Matheus Taylor didn’t ask to be murdered. Quin didn’t care. A seventeen-hundred old Roman, Quintus Livius Saturnius had a different view of morality than most people. Killing Matheus and hijacking his undead existence seemed perfectly acceptable to him.
Now, Matheus spends his nights running for his life, questioning his sexual orientation, and defying a mysterious new threat to the vampires within his city. Not that he set out to do any defying; he just wanted to be left alone. Unfortunately, that was never going to happen.
Voices leaked out of Quin’s study. Matheus stopped outside the door, pressing his ear against the crack, the book in his hands forgotten.
In the ten days since his premature death,Matheus knew of no one who had come to Quin’s house. Sometimes Quin went out, but Matheus stayed behind. Outside meant the smell of blood and a reminder of the hunger that gnawed at every cell in his body. He read constantly, sometimes waking up for the night with a book still resting on his chest. Stacks of books teetered on the nightstands, sat in tall piles around his bed. Unless Quin prodded him loose, Matheus distracted himself with fiction until sunrise sent him into blissful unconsciousness. Raised voices disrupted the routine; Matheus couldn’t help his curiosity.
“You’re going to get yourself killed!”The woman had an unfamiliar accent, with the ringing vowels of a nineteen-forties stage actress.
Matheus squeezed closer to the door, but he couldn’t hear Quin’s reply.
“Honestly, Quin, you’re . . . .What are you doing?”
The door swung open, and Matheus landed in a crumpled heap at Quin’s feet. He could see his reflection blurred in Quin’s shoes.
“Really, sunshine? Eavesdropping? It’s a little tacky.” Quin leaned down and hauled Matheus to his feet.
“I wasn’t eavesdropping,” Matheus replied. He shoved at Quin.
“Of course you weren’t. The door just flew open and sucked you in.”
The woman gave a snort of laughter. She stood beside the desk, manicured fingers tapping lightly on the scarred wood. She had honey blonde hair,and a round, smooth face,with a mouth made up into a pout. Matheus knew even less about women’s designers thanmen’s, but he doubted she shopped at the local mall. Her dress had a pencil skirt, a cinched waist, and capped sleeves. Heels brought her within an inch of Matheus’ height. She looked expensive, and Matheusknew he couldn’t afford her.
“Another pet?” she asked. “After the last one—”
“Matheus, this is Juliet,” Quin said. “She’s just leaving.”
“I was not,” Juliet said, raising an immaculate eyebrow. She took a seat on the dark blue loveseat, one ankle tucked neatly behind the other. Her eyelashes swept down, but her small smile belied the demure attitude.
“I’m not interested in anything you have to say,” Quin said with a hint of growl. He used the voice from the alley, the one that made Matheus concerned about bladder control. Even if he didn’t need to worry about urination anymore, fear-induced or otherwise.
Juliet opened the clasp of her purse and pulled out a palm-sized mirror. With deliberate care, she examined her face, then closed the mirror with flick of her wrist.
“Fine,” she said. “I’ll talk to your new pet. Come sit next to me, pet.” She patted the seat beside her.
“I have a name,” said Matheus.
“As though that matters,” said Juliet.
Matheus glanced at Quin. He didn’t want to get involved in some weird power struggle. When Quin said nothing,Matheus shrugged and walked over to the loveseat.
Perfume tinged the air around Juliet, the scent a bit heavier than he expected with the dress and the mirror trick.
Juliet tilted toward him, her knees just barely brushing against his.
Quin looked from Juliet to Matheus, then stared at his bookshelves for a long moment.
“I’m going out,” he said abruptly.
“Oh, good,” said Juliet. “Your new pet and I will have time for a nice chat.” She waved in the manner appropriate for the queen as Quin stalked out of the room.
Matheus raised his eyebrows, impressed with Juliet’s skill. She had managed to annoy Quin without prompting horrific violence in response. His admiration dissipated as Juliet turned her attention in his direction. He found himself thinking of hawks and sympathizing with the field mouse.
“So,” Juliet said.She placed a slender finger underneath Matheus’ chin,then tilted his face left and right. Her nail bit into his skin, hooking him into passivity.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
Juliet made a humming noise.
“Blond, of course. The man is nothing if not predictable. A bit old though.Surprising.”
