Kieran sat on the lonely bench overlooking the vast blue ocean. His T-shirt stretched across his large shoulders, and a muscular arm was thrown over the back of the bench.
Heart thumping and stomach flipping, I silently made my way to his side.
“You found me.” His deep voice rumbled in his chest. He looked up, and those stormy blue eyes opened up all the way down to his soul. To the place I’d latched on to.
“Yes.” I sat on the far end of the bench, leaving space between us.
His focus stayed on my face, absolute.
“You disobeyed me the other week,” he started, though if he’d meant his tone to be severe, he wasn’t doing a great job.
I clasped my hands. “I didn’t want to leave the job half finished. I know I signed on to help your mom, but I promised myself I’d help those other souls, too. I know you said you’d find the guys responsible, but—”
“The solution had been staring me in the face the whole time,” he interrupted. “Since before we met. I knew about that air draping spell. Knew about it, and discounted it to the point that when you spoke about a spirit trap on the building, I didn’t even think of it. My mother as well. I’d been in my father’s room. I’d seen that picture. I’d seen the fountain.” He shook his head, his eyes sparkling. “I hadn’t made the connection.”
I shrugged. “You didn’t have the benefit of seeing your mother in her younger form. It was a lot easier to compare her spirit to that fountain.”
He stayed silent for a beat, his stare beating into me. “I don’t agree. You have a knack for reading people. You have a pure soul that lets your magic shine. I know for a fact—I can feel it. It’s so light. So lovely. Like you.”
My face heated and my heart lurched. I shrugged again, not knowing what to say. Scared of the strength of what I felt.
“My father will notice the absence of his employees soon,” Kieran went on. “He’ll know what it means, even if he doesn’t know it was me. Yet.” He paused. “He’ll know some serious power was behind this. Power in the spirit realm.”
I controlled my breathing, and tried to control my face. I knew what would come next. He didn’t disappoint me.
“It’s time for me to get you out of town, Alexis.”
A weight settled on my chest and squeezed my heart. I refrained from commenting, not trusting my voice.
“It wasn’t fair of me to try and cut you off before you finished the job,” he went on. “I should’ve known you’d want to keep going until those spirits were released. I should’ve guessed you wouldn’t leave it alone. But it’s done now. I’ve visited every site. I’ve spoken to the spirits. Then I’ve let them go.”
“I know. I got the pictures. And some of the buggers showed up at my house and milled on the grass.” I’d had to just assume some of the lights and orbs in the pictures were a host of spirits and not just one. They didn’t show up very well on camera, to the dismay of countless Ghost Whisperers who wanted proof they could do their job.
He nodded. “Your task is well and truly finished. I have a house ready for you and the kids in Sydney. They have an excellent dual-society zone there. I’ve already arranged for training for all of you. The shifter packs in the area are led by honorable alphas. The spies who would take on an apprentice are cunning. I have friends there. I will make sure you are all sorted.” His eyes sparked. “Valens doesn’t mess with Sydney. The ruler there, a class-five fire elemental, can’t stand him. She’ll cause a problem if he goes sticking his nose in her territory. And with his home turf…issues, he won’t risk dividing his forces, even to face a lesser power.”
“And Bria?” I asked, my words thick.
“She’ll stay here with me. I need a Necromancer. I have a lot of spirits willing to fight.”
I took a deep breath and made sure my voice was steady before I went on. “I take it you’d like to keep my magic so you can communicate with the spirits?”
