Fair warning, these are bound to contain at least minor spoilers for book #3
It’s not revenge.
I tell myself that every day. That my mission to kill is about protecting anyone else Kim’s coven – my targets – would seek to hurt.
They’d lived for more than two thousand years and wreaked havoc on countless lives. Mine was just the latest. And it couldn’t be allowed to continue.
My name is Innocence Cooper, and I am no one. Heir to nothing. Ruler of nothing. Just a witch with a goal. A vendetta. A hit list that I’ve reduced to one name: Jim Sanders. Their leader.
I must have tracked him two hundred times. Always a different city, a different country. And every time, gone by the time I got there.
Alternate Innocence and Bullet scene where they meet in his office not on rooftop
The last time I’d seen him, he’d been powerless. He’d left Red Vulture before they could kick him out, and neither of us had really known what he was going to do next.
Now, he was back in that leader’s chair.
“You could have called,” he said. “Then you’d know I work here.”
I could have called. But I’d been afraid to. I’d pictured Bullet in the gutter, or on a park bench – or, at best, some sort of leaky, mouldy, rundown old building. The problem with Are you okay? was that he could answer No.
He closed his laptop lid and regarded me. “I know.”
Like always, his expression gave so little away. Was he mad at me, or just being as cold and distant as he was with most people?
I leaned on the desk. My fingers crackled with purple lightning and I pulled back.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“Huh? The purple energy?”
“Fire is when you’re angry. Ice when you’re hurt or scared. What’s the purple energy for?”
I was surprised there was anything he didn’t know about me. “Nervous energy,” I said.
The very edge of his mouth turned up, like he was trying not to smirk. “Do I make you nervous, Shadow?”
“It’s Innocence,” I muttered.
“Really?” I caught the hint of a laugh in his voice, and he raised his eyebrows. “You’ve gone back to that?”
“It’s not that bad.”
“Worse than Trevor.”
I traced the lines of my left hand with my right. “I guess.”
“Can I ask you something?” he asked.
I let him read my answer in my eyes.
“When you asked Fume to help you hunt down the members of Kim’s coven, how close did you come to asking me?”
I dropped my gaze. It had never even crossed my mind.
It should have. Bullet would have killed them, not just played defence. He’d had more experience in fights.
I reached one hand across the desk, touching the backs of his fingers with my own. Again, all I had to say was, “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be.” His eyes were on my hand, his expression still blank.
I wondered if he’d pull away. If I should pull away.
A purple spark jumped from my skin.
Bullet sighed heavily and leaned back in his chair, his hand falling from my reach. “You chose him.”
“Technically speaking, I should be calling security.”
I shrugged a shoulder. “Why aren’t you?”
“Because it’s you.”
“Maybe we can be friends.”
He smiled. “Didn’t realise we’d stopped.”
“So you got your power back and what?” I asked. “You came straight back to lead Red Vulture?”
The papers on the desk were perfectly straight. His pens were organised by colour in a holder. His laptop cord wasn’t even twisted. More than anyone – more than me – he’d always looked at home there at that desk.
So it was a little surprising to hear him say, “I’d rather not have to lead. But there wasn’t really anyone else.”
He tilted his head. “You miss it.”
He knew me better than I knew myself. He always had.
“You know,” he said, “we could use you. There’s a war going on, after all.”
If Bullet commanded them, they would do as he said. They would accept me if he told them to.
It seemed smarter to join the winning side of the war, end it quickly and pick up the pieces in the aftermath. To take back Red Vulture and instate myself as the conqueror and ruler of the side of good.
Erin would be safe as Bullet’s prisoner – and out of my way. And the world would be united, the prophecy fulfilled.
There was only one problem: Elliot.
He wouldn’t see it as a means to an end. The second I became the leader of Red Vulture, he would leave me. He would think the position would lead me to kill. Fighting the war would lead me to kill. And he was probably right.
“I would rather you joined my fight,” I said.
“I’m on your side,” he replied. “Even if it doesn’t look that way.”
I raised my eyebrows.
He walked around the desk and slid a hand onto my shoulder. “You think I’m out in those battlefields every day because I want to kill random people?”
“No, I... Why don’t you just tell everyone not to go?” I asked suddenly. “No fighters, nothing the Resistance can do.”
“Tried that,” he said. “It caused the worst ice raid we’d ever seen.”
He traced from my shoulder to my neck. “I’m out there because” – his fingers tangled through my hair to my jaw – “those are your people. And they need protection.”
I closed my eyes as his thumb made its way towards my lips. Then I caught his wrist with an icy hand. “Please don’t.”
He and I had never been much for words. More for comfortable silences and casual contact. But this didn’t feel casual.
“Hurt or scared?” he asked in a whisper.
“Dating someone else,” I replied.
“Guilt?” he asked. “You feel guilty because you don’t feel guilty?”
“Is that even possible?”
Bullet leaned against the wall and sighed. “You miss leading Red Vulture. Maybe you miss me.”
“Don’t make me do this again,” I said.
Break your heart, I thought. He would scoff at the term. He would claim I couldn’t hurt him – that nothing could. But he couldn’t fool me.
Alternate Innocence and Bullet scene in Innocence's apartment, chapter 7
I wasn’t used to those blue eyes avoiding me. He was often silent, but never quite like this. Never like there was a barrier holding back his words.
“Thank you,” I whispered. “For helping with this.”
He shrugged. “It’s nothing.”
“Not to me.”
He turned then, studied me for a moment. “That look,” he said, “is the only form of torture that has ever got to me.”
He shook his head. He drew a breath. “That look that says you care. But not enough.”
“I… care a lot,” I said.
“But not enough.”
I didn’t want to think about what he meant by that. About the unfortunate, unchangeable fact that I wanted Elliot and not him.
I reached my hand out, fingertips brushing his wrist. It was easier to say I was sorry with a touch than to form the words.
He straightened. He didn’t pull away.
“I missed you,” he murmured. “Like you wouldn’t believe.”
My voice was weak. “I missed you, too. A little.”
I felt him tense, his weight shift on the couch. He looked at me, his jaw set and his gaze hard. “Really?”
“Is that so hard to believe?”
“I know everything about you, Shadow. Except what’s in your heart.”