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Shroud Deleted Scene #1

Spoiler Alert: Do not read this if you haven’t read Shroud first.

In the original manuscript, Shade didn’t know who Keys was right away. She was hired by Silence, not Dimitri. This scene would replace events in chapter 15.

“Mother Renard,” Illyana said.

I jumped as I found the sorceress had closed the distance between us to a mere ten feet. She was close enough to me now that I caught the faint scent of rosemary and leather in the air. The magic-user smile softly, but made no move to close the rest of the space between us.

“Illyana,” I said carefully, putting my phone away. “Nice to see you again. Unfortunately, I’m in something of a hurry, so—”

“Then isn’t it fortunate that I’m here to give you a ride?” Illyana said smoothly.

My heart sank. I didn’t have time for this. I had to get to Silence. And Kylie. She’d made it sound like I needed to get there quickly if I wanted to see the body. If it was Amira, then—

I shook my head, forcing myself to concentrate on one problem at a time. “I don’t want to be rude, but I—”

“Let’s not waste time, hmm?” she suggested. “You obviously have important work to get to, and I think we both know you’re not leaving without me. Why not make this short and sweet, yes?”

Asher was looking at the sorceress the way I looked at Reese egg displays at Easter[. I looked down at Scath. The huge black cat looked completely nonplussed. As if it was everyday that the vampiric criminal mastermind of Cleveland sent his personal sorceress to pick us up.

“What does he want to see me about?” I asked.

The sorceress arched an eyebrow. “I’m sure he’ll tell you when you get there.”

“I’ll follow you,” I said. “You—”

“You will ride with me.”

I clenched my hands into fists, breathing through a sudden surge of temper. I glanced behind me, back toward the ship. Despite the suddenness of my request, I hadn’t been the only one on the boat ride back to the marina. There were a handful of Otherworlders getting off the boat, standing around on the pier talking with one another. And one the boats in the harbor, there were handfuls of humans, some working, some socializing.

I did not want to fight with Illyana. Not here, not when there were so many witnesses—Other and human. I didn’t think Illyana wanted a fight either, but if the vampire had sent her, she wouldn’t want to come back empty-handed.

“Things are a little complicated right now,” I said calmly. “Now, either you can call Anton and tell him he needs to come here and meet me himself, or you can lead the way and I’ll follow. I’m sure you must have someone else who could follow behind me, keep me from getting lost along the way?”

Illyana frowned. I was reasonably certain she hadn’t expected me to argue. “You think I’m lying. You don’t believe Mr. Winters sent me.”

“Let’s say I’ve had a rough day,” I said evenly.

“Yes,” she murmured. “You have, haven’t you?”

The idea that she knew how my day had gone didn’t surprise me. It didn’t please me, but it didn’t surprise me.

“I will ride with you in your car,” Illyana said finally. “Will that suffice? You can drive.”

There was no position in my car that I could picture Illyana in that wouldn’t make me a nervous wreck while driving, but I knew a final offer when I heard one. And I’d rather be driving than be driven in this case. So I agreed, then waited for Illyana to have a word with the limo driver before heading to my car.

Asher didn’t fight for the front seat, and I was somewhat mollified when he chose the backseat directly behind Illyana. The sorceress seemed oddly unfazed to have a goblin sitting behind her, though she did put the visor down so the small mirror let her keep an eye on him.

We spent the drive to the Winters Corporation building in total silence. It would have been comforting if I could have stopped my thoughts from surging like a river during a flood.

If Illyana knew how my day had gone, that likely meant that she knew about at least one of the murders. And if the photographer and the chef were both Anton’s blackmail victims, than I couldn’t imagine he would be terribly pleased to learn of their deaths. I didn’t think he’d blame me for them, but there was no getting around the fact that my presence when they died wouldn’t go unremarked on.

“You can park out front,” Illyana said when the building was in site. “Gerard will park your car for you.”

“That’s really not necessary,” I began.

