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He thrust into me with everything he had, filling me to the point of pain and making me call out his name. I grabbed his shoulders and opened myself up in a way I hadn’t before, not to anyone, connecting his middle to mine in a straight line, soul to soul. Whatever I’d done to his soul, he would in turn do to mine.

His magic slid across my body before soaking in, a million pricks of lava buffered by his sexy magic. I groaned, the feeling just on this side of pleasure, heightening the experience. Our magics mixed together before converging on the line connecting our souls, strengthening the bond.

He pumped harder, animalistic. I met each thrust with a wild upswing of my hips, taking him deep. Pleasure pounded. My body wound tighter. Thoughts fled and nothing existed but the connection between us. The little tugs of our connection sent glorious shivers through my body, pumped higher by the sensation of him moving inside of me.

“Oh God, Kieran,” I said through clenched teeth, unable to stand it. “I can’t. I…can’t.”

He grabbed my hands and pushed them above my head before entwining our fingers, his chest flush with mine. Ours souls connected. Our magic fused.

With his one last thrust, deep and hard, I blasted apart, flying to all points of the universe. Magic coursed through me, then ran through him, before coming back, like a wave in a bathtub.

I trembled under him as he shook, groaning with his release. Another orgasm took me, this one still better than any before it, but just an aftershock. He shook again, his groan almost anguished this time. Once more and I went limp, bliss sparkling in my bloodstream.

“Huu.” I wasn’t sure what I’d been trying to say, but I left it at that, closing my eyes with the solid weight of him pushing me into the mattress.

“Truan,” he replied, and I figured he had the same problem I did.

He rolled to the side and dragged me against him, fitting my head to the hollow between his neck and arm. I closed my eyes in contentment, still feeling that weird line I’d drawn between us. Still feeling our fused magic running back and forth through it.

I had intended to figure out how to tear it down, but before I could un-fog my mind enough to think, sleep pulled me under.

31

Kieran

A light buzzing brought Kieran out of a deep sleep, making him hover on the edge of consciousness. His body felt blissfully sated, warm and content. He couldn’t remember ever feeling this good, or this relaxed.

The buzzing tugged at his awareness until he finished the climb up to wakefulness. He blinked in the low light of Alexis’s tiny, decrepit room, with the faded paint and stained carpet. The shabby curtains hung at odd angles beside the single-paned window. Old furniture, some on its last leg, dotted the space, her possessions all fitting comfortably because she had so little.

If he’d seen this place before knowing her or her wards, he would have grimaced and quickly extricated himself from the situation. He would’ve thought she was a criminal or shady magical worker, hiding from the law. His perception would be that she wanted to live in this squalor, having no respect for herself or her surroundings.

How blind and judgmental he’d been. How prejudiced against the people who lived outside of their clearly defined zones. He’d been as closed-minded as the Chesters regarding why someone would have to live in a place like this, outcast from both societies.

Alexis’s soft breath dusted his chest. He turned his head and kissed her forehead. She’d opened his eyes to so much. Without trying, she’d forced a different way of thinking on him, and it had made him a rounder person. A better person. Through her, he was becoming less like his father, and more his own man.

Let her go…

Something hot and tight coiled in his chest, and his arm contracted, jerking Alexis closer to his body. She moaned lightly and curled tighter around him, sliding her leg over his and her arm up his chest to rest on his heart. He took it, fighting the overpowering desire to assume complete control of her life. To ensure that she stay safe, through overbearing means if necessary.

That was why his mother had told him to move on. He knew it in his heart. Try as he might to fight it, he couldn’t escape the extremely possessive personality traits most Demigods were known for. He latched on to what he deemed his, and through hell or fury, he protected that thing—or person—with everything he had.

In the process, he’d surely smother her, making her less than herself.

Alexis deserved better. She was a wild spirit, most beautiful when she was free. She deserved a man who would be her partner— the air to her fire, and not the water that would douse it.

