And she did—if Victor didn’t confess, he would’ve lost me because of Dina, but because he did confess, he lost his brother.

I don’t know what to think, or how to feel, or who to blame, or—I don’t know anything and it’s killing me inside. The man I thought I knew, the man I love with everything in me, isn’t who I thought he was. I think…

I don’t understand any of this!

“Victor?” I say, stepping up behind him. “Why?” It’s all I can get out.

“I will tell you later,” he says. “Now isn’t the time.”

I’m so angry with him. Who the hell is this person? I’m so confused. He chose me. He chose to confess to save Dina because he loves me. But why do I feel so awful? Why do I want to run away from all of this and hide?

“We are even,” Nora says—her face is beginning to swell from the back teeth Fredrik removed.

Victor pulls his gun from the back of his pants.

I step up in front of him.

“Don’t,” I tell him. “Let her speak—we have to wait anyway in case she lied about the addresses.” I can’t believe I’m even having to tell him this; he knows these things better than I do, so his quickness to want to end her life tells me just how angry he really is inside. So angry that he’s blinded by it, which is a rare thing to see in Victor.

His eyes pass over mine and he gives in, leaving the gun hanging down at his side.

I turn to Nora.

“Say what you have to say,” I tell her. “I can’t stop him from killing you, and honestly I don’t really want to after what you’ve done to us, but say what you have to say.”

Nora grimaces as she scoots over to sit against the wall, pressing her shoulder to it instead of her wounded back. She stops to catch her breath and let the pain move through her before she starts to speak.

“Claire was born with a defect,” Nora says. “A heart murmur. Anything that could potentially put one of us at risk, or compromise our missions later in life, would make us unfit to be part of the Sect. When Claire was born, she was sold as an infant to a family through an adoption. It’s how the Sect made some of their money—selling the defect babies instead of killing them. Because they’re just babies there’s nothing for them to have seen or remember about the Sect, so they aren’t considered a threat. Just money-makers.”

I sit down on the chair and listen intently.

“But the defects are watched all their lives by the Sect,” she goes on. “Just as a precaution. I was commissioned to be the one who watched Claire. I didn’t know she was my sister until much later, but to make a long story short, I found out through a blood test after I had befriended her, and something inside of me…changed. She was a sweet girl. Innocent”—she eyes Victor coldly with blame—“I became protective of her. And because she was my sister, I started lying to the Sect about everything. They found out. And that’s when they realized I had been compromised.”

She struggles to adjust her position but just ends up slouched against the wall in the exact same way. She takes a deep breath and continues.

“I went rogue after they tried to reform me. Solis and the SC-4 couldn’t find me. Not a trace even when I was in plain sight—I learned from the best and I used every skill that I was taught to evade them.” She lowers her eyes. “But I couldn’t stay away from Claire. I wanted to protect her, because I knew the Sect would eventually go after her if they couldn’t find me. Claire knew I was her sister, but I never told her what else I was, or who was after her, so it was hard in the beginning to make her believe me when I told her she was in danger and I convinced her to move. But she did and I made sure she was safe while I let her live her life. Claire fell in love—with Niklas—and I was intrigued by it so I never tried to put a stop to it and I never had any suspicions. I was free, experiencing a strange new life—from the shadows, of course; I couldn’t involve myself any more than I had—feeling a plethora of emotions that I’d never felt before. And it made me weak, my intrigue made me blind. Eventually they found her and came for her.”

“Those men in the house,” I say, “were they part of the SC-4?”

“Yes,” she says, and then she eyes Victor again, “but they weren’t the only ones sent to kill Claire.”

I want to look back at Victor, too, but I can’t will myself to do it. I have so many questions for him, and I know that he holds all of the answers that will put everything else to rest, but like he said, this isn’t the time or place.

I stand from the chair and pace the tile in my boots, my arms crossed over my chest.

Then I stop and look down at Nora again.

“Why didn’t you just kill me, or Niklas?” I ask. “If vengeance is what you wanted, why this elaborate game?”—I gesture a hand in front of me—“Why spend six years of your life plotting and spying not only on Victor and Niklas, but on the rest of us? Why not just take one of us out?” I manage to look at Victor this time, wondering if he might be thinking the same thing. His eyes pass over mine slowly, as if he wants to keep them there but doesn’t feel right about it, and then he looks back down at Nora with all the hatred he can muster in a seemingly emotionless face.

Nora forces herself from the wall, a grimace twisting her features as she sits upright. She never tries to cover her naked breasts, but I guess I wouldn’t care much about shame either if I had just been tortured.

“I didn’t just come here for vengeance,” she says and looks right at Victor. “I came here because I want to join your Order.”

I feel my eyes widen in my face.

I look over at Victor, wordless.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Victor says.

“No,” Nora says, shaking her head slowly, “actually I’m very serious. Why do you think I did all this?” She tries to gesture a hand, but pain shoots through her when she lifts her arm. She drops it back down. “This was my way of proving my abilities. And what better way to show you all what I’m capable of than to give you the grand tour?”

Victor shakes his head with disbelief.

“You are insane,” he says.

I’m not so sure…

“You could use someone like me in your organization, Faust,” she goes on. “I am everything you’ve ever wanted in an operative, Victor”—her words burn me even if it wasn’t her intention—“and you can’t deny it as much as you despise me right now. I have proven myself in more ways than one and even willingly allowed myself to be tortured by the man whose very name spreads fear and paranoia through anyone who hears it in our underground world—I cannot be broken.” She narrows her gaze on him and adds, “And I can no longer be compromised,” and for a moment she is the same cunning, wicked woman she had been before she was tortured.

Tags: J.A. Redmerski In the Company of Killers Book Series
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