My gorge rose, and I grabbed the footboard to steady myself. A bead of cold sweat ran between my shoulder blades.

“Ask your next question.” She folded her hands in her lap, clearly pleased with herself.

Renee cried softly into her palms.

I didn’t know if I could stand another answer. Could I bear more truth from the malice-filled creature before me?

“What are the rules of the Acquisition?”

Another song erupted from her lips, but this one with words, “Seven rules to see you through. Seven rules to live by. Seven rules to make it hurt. Seven rules to kill by.”

I shuddered and my knees buckled, but I didn’t fall, despite the heavy weight of dread crushing down on me.

She grinned, her teeth like tombstones in moonlight. “Let’s start with the first, and most important rule of the Acquisition. If you lose, you must kill the last-born child of your line. Weeds out the weak, you see.”

The floor moved under my feet, and I gripped the footboard with both hands. “If he loses the Acquisition, Sin has to kill Teddy?” My voice was far away.

She nodded, her grin growing wider and filling her face like a garish caricature. “Teddy dies.”

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