Juliet laughed. “Oh, much too old, then. Gray eyes, too wide-set. Gives you a caught-in-the-headlights look. Your mouth hanging open doesn’t help either, pet.”
“Stop that,” Matheus said, shaking himself loose. He moved to the far end of the loveseat, resisting the urge to go examine his eyes in a mirror. Too wide-set, he thought. Ridiculous.
“Don’t be tetchy,” Juliet said. “You haven’t got much of an accent, but then you have been here a long time, haven’t you?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” The lie spilled out, while Matheus frantically replayed the conversation in his head. Had he said something, used the wrong slang, arranged his verbs in the wrong order? It’d been so long since anyone had noticed.
“Don’t play dumb, pet. I won’t tell Quin. It’s much more fun to see how things fall.” Juliet gave Matheus an unsettling smile.
He clasped his hands together, knuckles going white. Fear that his voice would betray him welded his mouth closed.
“You shouldn’t trust him, you know,” Juliet said after a moment.
“Quin, pet. Don’t trust him.” Juliet’s fingertips brushed over his arm, her nails scratching against his skin.
Matheus shifted away.
“I figured that out when he killed me,” Matheus said. He concentrated on each word, testing its shape before letting the syllables leave his mouth.
“Just a warning.” Juliet leaned back, stretching her arm along the back of the sofa. She moved like a character in a film. Matheus had never met a woman so elaborately feminine.
“Do you know what he’s doing? Why he needed—”
“I can guess. My advice to you is to stay out of it. If Quin wants to turn himself into a pile of ash, that’s his business.”
Matheus tapped his foot. His anxiety grew stronger, beyond the fear of discovery. A buzzing moved through his nerves. He tried to focus on Juliet, her face a mask of genteel breeding. Matheus had known the upper class, and Juliet didn’t fit. She covered well, buthe could see the edges of her veneer.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“That’s a complex question,” Juliet said. “Would you like to start somewhere simpler?”
“Are you a friend of Quin’s?” Matheus asked, pressing his palm against his thigh. “How long have you known him?”
“Friend? Quin isn’t the type for friends, pet.”
“He must trust you,” Matheus said. “To leave you here with me.”
“Trust?” Juliet laughed. “It’s not trust. I just know what will happen if I push Quin too far.”
“Are you lovers?” Matheus didn’t see it, but he’d only watched them interact for a few minutes. His whole leg shook now. He pushed both hands down, the heel of his shoe clattering on the hardwood floor.
“Why do you say it like that?” he asked.
“You’re more Quin’s type than I am, pet,” said Juliet.
“You mean he’s . . . he’s . . . ?”
“A homosexual? Of course. You couldn’t tell?” Juliet grinned at him.
“No!” Matheus jerked to his feet,the result of a combination of discomfort and the jerking in his veins. His insides felt as though they were trying to become his outsides.
“You needn’t be so twitchy about it,” Juliet said, her grin dipping a little in disapproval. “He’s not going to jump you. Whatever his faults, Quin doesn’t go where he’s not wanted.”
“It’s not that,” Matheus said through chattering teeth. “Something’s wrong.”
He paced around the room, circling the worn carpet. Juliet’s eyes followed him. Cool-eyed intelligence pierced her socialite façade.
“How old are you?” she asked.
“I just told you.”
“I meant, how long has it been since you were turned?”
“Almost two weeks,” Matheus said. He delivered a kick to Quin’s desk, leaving a scuffmark on the antique wood. The kick didn’t help the buzzing in his veins, but Matheus did it again. Matheus despised the desk, an early twentieth century monstrosity by an overrated designer. Its destruction would be a favor to the world.
“That’s it?” Juliet raised her eyebrows.”And Quin already—”
“What?” asked Matheus.
“I’m going after Quin.”Matheus spun around.He couldn’t explain why, but he knew Quin caused the buzzing. Somehow, Quin had hijacked his nervous system. Matheus was going to find him and beat him until it stopped.
“Are you sure that is a good idea? You might get hurt. Quin does know how to look after himself.”
Juliet followed him out of the room. A red trench coat lay carelessly thrown over the coffee table in the entranceway. She slipped it on as Matheus yanked one of Quin’scoats out of the front closet, his own having gone missing. Although, as Matheus pulled the jacket up, the thought occurred to him that anything belonging to Quin would be too tight around his shoulders.
