“Apparently Manella isn’t concerned with law right now. Whatever is going on, he wants you four out of the trials. Those questions you’ve been asking are definitely getting more interesting. How are you even alive right now? I had to listen to him call in a hit to any being with the balls to come after you. Once I managed to get that dagger out of my chest, I learned of at least seven who took the opportunity.”
Eleven men tried to cash in on that hit, to be exact. But who’s counting?
I feel the weight of four very intense stares swing toward me, but I pretend as though I find my nails to be fascinating.
“What are you looking at?” Harold asks, confusion in his tone.
“Nothing,” Kai grumbles, which digs that little knife of theirs a little deeper into my gut.
I spent my night killing men to save their lives, but I’m nothing.
Awesome guys I’ve somehow been tied to, huh?
“No one managed to kill us,” Gage states vaguely.
“Then I guess you were lucky, since you didn’t drink the root,” Harold says in a relieved breath, even though he knows they were lucky because they’re not dead. “I’ve spent the night trying to get that damn dagger free from my chest. I’m sure Lamar expected it to kill me on this plane.”
Jude lowers himself to a chair right beside me, his eyes raking over me. I continue to pretend as though I’m aloof and uninterested in their attention, my eyes lifting to watch the show again when the commercial break is over.
Ezekiel takes a seat on the couch, his body almost touching mine. But I never lift my gaze from the TV, though I now have no clue what’s going on.
“What do you two keep looking at?” Harold asks.
“If Manella is getting this desperate, then we need to do something about our security. Clearly the protection spell surrounding this place has been drained,” Kai says to his brothers.
Even his gaze flicks to me momentarily, but I don’t give him the satisfaction of looking his way.
“I need something to suck the last of this poison out of me. I’ve fought it all I can,” Harold says on a weary breath.
“Shit. Of course,” Gage says as he leaps to his feet and moves through the house.
I hear cupboards banging for a minute before he returns with something. I can’t see it from my peripheral, and I’m still making a concentrated effort not to look at them.
As he gives Harold whatever it is, I stand, my eyes averting all of them, even as they all watch me.
I pass through the couch, moving toward the stairs. They’ll be leaving for the gauntlet soon, and I’d like to hitch a ride this time, so I’m staying close so as not to get left behind again. I’ll hide in the weapons closet, since they aren’t wearing their weapons yet.
“I need to call Dominic. He needs to hear about this,” Harold says. “Lamar will face consequences for touching an Elder on neutral ground, though I doubt he’ll point a finger at Manella. But you boys need to be careful today. They’ll come for you in there. Very few survive the gauntlet, and no one will think about it.”
“I’ll get you a ride,” I hear Kai telling him.
They continue to talk about conspiracy theories, as I pass into the weapons closet and wait.
No more than ten minutes later, I hear, “Get out here, nameless girl. We need to speak to you.”
Kai doesn’t sound overly pleased to be summoning me, and I don’t particularly like being summoned. So I stay in my place.
“Where the fuck did she go?” Gage asks, sounding as though he’s in the hallway.
“She can pass through walls, so who fucking knows?” Jude growls.
“Come out…We really need a name to call her,” Ezekiel states.
Why give me a name when they simply plan to pretend I don’t exist?
“She looks like a Mary,” Jude deadpans.
The word virgin seems to accompany that name, and it doesn’t sound quite like me, since I don’t plan on being a virgin when I’m whole.
“Something a little edgier would better suit her if she’s killing assassins in our sleep,” Kai tells him, and I tilt my head, a little more interested.
The prospect of having a name does make my heart beat a little faster.
“Keyla,” Ezekiel says suddenly, and my heart all but sputters.
“Why that name?” Kai asks.
“Because of that show she was watching. Keyla is the one who is constantly fending off the worst of the attacks. Maybe our little haunter considers herself our protector. Not a scratch is on us after someone drugged us and left us to die. The protection spell has been drained, leaving us vulnerable in such a condition. We should be dead if Manella dropped a hit.”