He surveyed me silently. “No,” he said, and I paused with my mouth open, because that wasn’t the answer I’d expected. He continued surprising me. “You must know that you’ve had an effect on me. I haven’t been with another woman since I met you. I haven’t had the interest. I can’t stop thinking about you, Lexi. You’re on my mind constantly. I fear for your safety. I lose sleep, pained that harm might come to you. I find joy when you laugh, and get aroused when you tell me no. You’re a peculiar woman, and it turns out, peculiar women are my type.” Our connection throbbed in my chest, and I longed to reach out to him. To sit in his lap. “But I might not have a future, Alexis. My father is extremely powerful, cunning, and has been at this for years. He also watched me closely throughout my childhood. He knows what I’m good at, and he’s documented my weaknesses. When he realizes I mean to oppose him, he’ll cut me at the wick.” The hand that was draped over the bench fisted. “I have no illusions. I know what I’m up against. But I have a duty to my mother. I have a duty to the people of this city. He needs to be held accountable for his choices. I’m the only one who can…who will.”
He shook his head and directed his gaze out across the ocean. I let silence descend, listening to the crash of the waves below. Feeling the pull of the tides and enjoying the wind against my face.
Finally, he spoke again. “So no, I don’t want to keep your magic so that I can communicate with spirits.” He looked back at me. “I want to keep your magic—keep this connection—so I can find you if you get in trouble. So I can be near you even when we’re oceans apart. So I have a piece of you, even in my last moments.”
Kieran felt emotion rise through him, hot and powerful. He couldn’t tell if it was his or hers. Her eyes sparkled with unshed tears and a soft smile drifted across her beautiful face.
“And here I thought you’d be mad that I…did whatever I did,” she said, and a tear wobbled free, cutting a trail down her cheek.
He held out his hand, inviting her closer. She scooted along the bench immediately, sliding against him. His cock hardened with the contact, and his desire for her burned through his veins.
But he kept it at bay. He was pushing her away. He didn’t want to confuse matters by giving in to his desire.
“The tickets have been bought,” he whispered, falling into those deep brown eyes. “I can ship whatever you want from your house. The house in Sydney is fully furnished, but I’ve set up accounts so you can change it however you want. The kids will have their own rooms. And new clothes, because Alexis, they look homeless.”
She shuddered with a soggy laugh. “They were at one stage.” She wiped her face with the back of her hand. “So…you’re forcing me away?”
“Yes,” he said, and this time, the burning ache in his heart was all his. The first woman he’d cared for, and he couldn’t keep her. Life had a way of kicking a guy in the balls. “I’m sorry. It’s for the best.”
She nodded, and wiped away another tear. She took a deep breath, and a surge of feeling rose within her. He could feel it. It mirrored his own.
But it wasn’t meant to be.
“Don’t waste your heart on me, Alexis,” he said softly, looking out at the ocean. He couldn’t bear to see her tears. It was bad enough that he could feel her pain. “I’m not what you need. There’s a full life waiting for you in Sydney. Live it.”
“What about my father?” she asked, and he jerked his head toward her.
That had come out of left field.
“Uh…” he said stupidly, regrouping. The woman didn’t think in a linear line. “We’ve had to go about determining who your father is under the radar. It’s taking longer than usual.”
“So you still don’t know which one he is?”
“No.” It dawned on him why she was asking. “Even if it is Magnus, he won’t find you. How could he?”
She shrugged. “How did you?”
He opened his mouth, but closed it again before he said “fate.” He didn’t need to pour salt in the wound.
“Thank you for helping me, Alexis. Thank you for…everything.”
She nodded, but didn’t speak.
He wasn’t sure what else to say. “I’m just going to sit here for a while…”
She nodded again, but didn’t get up.
“What makes you think that I’m going to do anything you say?” she said finally.
“This isn’t up for discussion—”
She surged up from the bench and spun toward him, her face flushed and eyes shooting fire.
“I love taking handouts, don’t get me wrong,” she started, and he couldn’t help a smile. “But if you think I’m going to let you walk into danger all by yourself, after everything you’ve done for me and my family, you’ve got a screw loose. I’m in this now, Kieran. I might not know what the hell I’m doing, and I might not be an incredible asset like the others, but I’m really good at plucking souls out of dead bodies. And I’m excellent at banishing souls. And…communicating with them. And that’s something.”
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