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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45
Chapter 46
Chapter 47
Chapter 48
Chapter 49
Chapter 50
Chapter 51
Chapter 52
Chapter 53
Chapter 54
Chapter 55
Chapter 56
Chapter 57
Chapter 58
Chapter 59
Chapter 60
Chapter 61
Chapter 62
Chapter 63
Chapter 64


Written by Valerie Jones
Last updated: 05/10/2010 11:31:24 PM

Chapter 46

Remy found himself once again in the Morlock Tunnels. The moist underground air smelled of stone and decay. Dim light flickered behind him and threw the Marauders’ shadows up on the wall in elongated caricatures. Their shuffling steps followed him, always just a couple of steps behind.

Remy shivered as he made the final turn and stood at the entrance to the broad cavern the Morlocks called home. But instead of the clusters of ramshackle huts built from scavenged pieces and Morlocks going about their daily business in twos and threes, he found the underground dwellers standing in neat, geometric rows. Men, women, and children, all standing stock still facing the cavern opening.

Sabertooth chuckled in his ear. "Easy meat," he growled, but his voice was all wrong.

Remy turned. Wolverine winked at him and raised his claws in salute before sauntering toward the nearest Morlocks.

No! Wait! Remy tried to protest, but no sound came out of his mouth. Somewhere, a deep-throated bell began tolling.

An invisible force seemed to propel him forward until he stood in the midst of the motionless tunnel dwellers. He found a knife in his hand. One row away, Scott Summers slit the throat of a teenage girl with long, stringy hair and huge, reptilian eyes. She collapsed and Scott turned to Remy. A red diamond sat in the middle of his forehead.

"Don’t worry," he told Remy. "They’re not really people. They don’t count."

Remy woke with a strangled cry, instinctively trying to knock the knife out of Cyclops’ hand but his arms wouldn’t obey him. A heavy weight pinned him down, crushing the breath out of him, and strong fingers dug into the nerves of his wrists.

"Remy, hon, wake up. Ya dreamin’." Rogue’s face was mere inches from his, the infrared colors of her face glowing brightly in the surrounding darkness. She sounded out of breath.

Awareness of where and when he was slammed through him. Relief followed, and then terror. He gulped down a shallow lungful of air—with Rogue perched on his chest a full breath was impossible.

"I’m awake," he managed as panic clawed at him. "Are y’ all right, chere? Did I hurt y’?" He’d come within a hair of killing her the last time she’d woken him out of a nightmare and the memory alone was enough to make him go cold.

The pressure on his wrists eased. His fingers immediately began to tingle from the restored blood flow.

"Ah’m fine, sugah. Someone’s at the door."

As if in response to her words, someone pounded on the door to their bedroom, eliciting a dull booming noise. Rogue climbed off of him, and with a groan Remy sat up. Pieces of his dream swirled around inside his mind, churning up his memories and filling his mouth with the taste of bile. He scrubbed his face, trying to wake up enough to push the images away, bury them once again.

Once he’d regained some kind of composure he swung his legs over the edge of the bed and staggered to his feet.

"What time is it?" he asked Rogue as he went in search of his jeans. He’d been asleep long enough for his muscles to stiffen up, so he found himself lurching across the bedroom in an ungainly parody of his usual gait. But at least his leg had quit aching.

"A little after eight," Rogue answered as she climbed out of bed on the far side and belted on her robe.

"A.m. or p.m.?" He scooped up a pair of jeans from the floor at the foot of the bed. His fingers told him immediately that they were his own—Rogue preferred her denim dark and rugged; he like his old and worn and washed until it felt like velvet against his skin.

"P.m." Rogue ran a hand through her hair. "It’s still Monday, ah think."

Remy was pleasantly surprised to realize he’d been asleep for close to ten hours. He slipped his jeans on and padded to the door just as whoever was out there knocked again.

"I’m comin’, I’m comin’," he muttered as he crossed the last few steps and yanked the door open. Artur stood on the far side, his heat signature flaring with barely suppressed fury.

"Guildmaster, the Bogota Cartel has Adrian," the other man said without preamble.

Remy’s thoughts screeched to a halt. "What?" In the madness of their escape from the sentinels facility, he’d literally forgotten about Adrian.

