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We are Wolfen. We’re the pinnacle of what those humans hoped to achieve—Homo sapiens infragilis. Basically, we’re like a super-creature put together with different animal traits. Humans are limited, in body and mind. With us, they basically removed those limitations. Are you in danger? Not from us—never from us. And now, not from converts, either. We’re like opposites of each other. We don’t mesh. Converts will avoid Wolfen unless we engage.” He paused to survey her reaction.

Sinna stared for a moment, looked to Bryce for confirmation, then noted the wide-open window and the door left ajar.

Aiden nodded. “Right. We don’t have to worry about barricades. If we leave them alone, converts don’t bother us. We carry a scent they really, really don’t like, and see these?” He held up his chains, and wriggled his fingers to show off the rings. “Silver makes that scent stronger. It’s like a territory marker; it tells them they aren’t allowed here.”

Sinna regarded the tight silver cuff on her left wrist, rubbing the metal, lost in thought. “Gerry was going to give this to me the day she died. They killed her because of me. Because I wasn’t there.”

“No.” He knew that guilt; he and Bryce carried their fair share of it. “You couldn’t have known.”

“But Gerry must have. She kept telling me to stay close. If I had listened to her, she’d still be alive. She was counting on me, and I just left her!”

“Sinna, listen to me—”

“It was only for a minute, but they were so fast.”

“You were a kid.”

“I was eighteen,” she snapped. “More than old enough to know better.”

“Okay, you don’t want kid gloves? They’re coming off. You have two options: One, neither you nor Gerry knew exactly what you were, and what happened to her was a terrible accident. There’s nothing to say it wouldn’t have happened if you had been there. For all you know, your scent didn’t start changing until yesterday, or the day before.

“Or two, Gerry knew exactly what you were and kept it to herself. Wolfen crave freedom—because they can have it. Gerry was human, stuck in some hidey-hole in the middle of a convert-infested city she could never hope to escape, and she knew you—the experiment, the thing that wasn’t even human—always had the option of walking away. Deep down, that had to scare the shit out of her, ‘cuz if you ever figured out exactly what you were, and who she was, and what she’d probably done back in the den, you would leave her ass in the dust. So she decided to up her odds. She used you, kept you ignorant, scared, and locked up tight with her, so she could be safe.”

Sinna was breathing hard, eyes huge and glittering with tears in the moonlight, jaw clenched so tight against them, Aiden could see the muscles twitching.

“Now you choose,” he said. “You tell me which reality is easier for you to accept, because there is no option C.”

Sinna shuddered and ducked her head to wipe her eyes. She didn’t look at him for a long time, staring out the window instead.

Aiden didn’t force the issue. Whatever inner battle she waged, he couldn’t win it for her. He waited until her breathing evened out and she’d calmed herself some before he continued with the lesson.

“Converts develop a hell of a lot faster than humans, or even Wolfen, which is how the Fukushima den got into trouble in the first place. They had too many, got overpowered, and boom. Those who escaped brought the surviving specimens and more converts to Chernobyl, but the facility wasn’t equipped to handle so many. It’s like they feed off of each others’ strength. The more converts there are, the more they become: stronger, faster, hungrier. No one was prepared for that. Chernobyl didn’t have enough time to compensate, converts overpowered the puny humans, and the den imploded.”

“They evacuated and left me and Gerry for dead,” Sinna said suddenly. “She climbed thirteen stories up a ladder with me in tow to get to the surface. And once we got there, we had nothing. The clothes on our backs and a whole lot of strained muscles. Gerry didn’t even try to find the others; she knew they wouldn’t bother coming back for us, so she got us plane tickets bound for San Francisco and prayed we were leaving the nightmare behind.” She looked him dead in the eye. “She saved my life.”

Aiden nodded. “Fair enough.”

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