Besides, Kieran’s father thought of magical San Francisco as his. If someone tried to take it, Valens would destroy that person mercilessly. Valens had protected his claim for decades. Nearly the full lifespan of a non-magical human. He’d know how to combat his son, someone whose training he’d organized and progress he’d monitored. Someone whom he’d always watched. Even now, people would be out there trying to figure out what was taking Kieran’s time.

If Kieran dragged Alexis any further into that, she’d die right alongside him. He was doing everything he could to prepare, but as the inevitable neared, he had to face the facts. She couldn’t be a part of what came next.

He released his arm and pulled it away, gritting his teeth against the overpowering urge to stay where he was. He took one last moment next to her, listening to her breathe and feeling her heart beat against his chest, and then eased out from under her and climbed off of the rock-hard mattress that wasn’t fit for a dog.

As soon as he could figure out how to mask his efforts, he would gut this house and build it up anew. She deserved the very best, and he could still provide her with material things. Even in death, if he set it up beforehand.

A soft buzzing drifted through the room again. He found his pants and patted the pocket, finding his vibrating phone. Zorn’s name appeared on the screen, along with the time. Four in the morning. Kieran had never spent so long with a woman. Not in his entire life.

His father would know that.

“Bollocks,” he muttered, stepping into his pants and pulling on his shirt. He needed to figure out a good cover.

He glanced down at his mother’s trunk and a surge of sorrow punched him in the gut. This time, though, a soggy sort of peace drifted up to ease the pain.

She was in a better place. Because of Alexis, his mother was finally free. She was free to ride the waves of the sea, to dive down into their depths, and to find peace.

Alexis needed to keep her own freedom.

Hardening his resolve, he hefted the trunk and made his way out to the kitchen. Zorn waited in one of the chairs, as quiet as death.

“I wondered if you’d leave her,” Zorn said in a flat tone. He knew the score.

Kieran didn’t say anything as he gently set the trunk down on the table. He noticed a white notepad with a vet’s name at the top. Next to it was a promotional pen from some cafe. This house used whatever they could get their hands on. True survivors in a hard life.

A handwritten note lay detached from the pad. He angled his head to read it.

I was in your house. Standing over your sleeping body. I could’ve killed you. Next time I will try.

It was clearly meant for Daisy.

“Creepy,” Kieran said, taking up the pen.

“She thinks like me. She responds in ways I usually do. Anything less than extreme threats will roll right off of her.”

“So then…she’s perfect for your teaching methods.”

“The first to be so, yes. She’s had a unique upbringing.”

“Haven’t we all.” He wrote a note of his own and ripped it off.

“Valens will wonder where you are.” Zorn stood before picking up his note. They walked silently down the short hall together, separating to deliver their notes. Kieran put his note on the pillow next to Alexis’s head. It was for the best. Otherwise she’d probably try to stab him in the chest again. And after last night, he had a feeling she could. She’d figured out how.

He frowned as he made his way back out. Zorn was in the hall, too, slipping a roll of tape into his pocket. He’d taped his message to Daisy and Mordecai’s door.

“You’re going to steal their tape?” Kieran asked, rubbing at his chest as he made his way back to the table. Now that he was focusing on it, a strange weight had lodged there. It didn’t press on him in any way. It just sat in his middle, deep within his person. It was strange and foreign, though comforting, and for some reason, he got the impression it was a remnant of whatever she’d done to him last night.

“I didn’t see any tape when I was rifling through their drawers earlier this evening. Or yesterday evening, I guess I should say. I figured I’d better bring my own.”

Kieran hefted the trunk again. “And you’re not going to leave it for them?”

“Why should I? It’s my tape. Alexis has a job now. She can get her own.”

Kieran huffed out a laugh and headed for the door. “You and Daisy definitely have similar outlooks.”

Zorn opened the door for him and stood to the side, waiting for him to go through. The weight in his middle intensified. He frowned, wanting to swipe at his chest, as though that might dislodge it. On the porch, when the tug increased, he glanced down, half wondering if a magical string of some kind was attached to his middle. He couldn’t sense any power, though. He couldn’t sense any residual magic drifting from or attached to his body.

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