We may have gotten the all clear, but I feel pursued. I hurry toward my bedroom. Those of us who are not on the Council share the dormitory wing of the castle. Once, these rooms were packed with young Watchers-in-training, competing and studying and vying to be given the ultimate calling: a seat on the Council.

Most of the Council had some experience working with Slayers, though their knowledge tended to be more academic than practical. With one Slayer and a full Council, most Watchers never worked directly with the Chosen One. Watchers who were actually assigned Slayers had . . . reputations. For being too close to the darkness. For lacking the level of professional detachment and farsightedness required to make difficult decisions. That’s why my father and mother were such a good team. He was on the ground; she was up next for the Council.

Still, there were so many Council hopefuls who tested high enough that people like me—people who would never be an active Watcher or qualify for the Council—wouldn’t have been allowed in the dorms. Legacy Watcher family members like Jade, Imogen, and me would have been shuffled to soulless office buildings to do accounting, far-flung outposts to study magic, or, if we were lucky, assigned as support staff for the Council or special ops. We were never destined for this castle. Then Buffy took destiny and pummeled it to bloody, broken pieces. And here we are.

Dorm rooms for younger trainees were once lined with bunk beds. We cleared all those out two years ago, quietly and without ceremony. Now the Littles are bunked together with Imogen in a suite. The rest of us have our own rooms, except for Artemis and me. Not because there isn’t space—if there’s anything in the Watcher ranks now, it’s space—but because Artemis didn’t want to be far from me, even while sleeping.

I hate sleeping.

Every night in my dreams, I’d be left behind in the flames. And it was Artemis who woke me up from the nightmares. Though lately I’ve been having a hard time falling asleep. As soon as the world darkens, my body begins buzzing with adrenaline and nerves. And when I do sleep, my dreams are not so often about being left behind. Usually they’re not about me at all.

I’ve been hiding in our room for only a few minutes before Artemis finds me. She slips in and hugs me so fiercely I can feel her trembling. It stuns me. We haven’t hugged in years. She shows her love for me in the most Artemis ways possible. Monitoring my diet to be certain I’m getting the correct nutrition. Making sure my inhalers are always filled. Sleeping close in case I need help.

Physically affectionate Artemis makes alarm bells go off. If she’s hugging me, I’m right. Something is seriously wrong.

“I had no idea what actually happened,” she says, pulling back and inspecting me, searching my face to confirm I’m okay. “When I saw the dead hellhound outside, I assumed Rhys killed it. God, Nina. I should have been there.”

“You couldn’t have known. None of us could have.”

“How did you kill it?”

I swallow the rising panic. There’s so much I’ve kept locked away inside, unwilling to confront it myself. So much I couldn’t say aloud, because that would make it real. The dam finally opens. “It was like—like I wasn’t me anymore,” I admit. “Artemis, I’m scared.” My eyes fill with tears.

“The closet?” Artemis’s tone is gentler than I’ve heard in a long time.

Suddenly she’s not Castle Artemis. She’s my Artemis—my twin sister, who I can trust with anything. We climb into the closet and sit shoulder to shoulder. We used to do this in our old house, hide in our closet when we were little and did something naughty. Later, it was where she’d take me when the nightmares were too bad and I was too scared to sleep. It’s our place for telling secrets.

And I’ve never had a bigger one.

I scoot so that my back is against the wall, smashing the hanging clothes. Mine are all bright, rainbow colors, pieces that make me happy when I need it. Artemis’s are all black, utilitarian. If she ever needs cheering, she doesn’t have time to look for it in what she wears.

She mimics my posture. “Tell me.”

I take a deep breath. “I didn’t know what I was doing when the hellhound attacked. It was like instinct. My body took over completely and I killed that thing without even thinking.”

She doesn’t respond.

The thing I’m most scared of, the thing I’ve been ignoring, comes to the surface like a demon crawling from the blackest depths. I should have told her the day I first felt it. But what if Artemis can’t fix this? Artemis fixes everything, but this might be too much for even her. What will that do to her, if she can’t help? What will it do to me?

“I’ve . . . I’ve been feeling weird. For a couple of months now.”

The timing is not lost on her. “A couple of months generally, or a couple of months precisely?”

“Do you remember the day with the big transdimensional demons?”

Artemis chokes out a laugh. “I do, in fact, remember that day.”

? ? ?

We had been outside, on one of Artemis’s rare breaks.

I shifted on the blanket and squinted up at the sky. “What does that cloud look like to you?”

Artemis didn’t look up from her sandwich. “Water vapor.”

I elbowed her in the side. “Come on. Use your imagination.”

“I can’t. My imagination died a long, agonizing death due to inhaling too much weapon polish.”

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