Kieran: Zorn is handling that. Jack will pick you up. Get to a hiding place.
I rolled my eyes and slipped the phone into my pocket. Truth be told, I did like having someone look after me. It was a nice change from always having to look after myself and others. Someone cared about what happened to me, and it gave me a warm, happy feeling in my middle.
But there was a big difference between looking after me, and thinking I needed rescuing all the time. Ever the knight, Kieran did not see that distinction.
My phone vibrated again.
Bria: I figured out why Kieran didn’t stop you from going to that bar.
I blinked at the text for a moment before replying. Why the hell are you texting? What’s going on with the woman?
Bria: I’m walking in zigzags like I’m drunk. I’ve taken three wrong turns so far. The so-called spy has shitty shoes, remember? I’m going to make her feel it before Zorn gets here and forces me to stop.
My pricks of guilt evaporated.
My phone vibrated again.
Bria: Kieran wanted you to put Miles in his place. He wanted you to pick a side. Him.
I opened my mouth for no real reason. The deepening night welcomed me, throbbing all around. I was still drawing power from the Line, just in case, and I could feel it slithering in the darkness and filling up the cracks.
Bria: He must’ve known you would push back eventually. That guy Miles was hot, but a real dick. He was trying to make you feel like dirt so you’d beg for a compliment. Joke is on him.
I frowned at the phone. I had never gotten that sense at all. Nor had I ever felt like dirt.
Bria: I can’t think of any other reason Kieran would refrain from interfering. That’s not his MO.
Bria: It must have driven him nuts, knowing that another man was providing for you. But he left you to handle it. The dude trusts you, yo. That’s cool. Don’t tell anyone I said so.
Bria: This bitch is looouuuuddd. You got any Jack Daniels left? I’m walking off my buzz.
The texts stopped for a moment, and I realized I’d also stopped, too engrossed in her rapid-fire delivery to keep walking. She was clearly not someone who should be put in a potentially dangerous situation without a clear plan of attack. She was like a dog chasing its tail.
I started forward again, readying my thumbs to text back, though I had no idea where to start, when yet another came in.
Bria: Zorn is on scene. He’s shadowing me. Close, too. So close I can smell his deodorant.
Bria: He smells so good. I love that smell. Spicy and warm, like pumpkin spice in the fall.
A soul bleeped onto my radar, moving slowly. Almost at the same time, a car rolling down the street caught my awareness. Headlights off, the streetlight’s glow slid across the top of dark blue paint. The wheels turned slowly, giving the driver plenty of time to scout the sidewalks.
My chest filled with ice. Maybe I should’ve hidden after all. Kieran often knew things I didn’t.
Without thinking, I opened myself further to the Line, debating whether or not to make a break for it. But honestly, while standing in this dark pocket, movement would be worse than just standing still.
Then again, I’d never been very good at the spy game.
My phone vibrated again, but I ignored it.
A slight breeze ruffled my hair before fluttering my soul. Magic pulsed around me, flowing through the grass and crawling across the concrete. It was as beautiful as it was strange, a comforting nightmare. I could barely focus on the car, although the flare of red taillights indicated the driver had seen me. That couldn’t be good. I knew I should run.
But my legs wouldn’t move.
I could feel the world beyond the Line, a place without dimension. I felt both like I was in a trance and like I was completely lucid for the first time. Shades of bright violet and blue fizzled through the night, outlining houses and seeping into the cracks in the sidewalk. My soul fluttered again as power built around me.
Spirit was everywhere.
I had no idea what to do with it.
“What in the bloody hell are you doing?” Jack stepped out of an old Toyota I’d never seen before. He still hadn’t flicked on the headlights. Oh. “Get off the sidewalk and get in the car, you whack job. Do you want the neighbors calling the cops?”
Kieran waited in the front living room, looking out the window at the black beyond, trying desperately to focus. A million things needed his attention. The hard numbers were coming in regarding his forces, and his numbers were sorely lacking compared to his father’s. Valens wasn’t a well-liked man, but he knew where to spend his money and the widespread fear he cultivated served him well. Few people were brave enough to stand up to him.