Gut clenching, he marshaled his wits. He was going to have to play these next few minutes convincingly or he risked losing everything. The Guild could not know that he’d betrayed Adrian to the Colombians.

"Dat doesn’ make any sense," he told Artur after a moment. "Are you sure it’s de Cartel?"

Artur nodded. "NYPD Narcotics Division is looking for information on the kidnapping of a man off the streets of Manhattan sometime Saturday afternoon. They’ve identified one of the kidnappers as a lieutenant in the Bogota Cartel’s hierarchy." Artur paused, his signature flickering dangerously. "A bystander took a couple of pictures with their cell phone. It was definitely Adrian they snatched."

"Then they’ve had him more than forty-eight hours." Remy shook his head, feeling the weight of his choices. Adrian was likely already dead, but he couldn’t say that. He was honor-bound to act as though he believed Adrian was still alive until he had definitive proof otherwise. The Guild never abandoned its own.

Remy swallowed his disgust at the hypocrisy he’d been forced into. He had no choice but to see this thing through to its end.

He raked a hand through his hair. "Who’s lookin’ for him? Do we know where they’ve got him yet?"

Artur shook his head. "We’ve got every available thief working on it, but no solid leads yet." He made an apologetic motion with his hands. "We do know the jefe is staying at an estate north of the city, but he’s not there now."

Remy leaned a shoulder against the door frame. "Where’s Carson? Dis could be a ploy t’ flush him out." He considered it fortuitous that Adrian had been Carson’s contact for the Miami job. There were lots of dots scattered about, and with just a little help the Guild would connect them in the order Remy needed them to.

Artur nodded. "We’d thought of that also. He’s here, keeping his head down, but he’s not happy about it."

"All right." Remy figured he’d covered his bases as best he could. He pushed away from the door frame. "Give me a couple o’ minutes t’ get dressed."

Artur nodded again. "Yes, Guildmaster." He stepped back and Remy let the bedroom door close.

Steeling himself, Remy turned. Rogue stood quietly behind him, her hands gripping her belt ties. Her heat signature rippled with suspicion and dismay, but she didn’t say anything.

After a minute, Remy headed toward the closet. Rogue stepped adroitly in front of him. He stopped short, rocking back on his heels. The moment stretched until Rogue raised one hand, laying it lightly on his chest.

"Ah just need ta know," she said quietly.

Remy caught her hand and brought it to his lips. "Y’ already do, chere." He could tell from her signature that she understood what he’d done. She just wanted confirmation.

He waited for her to flinch, to pull back—waited for the smear of colors that would betray her disgust. But though her signature spiked with alarm, she didn’t pull away. Instead, her fingers closed painfully tight around his own.

"They’ll kill ya if they ever find out." Her voice was low, fierce.

He pulled her closer. "Only if dey can prove it."

Rogue breathed a long sigh and nodded. Then she stepped back, leaving his path clear.

"We’ve found him, Guildmaster!" All conversation in Remy’s office died as Artur rushed in.

Seated on one corner of Remy’s mammoth desk, Rogue looked up from the map of the city she’d been perusing. She glanced first at Remy where he sat behind the desk, his expression carefully guarded, and then toward Carson.

The blond thief, who had been pacing restlessly for the past couple of hours, spun on his heel at Artur’s announcement.

"Where?" he demanded. He crossed to the desk, arriving at the same time as Artur.

Artur motioned to Rogue to lay out her map where they could see it. The remainder of the Guild council as well as Logan, Marcus and a couple of other senior thieves gathered around the desk as she complied. Remy rose to his feet, one hand smoothing his tie. The black Armani suit he’d donned only accentuated his angular features and lean build, reminding Rogue of a panther.

She resisted the impulse to shake her head. She didn’t know what to think of her husband at the moment. He hadn’t really had a choice—she understood that. Adrian had to be stopped by whatever means. All of their lives had depended on it. But she would have been a lot more comfortable if Remy had simply killed him. This scheming didn’t sit well with her.

Artur rotated the map so he could view it right side up. "They’re holding him here." He tapped an industrial area along the banks of the Hudson. "Our people have the warehouse under surveillance. The security looks light." He paused. "Too light."

"A trap?" Remy asked.

"Possibly," Artur answered. "Or they just don’t consider us a threat."

