I was trying to decide between getting out and running some more hot water when there was a knock at the door. “You decent?”

I pulled the towel up a little higher. “Yes, if my wrinkled toes don’t offend.”

Marco’s swarthy head popped around the doorjamb. “Naw, they’re cute.”

I wiggled them at him since I could actually feel them now.

“Anyway, grub’s outside and I gotta go.” He grinned at me. “Big date tonight.”

“Date?” I blinked in surprise, because master vampires don’t date. Not unless forced, anyway.

“Witch,” he said succinctly.

“Isn’t that a little . . . unusual?”

“I’m like the master. I like to walk on the wild side.”

It took me a moment to realize what he meant. “I am not the wild side,” I told him flatly. “I’m about as far from the wild side as it’s possible to get.”

He raised a bushy black eyebrow. “If you say so.”

I opened my mouth, then decided I was too beat to argue. “Well, have fun.”

“Oh, I will.” He paused. “And just FYI, there’s a bunch of new guys on tonight. Well, not new new, but new to you.”

I didn’t know why he was bothering to tell me. The bodyguards were changed on a regular basis. Round- theclock security meant that some of them got stuck on the day shift, which was hard on vampires. At least I assumed that was why, after a week or two, they started looking a little peaked.

I nodded, but Marco just stood there, as if he expected some kind of answer. “Okay.”

“It’s just . . .” He hesitated. “Try not to freak them out too much, all right?”

“I freak them out?”

“You know what I mean. It’s those things you do.”

“What things?”

His eyes darted around the bathroom. “Talking-toinvisible-people kind of things.”

“They’re ghosts, Marco.”

“Yeah, only most of the guys don’t believe in ghosts, and they’ve started to think you’re a bit . . . strange.”

“They’re vampires and they think I’m strange?”

“And no popping out of nowhere in front of a guy. That takes some getting used to. I don’t think Sanchez has recovered yet.”

“The only place I’m popping is to bed.”

“Good plan.” Marco looked satisfied. “See you on the flip side.”

I rolled my eyes at the slang, which as usual for the older vamps was decades out of date, and let my head sag back against the tub. I really didn’t want to move now that I was warm and relaxed and actually starting to feel my extremities again. But the smells drifting in from the next room were making my stomach growl plaintively.

I couldn’t immediately identify the source, but it didn’t matter. If Marco had done the ordering, it had to be good. Unlike Pritkin, Marco didn’t worry about things like trans fats and cholesterol. When Marco ate, he ate big: pasta dripping in cream sauce, huge peppery steaks, mashed potatoes with gravy, and cannoli sweet enough to crack teeth. Often at the same meal.

The fact that vampires didn’t technically need to eat didn’t appear to worry Marco. He’d told me that one of the best things about finally reaching master status had been the return of working taste buds. And he’d spent the time since making up for all those flavorless years.

I decided that maybe I was clean enough. “Turn around,” I told Billy. “I’m getting out.”

He made a pouty face but he didn’t argue. Maybe he was hungry, too. I wrapped the towel around myself and started to get out of the tub.

But instead my hands slid off the porcelain, my knees bent and I slipped back into the rapidly cooling water.

For a second, I just lay there, more confused than worried. Until I kept on sinking. Then I snapped out of it and began to struggle.

And found that it made absolutely no difference.

The best I could do was keep my face above the bubbles for a few seconds while I struggled to move, to cry out, to do something. But my body was as frozen as the shout trapped behind my teeth, which my lips stubbornly refused to let out. The most I managed was a muffled grunt as my head slowly went under.

Immediately, all sound vanished. The whoosh of the air-conditioning, the almost silent footsteps of the guards, the soft clink-clink of someone dropping ice cubes in a glass in the dining room, all faded into a watery roar. Silence constricted around me, a heavy, cold hand that robbed me of breath as effectively as the water over my face.

The bubbles had half dissolved by now, with pockets of suds floating here and there, like the sky on a cloudy day. In between I could see the ceiling of the bathroom, rippling with my barely discernible struggles. But they weren’t enough, weren’t nearly enough, and my lungs were already crying out for air.

After what felt like an hour but was probably no more than a few seconds, the scene above me was obscured by Billy’s indistinct shape. He was saying something, but I couldn’t hear, and then his face passed through the water and he gazed at me curiously. “Time to get out.”

No shit, I thought hysterically, trying to flail limbs that suddenly felt like they belonged to someone else. A frown appeared between Billy’s eyes. But it was the impatient Billy look, not the panicked Billy look. He still didn’t get it.

“Seriously, Cass. Your dinner’s gonna get cold.”

I just stared at him, my eyes burning from the soap, willing him to understand. Nothing happened, except that a chain of bubbles slipped out from between my lips, heading for the air a few inches away. It might as well have been a few thousand, for all the good it was doing me.

My toes were floating near the surface of the water, right beside the switch that controlled the drain. It was mounted just below the faucet, within easy reach—if I’d been able to move. As it was, I could only stare at it, stark terror creeping over my body, chilling my skin and threatening to paralyze whatever brain function I had left. I couldn’t move and Billy was useless and I couldn’t even take a deep breath to calm down because—

Because I was about to drown in the goddamn bathtub.

Chapter Two

The thought cut cleanly through the gibbering in my brain. People had been trying to kill me in elaborate ways for months, yet if I didn’t get a grip, my epitaph was going to read: SHE DROWNED IN THE TUB. But it wasn’t, it wasn’t, because I was damned if I was going to go out like that.

Only it didn’t look like I had a lot of choice.

The more I struggled, the more my body seemed to shut down. Trying to move was like battering against the lid of a coffin from the inside. I cried out furiously, but the shout stayed locked in my numb throat.

The worst part was the silence. Death was supposed to be loud—gunshots, explosions, screams and thunder. Not this eerie quiet that wrapped around me like a shroud. I couldn’t hear anything but the water lapping at the sides of the tub, like a watch counting down the seconds I had left.

And a harsh voice echoing in my ears: Assess, Address, Act.

For a second, the words just hung there in my head, refusing to connect with anything. And then I remembered Pritkin’s damn three A’s. I grabbed at the thought like a lifeline, before it could skitter away into the white noise of my panic.

Okay, I thought wildly. Assess. What was the problem? That I couldn’t fucking breathe.

Address. What could I do about it? Nothing. Not when my own body refused to follow my commands, when it seemed almost like it was under someone else’s—

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