Then there was the issue of transportation. Kieran needed to move large quantities of people at possibly a moment’s notice. That would require vehicles on call. But a single person purchasing a fleet of buses or vans would be noticed, not to mention he’d need a warehouse to store them all in. He had to figure out the best way to camouflage his actions.
The ocean was another problem. A Demigod grew in power the longer they lived. Though Kieran and his father were both immortal, Kieran was practically a baby in comparison—Valens had been alive for centuries. One on one, his father would almost surely beat him. Age had made Valens stronger in Poseidon’s magic. Faster. More adaptable. He did things on their “leisurely” swims that widened Kieran’s eyes. Kieran had a lot to learn, and through micro-aggressions and power plays, his father loved to remind him of that fact. If at all possible, he needed to stay on land. That, or he needed to post people in the ocean.
He massaged his temples. A million things needed his attention, but his mind kept slipping back to one.
He tapped his fingers against the arm of the chair.
For one heart-stopping moment earlier, when he’d read Alexis’s text incorrectly, he’d thought his father had sent someone after her. That she was the target.
Fear such as he’d never experienced had deluged him, and he’d nearly jumped up and run for the door. It would’ve been rash beyond belief. She could’ve easily protected herself against minor threats, and if the spy had taken her into custody, he could have devised a plan to get her back.
But where Alexis was concerned, he lost all sense of logic. All reason. Nothing else mattered—not his duty or his vengeance. Just her.
The bell chimed, pushing him out of his reverie. Sodge, his father’s ancient butler, who would probably rather go to bed than stay up to take care of his master’s disappointment of a son, was surely on his way to let Zorn in.
Sure enough, a few minutes later Sodge slowly walked into the room, his loose jowls shaking and his lips slightly turned down. Zorn followed.
“Sir,” Sodge said, his tone flat. “Master Zorn is here to see you.”
“Yes, thank you, Sodge. That’ll be all.”
“Of course, sir.” Sodge turned, paused for a moment, then left the room. He was an odd one, and would surely be delighted when Kieran was out of the house for good. So would Kieran.
“Sir,” Zorn said, staying where he was.
Kieran rose from the cream-colored chair. “Let’s speak outside.”
He led the way to the double doors that opened out onto the back deck. The moonlight shone down, highlighting the dark waters of the ocean far below. The salty breeze ruffled his hair and sang to his heart, asking him to dive down deep and swim until he forgot all his woes.
If only that were possible.
Before Zorn could speak, he altered the winds and the violence of the ocean below. Any words loud enough to be overheard would be whisked out to sea. Not that his father or Sodge would concern themselves with him. They both thought he was useless.
“News?” Kieran asked.
“Nothing new from our efforts, assuming you read Henry’s last report about Valens’s spies in the non-magical government?”
He nodded. Yes, he certainly had. Over a dozen of his father’s people had infiltrated all levels of the non-magical San Francisco government, one as high as an advisor. Had the mayor decided to fall in league with Kieran, that advisor would’ve been in on the ground floor. Kieran’s battle would’ve been over before it had begun.
His father excelled at the long game. For years, he’d been weakening the non-magical sector of San Francisco from the inside out. His spies in the government reported any shortcomings to him, so he always knew when to step in with aid. In the guise of keeping the region strong, he had skillfully created a dependency. One day, all he’d have to do was pull away the aid, and the non-magical government would come tumbling down.
The man had absolutely earned his cunning reputation. His strategy was just shy of brilliant. His spies were everywhere.
If Kieran hoped to take him down, he could make no mistakes.
“I assume your father is otherwise engaged?” Zorn asked as he lowered onto the patio couch.
“Yes. He’s having someone over tonight. He asked Sodge to ready the…party room. He’ll be in his bathroom, freshening up.”
The party room was basically a sex room with good air freshener and regular cleanings. It was the only room in the house Kieran had never entered.
He expected Zorn to say something about the woman who’d followed Alex and Bria from the bar. Instead, he straightened his spine and said, “The results from the test came in. I got a call right before I had to go bag Bria.”