His hand closed around the wire of the radio, catching my hair too. He tore it from my ear, jerking the strands from my scalp. His other arm tightened roughly around me.
My eyes flew open to find his hard stare drilling into me. I froze in shock. This couldn’t be happening. He reached up and grabbed my wrist, yanked it down and twisted it to inspect the tattoo adorning the skin.
“What do you want, Sphinx?”
I couldn’t keep my eyes from widening as I processed his words.
“Why did they send you?” His hand held my head in place, forcing me to stare back at him. An invisible barrier swept up between us, bringing me back to my senses. He’d been playing with me.
“If you know what I am,” I snarled, “you’ll know what I can do. Let go of me.” I glanced past him. No one was paying any attention to us, despite being surrounded by dancers.
“Yes, I know what you can do, but I doubt you’re strong enough to break my grip. I’m not letting you go until you answer some questions.”
I glanced frantically around, trying to figure out how to free myself without drawing too much attention. I couldn’t make a scene and get kicked out. This was the closest we’d ever get to Marissa.
I jerked my hand, but he was right; he was stronger than me. Those muscles I’d observed earlier weren’t just for show.
Assessing my options, I decided on the element of surprise. I slammed my head forward into his nose.
“Ow!” he yelped, stumbling back. He slammed into a couple behind him and a few other people turned in shock as they fell to the ground. I twisted out of his grip and ran back to the VIP room. I shoved the earpiece back in, to hear Nicole’s voice crackle through it. “What’s wrong? What’s going on?”
I glanced around. Nicole and Briana were making their way onto the dance floor from a door on the other side of the room.
“Another change of plans,” I said. “We can’t wait for her to be alone.”
I dashed past the man in the suit, motioning for Mouse to follow.
She leaped to her feet, chasing after me. The redhead at her side tried to grab her arm, but she tore free before he could tighten his grip. All of the men surged to follow her. I didn’t stop until I reached the secluded area containing Marissa.
“What’s going on?” Mouse asked.
“They know what we are.”
I pushed past the security guard on the door. “I don’t know.” Breezing into the room, I didn't wait for an introduction. “I need to speak to Ms. Hamilton. The rest of you have to leave.”
The men and women adorned in expensive clothing turned in shock to the lady reclined on a red sofa. She nodded slightly, staring at me with cold eyes.
“Do you have any idea what you’re doing?” she asked after the last of her guests filed out. Her tone could have frozen water.
“Yes,” I replied. “Of course I do. I’m going to get some answers from you.”
“I have no reason to help you,” she said. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be leaving now.”
Matt and the rest of the men came into the room as she stood.
“You have to tell us what we want to know. You owe us that much at least. Guy was following your orders, and because of you, he’s dead.”
“I owe you absolutely nothing. I told you not to contact me again,” she said coolly, ignoring my words. “What part of that did you not understand?”
Matt moved forward, walking past me to stand behind her. How on earth was he involved in this? He was barely older than me. And he was human, of that I was sure.
“We don’t have a choice. We don’t know anyone else who can help us. We won’t let you go until you’ve answered our questions,” I replied, my tone as icy as hers. “I need to know what’s going on. Obviously, you have some idea.”
“What is it that I’m supposed to know?” She took a sip of the clear liquid in her glass, watching me over the rim.
“The infection, for a start. What is it?”
She stared at me defiantly. “You wouldn’t understand if I told you. That’s not how you’re programmed.”
“They began the program with only one train of thought—to modify the subjects in utero. This is the program that created you.”
Our creation was inspired by the half-animal, half-human creatures of mythology. Their aim was to create the perfect warrior through a combination of animal and human genes. I understood that well enough.
“I was involved in the genetic mutation project,” she continued. “I made you. Later a second branch evolved, attempting to modify the genome in living subjects. I can’t tell you all the scientific reasoning behind this process. All I know is that it is a virus spread via contact with body fluid.
“They were never able to fine-tune the virus to a viable standard. The result is simply an inhumane creature, devoid of emotion or reasoning.
“It all went horribly wrong, but they decided to keep experimenting on them anyway, seeing if they could garner the results they wanted. I left a long time ago. Things could have changed dramatically since my time.”
I didn’t know why she said I wouldn’t understand—she’d not told us anything of use. “And that’s all you know?” I asked.
“You don’t know the best way to dispose of them?”
I fell silent for a moment. This whole trip had been a waste of time and money. We’d learned nothing more than what we already knew and we’d been exposed.
“Did you know they want you back?”
“Well, of course they want us back.” How could she think this would be news?
She lowed herself back into her chair. “No, I mean they want you back.”
“So I’ve been told,” I responded dryly.
“Do you have any idea why?” She ran a finger around the rim of her glass.
“No. I bet you can tell me, though.”
The corner of her mouth quirked up. “I could, but it’ll cost you.”
“How much?” I asked cautiously.
Before she could reply, a commotion broke out in the club. She leaped to her feet and stalked to the door of the VIP section. We followed. The ruckus grew louder, screams filled the air.
A team of men swarmed into the club, all dressed in black. The party-goers surged to the doors, but the men leveled their guns and everyone froze. A girl tried to squeeze past, but one of the men slammed the back of his hand across her face. She spun to the floor and landed with a thump. She didn’t move.
Nicole was easy to see on the dance floor. Surrounded by terrified people, horror marred her face too. Briana said something then her lips curled in a sneer. I couldn’t hear her words due to the music reverberating around the room.
Nicole’s expression turned to absolute fury. She drew back her fist and punched Briana in the face.