Page 45

I hadn’t even thought about having a tail. “Who was on duty this morning? At my house?”

“No one.” We both drifted to the side as a few important-looking businessmen passed us. “Kieran pulled them off duty. I was confused until you showed me the note. It seems like it’s true. He’s gone. He’s out. That means the Six are gone, too. He’s leaving you to your life.”

A strange rush of pain coursed through me, quickly followed by ol’ trusty, my anger.

“Well, fuck that,” I seethed.

“Yeah. I agree. What if you were in danger? I mean, the cameras aren’t going anywhere, but still.”

“What about the kids? Did he just walk away from them, too?”

She shrugged. “Don’t know. Though even if he did, I have a feeling the guys aren’t going to give up. Zorn definitely won’t. They might keep training them on their own time. He could stop them, but…” She shrugged again. Kieran had left some gray areas.

I pushed it from my mind. Now wasn’t the time to fret. I needed to focus on the situation at hand.

Two men crested the stairs when we were halfway down the hall. Both were dressed in similar expensive suits that contoured their trim bodies, and I had to bet they went to the same tailor. The fair-skinned, twenty-something man on the left had gorgeous black hair that cascaded down beside his face and over his shoulders in a shiny sheet. His conditioning game was on point! The guy next to him, freckle-faced and with rusty orange hair, was probably so jealous he didn’t know what to do with himself. I would be.

The freckle-faced guy, in his forties, glanced my way, and his eyes sparkled with self-importance. When he looked away, it was as if his chest puffed out. The other guy must’ve noticed, because he straightened his shoulders and lifted his chin.

They were trying to advertise their importance. Except they looked like cheap clones of the clearly important people we’d skittered away from a few moments ago. These guys probably had mundane jobs with a teeny bit of clout, and it went straight to their heads. What douches.

Bria’s hand hit my shoulder and her foot jutted out in front of me. She shoved me into the wall.

“Ow,” I said without thinking, reaching for my banged-up shoulder.

The red-haired man glanced back, momentarily slowing, and a strange spark of power flared in his middle. Small specks formed in the air around him, barely discernible. In a moment, the specks were gone, and he’d picked up his pace.

“Go,” Bria whispered, hurrying us along. “Go!”

34

Alexis

I looked around for an attack. “What? What’s happening?”

“What do you mean what?” She grabbed my upper arm and hustled me along, jerking me to the side at the last moment. The tree climbed the wall not far away, its metal branches spreading across the ceiling.

Freezing cold stopped my breath and passed through my body, sucking at my energy. It passed out through my back, out of sight. Bria had found the alcove I’d been looking for, and it was occupied.

“Crap, no!” I jumped like I’d sat on a cactus, then spun away, hitting the fake tree. I stumbled backward and finally fell on my butt, way out in the middle of the hallway. Thankfully, the guys who were making their way to the end, about to turn the corner, didn’t look back.

She darted out, grabbed my arm again, and bodily dragged me to the side. “Get up, you donkey! I swear, I’ve never seen someone stick out so much in all my life. It’s like you are trying to grab people’s attention.”

“What did I do?” I asked, pushing myself up to standing.

“What did you—” Her mouth dropped open and she widened her eyes as she swung her hand back toward the way we’d come. “Oh nothing, just stared at those clearly well-paid guys with all the confidence and swagger of someone at the top of her game. It’s like you were challenging them to prove themselves, you nitwit. Around here, they just might. That’s a way to get noticed. We’re actively trying not to get noticed.”

I huffed out a laugh. “Those guys aren’t all that well paid, trust me. Decent paychecks, fine, but they suffer from small man syndrome. They have to advertise their coolness to get noticed.”

Her glower turned into a confused frown. “How do you know that?”

“It’s written all over them. Those nearly matching suits, the forced bravado, the attempted swagger—give me a break.”

Her head tilted, her eyes going distant as she probably replayed their images in her head.

