“Are you going to drop off the trunk this morning?” Zorn asked, stepping off the porch before him.
“Yes. I want to put a camera on the area. If we can get a satellite on it, that’d be best, but a stationary camera will do if that’s not possible. There must be a place we can hide a monitoring device.”
“Navigating that fog will be—what is it?”
Kieran stared at a solitary figure standing in the middle of the struggling greenish-brown lawn. A gray comb-over adorned an otherwise shiny scalp, and wrinkles layered a pair of watery brown eyes. He wore a plucky suit from yesteryear, and slouched in a way that made an otherwise small stomach appear larger.
His outward appearance and obvious trespassing wasn’t what made Kieran stop and stare. There was a weird feeling about him, almost as if his solidity could dissipate into nothing at any moment.
“Do you see that guy?” Kieran asked in a hush, sudden anxiety making his heart race.
Zorn looked around the front yard. He was a man who missed very little, so certainly he’d notice a man in his sixties hanging out in plain sight.
“Tell me you can see that guy,” Kieran said, a cold sweat breaking out.
“Where?” Zorn said, his body loosening, preparing to react violently.
“She gave me her power.” Kieran started forward, his body stiff and adrenaline surging through him. “She gave me the ability to see spirits.”
“What?” Zorn took the trunk from Kieran, studying his face.
Kieran moved down the walkway, stopping when he was even with the man. Staring at him.
The man looked behind him, then around the yard, then finally back at him. “Can you see me?”
A wave of dizziness hit Kieran, his mind reeling. “You’re not…” He swallowed. Of all the things he’d been through, all the things he’d done, seeing the spirit of an old man was the thing that gave him pause? “Are you Frank?”
Zorn startled and pushed in beside Kieran.
The man put a finger to his chest and lifted his gray eyebrows. “You can see me?” he repeated.
Kieran wiped at his chest, feeling that tug again. It was trying to draw him back to the house. Back to her.
“Somehow, she gave me the ability to see spirits,” Kieran said again, mystified.
“How?” Zorn asked as Frank said, “Well, I’ll be damned. That’s great, actually. I know you’re the one who organizes security around these parts, and I have been keeping an eye on things. It’ll be great to discuss the situation firsthand, with—”
Kieran swung his gaze back to Frank, his patience quickly wearing thin.
The ghost cut off. His mouth closed and his lips turned white.
“I don’t know,” Kieran answered Zorn, thinking back to the night before. To the feeling of her lightly stroking the very center of him, an insanely intimate and erotic moment. She’d opened herself to him, too, in a way that had drawn him in, body and soul.
…body and soul…
“Will it last, do you think?” Zorn asked, moving on toward his car and much larger trunk.
“I don’t know,” he repeated, his tone harder this time.
“Do you think she did it on purpose?”
Kieran shook his head. He had no concrete answer, but it seemed unlikely. She didn’t have enough working knowledge for that.
“I think she was just reacting to the moment. The question is, if this lasts, will it help or hurt?”
Kieran stopped beside the car and waited for Zorn to open the back. He did so as Frank the Ghost drifted toward the sidewalk, watching their progress.
A flare of territorialism stole over Kieran, making him grit his teeth. He moved to the car with stiff legs, but couldn’t contain a surge of aggression.
“Get off of her lawn,” he ground out, turning. A wave of power swept the yard, cutting into the center of the ghost. Zorn staggered against the car. The ghost’s face contorted into a look of fear, then terror, before he sprinted to the sidewalk and bowed.
“So sorry, sir. I see my error,” the ghost groveled. “Lawn is a sacred thing. Trampling all over it is rude. That was my fault. I’ll stick to the hard surfaces, weeds, and dirt from now on. Thank you for showing me the error of my ways.”
Kieran let his gaze linger on the repeatedly bowing ghost, driving home his point, before reaching for the car handle. Zorn strode to the driver’s door, his gaze speculative and face pale.
“That was Alexis’s magic,” Zorn said conversationally.
