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“I was meaning to ask you—why did you knock and then break in…using a key?”

She waved her hand at me, annoyed by the interruptions. “To see if you would attack or just wait and see what happened. Anyway, you’re obviously here to check for that skin. I’m here to further your training while you do it. They’re here to see what this warehouse is, and possibly steal secrets—”

“I know. They told us before we loaded up into the cars, remember?”

“Right, yeah. But why do you think we’re in a separate car?”

“So we don’t have to wait for them if the skin’s not there but there’s other stuff Kieran wants to check out.”

“No.” She ducked under the visor to look at a shiny chain-link fence stretching out in front of us, blocking off a mostly empty gravel yard. Barbed wire topped the fence in lazy circles, the points gleaming in the dawning morning light. The other identical BMW in front of us started the left turn at the T-intersection. “He’s used to people waiting on him. He expects it. And if there is trouble, he usually expects his people—including me—to stay and fight for him. He’s a Demigod, Alexis. They play by different rules. You need to start realizing that and stop being a good little puppet. No, he’s separating you out so that if something goes down, you can run for the hills. I’ve been put with you so that I can help you escape. Tweedle Dingleberry was left behind with those maniac kids so that he can watch over you when I deliver you to the house. That clown Demigod has taken a liking to you, and when they do that, they basically piss on their item of interest to claim them. They’re all the same. It’s suffocating. I hate it. But here we are.”

“Riiiggghhhtt. Except…I don’t know how to fight. Me getting out of there sounds like a good idea.”

“Yes, you do, you’re just bad at it.” She touched her visor to make sure it was all the way down—even though the sun hadn’t fully crested the horizon—before slouching down further. “Sure, we’ll get out of there. After we look around. He’ll try to ship you off at the first sign of danger, but dangerous situations are the best learning experiences. I mean, people like us deal in dead people. We’re already up to no good. Sometimes you gotta get caught up in trouble to do your job.”

I squinted my eyes and cocked my head, seeing where she was going with this, and not stoked about ending up in her profession. Going back to my quiet life sounded like a nicer, and safer, alternative.

She whistled softly as she looked out the window at the gravel yard that continued to run beside us, the barbed wire atop the fence nonchalantly telling lookie-loos they weren’t wanted, and if they trespassed anyway, they’d end up as shark bait in the bay not far away.

“This yard is enormous. How could Valens have kept something like this a secret from Kieran?” Bria asked, her voice so low I could barely hear her. “Or from anyone?”

“It looks like it’s in a really bad part of town,” I said, whispering now, too, as we slowed. A small driveway broke up the fence line in front of us. A dimly lit booth sat in front of the metal gate, and a man waited inside it, standing in the open doorway. I couldn’t see his face, but unless he could sleep standing up, he’d know we were approaching.

“It’s still the magical part of town, though,” Bria said, hunching even more as we crawled toward that driveway. “Everyone knows everyone else’s business in the magical part of town. I mean, Kieran has made Valens his business, and he still didn’t know about this. Valens is clearly good at hiding things. Especially big, sprawling things with lots of fencing and new barbed wire.”

I pulled a little to the side, watching Donovan’s car.

“I’m half terrified to get mixed up with Valens,” she said, “and half invigorated. He’s a mad man. He’ll string us up by our toes and skin us alive if he catches us being traitorous.”

“Not to mention he’ll trap our spirits in the world of the living.”

“Yeah. And that. But still, what a rush, am I right?”

“No.” I would absolutely run if things went wrong. Run, cocoon myself in bubble wrap, and then move. Kieran had been dead right to let me bring my own car.

Donovan hadn’t yet turned into the driveway before the metal gate shimmied and started a slow swing open. Without stopping, the car continued through it, everyone in it expecting me to follow.