I’d never truly appreciated how much insight I’d gained from reading people and their ghosts at the freak show until this moment. And while I could be wrong this time like any other, the ease with which I’d found Lyra’s skin had given me more confidence.

“Anyway,” I said, “I wasn’t staring at them. I was just noticing the one guy’s awesome hair. Did you see how shiny it was? I wonder what product he uses…”

“Genetics.” She stepped deeper into the alcove, right next to the teen girl I’d been looking for, with her large eyes and her fingers nervously picking at her large buttons. “You’re fucking with my chi, Alexis. You are really fucking with my chi, right now.” She took a deep breath, collecting herself. At least now I knew one thing could mess with that breezy calm of hers. Me. “Now.” She adjusted her backpack. “What are you looking for?”

I pointed at the girl beside her.

“It happened,” the teen said in a squeak, who’d clearly been waiting for a chance to speak.

“What?” I asked.

“What?” Bria asked me.

“I’ve been taking the calendar days,” the teen said. “From the desk. Today is the second. I knew you’d come back.”

“You’ve been taking the calendar days?” I shook my head in confusion. “I don’t know what that means.”

“Shit.” Bria braced herself like a spider, knees bent and arms out to the sides. “Is there a spirit around me right now? Why can’t I—oh shit, I do feel her! Damn it, Alexis.” She pushed away and flattened herself against the adjoining wall. “You’re taking me out of my game.”

“The little…” The teen made a box gesture with her hands, ignoring Bria. “Calendar days.”

Understanding dawned. “The joke-a-day calendar type things?”

“Today is the second,” the teen reiterated.

Adrenaline dumped into my body. “Meaning…it happened today? The guy came today?”

A woman glanced at me as she passed, her silk dress swimming around her legs. Another highly paid somebody-or-other, only this one had a shitload of arrogance to go with it.

I curled my lips in and ripped my gaze to the ground so Bria didn’t get any ideas about throwing me down the stairs or anything.

“What happened today?” Bria whispered, her gaze darting around. “The spirit trap?”

“I was downstairs,” the teen said, “watching people coming and going, and it happened. The white-haired man came. I snatched a calendar day and then came up here to get away from him. He tries to slice off parts of me. He’s not strong enough, but it still hurts. I hate it.” She shivered and pulled her sweater tighter around her body.

“Is she talking?” Bria asked, watching my face. “What’s she saying? Because if the trail is fresh, we can bag this bastard right now.”

“Hurry.” I gestured at the teen. “Show us the calendar days.”

She nodded and pushed forward into the hall. A moment later, she disappeared.

“Dang it,” I whispered, hustling toward the wide stairs that led down into the lobby.

“What happened?” Bria asked, right beside me.

“She’s an Apporter. She just teleported away. She clearly forgets other people don’t share her ability. She’s insanely strong. Or she used to be, at any rate. She was going to be in Valens’s Elite group but she got pissed off at a trainer one day and teleported him outside. She was on the fourth floor or something. High up. He went splat.”

“Oh shit,” Bria breathed. “I heard about that. That was like…four years ago, I think. She was extremely powerful and rare, but uncontrollable. Valens himself had to kill her. No one else could lock her down.”

“That explains why he trapped her,” I said quietly. “Grudge match.” I walked down the stairs as quickly as would still appear natural. “I just hope she was going to the lobby desk or else we lost her.”

“I get the grudge match, but why trap her here, specifically?” Bria asked in confusion. “Why not transfer her to that warehouse and stick her in a body or two? With a strong enough Necromancer, she could be made to follow orders. Her power would be useful.”

“But they don’t have a strong enough Necromancer. He had to scramble brains or whatever to make the spirits easier to handle, remember?”

“Still, they could’ve tried. Or done something else. Trapping her in the government building doesn’t make sense.”

When we reached the bottom of the stairs, I scanned the lobby, immediately finding the teen beside the large information desk. There was no sign of a white-haired man or anyone who would meet her description of the caster.

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