ALEX GESTURED TO JAX to move off the area of sand. Yuri seized her arm and roughly pulled her back against the stone wall. Alex went out onto the white sand and with his arm smoothed the footprints out, leveling the sand. He began drawing the symbols that he had learned from Jax to activate a lifeline, only on a large scale. He needed to buy a little time to think things through, to put together all the things Jax had told him, and the things the Daggett Society had told him about what the book said. He made a job of carefully laying out the designs as he put all the pieces together in his head.

“That’s not going to open the gateway,” Sedrick Vendis snapped.

Alex looked up at the man. “Since you seem to know so much, why don’t you tell your boss how it’s done?”

Vendis glowered but finally folded his arms and fell silent.

When he finished drawing, Alex stood and faced Cain. “I will have to trust that you will keep your word she won’t suffer at the end.”

Cain’s smile was bone-chillingly evil. “I’m nothing if not a man of my word.”

“Since this is the end for Jax and me, I want to tell her a few private words of good-bye before I finish this for you. I want to have a moment alone with her. Then I will open your gateway for you. If you won’t grant me that simple human decency, then I may not believe that you’re an understanding man who will keep his word about granting her a swift death.”

Alex gave the man an iron look. “I may have second thoughts.”

Cain glared for a moment. He finally held out his hand. “The knife first.”

Alex pulled the silver-handled knife out of the sheath behind the two magazines on the left side of his belt. He held it by the blade still stained with Jax’s blood and placed the handle with the House of Rahl symbol in the man’s hand. Cain looked down at the knife in his hand as Alex stood with his own hands in his pockets, waiting.

Cain finally gestured with the knife. “All right, if it will end this pathetic emotional drama, go ahead.”

“Alone,” Alex reminded him.

“Leave them be, Yuri.”

The greasy pirate moved away to stand beside Sedrick Vendis as the three of them watched Alex go up to where Jax, her hands tied behind her back, stood all by herself against the stone wall. She looked forlorn and resigned.

Vendis asked Cain something in a whisper. The men leaned in, discussing it among themselves as Alex stepped up close to Jax. Her chin trembled as she finally looked up at him.

“I’m so sorry, Alex.”

As he put his arms around her she put her face against his shoulder and started to cry.

“Don’t be sorry, Jax,” he whispered, “be strong.”

Alex placed his open pocketknife that he had palmed into her hands behind her back.

She went still when she realized what it was.

“The blade is razor-sharp,” he whispered into her ear. “Be careful when you cut the ropes. Keep your hands together as if they’re still tied and wait. You’ll know when.”


“Jax, I’d rather die trying than let them have what they want. You can’t bargain with evil. You can’t appease it. You can’t compromise with it.

“Giving in to them will only lead to endless suffering and death in the long run. How long until they return here deciding they want more from this world and start to kill again to get it? I have to try to stop it now. You’re the one who came here to stop this evil. You came here to do a job. It’s not finished. Are you with me? Are you willing to try?”

He knew what he was asking of her. Yuri stood not far away leering hungrily at her. They both knew the consequences if they failed, not merely for her, but for everyone.

She nodded against him, putting on a show for the men watching. “You’re right. If we have any chance, we have to take it. I was so afraid for the people of your world, so afraid that I had come for your help only to end up causing harm, that I forgot who I was for a time. Dear spirits, can you ever forgive me for being so weak?”

He reached up and held her tight, smoothing her hair as he held her head to him. “That’s the Jax I love. You’re anything but weak. You’re the strongest person I know. In case this doesn’t work, just know that I love you more than anything.”

“You are a devious man, Alexander Rahl.” She kissed his neck. “I love you anyway.”

“I learned it from you.”

“Enough,” Cain growled.

Alex kissed her quickly, then turned to his task.


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