Page 55 of Beta (Alpha 2)

Memory assaulted me, and I sobbed.

“Sshh.” Valentine’s voice, murmuring in my ear. His chest was beneath my cheek, his arm around my shoulder. “You’re safe. I’ve got you, Kyrie.”

“Valentine?” His name came out in an incoherent mumble.

“Yes, love. It’s me.”

“You came.”

His chest rocked, as if he was stifling a sob of his own. “Of course.” His hand smoothed over my scalp, ever so gently. “Of course I came for you. Nothing could keep me away.”


“What does?”


He rubbed my arm with his hand. “I know. We’re almost there.”

“Thirsty.” A straw touched my lips, and I took a tentative sip. Cool, clean water wetted my lips. I took a greedy gulp, letting the water soak into my mouth, wetting my tongue. I swallowed it, and then some more. “Where?”

“We’re in the air right now. We’ll be in Athens in a few minutes.”

“You…are you okay?”

“Me? I’m fine. Not a scratch.”

I tried to summon something to say, but everything hurt. I took another sip, and thought of something he should know. “Tobias. He—he didn’t. I—he tried. He was going to. I stopped him. I—I killed him.”

He let out a breath of relief. “You did good.”

“I peed on him.” The admission actually made me laugh, for some reason. It wasn’t funny, though.

“I know.”

“I killed Gina, too. I shot her…so many times. I couldn’t stop. She was so evil.” I felt dizzy, tired. I was exhausted. My face hurt. My broken nose hurt. My knee throbbed. My ribs hurt, too, thanks to Tobias. At the time, none of the pain had registered, and afterward, everything else had been throbbing too badly to notice. “Tobias…she brought in a girl, an innocent…girl. An American girl. She made me watch while Tobias…god….” I couldn’t finish, shivering, stomach roiling at the memory.

“I know, love. I know. We found her.” Valentine kissed my temple. “Shush, now. It’s over. You’re safe now. Rest, all right?”

“I like it when you sound English.” I wasn’t sure where that came from.

Sleep pulled me under.

* * *

I woke again, and this time I didn’t hurt as much. I felt light, as if I could float, yet my brain seemed heavy and sluggish. I opened my eyes to bright sunlight, the way things are always a little brighter at sea. I felt the rocking of a boat beneath me, gentle but constant, the deep side-to-side rolling motion of the sea. I’d spent enough time on boats with Roth, on rivers and at dock and out to sea, that I could recognize the motion anywhere.

There were floor-to-ceiling windows running around the room, polished chrome between each pane, blonde-colored wood trim beneath, matching the floor. The bed I was on was a California king on a pedestal against the back wall, set in the center of the room. The glass ran three hundred and sixty degrees, providing a view of the sea in every direction. The sun shone off to my left, bright orange and resting on the horizon. Sunrise, it seemed. The sea was calm, tinted orange-pink.

I swallowed, my throat dry. Rolling my head to one side, I saw a panel on the wall beside my head containing buttons and sliding switches. They were all conveniently labeled: lighting—with three sliders all at the bottom, indicating that they were off; wall tint—and a single slider, at the bottom; ceiling tint—with a single slider toggled up. I glanced up, and saw that the roof of the room was flat black, opaque. I stretched out and slid the ceiling tint switch down, and the roof’s opacity faded to transparent, showing me the sky, orange-red now, a few clouds appearing as gray twists across the horizon.

Where was I? Was this a boat? Clearly it was, since there was nothing in any direction but ocean. Looking out past my feet, straight ahead, I could see the bow of the boat. A man in black fatigues stood at the bow, and as I watched, he turned in place, revealing a machine gun of some kind slung across his chest. Another identically dressed man approached and the two conversed, each of them scanning the horizon in all directions as they spoke. One of them laughed and slapped the other on the back, and then retreated from the bow, moving astern.

Footsteps thudded on stairs, and Valentine appeared beside the bed. “Kyrie? You’re awake!”

I worked myself into a sitting position, feeling the distant twinge of aches dulled by medication. “Those men out there—who are they?”

He sat beside me on the bed and gathered me in his arms, settling me on his lap, his pale blue eyes assessing me head to foot. “Our security. There are six of them. Three of whom were with me when we rescued you. You’ll meet them all later, though. How are you feeling?”

I nodded against his chest. “Groggy, but okay.”

He nodded. “You’ve got some pretty potent meds in you right now.” He took my hand in his. “I brought a doctor on board, someone Henri knows. You needed knee-replacement surgery, as well as stitches to your scalp. You also needed your nose set. You had some bruised ribs, black eyes.”

I nodded, and my head swam. I stilled, and burrowed against Valentine. “Dizzy. I’m kinda thirsty.” I looked up at him, saw the worry in his eyes. “I’m okay, Valentine. I am. If you hadn’t come when you did, though—”

He shook his head, interrupting me. “I didn’t protect you. I left you, and she got you.”

That’s right. He had left me. I blinked at him. “Why did you leave me? Where did you go?”

“I was gone for five…for five fucking minutes. I went up to the roof to talk to Harris. I had some plans to discuss with him. They must have been waiting. Someone shot at me. Not trying to kill me, just…driving me away. Getting me out of the way so Gina could….”

“She was waiting in the library. The house was empty. I looked for you after I got out of the shower. But I found her instead. I knew…going into the library, I knew I should turn around and leave. I felt it. But I—I didn’t. I was stupid. I went anyway. And there she was.” I swallowed hard against the lump in my throat, and Valentine pressed a button on the wall panel, speaking into an intercom, requesting water be brought up to us. “I should have listened to my gut. If I had—”

“No. You should have been safe in my home. I thought you were safe. It was only supposed to be five minutes. I’d be back before you got out of the shower.” He pinched the bridge of his nose, shoulders heaving and sinking as he fought his emotions.