Remy frowned, anger highlighting his features. "These people have been tryin’ t’ push Miami around like dey don’ t’ink de Guild has de will or de resources t’ challenge them. They’re arrogant."

"We would be foolish to assume that’s all it is," Chess countered.

Remy nodded. "O’ course. We’ll go in expectin’ de worst."

"We?" Chess asked sharply, and Rogue sucked in her breath at the implied warning in his tone. Across the desk, she saw Wolverine stiffen ever so slightly.

Remy met the other man’s gaze, his expression set. "Yes, I mean me, too," he said calmly. "Adrian is a New York t’ief an’ dat makes him my responsibility."

Carson made a disgusted sound. "Don’t pretend you care, Guildmaster." He gave Remy a narrow-eyed stare. "You benefit more than anyone else from this."

Rogue blanched at the sudden chill that descended on the office.

Remy gave Carson a flat stare. "Dis ain’ my doing," he said, entirely believably, and Rogue was taken aback to realize what a good liar her husband was. He shrugged, continuing, "I won’ pretend it ain’t t’ my benefit. Adrian’s been a thorn in m’ side dat I’d just as soon be rid of. But not like dis." This time, Rogue was pretty certain the regret in his voice was genuine.

Carson opened his mouth for a retort, but Chess beat him to the punch.

"Be careful what you say." Chess held the other man’s gaze in wordless warning. "Accusations carry no weight here unless you have proof to back them." Around him, the other councilors wore similar expressions.

Rogue wondered how differently this conversation might have gone had the X-Men not just pulled off their attack on the sentinel assembly facility. The success of their mission had undoubtedly translated into a boost to Remy’s credibility.

Carson pressed his lips together in a thin, bloodless line, but he nodded in acquiescence.

"Very well, then." Chess turned back to Remy, the topic abruptly dropped. "I’d like to renew my protest to you joining in on a rescue, Guildmaster. It’s too dangerous."

Remy’s expression quirked wryly. "We keep havin’ dis conversation."

"You keep refusing to listen to sense."

Remy raised his eyebrows. "An’ amazingly, I’m still here."

Rogue had to grin at the familiar dry humor. Remy could be incredibly stubborn, but he almost always passed it off with a smile and a joke.

Chess didn’t share his amusement. He frowned, his disapproval obvious. "This could still be a trap."

Remy nodded. "Oui, which is one reason I want t’ be dere. If it is a trap, we’re gon’ need de equivalent of a strike team t’ take dem, an’ I’ve got more combat experience dan anyone else in de Guild."

Rogue understood his reasoning. Given the bad blood between them, Remy could not afford to fail in any attempt to retrieve Adrian, or give the impression that he was doing less than his absolute best on the other thief’s behalf. But he would be taking a risk going into a place he didn’t have drawings for and couldn’t see.

"You can count me in," Logan drawled from the far side of the desk.

He received a round of surprised looks from the thieves, but no one disagreed. Of course, Rogue reflected, Logan’s reputation was probably enough to win him a place in Guild operations without the need for treaties or agreements.

Remy inclined his head in the Canuck’s direction. "Y’ help is always appreciated, Logan."

Rogue bit her lip. "Ah’d like ta go, too," she told her husband.

This time, the reactions were far less accepting.

"This is no place for the Guildmistress," Tom O’Shane said severely. "These are drug dealers—thugs. They’re dangerous."

Rogue stiffened, a familiar anger coiling in her gut. "An’ the two gunships full o’ OZT soldiers that ah fought off just yesterday were a pack o’ pansies?" She glared at the thief.

Tom recoiled in surprise, and in the sudden silence she heard a distinct snicker from Wolverine.

She rounded on him. "Ya got somethin’ ta say?" she demanded.

He grinned at her. "Not me, darlin’. I just enjoy watchin’ ya get all riled up."

"Hmph." Rogue crossed her arms, somewhat mollified, and blew an annoying lock of white hair out of her face.

Logan turned to Remy. "The three of us’ll make a decent strike team," he said, "and Bishop’d probably be willin’ ta join in if we want a fourth."

Remy considered for a moment then shook his head, a humorless smile touching his lips. "Non. Bishop’d be too conflicted. He’s still a cop at heart, neh? He’d want t’ arrest dem."

The hardness in his eyes gave Rogue pause, and her stomach curled into a knot as she considered the implications of his words.

