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“You’re a coward,” he answers, looking at me with such contempt that it bruises something deep inside me. At least until I realize it’s Hudson he’s talking to, not me. “Hiding inside a girl who doesn’t even understand her own power yet, using her to do your dirty work. You’re pathetic.”

“Fuck you!” Hudson snarls, and he sounds like a totally different person—one more than capable of doing all the terrible things Jaxon once told me he did. “You don’t know anything about me!”

I don’t repeat what he said to Jaxon. In fact, after what he just used me to do, I refuse to acknowledge him at all.

“How did he get through the cage?” Jaxon demands as he turns on the Bloodletter. “You said we had to put Grace in the cage to neutralize his powers. How did he get through?”

“I’m not sure, though I would imagine it has something to do with the mating bond. Even magic this strong”—she gestures to the bars between us—“can’t neutralize the bond completely. He must have found a way to use it to reach you.”

“But walling him up will stop him, right? He’ll never be able to hurt Jaxon like that again?” I choke out the words.

“It will stop him,” the Bloodletter answers. “For at least a week, maybe even two. Hopefully it will be long enough for you to do what needs to be done to banish him completely.”

“Don’t do it, Grace,” Hudson tells me. “You can’t trust her.”

Maybe not, but I can’t trust you, either, so I’m going to go with the person who can help me the most.

“This is not how things were supposed to happen.” He shakes his head. “Why won’t you trust me?”

Maybe because you’re a raging psychopath, and I am tired of doing your bidding.

I turn to the Bloodletter. “I’m ready. Show me how to build the wall.”


I’m Going to Wash

That Psychopath

Right Out of

My Hair

The Bloodletter assesses me for several seconds before she answers. “Every single paranormal finds a different way to build a shield inside them. They do what feels natural—what feels right—to them as they explore and grow into their powers.

“At a different time, that’s how you would learn to build your wall. As a shield to keep your powers from adversely affecting the people around you.”

“But I don’t have any powers,” I tell her, more than a little confused. “I mean, except the ability to turn to stone. I’m still skeptical on the flying part.”

She smiles a little at that and shakes her head. “You have more power than you know, Grace. You just have to find it.”

I have no idea what that means, but at this point, I’m willing to try anything. Especially if it means Hudson can’t hurt Jaxon again—or anyone else. “Is that how I build the wall or the shield or whatever you want to call it? By channeling my power?”

“Not this time. Because you’re not trying to keep your powers in. You’re trying to separate yourself and your powers from Hudson and his powers. So while we would normally be talking about a shield, right now, we have to talk about a wall.”

“Inside me.”

“Yes. It won’t last forever—as you just saw, Hudson’s power is too great to be contained for long, and eventually he will break the wall down. But hopefully we’ll be able to buy you some time before that happens. Maybe a week or two, I’d guess.”

I look from her to Jaxon. “Time to do what?”

Now Jaxon is the one who answers. “Time to get what we need to perform the spell that will get Hudson out of you once and for all.”

“There’s a spell for that?” Relief swamps me, and I sink back onto the edge of the bed. “Well, why don’t we just do it right now?”

“Eager much?” Hudson drolls.

Once again, I ignore him. He’s not worth talking to, especially not after the shit he just pulled.

“Because, like all magic, it has a price,” the Bloodletter tells me. “And that price includes certain accoutrements that you don’t have yet.”

“What kind of accoutrements are we talking about here?” I ask as I picture eye of newt and wing of bat and God only knows what else. Then again, before Katmere Academy, most of my knowledge about witches came from Hocus Pocus and Charmed, so maybe I don’t have the clearest picture of it all. “And where do we get them?”

“When you were…gone, and I was looking for a way to help you, I found the spell Lia used to bring Hudson back,” Jaxon says. “She had the items she needed, but they didn’t hold as much power as she needed them to. Plus, she had to bring him back from the dead and not just re-form him from fading, which is all we’ve got to do.

“Lia didn’t have enough power on her own to get the job done, so she needed mine to complete the spell…of course that definitely would have killed me. So this time, I’m all for finding the most powerful objects we can, just to make sure no one has to die. Except maybe Hudson, but I’m okay with that.”