It sounds like they’re moving closer to me.
“If she can’t touch things, as she claims, then how did she fend off seven highly trained assassins?” Jude asks skeptically.
Eleven, I silently amend. But again, who’s counting?
“She kept saying she ‘leveled up’ after saving me that first night,” Gage answers. “Maybe the same thing happened last night.”
“It’s doubtful Manella has anything to do with her being here if he just sacrificed Lamar’s life to set up this hit on us. Last time he sent one man, and that man died. This time, he sent a small army and attacked an elder on neutral ground. He wouldn’t have done that and then asked her to save us, knowing what his failure will cost him. Lamar is his lover as well as his most trusted man.”
Well, that’s downright intriguing drama. I lean forward, interested in this conversation.
“Maybe so, but her timing is still undeniably suspicious,” Kai reminds them.
They move away from the dark romance and back to the subject at hand. I lose interest again, for the most part.
“Regardless, we should at least ask her about the men who came here last night,” Ezekiel says quietly. “Keyla! We have you a name,” he yells, like he’s trying to make sure I hear him throughout the massive home.
Rolling my eyes, I stay hidden, even though I do like having a name now.
“She only has ten minutes where she doesn’t have to see us,” Kai points out.
My smile spreads. It’s been over ten minutes since I laid eyes on them, but I’m still not in pain or desperate to peek out. Just their presence being so close seems to sate my need for them.
How did I not notice sooner?
In fact, it was like that all night, but I didn’t notice then either, since I was sort of distracted. Maybe I did level up, just not the way I thought I would. Well, clearly I leveled up with the weird ways the assassins seemed to die, but I’m talking about a personal level-up.
“Well, then, where the hell is she? Because it’s been at least twenty minutes since I saw her last,” Jude states, frustrated.
When I see the handle of the weapons closet start to turn, I step through the back, passing through that wall, and end up in Ezekiel’s bedroom.
Staring at the wall, I continue to listen as the door opens, waiting for my chance to dive through and trail their siphon.
“Found her,” comes a voice far too close to my back, causing me to jump and whirl around.
Ezekiel is smirking as he stares down at me with his arms crossed over his chest.
His hair is the lightest, a rich blond hue that highlights his tan. His eyes sparkle with that gold hue that happened when I passed through him.
His broad shoulders lead down to a very impressive chest, and all that leads down to a tapered waist full of ab muscles. Which are easy to count, since he’s shirtless.
Why did he take off his shirt?
Before I can slap myself back to my senses—which I can’t literally do—three other shirted men are in here with us, fortunately covering up their distracting bodies.
“What happened last night?” Kai asks me seriously, skipping pleasantries.
“You drank some spiked rum; I watched some TV and killed some men. Other than that, not much,” I say with a shrug, averting my gaze.
A hand passes through me when Jude tries to grab me. He curses as those wonderful little tingles slither over my body. Funny how none of that happened with the numerous men I passed through last night.
“What happened?” Gage asks me this time, his gaze on my face.
“I just told you,” I say with a tight smile. “But just so you have the facts, it was eleven men. Not seven.”
I act like I’m counting my fingers, then lift only middle ones when I give them a cruel smile. Gage’s lips do that twitching thing they do when he’s trying to suppress a smile.
“You killed eleven men yet claim to have no ability to—”
“Just stop there. I’ve already heard these discussions,” I state dryly, holding a hand up in front of Kai’s face. “For whatever reason, my protective instincts are on overdrive with you four. Things I can’t do normally come a little too easily when I’m saving your lives.”
I take a step back, almost passing through the wall again, and they all four crowd my space like they can stop me.
“Here’s the new arrangement,” I say to them, crossing my arms over my chest. “You don’t leave without me. It fucking hurts when you do,” I tell them, certain that will still be an issue if their presence is gone. “Or I’ll let the next team of ruthless assassins kill you while you dream of ponies or whatever it is you dream of. You need to give me a reason to want to save you.”
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