“You need to go. You can’t be late for Cal’s party. That would be a bad start to your night.” Renee swept past me and opened the door before ushering me through it.

I’d been around her long enough to know that the discussion was tabled. She was practiced at evading my questions. I just wished I could break down her walls, see everything inside and leave with the spoils of information. It would never happen. Not with Renee. Whether she’d always been evasive or was forced to be so because of the Acquisition trials, I’d never know.

I maneuvered slowly down the stairs in my heels with Renee at my side. Once downstairs, I heard voices on the front porch. Lucius and Sinclair.

“Tell me all about it when you get back.” She pulled a long, dark fur from the foyer closet.

“Is that for me?” I didn’t do fur, but the coat glowed with an amazing luster and begged to be touched.

“I had it brought from the climate controlled storage this morning. It’s the sable.” She held it out.

“I’m not sure.” I ran my fingers down the front, each strand of fur silkier than the last.

“I am. Come on. It’s cold out there.”

I turned and slipped one arm and then the next into the coat. It was heavy and warm, the softest thing I’d ever felt. I studied my appearance in the foyer mirror. Even in the few months I’d been involved in this cruel game, my eyes seem to have hardened. Or maybe it was what was inside that had changed, grown stronger. I tilted my chin up the slightest bit, as if steeling myself for what was to come.

Renee swept my hair from the coat and draped it over my shoulder. “Everything will be fine. They won’t harm you between trials.”

“Do you know that for certain?” I opened the front door.

“Nothing is ever certain.” Renee gave me a wry smile.

With that cryptic bit of wisdom, I walked into the cold night. Vinemont and Lucius quieted as I approached, but a heavy tension roiled in the air.

“Stella—” Lucius began.

Vinemont turned and stepped in front of his brother before offering me his arm.

Both men wore clean black tuxes, expertly fitted. Lucius’s hair was tamed down in smooth waves while Vinemont’s was his usual dark and tousled perfection. Clean shaven lady killers. They were beautiful, each in their own way. Lucius sleek and refined. Vinemont rough, almost gritty, even though everything about him was polished.

Luke waited in the drive, the limousine competing with the inky black of night. I ignored Vinemont and gripped the stair rail, holding on for dear life while I clicked down each step in my stilettos. I let out a silent sigh of relief once I was on level ground again.

“Ms. Rousseau.” Luke tipped his hat and opened the back passenger door for me. I slid in, the fur moving across the leather like butter in a warm pan.

“Don’t fucking try it.” Vinemont’s voice wafted past the engine noise and he sank down next to me.

Lucius took the front passenger seat once again, turning and giving me a winning smile. “You are fucking gorgeous.”

Even though I knew it was a trick, just words, I couldn’t stop the heat in my cheeks. “Thank you.”

“Drive,” Vinemont barked at Luke.

The limo eased down the driveway, and soon we were whistling along the interstate, heading into the heart of New Orleans.

Vinemont’s eyes bored into me until I turned and matched his glare. His gaze slid to my mouth, then lower to the open top of my coat. Warmth raced through me, and I was thankful the fur covered my hardened nipples. His tongue wetted his bottom lip and I found I couldn’t look away.

His mouth, the sharp line of his jaw, the elegant silhouette of his neck in the darkness of the car—all of it was somehow a lure. And like every other lure, there was a sharp hook in it, ready to catch and draw blood. I dropped my gaze, though I could still feel his burning into me, making me hotter than I should be to the point where I wanted to shrug out of the rich coat.

“Take a fucking picture, Sin. Jesus. You’re making her uncomfortable.” Lucius caught my eye and winked at me, his white teeth momentarily glinting in a passing street lamp.

“You don’t know a thing about her comfort.”

“Oh, I think I may have a few ideas. Don’t I, Stella?”

I shifted in my seat, away from both of them.

“What is he talking about?” Vinemont smoothed a hand down my sleeve before gripping me lightly through the coat. “Stella?”

I ripped my arm away and sank even further back. “You two play your twisted game. I’m going to sit this one out.”

Lucius laughed and faced forward again before cranking up the music to an almost painful level. Some angry rock song with a thumping beat. At least it cut off the conversation. I stared out the window at the passing cars, wishing I was in one of them. Any would do, just so long as it was going away from these people, from the Acquisition.

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