"So is the objective here to get Adrian or to teach these cartel boys a lesson?" she finally asked.

"Both, chere." Remy watched her, his thoughts inscrutable. "De first priority is always t’ protect our own, but part o’ dat is remindin’ folks like these drug dealers why no one messes wit’ Guild."

Artur leaned forward, bracing his fingertips against the desk top. "They will pay dearly for daring to lay hand on a thief." A shiver worked its way up Rogue’s spine at his cold tone.

Remy looked over at her, his expression piercing. "Are y’ sure y’ want a part in dis?" he asked.

Rogue took a deep breath to steady herself. She wasn’t certain she wanted a part in any of it—especially not for Adrian’s sake—but she’d made her choice when she married Remy. She didn’t intend to ever let herself be anything less than brutally honest about what that meant.

"Ah’m sure," she answered, meeting his red gaze. She summoned a thin smile. "Partners in crime, remember?"

"D’accord, cherie." He made an accepting gesture, but she would have sworn she saw regret in his eyes. Then he turned his attention to the assembled thieves. "We’ll go in two groups..."

Rogue didn’t have any trouble handling the approach to the warehouse. She’d been back in the world of military-style covert ops long enough that it had become habit. She and Logan took the point with the thieves drifting like ghosts behind them. She rarely saw them except as vague figures cloaked in the shadows. Remy stayed on her heels for the most part, but for a man who couldn’t see he had an uncanny way of pointing out the cartel’s lookouts before she noticed them herself.

Rogue carried a snub-nosed automatic rifle slung over her shoulder, but her primary weapon was a silenced pistol. The distances involved didn’t warrant bringing her sniper’s rifle. They’d taken down three lookouts so far without a hitch, including the man who’d been pacing back and forth along the edge of the warehouse roof.

She had been doing fine. This was, at its core, a rescue mission and her targets were quite possibly more deserving of their fate than OZT’s forces. She would not suffer much more than a twinge of regret for their deaths.

But then she heard Adrian scream.

Suddenly, Rogue wasn’t crouched beside a steel shipping container with Remy a half step behind her and a loaded gun in her hands. She was back in that stone room beneath the Guild complex with the fire of Adrian’s drug in her veins and the unending pain

"Rogue." Remy’s hiss snapped her out of her memories. She found herself slumped against the side of the shipping container, gasping for breath. Remy watched her with a worried crease between his brows.

Straightening, she tried to shake off the memories and the tight band that seemed to constrict around her chest. "Adrian," she whispered.

He nodded, his expression grim.

Across the way, Logan waved them forward. Rogue forced herself to concentrate. They’d taken care of all of the lookouts, clearing their way into the warehouse. Remy turned to signal the thieves who appeared out of the darkness. Silently the thieves moved forward, disappearing around the sides of the building. They would work their way inside from there while she, Logan and Remy took the front.

Their entrance was a plain metal door. She and Logan kept an eye out for trouble while Remy made a quick examination of the door. None of them expected him to find an active security system, and after a minute he shook his head to show that it was clear. With a deft touch, he silently unlatched the door and pushed it open just a sliver to allow them to see inside.

A man stood a few feet in front of the door, an automatic rifle cradled in his hands. He had his back to them, facing toward the interior of the warehouse. He scuffed his feet and stared at the ground, looking bored. Beyond him, stacks of pallets rose toward the high ceiling, creating a maze of passages.

Logan extended his claws. Remy gave him a silent three-count and then pushed the door open far enough for the other man to dart through. Before the guard could even register their presence, Logan speared him through the back and out the chest, covering the man’s mouth with his other hand to keep him quiet.

With little more than a soft scuffle, Logan laid the dead man down on the floor beside the door.

Men’s voices floated to them from somewhere toward the center of the building, their words indistinct but the tone undeniably taunting. Laughter followed, and then a meaty thud and a cry of pain. Rogue knew the sounds of a beating, and knew it wasn’t their fists they were using on Adrian, but something more solid—like a crowbar or a tire iron.

Rogue did her best to ignore the sounds as she and Logan led the way through the stacks of shipping pallets. But the memories lurked at the edges of her awareness, and like a distant echo she could hear her own screams reverberating through the darkness.