“I’m fine doing it Lia’s way,” Hudson interjects. He’s back to lounging indolently against a wall near the bars.

“That is shocking,” I agree, then get mad at myself for answering him, giving him the attention he obviously wants. Especially since he’s now got a ridiculously smug look on his face.

“Yeah, well, Lia was totally unreasonable when it came to Hudson, even when he was alive,” Jaxon mutters. It takes me a moment to figure out what he’s talking about, but then I realize he thinks my last comment was to him. “But she knew how to do her research. The full spell calls for at least four powerful items.”

Four items. That doesn’t sound so bad.

The Bloodletter adds, “Well, four to bring him back as he was, a vampire. Five if you want to bring him back as a human, stripped of his powers.”

Even better. “So how do we get all five?” I ask.

“Wait a minute!” Hudson is up and pacing again, indolence replaced by a quiet kind of desperation. “You don’t need five to get me out of here. You only need four.”

Maybe, but five will make sure you never hurt anyone again, and right now, that sounds pretty good to me.

“You don’t get to make that choice!” Hudson tells me.

Considering you just used your powers to attack my boyfriend and you’re in my head…yeah, Hudson, I’m pretty sure I do.

But I am curious. “Why five items to bring him back human but only four to bring him back?”

The Bloodletter narrows her eyes on me, clearly not enjoying being questioned.

“If you wouldn’t mind,” I tack on nervously.

Which must do the trick, because she answers. “To strip a paranormal of their powers requires the magical consent of all five ruling factions, by covenant. But simply bringing him back as a vampire, since he’s already crossed into the mortal coil again, requires only power. Enormous power. And that power can be found in magical objects.”

Jaxon nods. “Every faction has magical objects that hold the most power, so we’ll need at least four from the different factions to have enough power.” But then his eyebrows shoot up, and he pivots to the Bloodletter. “Wait. How can we have an item from all five factions if Grace is the only gargoyle in existence?”

As though she’d been expecting this question, she continues. “The four items needed to bring him back are the eyetooth of an alpha werewolf. The moonstone from a powerful warlock. The bloodstone from a born vampire. And the full bone of a dragon. Which combined should have enough power.” The Bloodletter’s eyes take on that eerie electric-green glow as she mentions the last item we need. “But you’ll need the heartstone a mythical Unkillable Beast protects to have enough power to break the covenant and strip Hudson of his powers.”

Jaxon doesn’t seem to notice the change in his mentor. “We can get some of the items at school,” he insists. “A couple of the other ones we’ll have to travel to find, though.”

“And I can ensure the bloodstone comes to you,” the Bloodletter promises.

“How are you going to do that?” Jaxon turns to her and asks. “Bloodstones are incredibly rare.”

The Bloodletter shrugs. “People owe me favors.”

“That’s not an answer,” Jaxon insists. Her only response is an attempt to stare him down, holding his gaze with the green ice of hers. Somehow, Jaxon doesn’t flinch under her glacial stare.

“Looks like they’re going to be at that for a while,” Hudson says with an exaggerated eye roll. “I say we make a break for it.”

“Yes, because the only thing worse than having you trapped in my head is having you trapped in my head while I wander the Alaskan wilderness, freezing and alone.” The thanks but no thanks is implied.

“No pain, no gain.” He chuckles.

“Easy for you to say when you’ll be getting all the gain and none of the pain.”

“I wouldn’t be too sure about that.” There’s an inflection in his voice that has me wondering what’s up. But when I glance back at him, his face is as blank as the snow Jaxon and I traversed to get here.

Still, Hudson has a point about what looks to be turning into the world’s longest staring contest between the world’s two most stubborn people. If I don’t break it up soon, I’m pretty sure we’ll be here all night.

“So this wall thing I need to build,” I say into the tense silence that blankets the cavern. “How exactly do I do that? Because I am more than ready to take a break from Hudson Vega.”


DIY Exorcism

“You already started,” the Bloodletter tells me, “before I put you to sleep. You started laying the groundwork instinctively.”

“But how did I do that? How do I build this mythical, mystical wall? And what makes you think I’ve already started?” I ask, more confused than ever.