Tai saw him, Simon Astor, scurrying up the stairwell to the hidden rooftop door. She’d hunted him for three years—debased herself, shredded her humanity, clawed through every single man beneath him with her hatred and blades and anger.
All for this moment.
She climbed the rungs of the stairwell. Vengeance fueled her forward. The walls bounced back her clattering footsteps, her wheezing breath. Blood gushed from the rounds blown into her belly. Tunnel vision. Cold sweats. A death rattle in her chest.
“I’ll be damned if I die before you.”
But Tai still had to pause. The world swam. “Damn it, Mace…I needed you.” Her friend had refused—flat out reneged their contract—all because…
I can’t watch you destroy yourself.
She cried as she remembered Mace’s words. Didn’t he understand that Taina Rivera was gone? All that was left was this sliver of resentment dubbed Tai.
Because Simon Astor had violated her. Soiled and exploited her. He haunted her even after escape. He was the monster in the shadows, gleaming teeth and jagged talons.
He’d already eaten Sarah and Santos.
Tai climbed. Nine stairs, eight, seven…
I will murder Simon Astor.
…six, five, four…
Cool air funneled down from the open rooftop door. The night’s chill renewed her sharp focus.
Tai staggered onto the rooftop. The moon hung bright in the sky, casting shadows over the concrete. She listened, hearing nothing, Tai wondering why Astor would’ve run here. There was nowhere to go and she knew she’d shot him. He couldn’t possibly make it down the fire-escape.
Or am I wrong?
Would she hear him climbing down from where she stood? Would she see him if she hedged closer?
Tai hobbled toward the looping arms of the metal ladder. She aimed her gun, fingered the trigger, steeled herself—peered over the side.
She turned away. Searched. Still nothing. Had she gone deaf and blind or was he actually gone?
No…but…I made it this far…just to—
His running footsteps sounded far off. But when Simon Astor tackled her, Tai realized her dying brain was playing tricks. His body hit her, heavy and hard. White spots flashed in her eyes from the agonizing impact. He was driving her back, overwhelming her with his power and heat and sweat.
Tai didn’t resist the momentum. She couldn’t. But when her feet lifted from the ground, she played her last card. Tai shot out Simon Astor’s toes, made him lose his balance. She latched onto his body as she lurched over the edge.
Tai held onto Astor as they plunged toward the street below. She loved his screaming, his nails digging into her skin, his wide-eyed disbelief as he watched the ground rush to meet them.
She giggled, waited. Looked past his face and up at the stars in the inky sky. Two winked at her, maybe Sarah and Santos, both shining down on Tai as she tore Simon Astor from the fabric of life.