“Oh, interesting,” Bria said with a slow release of breath. “Kieran didn’t know about this place, yet in half a night he found someone in it who was loyal to him, arranged entrance, and got his whole team coordinated. What do you want to bet he’s got schematics for the building, too?” She shook her head as I crawled toward the driveway. “I’ve got a semi lady-wood. He’s nothing but a toddler in the Demigod sandbox, yet it looks like he’s able to play with the big boys. Mad respect. Still stupid of you to get involved with him, but mad respect.”

I chewed my lip, eyeing the metal bars of the gate. The barbed wire on the fence surrounding the establishment was just as good at keeping people in as it was at keeping them out. The guard still stood in the open doorway of the gatehouse, the light showering his grim expression.

“Or else… Kieran thinks this guy is loyal to him,” I whispered, barely stopping myself from stepping harder on the brake, “but he’s actually loyal to Valens, and this is a trap.”

“Right.” Bria nodded, leaning her elbow against the window ledge and half covering her face. “Or that.”

A cold sweat broke out over my forehead. “What did I get myself into?”

“Just keep going.” She nudged me with her other hand. Donovan had slowed down, too, and I could see a head in the back of his car turning around to look at us. “There is always a way out of a tight situation. Trust me. Dumping this car and hot-wiring a service car? No problem. Slitting a security guard’s throat? Sure. Resurrecting the security guard and making him show us a secret way out? Been there, done that. There’s a reason Kieran has me shadowing you instead of one of the Six. This bitch is good at surviving. I got you. Now keep going. You don’t want your face standing out in that guard’s mind. You gotta learn to be forgettable.”

“Forgettable, I got…” I grimaced as I let my foot off the brake and rolled past the hard-eyed guard. “Courage, I’m having a hard time with.”

“It’s not a courage problem with you, it’s an experience problem. One we’ll probably rectify sooner rather than later.”

I didn’t like the sound of that.

The driveway cut through a large parking lot strewn with gravel that mostly, though not entirely, covered up the white lines. Black drips marred the ground in places, and a few areas were flatter than others, as if something heavy had been set down and then taken away. A long warehouse squatted against the backdrop of shimmering water, the location butting up against a lesser-used area of the bay.

“This is a big parking lot for that warehouse,” Bria said quietly, still whispering, still hunched behind the lowered visor.

“A big parking lot, with only a few cars.” I eyed those cars, either parked randomly throughout the space or grouped together in front of the warehouse entrance. “Why would people park so far away? If this place had a bunch of employees, it couldn’t be kept secret, could it?”

“One would assume not, but then, Kieran knew someone that worked here, and he didn’t know of it.”

“Weird,” I said quietly, following the lead car to the cluster of parked cars up near the front.

“Yes, it is. It is definitely weird. Which, in my experience, means fucked up. So prepare thyself for some fucked up shit, lady, because we’re headed right for it.”

“Have you always been like this?” I asked as I parked.

She glanced over in confusion. “Like what?”

Which was really the answer I was looking for.

Before I could set the parking brake, Kieran was at my door, his hand on the handle, waiting for me to unlock it.

“Ask him if he’s going to wipe your ass for you, too, the micro-managing turd,” Bria muttered, flipping up her visor.

“Hey,” Kieran said as he pulled my door open, scanning the warehouse. He spared me a glance before reaching down and taking my arm, helping me out. “We’re running interference with the cameras, but I don’t have anyone else on the inside. We’re going to have to use stealth on this.”

I nodded and swung the door shut. Kieran’s hand shot out and caught it before it hit home. He shut it much more quietly than I would have.

I grimaced. Micro-managing was definitely needed for a while. I worried Bria wouldn’t manage me enough…

“We have an hour and a half, roughly, before the shifts change,” Kieran went on, putting his arm over my shoulders and pulling me close. It wasn’t sexual. This was a huddle. “The people in there are security, and they’re tired. They’re ready to get off work. With the cameras down, all we have to do is keep a low profile.”

“Do we know where the lockers are?” Bria asked, at my other side. “I can grab a couple uniforms.”


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