"Kinda looks like Armageddon," Jenn's voice was quiet in his ear.

"Yeah," he replied, peering again through the binoculars.

He lay under bushes on a hill overlooking the resort area of the clubhouse with another Guardian. It was teeming with vamps, and he'd set up several Guardians around the country club to surveil the activities.

"We can put the explosives around the perimeter," another Guardian said to his left.

"They were seen stringing up motion sensors earlier. I'm expecting a report on their security later," Jenn replied. "I'll forward to you Jimmy."

"How many we got so far?" Dusty asked.

"We tracked three hundred that flew into Miami or Orlando. No way of tracking how many drove. Talon booked up all the surrounding hotels. He's got space for almost nine hundred. I think that's an optimistic count on our part."

"Two surveillance teams in place," Jimmy added. "We're tagging everyone we can. Talon's a no show though."

"To pre-empt or wait," Jenn murmured.

"Set up something for tomorrow night," Dusty replied. "We'll start by taking out what's here and the warehouse where he's storing weapons. Precision strikes, Jim, none of that messy shit."

"Messy shit later, boss?"

"Yeah. I'd like nothing more than to round them all up into a stadium and wipe 'em clean. Toni, you gettin' all this?"

Dusty positioned the earpiece of his comms headphone better.

"Yeah, boss," Toni replied.

"Coordinate a plan to evac the humans from the hotels. Jimmy, rig them as well, just in case. I don't intend to take any prisoners. Jenn, I need to know where Czerno is staying, what his plans are."

"I've got a partial on that one," she replied. "You're not going to like it."

"Send me coords."

"Don't have to. He's in your condo building. Got there a few hours ago."

"Fuck," he breathed. "He knows I won't take the building down with all the humans."

"I got a plan for you," Jimmy said with a smoky laugh.

"Jim, Toni, Meet me at HQ. Darian, with me."

He closed his eyes and opened them, arriving to his favorite room in HQ, the war room. Three walls were covered with digital maps, the fourth with a blank projection screen. He'd used the excuse of HQ moving to Miami a year before to upgrade everything in the room. It hummed with electronics. Darian's eyes were huge. He'd not said a word most of the day, taking in Dusty's world with fascination.

"We gonna blow something up?" Darian asked.

"We are."

Jimmy appeared, Jenn his ride. Toni trotted down the stairwell leading to the main house. He flipped a switch to display an aerial of the country club on one wall and Dusty's condo on another.

"Evac and implode the building before dawn," Dusty said. "I want to make it uncomfortable for our friend here in Miami. It'll be a good distraction while we rig the country club and other hotels."

"I can do that," Jimmy said, a slow smile spreading across his face.

Dusty gazed at his condo building. He never considered anywhere home. Every few years, he had to move anyway; they all did, for security reasons. His condo was as Bianca had said, boring with no color and no character. He was rarely there anyway.

So why did he feel a twinge of loss at the order to send it up in flames? It had something to do with Bianca, with destroying where he'd started with her.

"Dusty, can I go to watch the building explode?" Darian asked, eyes large.

"No. We'll watch it from here," he replied.

"Jimmy, I'll schedule the condo for 0530. That gives you three hours. Is that enough?" Toni asked, whipping out his PDA.

"Yeah, good," Jimmy confirmed.

"Bring in the explosives teams to prep the country club and hotels. As soon as the condo goes up, have them start," Dusty directed. "Jenn, start intell feeds every 30 minutes starting now. Toni, ready evacs, just in case. I hope to disrupt whatever it is they've got planned for tomorrow night. Everything needs to be ready, especially if the hurricane shifts to make landfall."

"Got it," Toni said and sat, logging into the computer at the table.

Jimmy jogged out of the basement war room, and Jenn disappeared.

"I'm glad I got the cat," Darian murmured. "I hope you get him, Dusty."

His words were hushed. Dusty didn't have to ask who; he knew Darian's painful history, thousands of years as a slave to the sadistic Black God. Dusty couldn't kill him and didn't expect to. If anyone could, it would be Darian while Damian was away.

He looked at Darian, recalling Sofi's warning. Darian was excited and anxious, the mention of Czerno making his features darken.

"Darian, I wanna give you a new rule," he said.

The Grey God rolled his eyes.

"No matter what, you will always, always protect your family first. Sofi and Bianca. You understand?"

"I know that one, Dusty."

"At all costs. Even your own life. You will not fail them, even if you face Czerno himself."

Darian looked at him uneasily.

"I promise, Dusty," he said.