After twenty seconds or so, those sounds ceased. Rogue had no idea what they did next, but Adrian screamed again, the sound raw and full of hopeless rage. She fought down a violent shudder. She could never hate Adrian enough to want him to suffer like that.

They rounded the final corner, careful to stay inside the narrow band of shadow cast by the stacked pallets. Ten feet ahead, their aisle ended, giving on to an open area.

Adrian hung by his wrists from a rope someone had thrown over one of the lighting trusses on the ceiling and then tied off. If Rogue hadn’t already known who he was, she would never have recognized him through the swelling and bruises that disfigured him. Blood covered his clothes and blackened the cement beneath his dangling toes. Flies droned around the blood pool.

Three men surrounded Adrian, two with long metal bars in their hands and the third with a bloodied knife. They jeered him in a mix of Spanish and English, the two with the crowbars taking swings at him as if he were a piñata rather than a man. One of them connected with his hip in a crunch of bone, eliciting a guttural scream. A fourth man—obviously their leader—watched from a short distance, his expression placid.

Rogue tasted bile and swallowed hard against the accompanying nausea. Beside her, Logan growled deep in his throat, the low sound making the hairs on the back of her neck prickle. On the far side of the clearing, she caught the flicker of motion that meant the thieves had moved into position.

"Now," Remy said, loudly enough for everyone in the warehouse to hear him.

The men surrounding Adrian spun toward the sound. The fastest of the three threw his metal bar down with a loud clatter and went for the gun at his waistband, but Logan dropped him with a round to the chest before he could get halfway there. He collapsed and lay still.

"Don’t move," Rogue warned the other two as she walked forward, shifting her aim between them. Her hands remained steady despite the adrenaline pounding through her system. "Get down on the ground, hands behind your heads."

Their gazes moving from her to Wolverine and back, the men slowly complied. Logan knelt and searched both men, sending their guns skittering away across the floor.

The fourth man turned to run, only to find himself facing a trio of thieves with weapons drawn and aimed directly at him. He froze, anger snapping in his gaze.

"I want him alive," Remy said, pointing toward the fourth man.

Artur lowered his gun. "Yes, Guildmaster." He grabbed the cartel leader’s arms, twisting them harshly behind his back and securing them with a plastic zip tie. He frisked the man, tossing aside a pair of guns and a knife, and then kicked the man’s feet out from under him. He dropped to his knees with a grunt of pain.

Carson immediately holstered his weapon and drew a knife to cut the rope holding Adrian. Together, he and Marcus lowered the injured thief to the ground.

"What about these two?" Rogue asked, waving the muzzle of her gun toward the two men lying on the ground in front of her.

Remy didn’t look at her. "Kill them."

Rogue sucked in her breath in pure shock, her eyes widening. She glanced over at Logan in the hope that he might tell her she’d just imagined the words, but he only shrugged as if to say, What did you expect?

She closed her eyes and looked away, but the image of a man’s broad back framed in her rifle sights came to life behind her eyelids the moment she did. Was this really any different?

These men are disarmed—defenseless, a voice inside her argued. But the guards she’d shot from a distance had been effectively defenseless, too. That was the point of sniping.

That was part of the mission, the voice returned. Bringing down OZT is about protecting people.

Rogue opened her eyes. Sending a definitive message to the Colombian drug cartels was ultimately about protecting people, too. As a girl she’d heard enough stories from her mother and her associates to know just how inhumanly vicious the cartels could be. She glanced over at Adrian’s ruined form. But if she needed proof it was right there.

Taking a deep breath to ward off the queasiness in her stomach, Rogue crossed the short space separating her from the two men lying face down on the cement. Without pausing, she shot each man once in the back of the head.

Trembling ever so slightly, she lowered her weapon and stepped away. Logan watched her, his blue eyes piercing, but she found no condemnation in his gaze. He nodded once in acknowledgment then went to help Carson and Marcus.

Remy had gone over to where the cartel leader knelt. The man was older than Rogue expected—she’d guess his age at close to sixty—and he stared up at Remy with an imperious kind of outrage in his dark eyes.

"You will not get away with this," he told Remy in heavily accented English. "If you kill me you will swim in blood. That I can promise you."

Remy didn’t look particularly impressed by the threat. He pulled a deck of cards from somewhere and began idly shuffling them, his skilled fingers turning the motion of the cards into an elaborate dance.

