I groaned. I hated mediums, with all their bells and whistles. Literally. They created an awful racket.
“Which zone is this place in?” I asked, standing.
Kieran straightened as I did. “The magical zone, on the outskirts by the east wall. There is very little traffic there, except for the ghost seekers. Occasionally, my father’s office will allow non-magicals in via a chartered bus, but that’s usually only around Halloween.”
“Wait…” I held up my hand. “Your father owns it?”
“No. It’s a condemned building, owned by the magical government.” A crease formed between Kieran’s brows. “But my father does retain control over it. His office schedules the visits.” I shot him a look, and he shook his head. “This is what I’m talking about. That didn’t dawn on me.”
“What?” Bria asked, unfolding her arms. “I had the medium request admittance. We’re in the clear as far as the books go…”
“It’s a house stuffed with spirits controlled by a guy who traps spirits.” I widened my eyes and held up my hands. “So yeah, obviously we need to go there. We don’t need to meet a medium, though. Those buggers just get in the way.”
A slow grin curved Bria’s lips and a dimple dotted her chin. “We’re going to get along just fine.”
Not if she kept making me feel like a dweeb, we weren’t.
“Who do you want to send, sir?” Zorn asked.
Kieran studied me for a moment. Frustration crossed his expression. “Send Jack. Tell him to stay out of sight. I’ll want a full report.” He leaned in to me. “I can’t risk being spotted with you. If you have any problems, you have my number.”
I glanced at my handbag. “Yup. It’s in there with all the numbers I had to re-input after they were somehow deleted from my iCloud. So weird, that. Especially since they were all guys. Good thing I was late to the technology game and had a little black book, huh?”
Bria coughed into her fist before muttering, “Serves you right for getting involved with a Demigod.”
“I’m not involved.” I stalked around the desk to get away from his suffocating proximity before reaching over and grabbing my handbag. “I just always seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m unlucky.”
“Very, yes. Very unlucky.” Bria ducked into the back room and returned with a camo backpack. “You should’ve played it smart and just banged the right-hand man with commitment issues. Way less stressful.”
“Bria.” Kieran had only uttered her name, but a savage intensity trickled through the room, his power filling up the space. My small hairs stood on end and my flight reflex made my legs and arms tremble.
To my utter astonishment, Bria grinned, completely unaffected. “I’m just kidding. Except about bumping uglies with a certain hard-hearted grump with a wicked tongue.” She waggled her eyebrows at me. “And I do mean wicked.” Jerking her head toward the exit, she said, “Come on. Time’s a wastin’. Let’s take that horrible suit out for a spin. By the by, have you ever purchased clothes that actually fit your body, or do you just really enjoy airing out your ankles?”
I sent a pleading look to Kieran before following her. He was sending me out into the unknown with a very cool nutcase, I was certain. Although, I had to admit, there was something about her that screamed competent. She didn’t look much older than me—twenty-eight or nine, maybe—but the self-assurance in her bearing spoke of a woman that knew what she was capable of.
“Be safe,” Kieran said as I neared Zorn. “Don’t take chances.”
“We’re visiting a bunch of dead people and you wouldn’t even let me bring a cadaver for show and tell purposes,” Bria said, pausing in the door. “What sort of chances do you think are possible?”
Zorn held out the car keys without looking at Bria. She snatched them out of his hand. “Thanks, silver-tongued devil.”
Her grin said it all. He was the hard-hearted grump she’d been talking about.
My mouth fell open. I had not seen that coming. She seemed too edgy to be bumping uglies with a straight-laced, prim-suit-wearing guy like Zorn.
“You comin’, flood waters?” she said.
I started moving, belatedly realizing she held the keys for the Beemer.
“Crap, I was going to reject that part of the contract,” I grumbled. So much for digging in my heels.
“Regardless, you need something to drive,” Zorn said. “Bria got a ride here in anticipation of you driving. This is the only mode of transportation.”
I sent a narrow-eyed look at a smug Kieran. He’d made it impossible for me to easily reject the car. He had many super powers as a Demigod, but manipulation was where he truly shined.
