Excerpt from The Dangerous Type

A day later, Doc sank into the chair Sloane had left by the bed.  It was nice chair, comfortable enough to sleep in, upholstered in some kind of soft tan leather that smelled brand-new.  She suspected he didn’t spend much time in this bolt-hole.  Probably rented it already furnished, just waiting for him to need a hideout.

Raena was asleep again, looking pretty much like the dead.  The gray tone hadn’t left her skin, even though she was managing to keep liquids down now.  Doc got the feeling that something might be dead inside the girl, but without real equipment, there was no telling what.  And Raena had scared Sloane badly enough that he was prepared to let her die, rather than drag her to a hospital.

Doc pulled the flask from her bag and sipped from it.  Clearly, grave robbing served Sloane well, if this was the quality of liquor he drank these days.  She’d have to fill the flask again before she left.  Might be a long time before she tasted anything this good.

She jumped when she realized that the girl’s eyes had come open.  “You awake?” she asked cautiously.

Raena nodded.

“Sloane’s out, up to some kind of no-good,” Doc said.  “There anything you want to talk to me about, while we’re not gonna be interrupted?”

“What makes you think that, Doc?”  Raena’s voice sounded like the raggedy edge of torn paper, but Doc remembered the fatalist sense of humor behind it.

“I remember you as somebody who fought every step of her way,” Doc said.  “Why are you giving up now?”

“I don’t have a lot of strength left.”  Raena shook her head.  “There was a moment, the other night, when I thought about dying.  Something woke me and I was going to throw myself off of the balcony while Gavin was asleep.  I just couldn’t face living.  Things were much easier in my tomb.  No one expected anything from me.  I didn’t have to please anyone.  There was no one but myself to fight.”

“What stopped you?” Doc asked quietly.

“It was raining.  The raindrops were little prisms, catching the city lights.  I got trapped by the beauty — and then Sloane came out to talk me down.  I couldn’t make him watch me die.”

Raena didn’t seem to want to say more, so Doc sipped her whiskey and said, “I wonder if you’ve been thinking about all you have to live for.  I don’t mean Sloane, of course, although he’d prefer if you decided to live for him.  But you, personally.  Don’t you have some unfinished business you’d like to settle?”

Raena gazed at the older woman.  Doc knew she should meet the girl’s eyes, but she just couldn’t do it.  There was too much pain there, and darkness, and death.  Heaven knows that Doc had had enough of those in her own life.  She was getting too old to take on anyone else’s.

“Of course,” Raena said quietly.  “He’s still out there, Thallian, the man chasing me all those years ago.  He’s sent men to look for me already.  He knows I’m out —”  She didn’t elaborate and Doc didn’t ask.  Wherever she had been held, escaping it had just about killed Raena.  The old woman knew she’d sleep better if she didn’t know any more about it than that.

Raena finished, “I don’t have the courage to run any more.”

“You could always take the fight to him,” Doc said, opening her flask to check its level.  “That’s what we did in the old days.”

The girl laughed.  “I can’t even get out of bed, Doc.”

“I can give you stuff for that.  I can put the weight back on you, the muscle.  I can give you your strength back.  I can save your body, if you decide that’s what you want.  But I can’t give you the reason to live.  And if you decide you’d rather die than run or face him, hell, I can’t tell you you’re making the wrong choice.”

“What are you saying?”

“This guy was bad news, right?  Evil?  Doesn’t he deserve to pay for that?”

Raena gave her the same empty laugh she’d used when Doc tried to recruit her to the Coalition all those years ago.

Doc took a different tack.  “No one else knows he exists any more, do they?”

“No.”

“Then no one but you can put him down.”

Raena shook her head.  “I’m scared.  I’ve been out of the chase too long.”

“So has he,” Doc argued.  “And he’s old now, older anyway, and probably getting slow.  All I’m saying is:  think about it.”

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