“It’s not my first time, man.” Interview over, Rook shrugged into his trim black wool coat. “I know what to do if I spot a likely target.” It’d been a few years, but what to look for hadn’t changed.
Innocent, unsuspecting fools.
Yeah, he knew how to find them. And once down the rabbit hole, there was no coming back again. Just a screaming fall into a darkness as infinite and clutching as a nightmare. No waking up, either.
God, why couldn’t he just wake up?
“Only, it’s been a while since you went hunting,” Coll observed, that level gaze assessing, always measuring, but giving away nothing. “Why the sudden change?”
Rook kept his reasons for going to himself; he didn’t owe Coll explanations. Not anymore. What did he know, anyway? Coll had an easy life working behind a desk, occasionally flying out somewhere, and getting himself a swank room from which to monitor at a distance. It was hard not to stare at the wall-to-wall view of the San Diego Bay—and the ocean beyond, vast and calm, restful. Rook wasn’t one to give in to envy, but a little peace would go a long way right now.
“It’s a big step backward from the work you’ve been doing,” Coll pressed.
Rook exchanged his wallet for the one waiting on the tray that Coll had provided—time to become, let’s see, Michael Reese; at least they’d kept his initials—and slid it in the back pocket of his jeans.
Of course, he could’ve explained to Coll that he’d been on the inside too long. That he had to get a taste of the virgin experience again to keep his edge. Any Chimera could relate.
But he was too far gone for easy lies.
Darkness lurked at the edges of his vision, crackling and dense with reproach—not that he could make out anything right now, or ever—but when he turned to confront it, the blind spot shifted, too. It was as if he had a fringe space in the back of his mind, one in which an intruder could hide, its presence hounding him like a constant uncertainty.
Rook had to go out or he’d lose his mind. He had to go out or Coll would have to put him down like a mad dog.
The alternate phone on the tray was a sleek little silver thing, the latest to hit the market, whereas his personal mobile was at least a year behind. Both were unnecessary. He had other ways of keeping current—other, more intimate ways to track his marks.
“You could shave, at least. Make yourself pretty.” Coll’s idea of a joke.
Since he’d decided to back off, Rook offered a dry one of his own. “Girls like me rough. Guys, too, actually.”
“Okay, but what if I show up to the party completely naked?” Jordan Lane hissed ahead to Maisie as they navigated down the dock to the water taxi that would take them out to the Envoi, their destination for the evening.
The naked thing had been a nightmare since childhood, most recently the night before her big sales pitch to get the Medea account. Account secured. Promotion pending. But the fear was alive and well. Thriving.
Maisie cocked her head over her shoulder. “Can you at least try to have fun?”
Fun was not crossing a picket line of vehement protesters for a simple girls’ night out. The rhythmic shouts—“Wake up to the truth!”—were audible this far down the pier. The protesters stayed behind the pylons, but Jordan carried their message with her nevertheless: Danger. And, um, what the hell are you doing?
And then there was the opposing throng, who’d come down to the docks in hopes of buying a ticket secondhand for ten times its value. Holy hell, she could really use that kind of money right now and would easily give up one night of girl bonding to get it.
But this wasn’t any old GNO. First, the girlfriend was her little sis (all grown up), and second, the activity was insane, hence the protesters and their waggling signs. But Maisie-Maze had to try everything, had to leap with all her heart into every new game that came along. Irresponsible was what her teachers and bosses called her. But really it was more like irrepressible. There was no stopping her, no reasoning with enthusiasm—what could a big sis do but go with her and make sure she came home all right?
Not that Jordan had any objection to Rêve in theory. She just didn’t want either of them to be part of the practice.
A gust of bitter coastal wind whipped at Jordan’s hair and clothes, and she wrapped her mini tuxedo jacket across her waist, folding her arms over it to keep the cold air off her skin. Didn’t help much; the bluster still stole up the skirt of her little black dress as she waited with the group on the pier, everybody outfitted for a night out and buzzing with excitement. Ages ranged from Maze’s bouncy twenty-one to—Jordan glanced at a wrinkled and shrunken little woman—what had to be close to a hundred. The age spread aligned with the cross-cutting demographics that characterized the Rêve enthusiasm overtaking the world.