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“I know. I can’t help myself. I love”—she glanced up at the park’s sign—“Pirate World.” She paid for the ticket with her credit card. “Are any of your restaurants still serving dinner?”

“The Jolly Roger Grill stays open until the park closes. It’s located on the upper deck of the Flying Dutchman.” She handed Alys a map of the park with the location circled.

“Thank you.”

As she walked into the park, Alys couldn’t shake the feeling that she was being followed, although she saw no one whenever she turned back to look.

A man jumped out in front of her, making her stumble backward until she saw he was in costume.

“Take your picture with Blackbeard, my pretty?” He lifted the camera hanging around his neck, tugged his fake beard out from under the strap. “It’ll only cost ye twenty doubloons.”

“I was wrong.” Alys went around him. “I hate Pirate World.”

An enormous man-made lake formed the center of the park, and held more than a dozen reproduction pirate ships. Some appeared to be stages for live performances, while others housed gift shops, boutiques, and snack bars. Visitors walked back and forth to the vessels across wide wooden bridges labeled on the map as “planks.”

“Walking the plank. Of course.” Alys stuffed the map into her jacket and started across the bridge that led to the Flying Dutchman. High guardrails kept anyone who might have slipped or stumbled from falling into the lake, but the creaking, swaying wood of the bridge made Alys quicken her step.

Two men walking even faster brushed past her, one going to the rail to look over the side. The other slowed and turned around, his dark eyes measuring her as he blocked her path.

“Excuse me.” When he didn’t move, Alys gestured past him. “I’m going over there.”

“You are Dr. Stuart?” he asked, his thick accent mangling her name.

“Yes.” She took a step back. “How do you know my name?”

He turned his head and said something in Italian to his companion, who nodded. “Where are the jewels?”

“What jewels? I don’t know what you mean. How did you find me here?” Her eyes widened as he produced a gun. “You’re going to shoot me? In a theme park?”

“Tell us where the jewels are, and we let you go,” he offered.

“I don’t have any jewels. All I have”—she fumbled at her neck for her cross—“is this. It’s gold, and there’s a little gem in it. Here, you can have it.” She reached back for the catch.

The other man came at her and seized her by the arm and throat. “Where are they?”

Alys struggled, choking under his brutal grip and then writhing as he thrust her back against the top of the railing.

“Where?” the man shouted, throttling her.

She shook her head, and then brought up her feet and used them to shove him away, pushing herself over the railing. She grabbed at it, desperately trying to hold on, but her fingers slipped and then she was falling.

Dropping into the pit last night had been a quick and petrifying business; falling into the cold, dark water of the lake seemed to take an eternity. Alys felt herself floating, feather-soft, on a cool wind that curled around her, holding her in a gentle embrace. She turned over, wanting to see what had her, and caught her breath as the water rushed up toward her face.

A few inches above its icy surface her body came to a stop and hung there.

She frowned at the distorted reflection of her features, unable to comprehend them. Nothing was holding her up; she hadn’t landed on anything. And now she was sliding sideways, parallel to the lake, tugged toward the embankment as if someone was reeling her in like a hooked fish.

Not someone, Alys saw as she turned her head and made out the furious features of the man standing at the lake’s edge. Beau.

A crowd was heading toward him, led by a group of security guards with flashlights. Beau turned his head to glance at them before he met Alys’s gaze. “Hold your breath.”

The force pulling at her disappeared, and she plunged into the freezing water. Flailing until she found the bottom with her feet and was able to push herself upright, Alys surfaced. She would have swum toward the bank, but Beau was right there, water streaming from him as he gathered her into his arms and began wading out with her.

Alys looked over at the growing crowd waiting for them, and finally understood. “You couldn’t let them see.”

“Say nothing,” he ordered her. “You’re cold and in shock. I will do the talking.”

Alys curled up, hiding her face against him. “All right.”

By the time he stepped out of the water with her, Alys didn’t have to pretend to shiver, although it was difficult to remain silent as Beau spoke to the security guards.

“There were two men up on the walkway,” he said as he carried her away from the lake. “They assaulted my wife and threw her over the side into the water. I want them arrested.”