He understood Sofi's concern. Darian was scared, unsure. He had no control of his own powers, and he'd not yet been tested in a confrontation with the man who enslaved him. Dusty didn't know if a year and a half of his own mind was enough to erase thousands of years under the control of another.

He had a feeling the worst was going to happen, and the sense they wouldn't all make it through the weekend returned.

"Toni, if at any time you feel the girls are in danger, evac 'em."

His XO looked up with a frown.

"You going somewhere, boss?"

"Not planning on it. Always good to have a backup plan."

He glanced at his watch, suspecting where Bianca would be.

"I'll be back," he said.

He materialized in the common area of the newbie barracks, where Bianca lay on her stomach across the couch in front of the TV. Jonny was sprawled on the floor in front of the TV, asleep.

"Hey," she murmured.

He sat across from her, elbows on his knees, watching her. She wore a t-shirt and shorts that revealed her shapely, soft legs.

"I'm mad at you."

He smiled.

"You shouldn't have given Jonny a gun."

"He's a man now and a Natural," he replied.

"I don't like it."

"It's who he is."

She sat up and gazed at him, chewing her lip in a way he knew to be an indication that she was troubled.

"We'll teach him how to use it," he assured her, taking in her loose curls and large eyes.

"Something bad's going to happen, isn't it?" she asked.

"Why do you say that?"

"Someone told me."


She shook her head.

"Maybe," he said at last. "You're safe, though. The first sign of trouble, you'll be evac'd."

"What about you?"

"I fight. It's what I do."

Her frown deepened. She rose and approached, resting back on her heels in front of him, close enough for him to smell her musk and feel her heat. He touched her automatically, stroking the side of her face and tucking errant curls behind her ear.

"You came to say farewell, just in case," she assessed.

"Something like that."

He took her face in his hands and drew her to him, kissing her once again. She leaned into him, and he pulled her against him.

"Stay with me," he whispered. "And I don't mean to sleep."

She touched his face, then his hair, her cool power soothing him. He wanted to lose himself in her warmth and liveliness on his last night. Something bad was going to happen when he faced Czerno. Without Damian and Jule and with Darian not yet able to take his place as the Grey God, he wasn't going to walk away from this weekend alive.

She awoke alone. Stretching, she couldn't ever remember feeling so relaxed or deeply sated. Or sore. She grimaced. She wasn't surprised to find him gone. Her skin smelled of their lovemaking, her hair and the sheets of him. She recalled the unforgettable night with a deep flush, still feeling his hot mouth and touch branding her body.

She looked down at the swing of a necklace grazing her chest. It was too short for her to see clearly, and she crossed to the mirror on the other side of the room.

He'd given her his necklace, as if marking her as his. She fingered it and took in her glowing features. She was in one of the main rooms of the mansion and changed clothes, ravenous. Her phone vibrated as she trotted down the stairs, and she glanced down, smiling to see he'd texted.

Stay inside the gate.

Puzzled, she started to respond when someone rushed down the stairs by her. She recognized the petite blonde, who wrenched open the door and ran.

"Sofi!" Toni bellowed, tearing after her. "Stop, Sofi!"

Stay with Sofi.

This text came from the Watcher. Bianca jogged after the two, who raced towards a small crowd at the opened gate of the compound. Her breath caught as she saw Talon leaning against a black car.

The devil was with him.

"Darian!" Sofi cried.

The man was cowering at the gate-line, his wide shoulders hunched and his frame shaking. Toni snatched Sofi's arm before she could reach him, then grabbed her as she neared.

"He can't enter," he said harshly, angry gaze on the devil. "Dusty's wards keep him out."

"They'll come to me, my friend," the devil replied with a small smile. "Won't you Darian."

The devil's smile grew as his cold eyes took all of them and settled on her necklace. Bianca shivered and moved closer to Toni.

"I was a bit pissed this morning to have my condo blown out from under me and quite a few of my vamps vaporized," the devil said, glancing down at clothing displaying signs of burns and plaster. "Thought I'd return the favor."

"Darian, come here," Sofi called.

"Stay where you are, Darian," the devil replied, gazing at the blonde. "It's been awhile, love. Ready to take your place?"

"You don't want to do this, Czerno."

"Between the two of you, I think we'll have a good time," he said, gaze returning to her. "Darian, bring me Sofi. Talon, shoot Toni."

