm. “Is it a deal?”
Carrick reached out, seized the god’s hand.
Theon’s eyes flashed. His grip tightened, skin hot as iron, burning, reshaping the flesh.
Carrick’s eyes bugged as he tried to scream, but no sound came out. He tried to get his guard’s attention, but their backs were to him. Shit. The pain seared his thoughts, leaving him with nothing but the smell of his sizzling flesh.
A grin spread across Theon’s angular face. “Then I welcome you, brother.”
As they crossed from the underworld into the soft gleam of night, the docks seemed to sigh. Waves splashed, licking at the wood, while the lighthouse’s eye lingered longer than normal. The knot in Raine’s stomach came back. He scanned the planks, looking for some sign of the girl. When he spotted nothing, his eyes darted across the shadows, to the containers. Light bent around their edges, obscuring his view.
Dion placed a strong hand on his shoulder. “Wait.”
“What is it?”
“I told you I want you to survive, but the only way I can do that is the same way Pryor did. And I don’t want that. I want to show you the way to live underneath their gaze, to remember. But you won’t do that just yet, will you?”
Raine shook his head, his gaze cold.
“That’s what I thought.” Dion raised the bottle to his lips, took a hearty swig. “Fine. You’re free to go.”
“Just like that?”
“I only ask that when you’ve taken care of this . . . business, that you come back to me.” He smiled sadly, light pouring over his eyes. “I won’t lock you up, but you’ll have everything you’d need to beat their system.”
Raine nodded, thoughts running scattershot to Urban and Carrick, but he pushed them away. One thing at a time. With no one to stop him, Raine would exterminate Jaiden.
“Then get out of here.” Dion peered at the thin sliver of light in the sky then retreated into the darkness once more.