“Staff members on the ships saw the entire thing, sir,” one of the guards said. “We’re trying to find the men now, but they seem to have disappeared.”

“They meant to kill her.” Beau glared at him. “Try harder.”

A short, stout man in a sober business suit appeared with a blanket, and handed it to Beau as he set Alys on her feet. “I’m Louis Taylor, the park manager. On behalf of Pirate World, sir, I would like to apologize for this terrible accident. We will of course refund your tickets entirely.”

“You’ll do better than that, Mr. Taylor,” Beau said. “You have a hotel on the grounds?”

“Three, actually,” the manager said. “Uh, the police will be here shortly, and they’ll need statements from both of you—”

The air turned darkly sweet as Beau leaned close to him. “My lady needs a hot bath and a place to rest. You will take us to the finest suite you have. Now.”

“Of course, sir,” Taylor said, almost slurring the words. “This way.”

The man led them to a golf cart, which he used to drive them to a large contemporary resort. Less than five minutes later Beau carried Alys into a luxurious guest suite, and took her directly into the bathroom.

He turned on the taps in the big bathtub, testing the water and then turning to her. “Can you undress yourself? I must finish dealing with this fool.”

She nodded.

“Call out if you need me.” He touched her cheek before he left her.

Alys went to the door and opened it, watching Beau as he issued orders to the park manager, who nodded so often he resembled a life-size bobblehead doll. Beau instructed him to have food and wine delivered to the suite, and issued orders for them not to be disturbed, which didn’t seem as outrageous as his final command.

“You will tell the police that we left the park before you were able to obtain our names,” Beau told him. “Where are the men who did this to her?”

“Our security team was unable to find them, sir.” Taylor sounded heartbroken. “I could go and search the park personally, if you’d like.”

“No, they’re gone by now.” Beau made a dismissive gesture. “That will be all.”

Alys backed away from the door and started slowly working her way out of her sodden clothes. She wondered whether she was in shock; she felt completely numb. What Beau had done was contrary to the laws of science, of physics. He possessed some sort of superhuman power that could cancel out gravity. She’d heard of psychics who could make spoons bend and tennis balls roll spontaneously, but over the years nearly all of them had been debunked as tricksters.

This had been no trick, no scam. Nothing on this earth could explain what had happened to her. Nor could Beau reasonably explain how he’d tracked her to the park, or how he’d compelled Taylor to follow his orders.

He won’t have any explanations this time.

Alys should have felt a sense of triumph, but oddly all she wanted to do now was protect him. If Beau’s abilities were made public, he would become the most hunted man in the world. That was why he never confided in her or anyone about his powers—he couldn’t.

Alys grabbed the complimentary robe hanging from the back of the bathroom door and pulled it on before she stepped out into the suite. Beau had taken off his shirt and was standing at the window looking down, the lamplight gleaming on his bare back. For the first time Alys could see a distinctive tattoo that arced across his spine.

It was the symbol of the body art that made Alys’s heart constrict. Someone had tattooed him with the twenty-fourth letter of the Greek alphabet, the universal symbol for the last of anything. She knew every inch of his ink, from the stylized curve enclosing three short, vertical lines to the scrolled embellishments that wove around it like writhing snakes.

Omega. The end.

Chapter 12

“Where did you get that tattoo?”

Beau closed the curtains and turned to Alys, whose face was so pale all her freckles stood out like tiny bruises. “I don’t know. I’ve had it since I was an infant.” She still smelled of the park’s lake water. “Why haven’t you bathed?”

“Your parents tattooed you, didn’t they?” When he nodded, her voice began to shake. “And they’re dead, and you’re an orphan.”

“Yes, my parents are dead. I cannot say who gave me the tattoo; likely it was my mother.” He started toward her, halting only when she held up her palm. “Alys?”

“You have to see this.” She turned around, shrugging off the robe and displaying an omega tattoo identical to his own.

Suddenly he understood. “No.”

She pulled the robe back in place and faced him. “My parents are dead. I have violet-brown eyes, like you.” She raised her left hand. “A crooked middle finger, like yours. I can do things that other people, normal people, can’t do. Just like you.” She covered her face with one hand and rushed back into the bathroom.

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