“It wasn’t as nuanced or terrifying as hers, but it still fucking hurt.”
“That’ll be helpful,” Kieran said lightly, hiding the strange uncertainty tickling the pit of his stomach.
“Yes. Unless you do it without thinking and alert everyone of this new, extremely potent magic.”
“Unless that, yes.”
“You’ll have to control your moods a little better.”
Kieran headed to his Ferrari. “Or learn to control which of my magic goes into which command.”
“Or that, sure.”
“If it lasts.”
Zorn nodded. “If it lasts.”
“It would sure be helpful if it did.”
“For all of our sakes, yes.” Zorn opened his car door, then paused for a moment. He tilted his head and a very rare grin twisted his lips. “I find myself incredibly jealous, sir. Incredibly jealous. And you likely have only a sliver of the power Alexis has within the spirit realm. Just think what she will do when she reaches her full potential.”
The first indication that something was amiss: light drifted through my window, not hindered by thick blankets of fog.
The second indication that something was amiss: the lack of the comforting warmth of the large Demigod who had given me the best sex of my life.
The third indication that something was amiss, which didn’t materialize until after I’d propped myself onto my elbows and looked around my empty bedroom in bewilderment: a small square piece of white paper had been left on my pillow.
With a falling brow, I sat up and grabbed the note. Written in a surprisingly delicate scrawl was: Goodbye. I’ll miss you.
My heart sank.
I knew at once he was telling me goodbye forever, like he’d told his mother last night. He’d been serious about trying to protect me, and to him that meant pushing me away.
A strange hollowness ached in my middle, followed by a tug to hurry up out of the room and go…
I didn’t know where I wanted to go. Just…out.
Out there somewhere…
I frowned in confusion, processing. The memory of stroking his soul came back to me. It had been so easy to get into that protected cavern and find the treasure of his person. I hadn’t forced my way in, I’d seeped in. The difference had been in the approach.
Or maybe the difference had been in his openness. He hadn’t put up his usual blockade, and when he’d used his magic, it hadn’t torn me apart like it usually would.
Now, he and his mother were out of my life.
I sat in the stillness of the room, deciding how I felt. Deciding what I wanted to do.
He’d left me in peace—in the safety of anonymity. He’d pushed me out of his controlling sphere, and out of danger. He’d given me back the life I’d lived before him, but with a bunch of money to make things easier.
He’d set me free.
He’d also given me unbelievable sex, filled with passion and yearning. Filled with respect and mutual pleasure. He’d been better than his sexy magic felt, something I hadn’t thought possible. It would be hard to let go of that.
It would be hard to let go of him.
Really, I should be thankful he’d relieved me of the need to extricate myself from the situation. The man was bad news. He’d had his people barge into my house in the middle of the night and knock us around, for goodness’s sake. Maybe we were on equal footing in bed, but in life he’d always been in charge and three steps ahead. Bria was right—I needed to steer clear from that sort of nonsense.
Besides, Kieran was a product of Valens. That guy was whack. He’d imprisoned his love in life and in death. He’d made shrines for her while basically torturing her. That was so far from normal it was in a league of its own. Kieran wasn’t just protecting me from Valens by pushing me away, he was protecting me from himself and his crazy heritage.
He’s trying to protect me…
I dragged my teeth across my bottom lip and stared out the window.
That’s what it always came down to. He was trying to protect me.
I’d never been in any danger from Kieran Drusus or any of his people. He’d inherited some of his father’s traits, but he was no Valens. He’d healed Mordecai without expecting anything in return. He’d hoped for something, sure, but he’d left me free of obligation. His men were training Mordecai and Daisy on his orders, and he also paid for our groceries and ensured someone made us dinner every night. He’d bought me extremely expensive clothes and hadn’t even mentioned the fact that I’d stolen them from his house. He was training me. Leaving me with a year’s salary plus a large bonus…
The first thing he’d ever done for me was give a sick kid a blanket.