"We haven’t been introduced," Remy said after a long moment filled with the whisper of the cards and Adrian’s low moaning. His tone was benign, even friendly, and a tiny shiver worked its way down Rogue’s spine. "My name is Remy LeBeau. I’m Guildmaster of New York, an’ you, señor, are Miguel Ramon Villaverde Muñoz, head of de Bogota Cartel."

Villaverde’s expression flickered at the sound of his name, and Rogue wondered how many people were privy to this man’s identity. Not many, she suspected, which made her curious how Remy had come to possess it.

Remy shuffled his cards a final time and put them away. "There. Now that that’s out o’ de way, we can talk."

"I have nothing to say to you, boy."

Artur grabbed Villaverde’s collar at that but Remy forestalled him with a raised hand. Artur released him with a grimace.

Remy sank into a crouch in front of the cartel leader, putting them at eye level. The act demonstrated a kind of confidence that Rogue was certain was not lost on the other man.

"Then y’ can listen," he said quietly.

Villaverde did not respond, which Remy seemed to take as an assent. He gave the man an evaluating stare. "Take dis back to y’ people: It will not end until I can sit down an’ have a civil conversation wit’ your successor."

The first hint of uncertainty lit Villaverde’s features. "What won’t end?" he asked after a moment.

Remy rose from his crouch with the smooth grace of a predator. "You’ll find out soon enough. Jus’ remember what I said." He shifted his gaze from the drug dealer to Artur. "Let him go."

Frowning, Artur complied. He reached down to cut the ties binding Villaverde and then stepped back, allowing the older man to climb slowly to his feet. Villaverde rubbed his wrists, his dark eyes roaming the area as if he were only just realizing that his men were all dead, leaving him alone.

With a last look at Remy, he took a cautious step toward the exit. When no one moved to stop him, he turned and walked away as fast as his age allowed.

"We’re just going to let him go?" Carson demanded as Villaverde’s form disappeared into the shadows. His tone bristled with barely contained rage.

Remy turned to the thief, his red irises lurid in the dim lighting. Without his powers his eyes didn’t actually glow any more, Rogue had noticed, but there was still something unnaturally luminescent about them.

"If we killed him, we would simply be balancing de scales," he told Carson calmly. "Life f’ life, violence f’ violence. Someone else would take his place an’ not’ing would change." He cocked his head, his expression hardening. "Instead, I t’ink it’s high time we taught dese arrogant mongrels t’ watch their step around de Guild."

"How does turning loose the man responsible for this—" He gestured to where Marcus and Logan were arranging Adrian on a makeshift stretcher. "—teach them anything?"

Remy shrugged. "Life is cheap, neh? I got no interest in shedding any more blood. We’ve demonstrated dat we can." He glanced briefly at Rogue and then down at the three dead men. "Dat’s enough."

He shook his head slowly. "No, we’re thieves. We’ll hit them where it really hurts."

Carson crossed his arms. "Which is?"

A grim smile lit Remy’s face. "De money, of course."

Remy leaned casually against the wall in one corner of the med center’s waiting room, trying to remain unobtrusive. Rogue waited beside him, idly curling a lock of hair around her finger. She’d said little since they’d found Adrian.

Remy subconsciously shook his head. No, she’d said little since she’d shot two men execution-style on his orders, he corrected. At the moment he didn’t even know what to think about that, let alone what he should do about it. If anything.

A woman entered the room in a rush, distracting him from his thoughts. She was tall and slender, and carried herself with an air of statuesque dignity even in her hurry. Remy didn’t recognize her heat signature but, as always, he memorized it.

She went over to the small group of people waiting for news. Adrian had gone into surgery several hours earlier. Carson was there along with his wife and an older couple Remy was pretty sure were Adrian’s parents. Artur stood a short ways away with a couple of other thieves, close but not really a part of the group.

A few other people sat scattered about the waiting room. Most of them were parents with children, there for early morning doctor’s appointments.

The older couple rose to exchange hugs with the woman, their conversation muted.

As they talked, Bobby walked in. He spotted Artur first, changing course to approach him. Remy pushed away from the wall. Bobby was responsible for delivering the edited tapes to Trish’s people.

Rogue slipped her hand into his as they went to join Artur. Her heat signature fluctuated in muted fashion, giving him little insight into her emotions. He pushed those concerns away.

