“Good one, Sin.” Lucius laughed.

“Now, let’s get down to more pressing business.” He sat at the head of the table. “I’ve checked with Quinlan, and everything is on schedule. He’s adjusted arrangements to add Teddy; otherwise, the plan is the same.”

A knock sounded at the door.

“Yes?” Sin barked.

Renee poked her head in. Though her eyes were ringed with dark circles, her hair was fixed and her clothes clean and neat. I dropped by to see her more frequently over the few days after Rebecca passed. She made a habit of sitting by Rebecca’s grave under an oak near the levee, often taking a blanket and lying in the shade for hours.

Sin, Lucius, and Teddy were grim for the brief funeral, but Rebecca’s death seemed to bring as much relief as grief for them. Renee, however, was inconsolable. The love she’d shared with Rebecca—even when it was twisted and ugly—was one that even death couldn’t snuff out.

“What can we do for you, Renee?”

“I’d like to help, if I can.”

Sin nodded. “Come in.”

She closed the door behind her and came to sit next to me. I held her hand under the table as Sin continued.

“Once Quinlan gets everything in place, I’ll give my coronation address. Lucius, Teddy, and Stella will stick close to me. I don’t want to lose sight of any of you. Not for a second. When things start to happen, it will go quickly. There’s no room for error. Teddy, you’ll handle helping the last-borns and Acquisitions out. Lucius will remain hidden and aid Quinlan. Stella will warn Brianne and Gavin. And that’s all we can control.”

“What can I do?” Renee asked.

Sin tapped his fingers on the table. “Until you, we didn’t have anyone here at the house who could keep an eye out. If things turn out badly, we’ll regroup here in a hurry and then scatter. All of us are packed and ready to go should the need arise. Just be ready. If we don’t show back up by daybreak, you will need to take Farns and Laura and get as far away as you can. I’ve already set up my bank to wire money into your account should that happen. I was going to leave instructions, but now you know.”

“I’ll kill anyone who tries to set foot here.” Renee squeezed my hand.

“It won’t come to that.”

“Are you going to kill them all?” Her voice rose.

“We’re going to make a run at it.”

“Good. I hope they rot in hell.” The acid in Renee’s voice reinforced my own conviction that we’d made the right choice. Not that it mattered. Right or wrong, we were committed.

“We could still fail.” Sin ran a hand through his dark hair. “Even though we’ve planned it all right down to the last detail. If anyone gets wind of it, we’re dead. Everyone at this table knows the stakes. One misstep, and it’s all over before it even began.”

“I’m all in.” I held his gaze.

“I wish you weren’t.”

“I’m going.” I didn’t want to have this argument again, but I would. Nothing could keep me from bringing the Acquisition down, and I wanted to be there when it crumbled.

He sighed. “I know.”

“To the death. Theirs or ours.” Lucius stood. “That’s the way it’s got to be. I think everyone is on the same page.”

Sin rose. “Let’s go get ready. Make it look good. We don’t want to tip anyone until the right moment.”

“I got this. And I’ll even tie your bow tie for you.” Lucius smirked at Teddy.

“I can tie my own tie.”

“And end up looking like a circus clown? Dead giveaway.”

“Dick.” Teddy stood.

I laughed and got to my feet.

“Oh, and one other trifling detail I shouldn’t overlook.” Sin walked to me and dropped to one knee. He pulled a ring from his pocket. It had the biggest emerald I’d ever seen, surrounded by diamonds.

My heart seemed to stop and I couldn’t catch my breath. I stared down at him, my mind spinning as I tried to understand what was happening. The sharp lines of his face softened and his eyes glimmered as he offered the ring. I covered my mouth with one hand, disbelief rolling through me like a turbulent wave.

“Will you marry me?”

I grabbed the back of the nearest chair. “Are you serious?”

“I don’t get on my knees for anyone—except you.” He lifted the ring higher, and the gems caught a ray of sun and scattered a prism of light against the dining room wall.

“Smooth,” Teddy whispered.

I stared into his eyes, his soul laid bare. He was the one I needed, the man who loved me more than his own life. It was all written there in the deep blue, the open heart, and the proffered ring.

I held out my shaking left hand. He kissed it and slipped the ring on my finger. My heart upped its pace to a hectic beat as he rose and pulled me to him. He hesitated before giving me the kiss I would kill for.

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