Toni pushed both women behind him, and Darian took a teetering step towards him. Darian's eyes were glazed and still, his confusion clear. Bianca cried out in surprise as Talon unloaded on Toni. The Guardian staggered, and Darian took Sofi's arm. Sofi dug her heels into the ground. Bianca grabbed her other arm, instincts screaming.

"Darian, no!" she shouted.

"It's ok, kiri," he replied in a mechanical voice.

He wrenched Sofi off the ground in a tight bear hug and deposited her on the other side of the gate line. Before the blonde could run, the devil snatched her.

"Get in the car, Darian," he ordered.

The man hesitated before obeying.

"Now for you," the devil said, facing her.

Bianca backed away. He held out his hand to Talon, who plunked a gun into it.

"Run, Bianca!" Sofi ordered.

The devil shot her twice, thrice, and Bianca stared, horrified, as the blonde dropped.

"Now, you have a choice to make," the devil said with a calm smile. "You can step out here and heal her, or you can stay there and watch her die."

Bianca looked fearfully at the pregnant blonde, whose blood already soaked her clothing, then at the waiting devil beside her.

Stay with Sofi.

She took one step forward, then another, throwing herself onto the ground beside Sofi. She touched her once before Talon wrenched her up. Talon all but threw them both into the backseat while he climbed into the driver's seat. Darian sat, hunched and unresponsive on the far side.

The car jarred her as they launched away from the gate. Bianca righted herself then carefully straightened the blonde, panicked by her pale features. She placed her hands on her face and winced as Sofi vacuumed her power as Darian had. Awkwardly jammed in the back seat, she sneaked a look at the occupants in the front of the car and withdrew her phone.

I need you.

Her eyes watered as she typed it. She sent the text then tucked the phone in her pocket, praying they could track her with the tag Toni placed there. The thought of Toni lying in the driveway made her chest tighten. She looked at the unconscious woman in her lap then twisted to look up at Darian.

His golden gaze was down, turmoil on his face. He folded, face turning crimson and gold eyes swirling madly. He clutched his head and gave a small moan.

"Darian," she whispered.

Her hand trembled as she touched him. His body sucked healing power from her. The lingering sickness in his body fled, gone for good.

"No!" Darian roared.

The world around them stopped. The car, the traffic, the wind. He fought himself, groping with unseeing eyes for the crumpled oracle. She pushed herself away, uncertain which terrified her more: Darian's meltdown or the fact he'd stopped the world in its place.

Talon's jaw was lax, his eyes wide.

"What the fuck did you do?" he demanded, the first to break the terse silence.

She could hardly breathe, as if the air in the car was running out. The devil's cold hazel eyes flared and turned black.

The devil reached over to Darian, placing a hand on his red forehead. The door tore off, and Darian was flung out, his grip around the oracle tight enough to take her with him. Before they hit the pavement, they disappeared.

"Get outta the car," the devil ordered.

She couldn't move. Talon reached in and snatched her, dragging her out.

The world was dead. There were no sounds, no movement but theirs.

"Pop - "

"Don't ever call me that," the devil snarled. "You're the son of some whore I don't even remember!"

Bianca righted herself. Talon released her, wired and uneasy. The devil looked around

"Can't you fix this?" Talon demanded and began to pace.

She looked into the car beside them at the smiling family frozen in place. Afraid of what she'd feel, she resisted the urge to touch them.

This can't be real.

Though his eyes were still dark, the devil appeared calm. He struck off in one direction, back the way they'd come.

"Pop, what the - "

"Shut the fuck up. Bring the girl. We're going back to the portal."

Talon appeared as baffled as she felt. He hesitated then snatched her arm, following the devil as he walked down a sidewalk full of frozen figures.

"Fucking creepy, fucked up …" Talon mumbled then stopped.

He withdrew a small case with a needle in it and several small vials. She watched him shoot up. At once, the tension eased from his frame, and his eyes went glassy. He returned the case and grabbed her again.

She brushed one of the frozen women trapped in time on the sidewalk, surprised to feel her warm skin and the brush of the wool suit. Cold fear spiraled through her.

What kind of creature could do this?

"How many people in the village?"

"They call them towns in this century," Iggy corrected him.

"Boss, you can take Iggy back any time you want," the disgruntled Southeast Ohio Sector chief grumbled. "About two thousand."

"Two thousand?" Dusty echoed.

"Everyone's contained. We've got patrols around -"

"Speck doesn't understand that if even a mosquito leaves the town, there's no way we can stop the spread!" Iggy cut in, agitation clear as she fumbled to open the case to her iPad. "Let me show you the virtual re-enactment of what happens if -"

"Don't need to see it," Dusty said. "Iggy, give me a minute with Speck."

