Regan stiffened; star signs and conduits were passed down via the matriarchal line. Regan’s mother, Brynn DuPree, had indeed been fond of performing psychosurgery on known enemies with her ice pick…with an emphasis on the psycho. But, after a moment, Regan just continued smoothing on the concealer. “I can’t hurt Ben any more than you already have.”

Liar, liar. “Let me put it this way, then. If he even comes down with a cold, I’ll punch so many holes through your body, it won’t hold embalming fluid.”

This time she paused in her dabbing, tilting her head my way. “But then Benny-boy would be suspicious, wouldn’t he?” A theatrical sigh. “Not to mention brokenhearted.”

“You flatter yourself.”

“And you kid yourself.” Her voice was harder now, lower and rasping like mine. She snapped her compact shut and dropped it on the counter, then picked up the detonator again, flipping it lazily in her hand. “You’re going to lose him. It’s only a matter of time.”

“Is this where I get to say, ‘To you and what army’?”

“You know what army. After all, you’re a member.”

I shook my head. “I’m only half Shadow.”

“And I bet that wakes you up at night,” she said, pushing off from the counter to stand. I couldn’t let her at my back, so I turned and we squared against each other in the center of the room. “It’s what drives you from your bed in the morning, and makes you want to carve your presence in this world. You want to step up and be someone. Leave a mark so that future generations remember your name.”

She ascribed the ambitions to me, but the detail made me think she was talking about herself. Interesting. “I hate to tell you this, sweetie, but they’re already going to remember my name.”

“You sound like your father.”


“-call him that, I know.” She rolled her eyes. “Get over it already. I’ve seen you in action, Joanna. I see the brutality that lives in your eyes when you look at me. You can’t tell me you’ve never had a baser impulse. That you’ve never laughed when someone else took a tumble. Wished a person who blew by you in the fast lane would overcorrect an inch. Or that you’ve never seen a pedestrian on Las Vegas Boulevard and just wanted to swerve?” I opened my mouth to say, No, I hadn’t, but she cut me off by holding up a hand. “I know you, and I don’t just mean who you are beneath the gloss and the polish and the tits. I know you.”

She knew my weaknesses, at least. It was how she’d tricked me before. But…

“If you really knew me, you’d walk away from Ben now.”

“And speaking of,” she sang, clasping her hands together like a schoolgirl, “you should check out some of his e-journals. Such a good record keeper, our little aspiring writer. There’s some interesting reading there.” She studied my carefully blank look, and laughed when the silence grew long. “Oh yes, I know you’ve bugged his computer. But if you’d read those entries, I doubt you’d be here. They’re part confessional, part penitence. You might be particularly interested in his actions involving a dead drug lord last summer in an urban cage known as Dog Run.”

Even the magic of overpriced makeup must not have been enough to hide my face draining of color, because Regan’s grin widened like it’d been cleaved.

“Or the fate of a young boy named Charles Tracy. Remember him?”

I hadn’t heard that name in years. Tracy had been a schoolyard bully who’d specialized in wedgies for the younger boys and used pudgy fingers to feel up any unfortunate girl in a skirt. Ben and I had ganged up on him at school, using the power of persuasion and our fists to make him stop. He’d dropped out of school altogether in junior high, and I hadn’t thought of him since.

“I’m not interested in the lies you’ve planted in his journals,” I told her shortly. She might have an advantage over me, but she had no right to touch on my past. “Or some fabricated story about a kid I haven’t seen in over a decade.”

“Aw, how sweet. Defending your one true love. Bad habits really are hard to break.”

The need to amputate her smile welled, and I took a step forward before I could stop it. “You mean bad habits like planting bombs around my lover’s house…ones you’re going to remove before anyone even thinks of making them go bang.”

She shrugged and pretended to study her nails. They were polished, but clear, as I’d have worn them. Another visual cue for Ben’s subconscious to latch on to.

“Those bombs,” she said evenly, “are less destructive than the anger and betrayal you planted by abandoning him twice. Do you have any idea how easy it’s been to water that particular emotional seed? As much fun as my mother said it could be.”

And Brynn DuPree had been a model Shadow agent.

“All it would take is one visit from me in my old skin, and you’d be nothing but a distant memory.” Over Regan’s shoulder I saw my reflection take another menacing step forward. It looked like someone else altogether; Olivia’s bright, bouncy features had sharpened like they’d been whittled into angry points, the butter-soft flesh a delicate cocoon for the skeletal darkness threatening to burst forth. Welcome to my fucked-up dual existence.

“Maybe.” She shrugged but it was jagged. She was fighting not to inch backward. “But then I’d have to spill your little secret.”

“You mean reveal my Olivia identity to Ben? Or to the Tulpa?” I scoffed, though I knew the leader of the Shadow organization would offer a hefty reward to anyone who could do just that. “It’s an empty threat, and you know it. You’re too fond of the power and options that knowledge gives you.”

“I take a certain pleasure from it, true.” And she did step back, back and around to observe me again through the lasso-fringed mirror. “But I’m weary of glancing over my shoulder every time I visit the restroom. I want you to back off for good, and stop planting those fucking listening devices all around his house, or else Ben is going to learn of yet another secret his erstwhile ex has kept from him all these years.” And then she mouthed a single, shocking word at me through the glass.


It changed everything. I’d have been less surprised if the floor had dropped from beneath me. Only one person could’ve given Regan that name, but I thought I’d killed him before he told anyone about my daughter. Ben’s daughter.

Enjoying my reaction, Regan smiled. “Back off now, and I won’t tell the Tulpa he has a granddaughter either. One that is of the Light.” She laughed at the irony in her hoarded secret. The leader of the Shadows, a grandsire to a child of the Light. A leader, I knew, who’d kill my daughter all the more quickly because of it.

“Oh, your expression is priceless!” She laughed gaily, a sound like tiny bells chiming in the spring winds, before pretending to sober. “Though you should check it. I doubt your sister ever wore such a serious expression.”

I pulled my gaze from her if only to hide the tumult inside, but looking at my image confirmed she was right. Olivia’s eyes had always been bright blue-open, smiling, and trusting. Mine were light enough to look honeyed in the right light, a soft shade of brown Regan had very nearly duplicated, but they’d always deepened when I was angry. Right now they were flashing like polished jet in an expression that was as petrified and bright as the diamonds at my ears and fists. The earrings had been a gift from Xavier Archer, Olivia’s father, and the man I once thought was also mine. But the eyes were from my real father, the Shadow leader, the being who either wanted me to belong to him or wanted me dead.

I waited to speak until I was steady enough to control my voice. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Well, I don’t know little Ashlyn’s adopted surname, or where she ended up all those years ago, but it shouldn’t take too long to find out. And even if it does, I don’t mind waiting for the onset of her second life cycle.” I opened my mouth, but she held up the hand with the detonator and shook her head. “Uh-uh-uh. Remember, I’m watching you too. And right now I’m going to watch you walk away with your tail tucked, while I enjoy a romantic two-step with your boyfriend.”

I knew I was losing the battle for self-control when Regan’s delicate nostrils widened, a sign that my natural pheromones were flaring, but I couldn’t help it. My options were swiftly disappearing. Regan watched my face, drinking in the emotions she caught passing there, and as if thirsting for more, she leaned forward on the counter, gaze piercing mine through the mirror. “It’s a conundrum, isn’t it? Continue stalking us, and you risk pissing me off

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