Gold Mine by Skye Warren

“I need them. I need them for my sister.”

“Your sister.”

I stride across the room to the door, and the party blinds me anew with its color and light and sound. “She’s probably looking for me. Worried about me.”

“Or she’s dancing with a stranger.”

The words pierce my secret worry, that I’m not important after all, that I’m too insignificant, too strange to really care about. I’ve turned my life upside down to go on the run with her. Would she do the same for me? I shake my head. Of course she would. We’re sisters. This man is trying to divide us. For what purpose? To take the diamonds. Though I couldn’t say why he doesn’t kidnap me again. Instead he lets me walk into the ballroom, following a few feet behind. For a moment there’s only a wild kaleidoscope of color. Then it focuses, and I see my sister standing where I left her, her hands clenched together so tight her knuckles are white, her blue eyes frantic. She sees me a second later, and relief floods her. God, I’m such a fool for doubting her—even for a second. We’re sisters. A bond like that can never be broken.

I rush toward her, and she toward me. We meet along the back of the room, near the black and gold foliage. In unspoken agreement we wait until we’re neatly tucked behind a heavy fern before speaking. “What happened?” she demands.

“Were you in danger?” I have to know that first. “He said he had men watching you. He said—”

“No.” Her gaze moves behind me, and I know Adam has followed us. “He found me first. He told me to keep dancing, to keep moving, that they wouldn’t touch me as long as I was with someone else.”

Relief fills me. “Thank God for that.”

“But then it took so long, and the men here are jacked on more than just alcohol, so it took so much effort to keep them from being grabby. Did you make the exchange?”

I glance back at Adam. “No.”

Something stops me from blaming him in front of my sister. Some niggling suspicion that maybe this needed to happen. That he really did save us tonight.

“You’re thinking of Elijah North,” he says. “Wishing I were him.”

“No,” I lie.

“You shouldn’t trust him.”

“God, you’ve said that to me already. But you know, he isn’t the one who put a black hood over my head. He isn’t the one who threw me into a white van.”

“No. I did that.”

There’s regret in his eyes. Or maybe that’s just a trick of the flickering candles. Either way I can’t believe it. I learned not to trust Elijah, but I also learned not to trust Adam. It’s a dark game they play. One I don’t want to be in the middle of.

“Enough,” he says, his voice low. “They might come back. We need to be gone.”

“Where are we going?”

He gives me a small smile, almost bittersweet. “Oh, we’re not going anywhere. You’re going somewhere you’ll be safe. Only I won’t be joining you.”

I don’t have time to ask what he means. He’s pushing through the crowd, creating a small river for us to follow him. I grab my sister by the wrist and take off after him.

Maybe it’s insanity. Or a suicide wish. This man hurt me once, badly. In the worst way a man can a woman, but he feels like a lifeline here.

In a sea of monsters, he’s the most dangerous.

We reach the outside, where the gondolas ferry people back and forth over the moat. Something has already gone wrong here. A single gondola floats aimlessly, empty, its oar a couple yards away. The men in white dress shirts manning the valet station have disappeared. Worry rises in my throat. How could I have made it out of here alive? My sister squeezes my hand, and I resolve that we’ll make it. It’s a pure force of will.

A loud bang comes from around the side of the mansion, and we jump. Adam puts his body in front of mine, his hand on my arm, keeping me back. Keeping me safe.

Shadows split apart. A man appears. It must be my imagination. He can’t really be here, after so many months of running. Then again, it feels inevitable. Every day I ran away from him, I was also running toward him.

“Elijah,” I manage to say, relieved my voice doesn’t waver.

“Did he hurt you?” he asks. Even in the moonlight his eyes glint a beautiful, brilliant green. He’s an otherworld creature, all the more powerful in the night.

“No. He protected me, actually. He—”