Bria chuckled, clearly reading the situation. “You don’t stand a chance against that Demigod.” She disappeared through the door.
Kieran watched Alexis go, recognizing the unsettled look on her face.
“Did I make a mistake, pairing them together?” he asked Zorn, suddenly unsure. “Alexis is incredibly powerful, but she has no experience in the magical world. Maybe I should’ve started her out with someone not as…”
“Impulsive?” Zorn shook his head and looked out the doorway. A car engine revved before tires squealed. Bria was clearly driving.
“Not impulsive…reckless,” Kieran said, hooking his thumbs into his pockets and forcing down the unease.
“She’s not reckless. She’s a fast thinker with a lifetime of experience.”
“She stands out.”
“In a good way. An expected way. Alexis stands out…in a bad way.” Zorn quirked an eyebrow.
Kieran had to give him that. Alexis was a woman who marched to the beat of her own drum. She was breathtakingly beautiful, but dressed in unfashionable, ill-fitting attire, as though she didn’t have a clue how to clothe a lithe, graceful body like hers. She shoved her hair up in messy ponytails, rarely bothered with makeup, and made constant use of frustrated, impatient scowls—and yet she had the poise and grace of a model. The unexpected dichotomy suited her to a T, and it was what had first drawn his notice.
Yes, she did stand out. In a sea of similar people, she was absurdly different. And he fucking loved it.
He’d have to hope Bria could tone Alexis down when it was needed. He didn’t have any other options. Not so late in the game.
Kieran checked his watch. He had a meeting with the mayor of non-magical San Francisco in an hour. On paper, they were meeting to discuss the new magical showcase. After following Alexis to the old one, Kieran had shut it down. It had been a magical freak show of sorts, whereby people with powers showed off for a bunch of small-minded, non-magical, and cash-carrying morons. The conditions had been appalling, especially for the magical animals on display. He planned on opening a new, improved showcase in the neutral zone, allowing both magical and non-magical folk easy access.
The move would also give him a great reason to spend more time in the dual-society zone. Under the guise of overseeing the fair’s progress, he’d be able to check in with Alexis more frequently without fear his father would grow suspicious. That was the plan, anyway. Valens was anything but easy to navigate.
Off paper, and unbeknownst to the mayor, Kieran also hoped to use this meeting to discuss his hidden agenda.
It was no secret that Valens deemed non-magical people beneath him. That fact created dissension in the already divided city, especially between the two governing bodies. Given apt assurances that someone else would assume the brunt of the risk, Kieran anticipated the mayor would jump at the chance to end the reign of the magical tyrant next door. All Kieran would then need to do was secure some of the mayor’s weaponized forces. Just a fraction of what the mayor had at his disposal, when added to the units Kieran had been working to accrue, would be enough to equal Valens’s standby battalion. It would give Kieran a fighting chance to take down one of the most fearsome Demigods in the world, a tyrannical leader who thought he was above the law.
“Keep in contact with Bria and Jack,” he told Zorn, heading into the back office to get changed. He’d dressed down to be more on Alexis’s level, not anticipating the strange suit she’d worn. It was on a level all its own.
He grinned. He fucking loved it.
“Sir,” Zorn said after a moment. “I would like to train the girl.”
Kieran paused in unzipping the garment bag hanging on the inside of the door. “Daisy?”
“Yes, sir. She’s…got something. She’s a diamond in the rough. Hard. Insightful. Durable. She’s training with the wolf and holding her own.”
“I heard. She has impressed the guys. What do you suspect she’d be good at?” Kieran finished unzipping, exposing his navy blue, tailored suit.
“I can’t tell for certain, but a spy comes to mind. An assassin. A mercenary, maybe.”
Kieran widened his eyes. It wasn’t normal for Zorn to take an interest in someone, even when they had some natural ability. That this non-magical girl had drawn his notice meant she had something special.
“Get to it. I’m sure I don’t have to remind you that your tolerance and endurance is far above that of most people. Don’t push her hard enough to break her. Nor do I need to remind you that Alexis might be as dangerous as a kitten now, but someday soon she’ll surpass anything you could imagine. She’ll rip you apart if you harm one of her wards.”
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