The Becoming of Noah Shaw (The Shaw Confessions Book 1)

The Becoming of Noah Shaw: EPILOGUE
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THE AIR THINS BY THE second. I leave, face the lift, see the button, and know instantly that I can’t press it. I stride down the hall until I see the door, nearly hidden, for the stairs. I take them two at a time, penthouse to ground floor. I’m breathing hard, fast, my lungs bursting, my heart racing to catch up with my roaring mind. I explode out of the tower using the service exit, and then— 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐞𝗻𝐨𝐯𝐞𝗹.𝐜𝐨𝐦

“Got a light?”

My head swings toward the voice: female, an alto, intimate with a familiar sarcastic edge, brandishing a South London accent. It belongs to a woman standing at the corner where I last saw Mara. A black car idles some paces away. Police? Someone sent from my family to find me? My mind’s running in a thousand directions, but her voice is an anchor, her question a command.

She’s wearing a dress—silk, ivory, and the hem curls toward the East River in the warm breeze. I flick open my lighter when I’m close enough, and she bends slightly, dipping her cigarette in the flame, the tip turning amber. The light changes her face enough to leave an imprint that I will never forget for the rest of my life, however long or short it is.

A fall of thick ink-black hair tumbles forward, and when she leans back, reveals skin the colour of burnished bronze, and one black iris fringed in thick black lashes. A wave of hair shades the other half of her face. She takes the cigarette between her first two fingers and bends a delicate elbow, wrist up, against her hip. Every movement of every joint is perfect and graceful, as if she’s been practicing for centuries, though even in darkness, she looks only a decade older than I at most. Her smile is like the glare of headlights, and I’m a deer caught.

“Thank you.”

The words curl around my nerves.

A rush of feeling—nostalgia, déjà vu, inevitability, incredulity—forces words out of my mouth. “I have to—”

“What?” she asks. “What do you have to do?”

“Go,” I say, my voice fading at the edge.

“Shame,” she says. “I was hoping you could help me.”

That shakes me back into myself a bit, forcing out a mirthless grin. “I can’t help anyone.”

“It’s a matter of life and death,” she says.

The ridiculously dramatic gravity of the sentence shoves off the weight of her force. “If it’s mine, you’re wasting your time.”

“It isn’t.”

“Whose, then?”

She tucks the wave of hair back behind her ear. “Someone we love.”novelbin

I’ve seen this woman’s face before, captured in black and white, in a photograph I found in a trunk of my mother’s things, with my mother standing beside her. I’ve seen her painted in bold, bright brushstrokes hanging on a wall in Mara’s house, sitting alone, commanding the attention of everyone who saw her. She is beautiful—stunningly, familiarly, and I know. Even as I ask the question, I know.

“Who are you?”

“Call me Mara,” she says, adding that fully grown smile. “Everyone else does.”

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