Page 37

“No, no, no,” I said hastily, running for the door. I yanked it open. “Frank, don’t you dare continue. Shut it down, right now. I don’t want to know what you and my mom did.”

Zorn stood on the porch. His eyes widened, and he looked around at the yard. Thane, just coming around a big white van, stopped like he’d done something wrong.

“We’d dance near a fire in the BBQ pit and share a bottle of wine,” Frank finished with a scowl. “Good gracious, young lady. You’d think I was talking about a pagan ritual or something.”

I sighed in relief, opening the door wider for Zorn. “I thought you were about to get lewd,” I told Frank, gesturing for Zorn and Thane to get a move on. Frank was in a weird mood—probably from seeing the beauty of Lyra. I was worried he’d start to reminisce about his conquests.

“I would never,” Frank said pompously. “My sex life with your mother was our business.”

“Gross!” I slammed the door. The guys would just have to forgive me.

“She was a feisty woman in her day,” I heard. “An independent, feisty woman. What she did behind closed doors was—”

I ripped the door open again, startling Zorn into stepping back. I allowed my magic to build and then pushed, forcing Frank off of my grass and out of my yard. Magic sang through me, but no breeze or pulsing Line materialized.

I stood there for a moment, thinking through what I’d just done. In effect, I’d manipulated a spirit. To do that, I’d had to lock on to him. To do that…I’d had to pick him out of the line-up of all the spirits I could feel.

I could feel souls. I’d been able to all along, without the extra power of the Line. I’d just never thought about it that way. My preference for visual learning, combined with my ignorance of how I was making things happen, had definitely hindered my growth. And now I knew.

“Is everything…all right?” Thane asked, stopping on the walkway with a wary expression. He held a black, circular grill.

“Yeah. A ghost was talking about his time with my mom.” I shivered. “I’d suspected, but…it’s gross when you find out that stuff about your parent, know what I mean?”

“Yes.” He took a hesitant step forward. “Is it…still here?”

I laughed and gestured for him to come closer. “No, I just banished him from my yard. What’s going on? Are we having a party?”

“You found Mrs. Drusus.” Zorn entered the house, and I almost didn’t notice him furtively glancing back at the fog-shrouded yard. It made me laugh that even Zorn was weirded out by ghosts. “We weren’t sure it could be done.”

“Ah. Well. You didn’t have a couple of crazy girls on the case.”

Thane jerked his head to the side. “I’ll set up in the backyard.”

I nodded and shut the door, turning back toward the kitchen.

“I hear you also discovered hidden hallways in Demigod Valens’s house,” Zorn said as he stalled at the edge of the kitchen.

Daisy barely glanced at Zorn before going back to slicing tomatoes at the table. Mordecai yanked leaves off of a head of lettuce. It looked like Frank had been right—burgers.

“Yeah. Valens has a really old spirit living in his house,” I said, sitting down at the dining table in the chair nearest the trunk. “And the spirit’s mistress lives in the hallways. Those two would drive you to drink.”

“Were there any others in there?” Kieran asked, his gaze roaming my face, his expression stone-like.

I shrugged. “Not that I saw, but it’s a big house. You never know.”

“Do you think you could figure out all of the entrances to the hallways?” he asked.

I shrugged again. “If the old guy will cooperate, sure. But I’d probably have to talk to him outside of the actual hallways. Once that Marlene gets after him, things start to deteriorate real fast. He’s totally at fault, though. I mean, she’s no picnic, but blaming his infidelity on everyone but himself? What a dick. I bet he doesn’t want to cross the Line because he’s afraid of what his wife will do. I wouldn’t be surprised.”

Donovan’s hands slowed in packing ground meat into patties. “Can…exes find you across the Line?”

I leaned closer to the trunk and closed my eyes, feeling out the magic. “I don’t know. I’ve never asked,” I answered distractedly. “Kieran, maybe you should get Bria after all. Letting her spirit out should be easy, but without seeing what I’m working with, I don’t know that I’ll be able to put the spirit trap back on.”

