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Aubrey unceremoniously dumped a laptop on to the table. “I can’t believe it crashed on me.”
Ian rubbed her shoulders. “You can replace it after the ceremony.”
“I should just get the new model.“
“It’s buggy. You’re going to be irritated —“
“Todd got his hands on a prototype and I had the chance to try it out.” A stubborn tilt of her chin. “It’s good.”
Ian pushed a lock of dark hair out of his eyes and settled onto the sofa with a soft smile. “Aub, the system is fundamentally flawed. Hardware needs time to catch up to the theoretical. Function trumps all. Design is not everything.”
She shot him a look of mock horror. “Sacrilege. Take that back.”
“I can’t decide if you guys are adorable or if too much computing has fried your brains,” I said.
She flopped down next to Ian. “This coming from someone who walks around with knives on their body —“
“More than enough.” Brilliant emerald eyes danced. “Besides, you’re not the only badass ondine walking around Haverleau.”
She extended her sleeveless prosthetic hand. Slim, metal fingers glinted in the light. “Shake my hand.”
I tilted my head. “Isn’t that joke from second grade?”
“You’re thinking of pull my finger,” Ian said dryly.
“Yeah, but it’s pretty much the same thing —“
“Just shake the hand,” Aub said, exasperated.
I glanced at Ian. He shrugged.
I placed my palm in hers, the steel cool and hard against my skin. She slightly lifted her elbow.
A soft whirring sound vibrated through the metal followed by a soft click. I yelped and yanked my hand back.
Three lethal blades emerged from her wrist. They’d cleverly been concealed within the forearm bars of the prosthesis.
“Ian and I came up with the design,” she said gleefully.
Rotating her elbow in a certain way sprung a latch that activated the mechanism releasing the blades. The angles changed depending on the way she moved.
It didn’t matter which direction the opponent came from. With a simple gesture, she’d have access to a deadly weapon.
It was clever. Intricate. Brilliant.
It was exactly the idea I’d been waiting for.
“Can you make more?”
“Weapons.” I leaned forward. “Can you come up with other designs?”
“I guess,” Ian said slowly. “But don’t you already have kouper —“
Aub caught on. “You want to build weapons for the ondine training program. An arsenal.”
“The Armicant agreed to infuse them with Essence. But we’ll need to provide them.”
Ondines didn’t have the speed and training to get up close to an Aquidae with a blade. But there were other lethal weapons they could employ: guns, crossbows, throwing knives.
The memory of the Shadow’s blood tentacles, the crushing power of his magic flashed before me.
We needed everything we could get.
I tugged at the zipper and cursed under my breath.
Whoever designed this dress obviously delighted in torturing female bodies.
Frustrated, I dropped my arms and stared. The mirror reflected someone I wouldn’t have recognized a year ago.
A young woman, dressed in an elegant gown of forest green and gold, with bands of glittering jewels draped around her neck and wrists.
Who are you?
I touched the glass and traced the tip of the wave crest tattoo curving over my shoulder.
A soft sound came from behind me.
I turned, the air catching in my lungs.
Tristan leaned against the open doorway, arms relaxed by his sides, eyes warm and liquid in the bedroom’s muted light.
After an incident with an asshole during my freshman year, I hadn’t allowed anyone to get close.
Temporary amusement was good; anything more was not.
Initial attraction never lasted long.
In the shadows of a club, with blood pumping in sync to music and adrenaline burning bright, a guy would appear hot as hell, an indulgence to amp the excitement up another notch or two.
But as soon as we stepped out into the silent, garish light of reality, I’d realize he wasn’t much at all.
It was almost as if the mind was only capable of being surprised by it once.
But with Tristan it never did.
There were still moments, multiple times throughout the day, when I’d catch sight of him and feel a sweet shiver like the tip of a knife grazing my skin.
I’d improved my senses, but seeing him remained a constant surprise.
It had nothing to do with stealthy selkie skills.
It was him.