Dark Stars (Dark Stars #3) - Danielle Rollins



NOVEMBER 12, 2077

Midnight, read the note.

Water churned around Zora’s Jet Ski, the black surface of it reflecting the light of the ever-shifting anil. A breeze moved over the waves, creating ripples and causing Ash’s empty motorboat to rock. Seated behind Zora, Dorothy heard only the sound of creaking wood and lapping waves.

It was 12:05 now. Whatever happened here had only occurred a few short minutes ago.

Dorothy crumpled the damp paper in one hand, a muscle near the corner of her eye twitching. She felt each of those minutes as if they were hours, years. Time was such a fickle, funny thing.

She tightened her grip on Zora’s waist, her breath lodged deep in her throat. It was only when she looked very closely at the water that she could see the blood. The deep red of it looked black until the anil’s light caught it just so.

Dorothy could smell it, though. Even under the scent of seawater and rot, the smell of the blood was unmistakable. She felt ill and found that she had to look away.

“Seen enough?” Zora asked. Her voice was a low rumble but, even so, the emotion laced through it startled Dorothy. She’d always known Zora to be stoic to the point of appearing to have no emotions at all. She glanced at Zora’s back, frowning, wondering if the other girl was holding back tears.

And why wouldn’t she cry? Ash had been her best friend, practically her brother. And now he was . . .

Dorothy swallowed, pushing the thought away. She couldn’t let her mind travel to that place, not yet. Not until she had proof.

“Can you get any closer?” she asked, voice thick.

Zora hesitated. Dorothy gnawed on her lip, waiting for her to make a decision, her heart sinking a little lower with each passing second. She’d so hoped they could be on the same side, that Zora would believe her when she said that she had nothing to do with whatever had happened to Ash.

Minutes ago, Zora had shown up outside of her room at the Fairmont hotel, headquarters of the Black Cirkus. Dorothy still thought of it as her room, but she supposed it might be more accurate, now, to call it her cell. Earlier that evening Mac Murphy had taken control of the Black Cirkus and Dorothy’s rule as Quinn Fox, vicious assassin and leader of New Seattle’s deadliest gang, had come to an end. She’d been overthrown by her own people, held prisoner in the very hotel she had won for them.

She’d still be there now if Zora hadn’t fought her way through the Cirkus Freaks standing guard and set her free.

Of course, if Dorothy had thought for a second that Zora had been there to rescue her, she’d been sorely mistaken. A moment after breaking into her room, Zora had shoved a gun in her face and produced a note that Dorothy seemed to have written herself coaxing Ash to this very spot, at midnight, so that she could . . .

Dorothy’s eyes drifted back to the blood on the water. So that she could what? she wondered.

Stab him? Kill him?

Dorothy felt the horror of it hit her like a punch. She knew in her heart that she would never do that. Even after Mac Murphy had put a bounty on Ash’s head, blaming him for Roman’s death, the only thing Dorothy had cared about was finding Ash and warning him. None of this made any sense.

Was it possible for a man to survive after losing so much blood? Or was she fooling herself, thinking there was any chance that Ash could still be alive?

The Jet Ski’s engine suddenly roared to life, breaking the stillness of the night. Zora brought them up to the side of Ash’s boat, and Dorothy’s heart lifted. Maybe they could work together after all. Maybe—

“Do I have to tell you what I’ll do to you if you try to run?” Zora asked, her voice a low growl.

Dorothy’s heart fell once more.

“You do not,” she said, and, gathering the damp edges of her cloak in her fists, she climbed from the Jet Ski to the small, rocking boat.

She heard a click behind her and knew, without turning, that Zora had a gun aimed at her head. Again. The back of her neck prickled.

You would do the same, if you were in her position, she reminded herself. Zora had every right to be cautious. For the last year, Dorothy had been working against her and the rest of the