Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2)(6)

Kate grabbed a second slice of pizza, trying to hide the pain as the bandages tugged on the skin beneath her sleeve.

“You didn’t have to do this,” she said between bites.

He shrugged. “I know.”

She considered him over the crust of her pizza. Riley was slim, with warm brown eyes, the kind of smile that took over his face, and a savior complex. When he wasn’t at the university or the police station, he volunteered with at-risk teens.

Was that what she was to him? His latest project?

Kate had been in Prosperity for all of three weeks when their paths crossed. She’d spent her nights squatting in abandoned buildings, her days nursing cups of coffee in café corners as she scoured the opendrive for clues.

It was only a matter of time before the café kicked her out—she hadn’t bought anything in hours. Still, she didn’t appreciate it when a guy sat down at her table on the pretense of studying, only to ask her if she needed help.

She’d had her first run-in with a monster the night before, and it hadn’t gone well. But considering that the extent of her experience—schoolroom self-defense aside—consisted of executing a bound Malchai in her father’s basement and nearly getting disemboweled by a Corsai on the subway, she really shouldn’t have been surprised.

She’d gotten away with a split lip and a broken nose, but she knew she looked rough.

She told the guy she wasn’t interested in God, or whatever he was selling, but he didn’t leave. A few minutes later a fresh cup of coffee appeared in front of her.

“How did that happen?” he asked, nodding at her face.

“Hunting monsters,” she said, because sometimes the truth was strange enough to make people go away.

“Uh, okay . . . ,” he said, clearly skeptical. He got to his feet. “Come on.”

She didn’t move. “Where?”

“I have a hot shower, an extra bed. There might even be some food in the fridge.”

“I don’t know you.”

He held out his hand. “Riley Winters.”

Kate stared at his open palm. She wasn’t big on charity, but she was tired and hungry and felt like shit. Besides, if he tried anything unwanted, she was pretty sure she could take him. “Kate,” she said. “Kate Gallagher.”

Riley didn’t try anything—thanks to the aforementioned boyfriend—just gave her a towel and a pillow and, a week later, a key. To this day, she wasn’t exactly sure what had happened. Maybe she’d had a concussion. Maybe he was just persuasive.

Kate yawned, tossing the paper plate onto the table beside her gun.

Riley reached for the remote, switching the TV off.

Kate responded by switching the radio on.

Riley shook his head. “What did silence ever do to you?”

He didn’t know, of course, about the car wreck that had killed her mother and stripped the hearing from her left ear. Didn’t know that when sound was taken from you, you had to find ways to take it back.

“If you want sound,” said Riley, “we could always talk.”

Kate sighed. This was his game.

Ply her with food and sugar until she was blissed out on empty calories, and then, invariably, start prying. And the worst part was some masochistic part of her must want it, must relish the fact someone cared enough to ask, because she kept letting him in. Kept ending up here on the couch with empty soda cans and pizza boxes.

Bad habit.


“Okay,” she said, and Riley brightened visibly, but if he thought she was going to talk about herself, he was wrong. “Why did you bring up that explosion?”

Confusion streaked his face. “What?”

“On the chat, you mentioned an explosion. Man-made. Why?”

“You saw that?” He sat back. “I don’t know. The Wardens have got me looking for things that don’t line up, and it caught my eye. . . . It’s the fifth murder-suicide this week. That’s really high, even for Prosperity.”

Kate frowned. “You think it’s some kind of monster?”

Riley shrugged. “Six months ago, I didn’t believe in monsters. Now I see them everywhere.” He shook his head. “It’s probably nothing. Let’s talk about something else. How are you holding up?”

“Oh, look at the time,” she said dryly. “Malcolm’s going to get jealous.”

“Thanks for your concern,” he said, “but I assure you, our relationship is stable enough to allow for time with friends.”


The word glanced off her ribs, hard enough to leave her winded.

Because she knew a secret: there were two kinds of monsters, the kind that hunted the streets and the kind that lived in your head. She could fight the first, but the second was more dangerous. It was always, always, always a step ahead.

It didn’t have teeth or claws, didn’t feed on flesh or blood or hearts.

It simply reminded you of what happened when you let people in.

Behind her eyes, August Flynn stopped fighting, because of her. He collapsed into darkness, because of her. He sacrificed a part of himself—his humanity, his light, his soul—because of her.

She could handle her own blood.

She didn’t need anyone else’s on her hands.

“Rule one,” she said, forcing her voice even, light. “Don’t make friends. It never ends well.”

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