Bobby took note of his approach and turned to face him. "Guildmaster." He inclined his head in a bow, his stance formal. But, Remy reflected, he was astute enough to know when the casual ease that usually characterized their relationship would be inappropriate.

Remy returned the nod. "Bobby. Y’ got de tapes delivered?"

"Handed them over to Trish myself."

Rogue’s fingers tightened on his. "How is she doin’?" she asked. Remy wasn’t terribly surprised Trish had already rejoined her news crew, though he suspected she’d done so over her doctor’s protests.

Bobby shrugged. "She’s managing, I guess. She said they’re going to try to have their report out in time to catch the evening news cycle. Apparently she has email addresses for just about every major news director out there, so they’re going to send it to all of her contacts at the same time they post it on Freedom Net."

Remy raised his eyebrows. "Be interesting to see how many of them run it."

"Yeah." Bobby looked toward the people gathered a short distance away. "Any word on Adrian yet?" Remy saw the flickers that told him Adrian’s family had noticed their conversation even if they pretended otherwise.

He shook his head. "Nothing so far."

The woman who had recently arrived stood, her hands moving as if she were smoothing her skirt. With a brief word to the others, she straightened her shoulders and walked over to where he and Bobby stood. To Remy’s surprise, Bobby’s signature flared, the brilliant colors screaming apprehension and alarm though his body language betrayed none of it. He obviously knew this woman but Remy had no time to wonder about his reaction.

"Guildmaster." The woman extended her hand, her demeanor calm and self-assured. "We haven’t met. My name is Marjorie Tyre."

"Madam." Wary, Remy took her hand, finding her skin smooth like parchment and her grip strong. Bobby’s reaction had brought his warning instincts to life, so he kept his reaction as neutral as possible.

Releasing his hand, she turned to Rogue. "Mistress." Her tone was polite, but underlain with steel.

Rogue acknowledged her with a nod. "Ms. Tyre." She glanced over at the others. "How are ya related ta Adrian, if ya don’t mind mah askin’?"

Marjorie stiffened, the barest flicker of a reaction, and raised her chin. "He’s my nephew." She turned toward Remy. "Michael was my son."

Remy froze, his stomach curling into a hard knot. He felt Rogue tense beside him and squeezed her hand in silent warning. A dozen possible responses leapt onto his tongue, but he bit them all back. There was absolutely nothing he could say to the mother of the man he’d killed that would make anything better. Chances were they’d only make things worse.

After a moment, Marjorie tipped her head to the side. "Well, I appreciate the lack of trite platitudes from you." Remy had the feeling that if he could see her gaze, he would find it flinty. "I didn’t agree with some of Michael’s decisions, but he was still my son."

Remy acknowledged the rebuke with a nod, but he was saved from any further response as one of the doors opened on the far side of the room opened to admit Doctor Lancaster. Hank trailed a few steps behind him. Remy read weary regret from both of them and knew the news couldn’t be good.

Adrian’s parents and those gathered with them all stood, their signatures spiking with nervous apprehension. Marjorie, too, turned to face the doctors.

Doctor Lancaster shook his head. "I’m sorry," he said. "Adrian’s injuries were just too severe. We did everything we could."

Adrian’s mother immediately crumbled into tears against her husband. Carson’s wife reached out to lay a comforting hand on her back, speaking to her in low tones.

Rogue let go of Remy’s hand and staggered to the nearest chair. She sank into it, wrapping both arms around her stomach and rocking slowly back and forth. Alarmed, he followed her. All he could feel at the news was a kind of sick relief. He had no idea what to make of her reaction.

"Rogue?" He knelt beside her chair and laid a hand on her knee.

She stopped rocking and shook her head. "Don’t, sugah." She was breathing in short gasps, her voice full of pain. "Ah can’t talk about this. Not... to you." She shook her head. "Not about him." She pressed the back of one hand to her mouth as if she were fighting not to be sick.

It was all Remy could do to grab hold of the rage that exploded inside him at her words. Adrian had hurt her far more deeply than he’d let himself believe and his death had just torn the scabs off of those wounds.

And there was not a thing Remy could do except watch her bleed.

Silently cursing himself for ever letting her get anywhere near him, he gathered Rogue into his arms and held her while her silent tears dampened his collar.


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