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Criminal Intentions: Cult of Personality (Criminal Intentions, Season One #7)
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“He pushed me.”
Three words turn a suspected suicide into an unsettling murder, pointing to a killer whose methods and motives threaten to expose buried memories of Seong-Jae’s past. Yet neither Malcolm nor Seong-Jae are ready for the shadowed secrets that could shatter their tenuous new relationship, when a haunting presence seems to stalk them around every corner, watching their smallest move, baiting them and flirting just out of reach. Is it the killer, always staying one step ahead?
Or a green-eyed ghost, luring both Malcolm and Seong-Jae toward the point of no return?
ABOUT THE SERIES
Baltimore homicide detective Malcolm Khalaji has his own way of doing things: quiet, methodical, logical, effective, not always particularly legal. He’s used to working alone—and the last thing he needs is a new partner ten years his junior.
Especially one like Seong-Jae Yoon.
Icy. Willful. Detached. Stubborn. Seong-Jae is all that and more, impossible to work with and headstrong enough to get them both killed…if they don’t kill each other first. Foxlike and sullen, Seong-Jae’s disdainful beauty conceals a smoldering and ferocious temper, and as he and Malcolm clash the sparks between them build until neither can tell the difference between loathing and desire.
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[0: THE REFLECTION LIES]
ANNE STANDS ON THE RAILING of the Hanover Street Bridge and looks down at the night sky reflected in the choppy, slow-moving waters of the Patapsco River. At three in the morning, there are only a few small stars and a last faint sliver of moon to change the rippled black sheet into a thing of black glass and glimmering light. She likes it better by daylight, by sunrise, when the sky is pastel blue and gold and pink and that strange glowing shade all in between, luminous and indefinable.
But it has to be now.
It has to be now, when there is no one here to stop her from doing it right. She has to do it right.
She has to do it right, or she won’t be worthy.
“What is your name?” whispers at her back. Sibilant, toneless, yet the words slip down her spine like oiled satin, caressing against her skin, and she straightens her shoulders.
He touches her, then—touches her and her skin sings, as he strokes her hair back with fingers that have no texture, no temperature, yet they vibrate against her skin as he tucks cool petals against her hair. A daisy. A daisy, white for purity and innocence, its cool stem scratching behind her ear.
“What is your name?” he whispers again.
“E—” Her throat closes, and she has to start over. Everything tastes and smells briny, salt and sour and brittle, and she doesn’t know if that is the air off the river or the tears welling in the back of her throat, the corners of her eyes. “Eve.”
She nods quickly, flexing her fingers, breathing deep. Her balance is wavering, the railing of the bridge cutting into her bare feet, and she curls her toes against the gritty metal and holds on fast so the wind won’t blow her over. It cuts through her hair, cold and wintry through her thin linen shift, ice and spray against her bare thighs, her calves.
“I am,” she breathes, spreading her arms. “I am Eve.”
“And what must Eve do?”
“Fly.” She lifts her chin. Breathe slow. Breathe slow, she’s practiced this so many times, and the water looks so shallow but it will catch her, he will catch her, this creature of the dark divine standing at her back and whispering shadow into her ear. “Eve must fly.”
And she is Eve.
She will be Eve, if only she can pass this test.
“I’m ready,” she whispers. “I’m ready.”
“Then why do you hesitate?”
That question. That question, like all his questions, is simple and yet pierces to the heart of her fear. Something is holding her back. Something weak and frail and human, some doubt that perches on her other shoulder and tugs at her earlobe and nitters, high and protesting.
But if she doesn’t, all of this will mean nothing.
And she desperately, desperately needs to mean something.
She remembers sitting on this same bridge, looking out and watching those sunrise clouds, the way they made soft little scudding puffs across the sky. She remembers thinking he was human, when he sat on the railing next to her and covered her hand with his own. She hadn’t known, then. Hadn’t known who and what had come to her, hadn’t known anything but that the morning was so cold and his hand was so warm, and when he smiled at her she didn’t feel quite so alone.
She misses those mornings. Before he’d started calling her Eve; before it became hard to remember that her name was Anne, Anne, Anne of Green Gables, Anne with an E, Church of Saint Anne, Anne of a Thousand Tears. Anne means mother of the Virgin Mary, means she who has the favor of God—but she has to be more than that, more than Anne could ever be. Anne isn’t someone he could love. Anne isn’t someone who could fly, fall, get up, fly again. Anne has no wings, no life, no love, no hope.
She has to kill Anne, so that Eve can live.
Still that tiny voice pulls at her leash, holding her back, telling her no, wrong, stop, wake up—wake up, wake up, wake up. At her back he is silent, the only awareness of his presence the way she can feel him, this seething thing like a soundless swarm of wasps full of portent and fury and the promise of pain. When she glances over her shoulder, he is only an amorphous shadow, the human face he adopted shed to leave the beautiful, writhing darkness at his core. Still she wants to see that boyish face again, that smile. She can’t read him, like this. She doesn’t have the eyes, the soul. As long as she is Anne she is blinkered and blindfolded to the truth of his essence, and it is that lonely, aching sense of separation that makes up her mind.