Out in the Waste stood a home, abandoned.
A place where a girl had grown up, and a boy had burned alive, where a violin had been shattered, and a stranger had been shot—
And a new monster had been born.
She stood in the house, the dead man at her feet, stepped over his body, wandered out into the yard, drew in fresh air as the sun went down.
And started walking.
Out in the Waste stood a warehouse, forgotten.
A place where the air was still full of blood and hunger and heat, where the girl had escaped and the boy had fallen, and the monsters were defeated—
All except for one.
He lay on the warehouse floor, a steel bar driven through his back. It scraped his heart with every beat, and black blood spread like a shadow beneath his dark suit.
The monster was dying.
But not dead.
She found him lying there, and pulled the weapon from his back, watching as he spit black blood onto the warehouse floor and rose to meet her.
He knew that his maker was dead.
And she knew that hers was not.
Kate Harker hit the ground running.
Blood dripped from a shallow cut on her calf, and her lungs were sore from the blow she’d taken to the chest. Thank God for armor, even if it was makeshift.
Her boots slid on the slick pavement as she rounded the corner onto a side street. She swore when she saw it was full of people, restaurant canopies up and tables out despite the brewing storm.
Teo’s voice rose in her ear. “It’s catching up.”
Kate backtracked and took off down the main road. “If you don’t want a mass casualty event, find me somewhere else.”
“Half a block, then cut right,” said Bea, and Kate felt like the avatar in some multiplayer game where a girl was chased by monsters through a massive city. Only this massive city was real—the capital at the heart of Prosperity—and so were the monsters. Well, monster. She’d taken out one, but a second was heading her way.
The shadows wicked around her as she ran. A chill twisted through the damp night and fat drops of rain dripped under her collar and down her back.
“Left up ahead,” instructed Bea, and Kate bolted past a row of shops and down an alley, leaving a trail of fear and blood like bread crumbs in her wake. She reached a narrow lot and a wall, only it wasn’t a wall, but a warehouse door, and for a split second she was back in the abandoned building in the Waste, cuffed to a bar in a blacked-out room while somewhere beyond the door, metal struck bone and someone—
Kate blinked the memory away as Bea repeated her instruction. But she was sick of running, and the door was ajar, so she went straight, out of the rain and into the vacant space.
There were no windows in the warehouse, no light at all save that from the street behind her, which reached only a few feet—the rest of the steel structure was plunged into solid black. Kate’s pulse pounded in her head as she cracked a glorified glow stick—Liam’s idea—and tossed it into the shadows, flooding the warehouse with steady white light.
“Kate . . . ,” chimed in Riley for the first time. “Be careful.”
She snorted. Count on Riley to give useless advice. She scanned the warehouse, spotted crates piled within reach of the steel rafters overhead, and started to climb, hauling herself the last of the way up just as the door rattled on its hinges.
She held her breath as fingers—not flesh and bone, but something else—curled around the door and slid it open.
Static sounded in her good ear.
“Status?” asked Liam nervously.
“Busy,” she hissed, balancing on the rafters as the monster filled the doorway, and for an instant, Kate imagined Sloan’s red eyes, his shining fangs, his dark suit.
Come out, little Katherine, he’d say. Let’s play a game.
The sweat on her skin chilled, but it was just her mind playing tricks on her—the creature edging forward into the warehouse wasn’t a Malchai. It was something else entirely.
It had a Malchai’s red eyes, yes, and a Corsai’s sharp claws, but its skin was the bluish black of a rotting corpse, and it wasn’t after flesh or blood.
It fed on hearts.
Kate didn’t know why she’d assumed the monsters would be the same. Verity had its triad, but here she had only come across a single kind. So far.
Then again, Verity boasted the highest crime rate of all ten territories—thanks in large part, she was sure, to her father—while Prosperity’s sins were harder to place. On the books, Prosperity was the wealthiest territory by half, but it was a robust economy rotting from the inside out.
If Verity’s sins were knives, quick and vicious, then Prosperity’s were poison. Slow, insidious, but just as deadly. And when the violence began to coalesce into something tangible, something monstrous, it didn’t happen all at once, as in Verity, but in a drip, slow enough that most of the city was still pretending the monsters weren’t real.
The thing in the warehouse suggested otherwise.
The monster inhaled, as though trying to smell her, a chilling reminder of which of them was the predator and which, for the moment, was prey. Fear scraped along her spine as its head swung from side to side. And then it looked up. At her.
Kate didn’t wait.
She dropped down, catching herself on the steel rafter to ease the fall. She landed in a crouch between the monster and the warehouse door, spikes flashing in her hands, each the length of her forearm and filed to a vicious point.
“Looking for me?”
The creature turned, flashing two dozen blue-black teeth in a feral grimace.
“Kate?” pressed Teo. “You see it?”
“Yeah,” she said dryly. “I see it.”
Bea and Liam both started talking, but Kate tapped her ear and the voices dropped out, replaced a second later by a strong beat, a heavy bass. The music filled her head, drowning out her fear and her doubt and her pulse and every other useless thing.
The monster curled its long fingers, and Kate braced herself—the first one had tried to punch right through her chest (she’d have the bruises to prove it). But the attack didn’t come.
“What’s the matter?” she chided, her voice lost beneath the beat. “Is my heart not good enough?”