Prologue

Heat.

The office was stuffy; warmth was filling Will's core as he watched Susan go over the net from last week. He needed a drink. Glancing around quickly, he noticed the others around the table working with collars and huffing in the air. A look at Susan revealed she was chipper as ever. Pursing her lips, she looked up at the thermostat and walked over to the plastic box.

She turned the heat up.

He coughed once, and she looked back at him, nodding, and went back to her figures. She tapped the chart a few more times until one of the men raised his hand, the lights casting a visible sheen on his forehead.

"Miss Carter, is that all for today?" he asked.

She fixed him with a gaze that could have frozen mercury, and he slumped back to his legal pad. A bead of sweat dropped onto Will's own packet as he faded away. She'd thought to make them out of plastic, like she'd planned this.

"Mister Masterson?" he heard her say.

He squinted and looked up.

"Please pay attention at the next meeting," she growled, narrowing her lips.

"Does that mean?" he began, watching the other men get up.

"Yes, I'm done here," she nodded, staking up her papers.

He breathed a sigh of relief. If he never saw another efficiency expert again, it would be too soon. She walked over to his chair, running her hand over the back as he got up. She rubbed her fingers together.

"Sweat much?" she asked.

"Well," he said, looking for a way out, "it was pretty hot in here, you know."

"Really?" she wandered to the thermostat, "it's set at seventy-five."

He took in a breath. She walked out, humming to herself. He snatched up his packet and hurried back to his desk. Lifting a hand to the ducts, he took note of the now-cool air blowing through, and sat down to finish his work.

At the end of the day, he called out to Watkins for an early leave and punched out when he got his permission. The parking garage was dim, the light for elevator three flickering. The tapped the bulb with his finger briefly, and the light flared.

Nodding curtly, he stuffed his hands in his pockets to search for his keys. He turned, and Susan was there, smiling. He shivered.

"Sorry, didn't see you there," he said, backing up a bit.

"It's alright," she smiled, sticking out a hand, "I was impressed when your boss showed me your desk. Very orderly."

He took her hand; it was clammy.

"I hate orderly," she said.

"Odd thing to say for an efficiency expert," he replied, narrowing his eyes.

"You'd think that, but in my line of work, I require something to work with. You know how it is, don't you, William?"

He nodded, but didn't see it. Inside, he was getting hot again. He gaped, pulling at his collar. She started walking away from him. The inside of his hand tingled. He pulled out his keys, stumbling toward his car.

The heat spiked, and he ripped off his work jacket and spilled into the driver's seat, turning the ignition and blasting the air as cold as he could.

His breath quickened. He wasn't getting any colder. He slammed on the gas, peeling out of the garage at top speed. He was impatient, screaming at the other drivers from within his car. At home, he pounded up the stairs, panting, tearing off shirt, tie, suspenders, pulling at his own hair.

The shower was cold, as was the ice he'd hastily dumped on the bottom of the tub, but he felt only stings of pain, streams of heat streaking over his skin. The world grew bright, his eyes threatening to pull themselves out of his skull. He let out a single scream of frustration.

Cold.

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