She left in a huff, and Dusty crossed his arms against Ohio's fall breeze. Speck's sector headquarters was abuzz with activity; the only private place to talk was the back porch overlooking a field of knee-high winter wheat facing a sun setting too early. His breaths hung in suspension with his thoughts as he mulled the fate of two thousand souls.

"I'm not the idiot she takes me for," Speck said, looking from the screen door Iggy slammed closed to Dusty. "How do you wipe out an entire town down to the rats without anyone else ever finding out?"

"You make it look like an accident. Assassinations 101," he replied, though he'd been thinking the same. "We did it all the time in the Dark Ages. More of a challenge nowadays."

Speck shifted away from him, a response Dusty was accustomed to after thousands of years as Damian's lead executioner.

"Can't exactly blame this one on contaminated water, boss," Speck said a little uncertainly. "The mad scientist is right - we can't let anything living out of this town."

Speck waited. He sensed the man as large as he was dark wanted to pursue but didn't.

"I need a drink," Speck said. "You want anything?"

"Vodka. Straight, no ice."

"I'll bring the bottle."

Dusty waited until he heard the door close behind him before he moved. He rubbed his neck, unable to shake the feeling that something was wrong. Rather, that something else was wrong. He doubted anything could make this fucked up situation appear less unsettling than it was.

He shouldn't question what to do. He loved clean-up duty, the mass execution of vamps.

This was different. This time, innocents had been infected. He had no pity for those who chose to become vamps. He had little pity for humanity in general.

But two thousand innocent people, down to the family dog.

There was one solution: wipe everything off the map. The fallout was less important than ensuring the safety of everyone outside of the town.

Bianca healed a newly turned vamp.

He closed his eyes, feeling her warm breath and soft skin against his again. She smelled musky and sweet. He could imagine her horror when she discovered what he planned.

For the first time in his life, he wondered what solutions other than execution would work.

"Hesitating for a fucking woman," he muttered.

The sense of ill-boding returned. He expected these days to be his last, but he'd give the order to decimate the entire state if it meant humanity as a whole survived. He pulled his phone free, realizing neither Toni nor Darian had checked in for a couple of hours. The Grey God might have realized his suicidal wish and was lying on the bottom of the ocean by now.


His hackles rose at the Grey God's hoarse, broken tone. He turned.

Darian was in the shadows, dressed in his workout gear despite the cold weather, splattered with blood. His golden eyes blazed from the shade of the farmhouse like two candles.

"Dusty," he repeated.

Dusty saw his mouth working, the glint of moonlight off the tears on the Grey God's face. His air was beyond agitated. Moonlight and darkness alike bent and danced around him, surrounding him in a hazy metallic shimmer.

"What'd you do, Darian?"

"I don't know!"

A hard knot formed in his stomach as he took in the blood and dirt.

"Where are the girls?" he asked in a low, level growl.

"Sofi … she's safe," Darian said and stepped from the shadows to pace. "I did something bad, Dusty."

"Where's Bianca?"

Darian hesitated, and fury filled Dusty. He closed the distance between them, his own tightly controlled god-power unfurling. His power hit Darian at the same time he did, and the Grey God crumpled, pinned to the wooden deck.

"Safe!" Darian gasped. "Dusty, she's safe!"

He paused, bristling with lightening and rage at the thought of Darian betraying their family.

"You have 60 seconds to tell me what happened, Darian. I'll kill you here. I don't give a fuck what you are if you hurt either!"

Darian wept.

"Fifty seconds."

Darian spoke in hoarse, sob-punctuated words. Dusty was prepared for the worst, but Darian's story left him speechless. His rage simmered, yet he couldn't maintain the rage when faced with the sudden need to think.

"You broke two divine codes!" he shouted. "You left Sofi and Bianca to fend for themselves!"

Furious, he shoved himself up from the crying god and paced.

"But they're safe, Dusty, I promise. Sofi is in the netherworld, and Czerno knows he can't hurt Bianca or -"

"You left Bianca with the Black God! On what fucked up planet have you been living, Darian?! Have you learned - no, do you remember nothing about loyalty, integrity, and family? I knew you were fucked up, but this, this -" he blew out a breath. "You're no brother of mine, Darian. I don't know what the fuck you are."

"I can fix it, Dusty. I can fix it," the Grey God swore, large body seated and hunched as he held his head. "I promise."

Dusty rubbed his face, wanting nothing more than to kill Darian where he sat but knowing only the Grey God could un-fuck what he'd done.

