He let them go. Mac’s feet touched ground but she didn’t keep her footing. She crumpled to a heap, wedged between the wall and the vending machine. Bon crashed onto the debris-strewn floor and dragged himself to her, planting himself in front of her, a protective barrier somewhat diminished as his starving lungs dragged air in shuddering gasps.

Leonard’s laughter broke off abruptly. “You were foolish to come here. I help no one. You wasted your lives.”

Bon threw his arms wide, although they both knew neither of them stood a chance if Leonard decided to attack. They’d be slaughtered before they even registered that he’d moved. Mac struggled to see around Bon’s head, trying to catch Leonard’s gaze again. Finally she dug the pointed bone of her chin into his trapezius muscle. He let out a squawk and flinched away.

“You could at least listen to us before you kill us. It’s hardly fair to slaughter us out of hand. We might be able to come to a mutually beneficial arrangement.”

“Beneficial?” Leonard’s voice grated like massive stones scraping against one another. It was impossible to tell if it held any emotion, but she thought – prayed – there was a glimmer of interest in its tone. “Beneficial how? What can you give me, who has it all – looks, fame, immortality?”

Yep, there was emotion, all right: rancor. Not helpful at all.

“Mercy,” she offered quietly.

Bon whipped around, stunned, wary. They hadn’t discussed this. In fact, deals with Revenants were extraordinarily unwise and the Stronghold’s elders strictly forbade it; the creatures’ animalistic temperaments made it nearly impossible for them to honor agreements. But they were desperate, getting more desperate every day, and what great reward ever came without great risk?

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