The coat fit as though it’d been tailored to him. Matheus traced the line of meaning to its end, torn between rage at Quin’s manipulation and rage at finding the coat comfortable and attractive. Somehow,Quin’s presumption would have been tolerable if the damned coat had been hideous.
“What is Quin going to do?” Matheus asked. “It can’t be worse than this.”
“I promise you it can,” said Juliet. “But in this case, it’s not Quin you need to worry about.”
“You aren’t making any sense.”
“Didn’t Quin explain anything?” Juliet sighed. “He’s hurt, pet. You can sense that.”
“That is something you should ask Quin.”
“Fine.” Matheus jerked open the front door.
“You’re going to save the man who murdered you?”Juliet asked.
“Apparently,” Matheus said.
“I don’t know.”
Outside, Matheus appreciated the coat, albeit against his will. Only a few days of September remained. A hint of winter touched the air, the temperature low even for late fall. The squatters bundled together in the doorways of their ruined buildings, visible breaths mixing with streams of smoke. Matheus watched their eyes follow Juliet, wondering what they saw to make their faces go slack. Juliet ignored the stares.She wrapped her coat tight around herself, tying the belt with a jerk.
“Do you know where you’re going?” she asked.
“He’s this way,” Matheus said, moving as fast as he could without breaking into a run. At the end of the street, he turned left,toward Jorey Hill. A sign welcomed people to the neighborhood,gold leaf flaking off, and graffiti tagged over the motto. Matheus found the idea strange,when communities inside citiesput up welcome signs, like the losing side refusing to acknowledge the war had been lost and everyone else had gone home. Before his death, Matheus lived in Kenderton proper, the seed of the city,but Kenderton itself had expanded far beyond that. Judging by the occasional farmhouse lurking among the new buildings, Jorey Hill had been a farming village. Now, single-family homes made up the area,houses pushed so close together someone could spit out his window and into his neighbor’s kitchen.
“He won’t thank you for interfering,” Juliet said, heels click-clicking as she struggled to keep up.
“I don’t care.”
“Will you stop for a minute?” Juliet grabbed his arm.
“What?” Matheus asked. He couldn’t stand to be still. The buzzing tugged at him, urged him forward.
“Think. Why are you doing this?”
“Because. . . because I have to.”
“You don’t,” Juliet said. Her expression softened. “Matheus, you don’t.”
“What are you doing?” Matheus asked, staring down at her.
Juliet looked away, then back, the familiarity in her eyes gone.
“Quin can be very charismatic. Don’t follow him blindly.”
“I’m not. I hate the bastard. But I need him right now.”
“There are others. He’s not the only one.”
The words hung in the air. Memories flickered through Matheus’ mind. The dead thing in the alley, the pressure on the back of his neck, Quin ordering him to kill the woman, carrying him home, sitting quietly while Matheus raged.
“He’s the one I want.”Matheus started to move again, sending Juliet rocking on her heels. With a disgruntled noise, she sped up to match his steps. Matheus hoped she didn’t push the issue.
“You hate him, but you want him.”
Matheus scowled, walking faster.
“Yes,” he said.
“Sounds like somebody has a crush,” Juliet said in a singsong voice.
Matheus whirled on her.
“I’m not gay!”
“Good for you, mate!”a frat boy across the street called back.
“Shut up!” Matheus stalked away, cutting between two houses and a miniscule yard to the next street over.
Juliet stuck close, cursing softly as her heels sank into the grass.
“You know what they say,” she said.
“I don’t have a problem with it. I’m just not gay.”
“If you say so.”
Matheus turned left, ignoring the screech of car tires as he crossed against the light. He was dead, what the hell did he care? A cacophony of beeping started behind him; angry drivers singing the song of their people.
“I just want it noted that when you say you both hate and want someone,that usually implies lust of some kind,” Juliet said.
“I’m not implying anything,” Matheus said. He took another sharp turn down a side street, stopped, and then returned to the main street.
Juliet waited under a streetlight. She pulled out her mirror, fixing her hair as Matheus walked back.
“It’s a bit illogical, pet,” she said.
“I know,” Matheus sighed. He walked to the next side street, pausing at the junction. “It’s completely fucked up. This is my life now. One big compost pile of confusion.”
Juliet patted him on the shoulder.
“Well, as long as you’re aware of that,” she said.
