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    Nothing she could ever do would make up for the mistake she had made.

    She heard Jonas’s heavy sigh a few seconds before he picked up the file she’d been focused on, then sat on the box and stared at where she sat—where the Coyote had been killed.

    Turning her head away from him, she tried to ignore him.

    She tried, tried so hard to just wish it all away.

    Tightening her arms around her knees, she huddled closer to the wall, wishing she could cry.

    If she could cry, maybe her chest would stop hurting so bad.

    Mark always told her that sometimes, only tears could heal the heart and soul. He would tell her to cry whenever she needed to; that way, she would always be sweet and innocent and he would always try to find a way to make the tears all better.

    Maybe if she started screaming and crying, if she begged God hard enough, loud enough, then it would all just be some horrible nightmare.

    Oh God, she just wanted it to stop hurting. It was like an iron band tightening around her heart and her ribs, constricting her breathing and making it hard for her heart to beat.

    Maybe her heart would just stop beating. Hope flared inside her for a second.

    Maybe someone would have mercy on her and kill her as well.

    She was trying so hard to be brave, as Mark had told her to be, even though he’d told her for so many years that it was his job to be brave, and her job to cry and be sweet.

    But now he wanted her to be brave. He’d told her not to cry.

    It was the last thing he’d asked her to do.

    “Gypsy, I need to ask you some questions,” Jonas told her gently, watching her with a heavy sympathy that sickened her.

    She didn’t deserve his sympathy.

    She didn’t deserve anyone’s forgiveness.

    Least of all this Breed’s.

    Or her parents’.

    Even Mark’s.

    “It was my fault,” she told Jonas, staring into the back of the shadowed cavern now, her gaze unfocused, her need to escape threatening to overwhelm her. “It’s all my fault.”

    “No, sweetheart, it wasn’t your fault.” From the corner of her eyes she could see him wiping his hand over his head, the short strands of his black hair gleaming in the low light of the cave. “None of this was your fault.”

    Oh, but how very wrong he was. It was all her fault.

    She was childish, and her temper had done far more than just get her in trouble this time. This time, it had destroyed the person she loved more than anything.

    “I wanted to go to the party,” she tried to explain, but even to her own ears, the excuse was so stupid. So immature.

    Why had that party been so important?

    “Gypsy, what happened here wasn’t your fault.” His deep voice was rough, and she bet he managed to convince a whole lot of people of a whole lot of lies.

    But he couldn’t convince her of that lie.

    “I slipped out of the house. My friend Khileen was picking me up. She lives in the desert.” Khileen Langer was from England.

    She and her family were staying in New Mexico on her stepfather’s desert estate, where they were visiting for the summer. She liked Khileen. Liked the way the other girl was always laughing and daring her to have fun. To not be so serious.

    She couldn’t ever let anyone convince her of that again.

    “There was this party,” she continued, forcing herself to speak. “And a band and everything that some college boys were having in the desert. I just wanted to go see my friends, and the band.”

    And maybe drink a little.

    Maybe flirt with some of the boys from school.

    “So you left for the party?” he asked her.

    Her breathing hitched and she shuddered.

    It was like her soul was crying, but she couldn’t cry herself because Mark had asked her not to.

    “He was angry at me for some reason.” Her fists clenched in the material of the shirt as her lips trembled and she hugged her knees closer to her br**sts. “We had a deal.” She rocked against the agony burning brighter inside her. “I would always tell him if I was going to a party and he would make sure he was there, so he could . . .” The whimper that escaped her surprised her. “So he could make sure I didn’t get in trouble or get hurt.”

    “But you didn’t tell him you were going?” he asked then.

    Gypsy frowned. “I did. I tried, but he yelled at me.” Why had Mark yelled at her? “He told me to just go away, that I was irritating him.” She stared into the darkness intently. Why hadn’t Mark ever told her that she irritated him? She would have tried to stop. She really would have. “Mark has never yelled at me before.”

    He had always loved her, always been patient with her.

    “Were you aware your brother was in trouble?” he asked her then. “Did he tell you there were Coyotes searching for him? That the Genetics Council had identified him and sent a team to ensure that he couldn’t steal the information he was hacking into anymore? That they were looking for him tonight?”

    She turned to him slowly, blinking back in confusion. “I swear I didn’t know. Mark was just acting so weird. He wanted me to stay in my bedroom and he wouldn’t talk to me. He was being sharp and didn’t want to be bothered. And he wouldn’t listen to me when I tried to tell him I just wanted to go to the party. He wouldn’t let me tell him anything.”

    She was going to throw up. She didn’t want to move. She didn’t want to have to find a place to throw up in privacy. Mark hadn’t acted frightened or scared or worried. He’d been very, very angry, though, and he was snapping at her whenever he caught her out of her bedroom and ordering her back into it.

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