Zorn disappeared from my peripheral vision, clearly having gotten a silent command.

I put my hand on the trunk and closed my eyes, allowing the Line to materialize. Following my intuition, I pulled the Line and its power closer as I gathered my magic, intending to use the lighting of the spirit world as a guide the way I had in Valens’s hidden hallways. That had been a handy trick.

A gale-force wind ripped through the kitchen, making my soul flap within my body. Power and electricity surged through my middle and then out through my limbs. The protective cocoon around the trunk pulsed and moved, inviting me to open my eyes and see it.

Like I’d expected, the magic surrounding the trunk moved like oil on water, sliding over the wood in an intricate dance. I pulled more power and heard a groan. A chair fell over. The table shoved to the side. A door jiggled.

Yanked out of the moment, I was just in time to see the whole room fleeing except for Kieran, who was backed up against the corner of the counter with a grim face and hard eyes.

“Oh.” I waved my hand at the newly evacuated kitchen. “You all felt that, huh?”

He didn’t open his mouth. Just nodded.

“My bad. Why don’t I…go into the bedroom.” I rose. “Oh. But good news—I don’t need Bria. I figured out how to see the magic without the necromancer aids.”

“You just have to clear the room to do it.”

“It isn’t totally practical yet, but…baby steps.”

“That felt like baby steps, yes.” He was laying on the sarcasm a little thick.

“You’re the one who wanted to do this now…”

He started forward. “Let’s move this to your bedroom.”

Butterflies filled my stomach and I tried desperately not to read into that comment.

29

Alexis

An hour later, I sat on the ground in my small bedroom with sweat rolling down my face, trying to recreate the spirit-trapping spell on my jewelry box while Bria created differently colored billows of smoke by my side. Kieran sat on the bed with his fingers clasped, watching my efforts and occasionally dealing with my surges of power that kept chasing Bria from the room.

I wiped my forehead and sat back, staring at the mishmash of weird that now coated the mostly empty jewelry box. A look at the trunk prompted a sigh.

“I can’t make it look the same.” I dropped my hands onto my knees. “But I’m pretty sure what I created will do that same job. It’s kind of like eternal banishment.”

“What does that mean?” Bria asked, wiping her nose. One of the lit incense sticks had apparently given her a runny nose. She didn’t volunteer which one, or accept my offer to put it out.

“Well…” I chewed my lip, thinking it through. “It’s essentially a banishment spell. Something I use to send spirits packing. Not across the Line, just away. I erected that into a sorta standing situation, one on each side of the box. Each wall repels the spirit away. In this tiny box, the spirit would be pinging around inside of there all the time. A real shitty situation. But in a room, it would just be tossed away from the walls or ceiling.”

“What about the ground?” Kieran asked.

“The ground acts as a natural barrier,” Bria said, wafting more smoke my way. “If you were to kill someone by burying them alive in more than three feet of earth, their spirit would be trapped with the body. It’s why cultures typically leave dead bodies out for a least a couple days—for viewings, wakes, that kind of thing. It gives the spirit time to figure out what they’re doing.”

“I didn’t know any of that,” I muttered.

“Do you think another magical worker would know you switched out the spells?” Kieran asked.

I pulled my lips to the side in disappointment, knowing when I was beat. “Unless it was a real idiot, yeah, they’d know.”

“They’d also know someone with a pretty unique skillset was banging around,” Bria said with a sly glance at Kieran. It wasn’t hard to miss her double entendre, and unfortunately, she was too far away to smack without being seen.

“I agree,” he said, either missing her jab or not caring. “Take off the trap and leave it as is. Possibly the magical worker will think his own carelessness was to blame.”

“It’s not like he would say anything.” Bria pulled a crumpled-up tissue from her pocket. “Valens wouldn’t know one way or another, and the magical worker wouldn’t want to admit to letting the most important spirit get away.”

“Unless he intended to stuff her in a body down the road…” I let my words trail away.

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