Matheus turned left, Juliet quick behind him. The side street consisted of storefronts darkened against the late hour. Only a pub at the end showed signs of life. The lettering on the grimy plate glass window read Artemis’s Cup. The building was a single level, unremarkable in structure and decoration. Matheus could have passed the place every day of his life and never noticed its existence.
“He’s in there,” Matheus said, pointing from across the street.
Juliet peered around his shoulder.
“You’re sure?” she asked.
“Positive. It’s buzzing.”
“I don’t know how else to describe it,” Matheus said. He shoved his hands in the pockets of the hated coat. The jumpy feeling had abated slightly, as though calmed by Quin’s proximity.
Light spilled out of the open doorway, along with loud voices and music. He wrinkled his nose as a Bon Jovi song came on. Matheus rarely listened to music. The point of it escaped him.
“Let’s go,” he said, starting forward.
“Wait,” said Juliet. “I know this place.”
Matheus looked her up and down. Juliet could have posed for a Chanel ad. Matheus couldn’t picture her as part of a blue-collar neighborhood. Maybe something closer to the park, Taft Street, perhaps, with all its condo high-rises and conveniently located theaters.
“Really,” he said.
“Listen, pet, as far as the Otherworld goes, you are a squealing infant. So be quiet, keep your hands to yourself, and don’t do anything to piss me off. Understand?”
“Fine,” muttered Matheus. “Let’s just find Quin and get out of here.”
“He’s going to be very cross with me if you get killed,” Juliet said.
Inside the pub, the press of people made Matheus’head spin. The beat-beat of the multiple pulses drowned out the music. The roof of his mouth itched. Blood smelled so good, so warm sliding down his throat, lighting the fire in his veins and—
“Get a grip,” Juliet hissed in his ear. “This is a hunter bar. They can’t find out what you are.”
“Shut up.” Juliet wound her fingers through his, squeezing hard. Her hand felt as though she’d held it in icy water. She led him through the crowd, ignoring the whispers that followed them.
There were two or three other women, but the majority of the customers were men. They wore jeans and flannel over t-shirts that said things like Three Years Accident Free! and Wiltan Manufacturing. Matheus kept his head down,suddenly aware of the shiny toggles on his coat, the complicated collar sewn into place to prevent the wearer from ruining the architecture of the fabric.
Damn Quin,Matheus thought, blaming him entirely. Making Matheus a ponce by association.After Matheus’ beating for being a fancy boy, he would tell Quin so. Providing Matheus still had his teeth.
“Two Jamesons,” Juliet said.
Matheus glanced up, realized they had reached the bar.
Juliet’s heel slammed down on Matheus’ foot.
He let out a strangled gasp. Juliet should register her shoes as deadly weapons. The bartender gave him a strange look as he set two glasses in front of them. Matheus called up a weak smile.
“Ten,” the bartender said, nodding toward the full glasses, still staring at Matheus.
Juliet nudged Matheus in the side, then rolled her eyes as he made an empty pockets gesture. Opening her purse, she pulled out a twenty and passed it to the bartender. She glared at Matheus.
“Do you know the last time I had to pay for a drink?” she asked.
Matheus shrugged. Since the night he had fed, he had not left the house. Shut-ins didn’t require cash. Matheus thought he should ask Quin about his wallet soon. He needed his debit card to access his account; he couldn’t go for all eternity without money.
Juliet scooped up the drinks and carried them to an unoccupied table.
“I can’t drink this,” Matheus whispered.
“So fake it,” Juliet said. She took a long drink of the whiskey, emptying half the glass.
A flush of jealousy flared in Matheus’ gut.
“You’re not . . . .” he trailed off in the face of the word.
“No,” said Juliet. “I’m not.”
Matheus leaned across the table, bracing his palms against the wood. He inhaled deeply, trying to find the scent he associated with humanity. The particular smell of humans had not been something he had considered before. He wondered if gazelles smelled different to lions.
“You’re not human,” he said. “What are you?”
“Something else,” Juliet said. “Now, do you mind, pet? Some personal space, please.”
“Sorry.” Matheus sat back, pretending to sip his whiskey. Juliet mirrored him, lounging in her chair with an ease that Matheus envied.
“So where is he?” she asked.
