I glanced to the ceiling. “How is she?”

She lowered her head. “Worse, I think. Lucid less and less.”

“Did you know she chose Sin to compete this year?” I toweled off and snagged some lotion from the counter.

“What?” She canted her head at me. “No, she didn’t.”

“Yes.” I walked into my bedroom. “She did.”

Renee followed and sat on my bed, her mouth drawn into a frown. “That can’t be true.”

“Sin said so. The previous Sovereign chooses who will compete.”

She shook her head slowly as I dressed. “Cal Oakman visited last summer. It was odd. He only came to see Rebecca. The boys weren’t even home.” She lifted her wide eyes to me. “She did this? How could she do this to her own blood?”

I’d never seen a good side to Sin’s mother. When Renee described Rebecca talking and laughing about the boys when they were little, I couldn’t picture it. The cruel old crone on the third floor was the boogie man to me, but Renee still believed there was some good left inside her.

“This is what she does. What she’s become.” I sat next to her and took her hand. “Rebecca set this in motion. I don’t know if it was to keep the Vinemonts in power or what, but she chose him. I’m sorry she kept it from you.”

She stayed silent, though her thoughts were loud enough I could almost hear them.

I squeezed her hand. “Let’s go down to breakfast. Maybe Lucius can shed more light?”

“No. I’m going upstairs. I need to hear it from her.” She set her lips in a thin line.

I knew the look. There was no arguing with it. We stood and walked into the hall. She took the steps to the third floor as I descended to the first. The scent of bacon drew me toward the kitchen, but I stopped as I passed the dining room. Sin sat at the head of the table, his eyes already focused on me as I rounded the corner.

I couldn’t stop the happiness that swelled in my heart, but he regarded me with a cold stare. My joy at seeing him faded like leaves in the winter. Had he fallen for Sophia after all?

“When did you get here?” I strode toward him, wanting to touch him. Instead, I stopped and sat at my usual place. I couldn’t gauge him. The look on his face was stony, but the fire in his eyes was hot enough to burn.

“This morning.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I lay my napkin across my lap and met his glare.

“Why would I have to tell you anything?”

“What?” I stopped what I was doing as anger overtook my earlier happiness. “You watch me get beaten to within an inch of my life, watch me choose between killing my father or Brianne’s mother, and then you leave for a European vacation with that Oakman bitch? And now you’re back and don’t feel the need to even mention it to me?” My voice rose to almost a yell.

He stood and towered over me, hell in his eyes. “Don’t you ever refer to Sophia in that manner. You aren’t fit to speak her name, much less stand in her presence. In fact, get the fuck out of here. You can eat with the dogs where you belong.” He swiped my table setting onto the floor. My plate shattered at our feet.

I rose and stood toe to toe with him, craning my head back so I could look him in the eye. “You asked for my trust. I gave it. I believed this entire time that you were cozying up to Sophia to save Teddy. To save me.”

He gripped my throat, his palm clammy. “I said do not speak her name.”

I couldn’t see him anymore, not the real him. The devil who’d come to my house and offered me the contract was back, his mask firmly in place.

“What is wrong with you?”

He leaned down until we were nose to nose. “What is wrong is that I ever thought you were anything more than the whore daughter of a petty criminal.” The hand at my throat tightened. “Now get out of my sight.”

He shoved me back, and I stumbled into the sideboard. Lucius walked into the dining room and looked from me to Sin.

He bristled. “What did you do?”

Sin calmly returned to his seat at the head of the table. “Get your whore out of here before I do something she’ll regret.”

“What?” Lucius took my elbow and steadied me. “What the fuck are you talking about?”

“You heard me.” Sin leaned back and gave me a withering glance. “I’d do it quickly, if I were you. Otherwise, there will be a bloody mess to clean, and that just wouldn’t do.”

“Wait just a fucking minute. You need to explain—”

“No.” I pulled away from Lucius’s grip. The room spun, but not from my hangover. “I’ll go. I don’t want to be in here anymore. I don’t want to be here at all.” I turned and ran as my heart hammered, my ears burning.

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