He'd spend so long hoping Darian became what he once was. His gaze returned to the Grey God, who looked both pleading and tortured.

The Darian he'd known was gone. The shell of a man before him was too weak to ever measure up to Damian's noble brother.

"Get away from me, Darian," he said.

"Dusty, please! Sofi made me come. I can fix the village!"

"I don't give two shits about the village, Darian! Bring Bianca back!"

"I can't, Dusty. I'm not strong enough!"

"You sent them to that temporal dimension! Bring them back."

"I don't know how."

"They're stuck?"

"Czerno can bring them back."

"And kill Bianca when he does," he said. "You fucked up good this time, Darian! I can't fix this one."

"Czerno … I know he can … " Darian struggled visibly. "He and Damian can use the portals. I think … no, I know they have to be able to, if I can."

He felt sick to his stomach and wondered how Bianca had become so much a part of him in so little time.

"I can fix the village," Darian said again.

Dusty didn't care about the village. He wanted Bianca back. He wanted Darian dead.

He didn't want to die this weekend.

The last was a thought he never expected to have. He'd never had a reason to live if the immortality thing didn't work out.

"Dusty?" Darian asked. "Are you gonna kill me?"

"After this weekend."

"I deserve it."

"You do."

Darian sniffled and stood.

"Can I save the village first?" he asked in a sad voice.

"I don't give a fuck what you do. When dawn hits, I'm wiping every trace of that village off the planet. You wanna solve both our problems, be there when I do!"

He stalked away, sensing how hurt Darian was. The Grey God didn't follow, but Speck - who'd been lingering in the shadows - did. Dusty strode to the small gym behind the main house, stripping off his jacket and shirt as he did so.

"Boss," Speck called, trotting after him. "You want us to prep a clean-up crew?

"Do it."

The sector chief remained in the doorway, watching as he unleashed his fury against a punching bag. Dusty fought it until his anger subsided, unable to shake the sense of fear. He'd last felt the cold sense of impotent rage when he was a child and his family was slaughtered before his eyes.

Before the physical and divine worlds split in the Schism, he'd been a petty slave in a world of gods and demi-gods. His family's master flew into a rage one day, when they'd refuse to turn over his sister, sweet Trinka, to his harem. He'd ordered them all slaughtered. Somehow, he'd survived and was auctioned off like an animal with several other children his age. Damian saw him and bought the herd of them, freeing all but him. Damian's mother, an oracle as crazy as she was powerful, told her son about the slave child with blue eyes who'd one day change the path of fate.

Breathless, Dusty closed his eyes and leaned against the punching bag, unable to shake his first memories of Damian or his last memories of Trinka.

He'd trade all the powers Damian granted him after the Schism for his sister's life. He'd trade them for Bianca. He couldn't lose the only other woman he'd ever loved.

"You need anything, boss?" Speck asked.

Dusty straightened, the pain of his memories subsiding.

"Send Iggy in. I need to know how this happened."

"Vampire pigs," Iggy replied from the doorway.

"Talk to me, Iggy," he said and wiped his brow.

Speck tossed him his shirt, which he donned as he listened.

"They infected the animals in the town with the vamp disease. Animals bit the people. People bit others. You tracking, boss?"

"I get it. No cure?"

"Nope," Speck said.

Iggy hesitated, and Dusty's gaze sharpened.

"Boss, I heard you all turned a vamp into a human," she said. "Can you bring him here?"

"Why? We've never been able to transform a vamp into a human in thousands of years."

"How do I explain it to you … " Iggy said with a thoughtful pause. "They're vamps but they haven't completed initiation."

"So?" Speck asked.

"So, Speck," she said with an exaggerated sigh "they're more like humans with some nasty disease that might have a cure and not like vamps, who are just good for pushing up daisies. As long as they haven't completed initiation … well, I don't know. Can you bring me one?"

"One what?"

"Someone infected. And the guy you turned back into a human."

Dusty exchanged a look with Speck.

"We'll bring 'em, but I'm leveling the place at dawn," he warned.

"At least let me look at a couple of things. This is why I'm a Natural, you know."


"Boss, you can have my room if you need to rest," Speck said as she darted past him.

"Thanks, but don't -"

His phone rang. Speck crossed his arms and waited.

"Watcha got, Jenn?"

"You remember a few days ago when we were talking about Talon and Czerno?"

"That's been every day for the past month," he said with some impatience. "And for now, they're contained."

"Hold that thought. You remember how your condo building came down this morning an hour before you planned?"