The bar ran along the wall to the left of the entrance with scattered tables around the unusedspace. A swinging door led to a kitchen, waitresses in tight, white tops walking back and forth with plates of fries and chicken fingers. Antlers, disembodied heads, and plastic fish decorated the walls;hunting lodge chic as seen through the lens of a beer commercial. The pub looked like the LSD version of his childhood trips with his father. Matheus scanned the room, trying to avoid meeting anyone’s eyes. He dismissed the kitchen and the cutely labeled bathrooms.
“Through there,” he said, nodding at an unmarked door beside the bar.
“Okay. I’ll create a diversion, you go,” Juliet said. She drained the rest of her whiskey, then stole Matheus’ out of his hands.
“What are you going to do?”
“It doesn’t matter.” Juliet shooed him away.
As discreetly as possible, Matheus moved toward the bar, as though going for another drink.
As he got halfway there, Juliet climbed up on her chair. She swayed back and forth, wisps of blonde curls drifting around her face as the knot of hair began to unravel. It didn’t take long for her to attract attention. Hoisting Matheus’whiskey, she beamed at the room.
“I’d like to make a toast.” Her voice rang over the room. “To Herman Gunn. A great man. A greater hunter.”
A dozen men rocketed to their feet.
“Gunn! That traitor!”
“May he burn in hell!”
“Get down, you stupid bitch!”
“Oh, shut up, the lot of you!” Juliet shouted back. “There isn’t a man in this room who could hold a candle to Gunn.”
Madwoman, Matheus thought.
The bartender emerged from behind the bar, making his way toward Juliet, still happily arguing with the crowd.
Taking his chance, Matheus slipped through the door, ending up in a dark hallway with two doors, one on his left, the other at the end of the hall. Matheus headed towardthe door at the end. He wished he still had a heartbeat. The panic running amok in his mind felt odd without the accompanying symptoms, as though a disconnect existed between his brain and his body. Matheus slapped himself. His cheek stung. Nerve endings still worked. The physiology made no sense. He could feel hot and cold, pleasure and pain, but no blood flowed, no beat of life.
Oh, god, what if he couldn’t get erections?
Matheus slapped himself again. He’d snuck into a hunter bar, whatever that was, with the aid of a woman, whatever she was, he had just met to save the man who had murdered him less than two weeks ago.
Madman, Matheus thought.
The door led to a rickety staircase, the railing broken and hanging. Matheus followed the buzzing, turning left at the bottom. Another door, this one padlocked with a cheap, off-the-shelf lock.
Matheus smiled at the lock with the familiarity of an old friend. Finally, something that did not confuse the hell out of him.
He caught the lock before it hit the ground. For once, his troubled childhood actually came in handy.
The room stank of stale alcohol. Cases of booze and kegs lined one wall, makers’ brands stamped on the wooden slats. An old-fashioned drunk tank took up the other side, the bars stained with rust. One overhead light made sickly shadows, illuminating the lone person inside.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” Quin sat in the corner of the cell, his elbows resting on his knees. His words had a slurred quality to them.
“Rescuing you,” Matheus replied, moving toward the bars. The buzzing vanished, but the panic remained.
Quin stood up, crossing to meet him, moving slowly. A spectacular bruise covered half his face,the bones underneath shattered. Blood stained his collar.His shirt, no longer crisp and smooth, had a rip down one sleeve, and the tails hung over khakis streaked with grime. From the odd angle at which Quin held his arm, Matheus assumed either a sprain or a break.
“You look like shit,” Matheus said.
“Get out of here,” Quin said. When he spoke, the shattered bones shifted beneath the bruised flesh.
Matheus shuddered.”Didn’t you hear me? I’m here to rescue you.”
“I don’t need rescuing from an idiot child who thinks he’s a hero.”
Matheus grabbed the bars, jamming his face through them.
“Listen, you inbred pederast, I have spent the last hour with every nerve vibrating like a goddamn guitar string on crack, every one of them screaming at me to come here and save your pathetic ass. You think I want to be here? You think this is fun for me? You think this is how I get my kicks? Fuck you, Quin. Fuck. You.”
Quin blinked at him.
“Inbred pederast?” he said.
“I . . . .”
“I’m not a pederast.”
“Look, I . . . .”
“I like men. Grown-up, adult men.”
“Not now, Quin,” Matheus said.
“You’re the one who brought it up.”
“I was trying to insult you. I also called you inbred, remember?”
