Friday night, May 25, 1990
Southwest of Andros Island
I should’ve killed him. If the drugged oils Lord Vétis had made Riki inhale weren’t raging in her system, she’d revisit his cabin. Armed with a knife.
Don’t be stupid. She hesitated near the hatchway. Vétis she could handle. But no earthly weapon could defeat the phantom the Lux overlord had summoned. She’d prefer the vile, molesting hands of a man over experiencing it ever again. Returning to Vétis’s rancid cabin would be suicide.
All crew and passengers had been ordered to go below, but Riki had sworn to make the rendezvous. She sneaked out the hatchway, and the weather deck pitched beneath her wobbly legs. Gripping the side rail, she pulled herself aftward through the darkness, her stomach sloshing with the ship’s sway. The light rain pecking her back told her to expect a full-blown storm.
Every centimeter of the Nave del Piacere disgusted her. Since her seventh birthday, this mega-yacht had cursed her weekends. Tonight topped them all. Why had her mother not warned her that this cruise was different?
Why had the Lux chosen her?
“God … ” Dare she break the law and pray? Superstitious, no. She was desperate. “If you exist, save me—”
Burning prongs gored her solar plexus, and Riki doubled over. Just as quickly, the burning ceased, leaving her midsection tingling. The phantom had found her, just as Vétis had said would happen. An invincible force.
After the rendezvous and after her mind cleared, she would hunt down the Lux overlord. She had four days to kill him. Or die trying.
Pulling herself along, she reached her destination.
Near the aft gate stood the Nave’s cruise director, shrewd and proficient at playing both sides of a game. Aboard ship, Riki had disciplined herself to regard the woman as nothing more than the director—a lie of survival.
The woman winked as a streak of lightning reflected off her glittery, crimson dress. A canvas satchel hung from her shoulder. Earlier, she’d claimed to have a plan.
Was that a blinking red light in her hand?
The drug’s messing with me. Keeping her grip on the rail, Riki edged closer.
The light was affixed to a small black box. Had two decades of enslavement made the woman mad?
“Never forget your birth name.” The director placed the box in the bag then reached for Riki.
“No hugs. They’ll see you.” Letting go of the railing to push the woman away, she heard a clack. Her mushy mind strained.
“My mistake brought you here. This will give you another chance. I love you.” The woman put her hand against Riki’s chest. And shoved.
“No—!” Grabbing for the rail, she found only air.
Seconds later, the sea slapped her back and swallowed into a wintry blackness . . .
. . . Find out how Riki survives → APRIL 17!
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