“Park out front, Mother Renard,” Illyana said softly. “Mr. Winters dislikes being kept waiting.”

I did as she said, pausing when I got out of the car to let Scath out. She pushed her huge head against my palm in an oddly comforting gesture, and I gave her the best smile I could muster before heading toward the door.

I tried to organize my thoughts as Illyana led us past the reception desk and straight for the elevator. Trapdoor had Keys. And Trapdoor had been working with Claude. Which meant Anton hadn’t taken Keys. But I still didn’t know if Keys had been working for Anton, or if Keys had stumbled on the vampire’s blackmail scheme the same way Claude and Trapdoor had.

The real problem was going to be keeping Silence out of it. The last thing I wanted to do was rat the technomancer out to the vampire. No one deserved that.

The vampire didn’t greet me at the door to his office this time. Instead, Illyana led us all inside his office and gestured for us to take a seat in front of the large black desk. Anton sat in the chair behind the desk, watching us without saying a word. My nerves tightened as I noticed his pale blue eyes glittered with red flecks.

When he still didn’t say anything when we were all seated, I gritted my teeth. “I have somewhere to be. Can we make this quick?”

Anton didn’t move. Not at all. Not a muscle, not even a hair trembled in the slight shifting air in the office.

It was an undead thing.

“Grace Alan is dead.”

When he finally spoke, his voice startled me so badly that I would have jumped if the weight of Scath’s body against my legs hadn’t kept me grounded. I opened my mouth, but he continued before I could speak.

“Chef Chauvin is dead as well.”

“You were blackmailing them,” I said, my voice blessedly even.

“Which made them useful,” the vampire agreed. “But now they’re dead.” His eyes locked onto mine. “Which makes them less useful.”

“Technically, Grace is a wraith,” I said reasonably. “Dead but still…animated.”

Anton didn’t smile. “I believe when we spoke last, I took some effort to explain to you that your continued interference in my affairs would be met with more…consequences. I did convey that, did I not?”

“I didn’t talk to Dr. Oullet,” I protested, knowing full well that wasn’t what he meant.

“Mother Renard,” Anton said softly. “Please understand that your current situation is quite…perilous. You’ve caused me a great deal of trouble in less than twenty-four hours. I want to know why.”

“I’m looking for someone,” I said slowly. “A missing person.”

“Who?”

“I don’t know his real name.”

“What do you know?”

I looked away, unnerved by the red shine over his eyes. “It doesn’t matter. I—”

“Mother Renard,” Anton interrupted. “Do not force me to make this unpleasant. You have a very short amount of time to convince me not to take more drastic measures to convince you how serious I am about the need for you to stay out of my affairs.”

I tightened my jaw. “His hacker name is Keys. That’s all I know.”

Anton went completely still. The same deathly stillness of a moment ago, but this time, the red flecks in his eyes spread, covering his eyes like a layer of candy. Bloody, disturbing candy. “What did you say?”

“His name is Keys.” Something about the vampire’s expression made my stomach grow cold. He’d recognized the name.

“Do you have a picture?”

I reached into my pouch and withdrew the file again. Slowly I took out the photograph and laid it on Anton’s desk.

I never saw him move.

Suddenly I was pressed against the far wall of the office. My back hurt, but I didn’t remember striking the wall. Anton’s face filled my vision, his eyes complete crimson, burning with fury. His hand closed on the front of my shirt in an iron grip, at at some point I’d forgotten how to breathe.

“Tell me everything,” Anton hissed, his voice sounding less human than I’d ever heard it. “Start from the beginning. Tell me everything.”

It took me two tries to speak. Not because he’d knocked the wind out of me—though that didn’t help. No, I couldn’t speak at first because Anton’s reaction had brought with it two very important realizations.

First, without the blue dye, Keys would have his mother’s hair.

But he had his father’s icy blue eyes.

Suddenly, I knew who Keys was.

Dimitri Winters.


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