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Zola ran to me.

“Zola.” I wrapped one arm around her while the other hand still kept the gun on Baptiste. “Are you okay?”

She trembled against me. “Yes.”

“Did he hurt you?”

“No.”

Baptiste spoke, “Hey, I even killed Meridian for you. He tried to rape her.”

“What?” Anger boiled in me.

Zola placed her arms around my waist. “I’m okay, Hunter. I’m okay.”

Rage ripped through my soul.

Baptiste stared at me with his arms up. “I’m going to put the gun down.”

“Go ahead.” I fought the urge to charge and wrap my hands around his throat. He’d put Zola in danger. He yearned for death.

It will come today.

Baptiste put the gun down and then turned his attention back to me. “Now is a test of the love that we have for each other.”

“I noticed.”

“I love you, Hunter. I wanted you to have Zola, before I left. Do you understand?”

“All I know is that I’m tired of the fear and danger that’s been around Zola. I want this done, even though…I would be sorry to see you go.”

“That’s why you wouldn’t kill me. You loved me too much.”

“Well, now you’ve managed to persuade me.” I wanted to ram my fist through a wall. The entire situation was insane. “Let’s go. I have a car.”

I looked down at Zola. “Baby, I want you to stay in a room that I reserved for—”

“No.” She shook her head and met my gaze. So much love came from those beautiful eyes. “I don’t want you doing this by yourself. I want to be there for you.”

“I’ll be fine.”

“You won’t. He’s your friend.” She sighed.

Baptiste nodded. “She’s right, and it’s good luck for her to come.”

“Shut up.” My jaw clenched as I turned back to her. “Are you sure? It’s going to be gruesome?”

“I can be around anything as long as I’m with you.” She tightened her hold. “And you need me.”

She was right. I didn’t need her for the physical part—the slicing and digging, the wiping up of blood and chanting out prayers. But I would need her soul—her heart. I would need her spirit wrapped around me as I took my friend’s life.

Damn you, Baptiste.

And that was how Zola came with us to Nakita’s burial ground. As I’d promised Baptiste, Stark stood there with all the instructions followed.

Lit black candles lay along the grave. He’d dug it up so that we could put Baptiste’s body inside, right next to Nakita. The whole place reeked of death and sorrow. Nakita’s body had rotted. Worms and bugs had already begun feasting and using her rib cage and skull as shelter.

Vultures hovered above. The sun slowly lowered in the sky, and the waves crashed as if chanting a natural song to those ancestral spirits watching overhead.

Stark’s face held sorrow. Zola’s did too as she stood next to him.

As soon as I stood in front of Baptiste with my rainbow knife gripped in my fingers, I had no regrets for having Zola there. She’d always been my strength. She made me more powerful than I’d ever been before.

Baptiste spoke, “I left everything to you, Hunter. Nakita will love hearing about Zola and you. We had a bet. I won at five years. She’d said ten.”

I don’t want to kill you, friend.

My hand shook as I held the knife.

Baptiste turned to the ocean and smiled. “I opened that gift you gave me for our unborn baby. Do you remember, when you gave it to me?”

My voice lowered. “I remember.”

“You told me not to open it, until my son or daughter was born.”

The present flashed in my head. I pushed it out of my mind. That memory brought too much pain.

“I opened the gift to my unborn child, the night Nakita died.” He turned back to me. “You planned on spoiling my child. That was a big bank account with a lot of money.”

I trailed my thumb along the rainbow knife’s handle.

“Keep the money for your child.” Baptiste nodded at Zola. “He or she will be beautiful. Just remember to never take the messy diapers out at night. It must always be thrown out before sunset.”

I looked at him. “Why not?”

“Because a fresh pile of baby shit lures demons at night.”

“I shouldn’t have asked.”

“I’m sorry about everything,” Baptiste whispered. “I was extreme. I know, but…what would you do, if Zola was lost to you?”

“Any and everything to be back with her.”

“Even if it meant reuniting in death?”

I fought it, but a hot tear leaked down my cheek. I turned Zola’s way and swallowed. “Yes. Even if that meant reuniting in death.”

Tears had already left her cheeks. She wiped them away and continued to be my strength.

Baptiste whispered, “The time has come.”

I stepped to him. Barely a few inches lay between us. I raised the knife and held the edge against his neck. “I’m going to miss you, Baptiste.”