“Well, my parents were cousins,” Quin said. “It’s hard to argue with that one.”
Matheus banged his head against the bars. Quin introduced him to new levels of frustration.
“We can talk about this later,” he said. “Maybe when you’re not in a cage.”
“I’m staying. You go. How did you even get in here, anyway?”
“Juliet helped me.”
“Juliet.” Quin sighed. “Remind me to kill her later.” He moved back, resting against the wall. With one hand, he smoothed over his shirt as though that would help matters. He fingered the rip, a frown tugging down the unmarked side of his face.
Matheus got the impression the damage to Quin’s shirt bothered Quin more than the damage to his body.
“Why not now? She’s right upstairs,” Matheus said. He glanced toward the door. Juliet’s distraction would not last forever, and someone might have seen him.
“Oh, sunshine. She’s long gone by now. Juliet has her own motives, and they don’t involve getting caught by hunters.”
“What are hunters?” Matheus asked. “What are you even doing here? How did they catch you?”
“They didn’t,” Quin said. “I volunteered.”
“Are you crazy? Look at your face!”
“I thought you’d be pleased.”
“Believe me, I’m all for beating you to a pulp. I just want to do it myself.”
The words sliced through Matheus. Quin’s razorblade voice, the one that told him to kill that woman in the alley. If Matheus could bottle that voice, he could make millions. He could sell it to every petty dictator searching for a step up.
“No,” said Matheus. He didn’t move, but that might have been because his knees had locked.
“Go, or I will kill you myself.”
“You won’t.” Matheus felt light-headed. “You like having me around. You think I have pretty hair.”
“If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were drunk,” said Quin.
“I might be,” said Matheus.
“Isn’t this sweet?”
Matheus and Quin turned to stare at the doorway. The bartender stood there, flanked by two other men.
“I didn’t know you had a boyfriend, Quin.”
“I’m not gay!” Matheus said.
“You don’t have to say it like that,” Quin said. “It’s not a disease.”
“Boys, boys. Let’s not get into a bitch fight, okay?”
The bartender moved into the room. A small crossbow dangled from his hand. He was a big man, not fat, but with broad shoulders and a chest built to sing bass. Red stubble covered his head, revealing his receding hairline and his need for a fresh shave. The two other men were built along similar lines, and armed as well, but their weapons were pointed straight at Matheus.
“Trying to escape, Quin? That doesn’t sound like you,” said the bartender, smirking. “Maybe your balls aren’t as big as people think they are.”
“I didn’t realize you spent so much time thinking about my genitalia, Carruthers. I’m a little disturbed,” Quin replied.
Matheus looked from Quin to Carruthers. Now would be the time for Quin to show off some undead telepathy.Matheus didn’t have any idea what to do. He could hear the tension underneath Quin’s casual tone, but Matheus’ life so far hadn’t prepared him for facing crossbow-wielding bartenders.
“Shut up, freak,” said one of the nameless men.
Quin smiled at him.
The man took a half-step back.
Matheus didn’t blame him. No one wanted to trifle with someone who could smile through a shattered cheekbone.
“Let him leave,” Quin said, jerking his head at Matheus. “He’s newly turned, not much sport in hunting him.”
“Come on now. What would happen to our reputation if it got out that we let one of you just stroll out of here?” asked Carruthers. He swung the crossbow back and forth.
“We won’t talk if you won’t.”
“Forty people saw him walk in.” Carruthers looked at Matheus. “You thought we wouldn’t be able to tell what you are? You were made before you took two steps through the door.”
“Idiot,” Quin said.
It took Matheus a second to recognize that Quin referred to him.
“I was trying to help,” he said.
“I don’t need your help. Shut up.”
“I think we should even out the odds of the game,” said Carruthers.
“No,” said Quin. “That wasn’t our deal.” He straightened, tugging on his shirt as he stared at Carruthers.
“Two is better than one.”
“He’ll slow me down and you know it. I thought you wanted a challenge, Carruthers.”
“Then leave him to die.” Carruthers shrugged. “I don’t care.” He nodded to one of the men.
The string of a crossbow twangedwith the sudden release of tension.
Matheus felt a thud against his chest. He stared, amazed, at the bolt sticking out of his chest. Pain burst as the surprise faded. Matheus wobbled.
“What the. . . ?”Unconsciousness hit before he reached the floor.