Authors: Kelley Armstrong
Kelley Armstrong lives in rural Ontario, Canada, with her family and far too many pets. She is the author of over thirty books, including the highly acclaimed Women of the Otherworld series, which begins with
. The final three books in the series were all
New York Times
City of the Lost
was first published as a six-part ebook series in summer 2015.
Women of the Otherworld
Dime Store Magic
No Humans Involved
Living with the Dead
Waking the Witch
Men of the Otherworld
Tales of the Otherworld
The Darkest Powers Trilogy
The Darkness Rising Trilogy
The Nadia Stafford Adventures
Made To Be Broken
Age of Legends Trilogy
Sea of Shadows
Empire of Night
The Cainsville Series
First published in Great Britain in 2016 by Sphere
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2016 K.L.A. Fricke Inc.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.
The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their content) that are not owned by the publisher.
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“I killed a man,” I say to my new therapist.
I’ve barely settled onto the couch … which isn’t a couch at all, but a chaise longue that looked inviting and proved horribly uncomfortable. Like therapy itself.
I’ve caught her off guard with that opening line, but I’ve been through this before with other therapists. Five, to be exact. Each time, the gap between “Hello” and “I’m a murderer” decreases. By this point, she should be glad I’m still bothering with a greeting. Therapists do charge by the hour.
“You…” she says, “killed a man?”
The apprehensive look. I know it well—that moment where they’re certain they’ve misheard. Or that I mean it in a metaphorical way.
I broke a man’s heart.
Which is technically true. A bullet does break a heart. Irrevocably, it seems.
When I only nod, she asks, “When did this happen?”
“Twelve years ago.”
Expression number two. Relief. At least I haven’t
killed a man. That would be so much more troublesome.
Then comes the third look, as she searches my face with dawning realization.
“You must have been young,” she says. “A teenager?”
“Ah.” She settles back in her chair, the relief stronger now, mingling with satisfaction that she’s solved the puzzle. “An accident of some kind?”
She’s blunt. Others have led me in circles around the conclusion they’ve drawn.
You didn’t really murder a man. It was a car accident or other youthful mishap, and now you torture yourself with guilt.
“No, I did it on purpose. That is, pulling the trigger was intentional. I didn’t go there planning to kill him. Manslaughter, not homicide. A good lawyer could argue for imperfect self-defence and get the sentence down to about twelve years.”
She pulls back. “You’ve researched this. The crime. The sentence.”
“It’s my job.”
“Because you feel guilty.”
“No, it’s my
. I’m a cop.”
Her mouth forms an O of surprise, and her fingernails tap my file folder as she makes mental excuses for not reading it more thoroughly. Then her mouth opens again. The barest flicker of a smile follows.
“You’re a police officer,” she says. “You shot someone in the line— No, you were too young. A cadet?”
“Yes, but it wasn’t a training accident.” I settle on the chaise. “How about I just tell you the story?”
An obvious solution, but therapists never suggest it. Some, like this one, actually hesitate when I offer. She fears I’m guilty and doesn’t want me to be. Give her a few more clues and she’ll find a way to absolve me.
Except I don’t want absolution. I just want to tell my story. Because this is what I do. I play Russian roulette with Fate, knowing someday a therapist will break confidentiality and turn me in. It’s like when I was a child, weighed down by guilt over some wrongdoing but fearing the punishment too much to confess outright. I’d drop clues, reasoning that if I was meant to be caught, those hints would chamber the round. Magical, childish thinking, but it’s what I do.
“Can I begin?” I ask.
She nods with some reluctance and settles in.
“I’d gone to a bar that night with my boyfriend,” I say. “It was supposed to be a date, but he spent the evening doing business in the back corner. That’s what he called it. Doing business. Which sounds like he was dealing coke in some dive bar. We were actually in the university pub, him selling vitamin R and bennies to kids who wanted to make it through exam week…”
Blaine and I sat at a back table, side by side, waiting for customers. His fingers stroked the inside of my thigh. “Almost done. And then…” He grinned over at me. “Pizza? Your place?”
“Only if we get enough for Diana.”
He made a face. “It’s Friday night, Casey. Shouldn’t your roommate have a date or something?”
