remain anonymous.”

“But you know who it is.”

His hands trembled. “Yes.”

“And she knows who I am.”

“Probably,” he’d answered, before looking at Ash with surprise. “How did you know it was a she?”

Because a woman had brought her to Nightingale House. Ash avoided the memory of her almost as fiercely as the memory of the dark figure, but she could recall the woman’s face, surrounded by dark hair—and the eyes containing a madness that went deeper than anyone else’s at that hospital. Yet despite her obvious insanity, the woman hadn’t remained here; she’d left Ash behind instead.

Dr. Cawthorne leaned forward, his urgency and panic rushing his words. “I cannot tell you, do you understand? It was part of the deal. If you woke up, I wasn’t to tell you anything. I wasn’t to tell anyone. But no one thought you would wake up. She said the weak halflings rarely did.”

“Halflings? What is that?” And was Ash one of them?

He only shook his head. “I made a bargain. So I can’t tell you, do you understand?”

Ash had understood, though she couldn’t remember how or why she did. She knew that bargains should be avoided, but if they had to be made, they should never be broken. At the very thought of it, ice seemed to form the length of her spine, similar to the cold fear she sensed from Cawthorne.

Similar to his, but so much stronger. A survival instinct.

With effort, she’d suppressed the tremors threatening to shake her body, her voice. “You can’t tell me who I am or anything about her,” Ash had said. “But what do you get out of this?”

“She knows that I once made an . . . error during the treatment of a patient. I keep you here in exchange for her silence.” He’d brought a handkerchief to his brow and mopped away the sweat. “And eventually, I’ll publish a series of papers about you. You’re a fascinating study, Ash.”

So he was saving his own ass, and using her for his professional advancement. Ash had watched enough television to know that the appropriate response to his confession was a sense of betrayal and outrage. She didn’t feel either emotion, but she had no intention of letting him continue to use her—and if he couldn’t give her answers, she’d find someone who would.

His relief had been palpable when she dropped the subject and they’d continued the session as usual. She’d waited until after he’d gone home for the evening before entering his office a final time, hoping to find a hint of information in that session’s notes. There hadn’t been anything useful, only a single, self-indulgent rumination that he probably intended to use for a journal article:

The name she’s chosen for herself is appropriate—as if the fires have left nothing human, only a faint ash.

He truly knew nothing, Ash had realized. She hadn’t chosen her own name. And whatever had happened between Before and After, Ash was certain she hadn’t burned.

She’d frozen.

The temperature had dropped below freezing by the time she emerged from the subway station at Sloane Square. Ash tilted her face down to let her hood take the brunt of the wind and shoved her hands into her jacket pockets. The cold couldn’t hurt her—a month of walking outside during London’s wintry nights without so much as a shiver had taught her that—but she didn’t like the feel of icy air against her skin.

Though Ash couldn’t recall taking this route before, she didn’t need to verify the directions during the six- minute walk to the St. Croix town house. A left turn into a garden square was taken without hesitation. Although the buildings in this exclusive neighborhood looked similar to one another, all constructed of red brick and accented by wrought iron, she found the correct home without consulting the house numbers.

So she’d been here before. Ash didn’t recognize the place, but she knew that beyond the red front door lay a marble-tiled foyer and a staircase leading to the upper floors. To the right lay the entertaining salon, which opened into the dining room. Farther down the hall, a library overlooked the small garden. Upstairs, the second level had been divided between two bedroom suites, one of which had been renovated into a modern office.

An American woman with a face identical to Ash’s had allegedly been murdered in that office.

After Ash had left Nightingale House, finding information had been easy. Access to that information had been her primary obstacle—but as soon as Ash had learned to memorize the numbers on the credit cards that people flashed so casually when they made their purchases, she used those numbers at Internet cafes. From there, it was a simple matter of searching for American women who’d disappeared in London. Her earliest parameters were too narrow—she’d set them to search for missing persons from three or four years ago—but when Ash had widened the search to ten years, she’d found Rachel Anne Boyle.

The blonde in Rachel’s photo didn’t have symbols tattooed down the side of her face, but their features had been the same. So Ash had looked deeper.

Six years ago, Rachel Boyle had worked as personal assistant to one of England’s most successful independent financiers, Madelyn St. Croix. Both Rachel and her employer had disappeared not long after Madelyn’s estranged son, Nicholas St. Croix, had returned from America and began a hostile takeover of Wells-Down Investments, Madelyn’s company.

According to reports, Rachel had quickly become Nicholas St. Croix’s lover. Probably for his wealth, Ash thought. Ash had few needs, but after a month on London’s streets, even she recognized the appeal of a ready source of money . . . and she could see little else in him that might be appealing. Though undeniably handsome, with short dark hair and magazine-perfect features, neither warmth nor humor was apparent in his pictures—and after the women had vanished, she couldn’t detect any emotion in those press photos, either.

Surely, when a man’s lover died in his arms, he’d feel something . Wouldn’t he?

Unless he’d lied.

The night they’d disappeared, Nicholas had told police that he and his mother had argued over business matters. During the fight, Madelyn had fired a gun at him—but Rachel Boyle had jumped into the bullet’s path, and the slug had ripped through her chest. Nicholas had claimed he’d been holding Rachel when she’d died, but the police hadn’t located her body or any blood at the site or on his clothing. Madelyn had vanished, too, and Nicholas became the primary suspect in their disappearances. But although the police were certain of foul play, they’d never been able to pin Rachel’s and Madelyn’s murders on him.

Ash didn’t know if Nicholas St. Croix had killed Rachel or if he’d told the truth about that night . . . but she knew that his mother had still been alive. Ash had recognized the woman from the photos in the news reports, and terror had scraped like ice in her chest.

Only three years ago, Madelyn St. Croix had left Ash in Dr. Cawthorne’s care.

Ash wasn’t Rachel Boyle; of that she was certain, just as she knew “Rachel” wasn’t her name. But a connection between Ash and the American woman clearly existed, and Ash hoped to find answers in the house where Rachel Boyle had worked and—perhaps—died.

She watched the darkened windows for movement, listened for any sounds from within. All was quiet. Though six years had passed since Madelyn’s disappearance, the property was still listed under her name. Most likely, she had an arrangement with a housekeeping service and an estate that handled such necessities in her absence. A security system probably protected the house, but if an alarm sounded, Ash would run before the police arrived.

And if Ash couldn’t find answers here, she’d seek out Nicholas St. Croix . . . and hope that looking for him before trying to find Madelyn wouldn’t be a horrible mistake. Perhaps Madelyn had a reason for what she’d done; perhaps she was hiding from her son, and she’d stowed Ash away at Nightingale House for her protection.

But although the man in Nicholas St. Croix’s picture appeared capable of fewer emotions than Ash, his image didn’t terrify her. So Ash hoped she wasn’t wrong.

And she hoped that he knew her.

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