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Lines etched around his light hazel eyes, his fear of what would come leaving its mark. His fingers curled into fists before straightening out again.

Jack stood before him, his own shirt off, revealing perfectly sculpted muscles and a brawn that would give any enemy pause. His face was calm, his bearing alert. Donovan blocked off the way to the street, his shirt off as well, and Zorn blocked off the path to the backyard.

I sucked in a breath when I saw Zorn’s bare torso. Jagged white lines criss-crossed his well-built body, his torso a mess of scars—some straight and even, some long and bent—that carried across his shoulders and surely continued on to his back. It was clear someone had taken great pains to carve him up.

“He was tortured for information about Kieran,” Daisy whispered. “You aren’t the only one Kieran has saved.”

I swallowed. “I got away easy, it looks like.”

“Yeah. You totally would’ve broken. Zorn is the most stubborn dickhead I’ve ever met. I have mad respect for him.”

“If my shoulder didn’t hurt, I’d punch you in the face.”

“Dickhead isn’t a swear, it’s an adjective.”

“Stand back, ladies.” Donovan waved us back as people crowded in behind us, Frank included. Just because they’d lost their bodies didn’t mean they were any less nosy. “He’ll be disorientated his first time. There’s no telling what he’ll do in shifter form.”

Mordecai glanced over, and through his fear, I saw a spark of excitement. A smile bent his lips and his shoulders loosened.

“Deep breaths,” Jack said in an easy voice. “Can you feel the need to change building?”

“It’ll be a full moon tonight,” Daisy whispered, as if I hadn’t been living in the same house and hearing the same discussions non-stop. “The pull to shift is really strong. The guys thought it would be easiest—”

“For a first time. I know, I know,” I said quietly.

Mordecai nodded nervously. His tongue darted out, wetting his bottom lip.

“Sink into it,” Jack coached. “Sink into that feeling. Let it wash over you. Let it consume you.”

Mordecai closed his eyes and his hands fisted.

“Let it consume you,” Jack said again.

The throb of power from Mordecai intensified. The air turned hazy around him, shimmering.

“Here we go,” Daisy said, grabbing my arm. “He’s been having really bad dreams.”

Again, it was like she’d forgotten we all lived together. Daisy and I had both needed to wake him up in the dead of night when he was screaming and wrestling with his sheets.

“Now rush into it,” Jack barked, his body shimmering, too. The intense power within him was also building.

A burst of magic preceded Mordecai’s jaw clenching. His skin, then his limbs, turned hazy, as though a cloud had drifted over him. His body bent. His face changed, elongating into a snout.

“Faster, Mordecai,” Jack yelled. “The pain from the first handful of changes will last as long as it takes to change. Rush into it. Give in to it.”

Mordecai grunted and his brow lowered. His legs bent and his skin erupted into fur. Teeth grew out of his mouth.

“Ew,” Daisy said, her fingers digging into my arm.

I had to agree. This was one of the grossest things I’d seen, and given that I’d been working with dead bodies, that was really saying something.

“If you don’t hurry, the pain will make you pass out,” Jack said, stepping forward. “The first time is always the most painful.”

Mordecai didn’t hurry. The change didn’t go any faster. But not once did he cry out. Not once did he howl in pain. The only indication that the shape change had an effect on him was a few grunts and lots of silence.

“What the hell?” Donovan said, stepping to the side to further block us off.

“What’s the matter?” Daisy asked, her nails cutting through my skin.

I took her hand away, certainty calming me. Tears filled my eyes. “He’s going slow so he can learn control. He’s used to dealing with intense pain in silence. He has for years. His whole life. Even now, he’s trying to make it so we don’t worry. This is his rite of passage, but he’s putting us first.”

Daisy looked at me, her eyes heavy and intense. She chewed her lip as she glanced back.

“He’s better than me,” she said softly. “He’s a better person than me.”

“He’s a better person than all of us. We’ll take credit for it. That’ll make us good people by association.”

She nodded. “Good idea.”