“Mmm, no. Sorry.”
Actually, she was out with college friends. I just wasn’t telling Blaine that. We hadn’t had sex yet. I held him off by saying I was a virgin. That was a lie. I was just picky.
Blaine was my walk on the wild side. I was a police recruit playing bad girl. Which was as lame as his attempt to play drug lord. On a scale of bad boys, Blaine ranked about a two. Oh sure, he claimed he was connected—his grandfather being some Montreal mobster whose name I couldn’t even find with an Internet search. More likely the old guy played bookie at his seniors’ home. Blaine’s father certainly wasn’t mobbed-up—he was a pharmacist, which is how Blaine stole his stuff. Blaine himself was pre-med. He didn’t even sample his merchandise. That night, he nursed one beer for two hours. Me? I drank Coke.
Coke. Yep, we were hard-core.
A last customer sidled over, a kid barely old enough to be in university. Blaine sold him the last of his stash. Then he gulped his beer, put his arm around my shoulders, and led me from the pub. I could roll my eyes at his swagger, but I found it oddly charming. While I might not have been ready to jump into bed with Blaine, I did like him. He was a messed-up rich kid and I could relate to that.
“Any chance of getting Diana out of your apartment?” he asked.
“Even if there was, the answer is no.”
He only shrugged, with a smile that was half “I’ll change your mind soon” and half genuine acceptance. Another reason why I wasn’t ready to write him off as a failed dating experiment—he never pushed too hard, accepting my refusals with good-natured equanimity.
I wasn’t familiar with the campus area. I was attending the provincial police college outside the city and spending weekends with Diana, a high school friend who went to the local community college. Neither of us was from here. So when Blaine insisted that a dark alley was a shortcut to the pizza place, I didn’t question it … mostly because I was fine with what he had planned—a make-out pit stop designed to change my mind about getting Diana out of our apartment.
We were going at it hard and heavy when I heard the click of a gun. I gasped and pushed Blaine back. He looked up and jumped away, leaving me with a nine-millimetre pointed at my cheek.
“I only have fifty bucks,” Blaine lied—the rest was stuffed in his sock. “She has some jewellery. Take that and the fifty—”
“Do we look like muggers, Saratori?”
As the gun lowered, I saw the guy holding it. Early twenties. Dark blond hair. Leather jacket. No obvious gang markings, but that’s what this looked like: four young guys, one with a gun, three with knives.
I couldn’t fight them—I didn’t have a weapon and martial arts doesn’t work well against four armed attackers. Instead, I committed their faces to memory and noted distinguishing features for the police report.
“Does the old man know you’re dealing?” the lead guy asked.
“I don’t know what—” Blaine began.
“—what I’m talking about? That you’re Leo Saratori’s grandkid? Or that you were dealing on our turf?”
Blaine bleated denials. One of the guys pinned him against the wall, while another patted him down. They took a small plastic bag with a few leftover pills from one sock and a wad of cash from the other.
“Okay,” Blaine said. “So we’re done now?”
“You think we want your money?” The leader bore down on him. “You’re dealing on our turf, college boy. Considering who you are, I’m going to take this as a declaration of war.”
“N-no. My grandfather doesn’t—”
A clatter from the far end of the alley. Just a cat, leaping from a garbage bin, but it was enough to startle the guy with the gun. I lunged, caught him by the wrist, and twisted, hearing the gun thump to the ground as I said, “Grab it!” and—
Blaine wasn’t there to grab it. He was tearing down the alley. One of the other thugs was already scooping up the gun, and I was wrenching their leader’s arm into a hold, but I knew it wouldn’t do any good. The guy with the gun jabbed the barrel against my forehead and roared, “Stop!”
I didn’t even have time to do that before the other two slammed me into the wall. The leader took back his gun and advanced on me.
“Seems we know who’s got the balls in your relationship,” he said. “The pretty little China doll. Your boyfriend’s gone, sweetie. Left you to take his punishment.” He looked me up and down. “A little too college-girl for my tastes, but I’m flexible.”
I thought he was joking. Or bluffing. I knew my statistics. I faced more danger of sexual assault from an acquaintance or a boyfriend.