"It wasn't Jimmy," she said.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, it wasn't Jimmy. He rigged the building but didn't blow it. I thought it was strange, since Jimmy's the last person who would veer off course from your orders cuz you let him blow up whatever he wants and he doesn't wanna lose that. We started looking into it and sure enough, it wasn't Jimmy."

"Then who was it?"

"My money's on Talon."

"Makes sense, since he knew I was there," he muttered.

"No, boss, he didn't. Czerno sent the vamps to your condo building for Bianca, not Talon. Talon was after Czerno."

He rubbed his forehead.

"Talon can't kill him."

"Jonny can. Found out he's got some rare Natural gift," she said with some excitement.


"You'd be proud, boss. I put some hurtin' on a few sources and am down to one now. Talon wasn't after Bianca - he'd been after Jonny. Bianca was a bonus he didn't expect until Jonny told him about her."

"Stop," he said. "Whatever you found, keep it to yourself. No more conversations on the phone. Bring Jonny here. Now."

There was a pause, then a curious,

"Sure, boss. I also checked on Toni. He's in bad shape, but he's alive."

"My only piece of good news today."

He hung up and lifted his chin at Speck, who obeyed the silent command to leave. Dusty looked around the gym, sensing it was beyond time for him to admit he couldn't prevent what was coming. He flipped through the address book in his phone and dialed.

"You almost waited too long."

He braced himself and turned to face the grandfatherly figure in the corner with a smile and emerald eyes.

"No bullshit, Watcher, or you can watch me fuck up the rest of the universe," he warned.

The Watcher nodded.

"How can Jonny kill Czerno?"

"It's an interesting time to be here," the Watcher said. "Oracles, healers, many of which haven't been seen since the ancient times. In the ancient times, there were also God-slayers, men of a special kind who were bred and raised by the Gods for immortal wars. They possessed a unique gift, the ability to kill an immortal without being an immortal. The Gods raised them like sheep, because men were more plentiful and easily replaced than immortals. The trick was to breed men who could kill immortals without ever allowing them to become immortals themselves. If they did, their gift was elevated and what made them dangerous to immortals then made them dangerous to the Gods. The White and Black Gods never allowed the slayers to become immortal, no matter how bloodthirsty they were."

"Jonny's a god-slayer?"

"He is."

"Talon wanted him to kill Czerno. But he couldn't take over, if that's his goal."

"There's a way he could. There's a transfer of power from the moment a Black God dies and his successor takes his place. If Talon killed Jonny during that split second of vulnerability, before Jonny gained Czerno's powers, he could become the Black God."

Dusty felt cold inside.

"Talon wouldn't have Czerno's restraint," the Watcher added quietly. "As sick as Czerno is, he largely preys on other immortals."

"Talon would wipe out humans as fast as he could."

The Watcher said nothing, and Dusty stared hard at the wall.

"Damian - "

"I can't allow Damian to be here in the presence of a god-slayer," the Watcher interjected. "You - and Darian - have to fix this."

"Fix this?" he echoed, anger burning through him. "Darian is a fucking mess! He sends a human to the divine world, the Black God to some in-between place and you think he can fix anything?!"

"You have everything you need to make things right, Dusty, as long as you're willing to do what you must."

The Watcher's grim words stopped his retort. He heard the soft voice again.

I'll see you soon, brother.

"Whatever it takes," the Watcher said. "Talon can't become the Black God."

Dusty said nothing, mind racing once again.

"I've said too much," the Watcher said. "Sofi is safe. If Darian can't return her, I'll bring her back after the battle is over. The Black God will have to bring Bianca back; I can do nothing to undo what Darian did to them."

"Can you stabilize Darian?"

"You'll have to trust him."

"Fat chance," he retorted.

"You have no one else to help you, Dusty."

Dusty's phone rang, and he glanced down. When he looked up, the Watcher was gone. Mumbling curses, he answered the phone.

"Um, boss, that Darian guy is trying to walk straight into the town."

Dusty's jaw clenched until he felt the muscles tick. He felt a mix of fury at the mention of Darian's name and resignation. As pissed as he was, Darian was his brother. He'd sworn to Damian that he'd protect him. And if what the Watcher said was true, Darian would probably be the only one left standing at the end of the weekend.

Trust him.

Of all the coddling he'd accused Sofi and Bianca of doing, he'd been working hard to portect Darian from anything that might force him to grow into his powers.

"Let him go," he said softly.


"Just do it, Speck."

"Ok, boss."