The haze cleared and the throbbing magic settled. In place of the human stood a lean but enormous wolf, its muzzle dark gray with an odd spot near its left eye, and the rest of his body like a timber wolf, with grays and whites. Intelligent hazel eyes stared out from a wolf’s face, and a long pink tongue lolled out over sharp white teeth.

“His teeth are even lovely and white in wolf form,” I marveled. “See, Mordecai? See why I always harp on you about hygiene?”

“Wow. You need to let it go,” Daisy muttered.

Mordecai shook like a dog before trotting forward. Jack braced himself, holding his hands up. Mordecai stopped, turned, and trotted in a circle, not nearing any one person. The guys all loosened, dropping their hands.

“Incredible,” Jack said, bracing his hands on his hips.

Donovan stepped over to Jack. “I haven’t seen many newbies shift, but he acclimated really quickly, didn’t he?”

“Extremely quickly. I’ve seen a lot of newbies shift. A couple as old as him. This is…unexpected.” Jack shook his head and blinked a few times in disbelief. “It just goes to show, men are way easier to deal with than women.”

Daisy huffed and crossed her arms over her chest. “I’ll feed you those words on the end of a razor-tipped fork.”

Jack chuckled, looking back at her. “Any time you’re ready, little girl.”

“You won’t know I’m ready until you taste steel.”

The guys all started to laugh. This was the new normal since Daisy had started training with Zorn—someone baiting Daisy to see what she’d come back with.

Little did they know, she was serious, didn’t forget being taunted, and they wouldn’t like it when she got even.

I smiled and turned away. I’d look forward to watching and laughing.


I turned back to Zorn, waiting for him to continue. He wasn’t a big fan of using names, for some reason. Or details.

“He wants you to meet him,” Zorn said.

I still waited for more. None came.

“Where?” I asked.

Zorn tapped his chest. “He said you’d figure it out.”

I stared like an idiot, because yes, I was pretty sure I could. I’d focused on that ache in my chest all week, digging into the feeling and closing my eyes, following our connection with my mind’s eye. Miraculously, I could practically envision where he was at any time. And if I reduced down into a trance, I could feel what was going on. Like last night, when I’d felt him stroking himself while he texted with me… The pleasure had washed over my body until I was keeping pace, letting the desire build up and the ecstasy take me away. In the middle of it he’d figured out what was happening, and then our mutual sensations had spiraled until it felt like we were physically together, touching each other’s bodies, kissing each other’s lips.

That said, I didn’t need the kids realizing any of this. Not until I figured out how to tell them what I’d decided.

Daisy’s hard stare beat into my head as I nodded and turned. Soft padding crunched the brittle, mostly dead grass as Mordecai approached me.

“He saved my life. I have to at least say thank you,” I said, hurrying away.

A small growl rumbled from Mordecai’s throat.

“Yeah,” Daisy said. “I agree. This is bad news, and not because I am now talking to an overgrown dog.”

Mordecai growled again.

I grabbed my handbag and thought about changing into nicer clothes. But that would make it obvious that I had lost my mind where it concerned Kieran. Somewhere along the way, it had become less about helping others by taking Valens down, and more about helping him. About speaking to him, and spending time with him.

“This is bad,” I said, trying to ignore my excitement at seeing him again.

As expected, there was nothing to finding him. Nothing at all. I looked internally, felt his solid presence connecting to my middle, and followed the shimmering path to his soul. The handsy souls in the ghost neighborhood had given me the heebie-jeebies, but when Kieran’s soul reached for me, I didn’t want to shake him off. I wanted to pull him closer.

The train of terrible ideas was screaming down the tracks, and I didn’t want to jump. I wanted to ride it all the way in.

Such bad news.

I smiled when I reached the little outlet, engulfed in swirling gray fog, and found his bright red Ferrari parked beside the road. It was the same place I’d met him to talk about the job. Sure enough, I followed the trail beside the magical zone barrier, through the windswept trees, and emerged in a clearing high on the cliff.


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