Page 11

After discovering Alexis’s true magic, which meant she could only be the child of a Demigod in Hades’s line, they’d taken a DNA sample from her to discern which of the three Demigods had fathered her, a large undertaking since they didn’t want anyone to know of her existence. They’d had to make a lot of new friends, many of whom had not been cheaply bought.

“Who is it?” Kieran asked.

“Our worst nightmare. Magnum.”

The breath left Kieran’s lungs in a whoosh.

Magnum came from a time when the norm was for children of Demigods to rise up and attempt to tear their fathers down. That was, of course, Kieran’s goal, but he was after good, old-fashioned revenge rather than power and territory. Magnum thought he could prevent any such uprisings by killing his offspring. And so far, he hadn’t been wrong, which was why he’d never changed his stance. Have his baby, and he’d kill the kid. Everyone knew the stakes, and because of that, he had remained child-free for decades.

Crazy didn’t just go away.

“You’re sure?” Kieran asked quietly.

“Positive.” Zorn paused. “What are you going to do?”

Kieran shook his head. “He doesn’t know about her. I’ll need to keep it that way.”

“You can’t keep her from this fight. You know that. And when she opens up and uses her magic, everyone will take notice. Everyone. In the world.”

Kieran leaned forward against the wood railing. “I can force her to hide.”

“Like your father did your mother?”

Rage blistered through Kieran. “It wouldn’t be like that.”

“The intent might be different, but the result would be the same.”

“It’s the only way I can protect her.”

“No, it isn’t. And, excuse me for speaking plainly, but you can’t fully protect her. Not her. She and her wards won’t step down. They don’t care that they’re half-trained and mostly ignorant about the magical world. They have convinced themselves they’ll be the turning point in the battle, and without them, you’ll lose.”

Despite the situation, laughter bubbled up. “You have to admire that confidence.”

“You do. And yet, they aren’t totally wrong. The only way you can protect Alexis is to teach her to protect herself. That’s the best leg up you can give her. Then fight beside her when everything goes sideways. She’s a damn fine asset to have.”

Kieran stared out at the ocean for a quiet moment.

“She…made some strides today,” Zorn said.

“Oh yes?”

“Yes. Firstly, she found a hidden pocket of the spirit world here on our plane …” Zorn shook his head. “I don’t really understand it, to be honest. Jack said he found her earlier, standing in the middle of the sidewalk with her hands out, looking up at nothing. She expanded her magical reach with the help of the Line. That’s when she picked up…another realm.”

Kieran shook his head. “Have you ever heard of this?”

“No, but I know very little about the spirit world. The Hades Demigods would probably know something.”

“If only that were an option.”

“If only.”

“Did she know what use it might be?” Kieran asked.

“No. But she started experimenting with it almost immediately. The gremlin is not pleased. She’s not a fan of spirits.” Zorn pushed up to standing, catching Kieran’s attention. He had a feeling he wouldn’t like whatever was coming next. “Alexis prodded Thane too hard earlier. He went active.”

The words trickled around Kieran but didn’t quite seep in. The situation Zorn referenced shouldn’t be possible.

“Come again?”

Zorn clasped his hands behind his back, a submissive move for him. “Thane felt his limit approaching when training with Alexis. Not long after, she pushed him over.”

The words still weren’t making sense. “Pushed him over…”

“Thane went berserk.”

Fire rose up in Kieran’s middle. He had okayed Thane training with her and the kids, as long as Thane was sure he could stay in control. So far, that hadn’t been a problem.

“He was pushing his limits, and he didn’t walk away?” Kieran demanded.

“Bria told him to hold. She was in charge. He followed orders.”

“You put her in charge.”

“And you put me in charge.”

Without consciously planning it, Kieran took two fast steps and clutched Zorn’s throat. “Thane is one of the most powerful Berserkers in the world. You remember what happened when I had to subdue him. You remember how many people he hurt and killed—how many trained adults he had hurt and killed—before I made it to the scene.”

“Yes, sir.”

“If he’d made a complete change, you wouldn’t have been able to back him down. He would’ve torn through Alexis’s house. Her kids. Her neighborhood.” Fear choked him for the second time that day, his primal need to protect her overpowering his senses. His fingers tightened on Zorn’s throat. “He would’ve torn through Alexis.”

“He did make a complete change,” Zorn squeezed out, his hands still behind his back and his eyes calm despite his dwindling air supply. “Donovan, Bria, and Jack tried to back him down,” he continued, his voice hoarse. “It didn’t help. The kids came outside, which triggered Alexis, and she made Thane submit. She took him to the ground, all by herself. I was told that he said, ‘uncle.’ Literally.”

All Kieran could do was stare. The words didn’t compute.

“That’s impossible,” he finally uttered. “She’s not fully trained.”

“And yet it happened.”

Kieran peeled back his fingers from around Zorn’s throat. He forced himself to return to his position at the banister. Zorn stayed where he was, his hands kept behind his back. He was taking responsibility for what had happened with Thane.

“She won’t go undetected for long, sir. And the only training that seems to work for her isn’t exactly inconspicuous. She can’t stay in the dual-society zone much longer.”

Kieran had a solution for that. But it would require him to leave his father’s house, and doing so would start the countdown. Once his father was onto him, he’d have to move quickly. Quicker than the time it would take for his father’s allies to back him up.

He needed more time to prepare.

When he didn’t respond, Zorn walked over to lean on the banister beside him. “Alexis told you where she was earlier tonight. At what bar.”

“Don’t start with that. I’m barely hanging on to control as it is.”

“Alexis paid the bill. She told her ex-boyfriend to shove it, then hit him with her magic. She reacted just like you said she would.”

He took a deep breath, and something tight and sharp loosened in his middle.

She’d reacted like he’d hoped she would. There were never any assurances when it came to Alexis.

“You made the right choice, letting her stake your claim,” Zorn said. “Bria expressed a grudging respect for your decision, which doesn’t mean much, but—”

“It does,” Kieran responded. “It means a great deal, actually. She’s been leery of me since day one.”

“She’s warming up to you.”

“So it seems. Bria was a good choice to mentor Alexis.”

A sly smile crossed Zorn’s lips. He didn’t respond.

“We’ll move them into the new house tomorrow,” Kieran said, grudgingly making the decision. “It’s time. If she tries to refuse, we’ll work on the kids. They’ll bend her to their will. I want us all in the same location.”

Zorn nodded and dug into his pocket. He pulled out his phone as Kieran was turning back toward the house.

“This is who was following the girls.” Zorn held up a picture.

Adrenaline ran through him. He looked over the woman’s face, then waited as Zorn swiped to show him a body shot.

Flara wasn’t without talent, but she was too polished to blend into low-income areas.

“And now we are certain—my father has noticed his employees missing.”

They both knew Valens used her, in all forms of the word, exclusively.

“So it seems.” Zorn slipped his phone back in his pocket. “He’s caught scent of the trail.”

“Not yet. That he sent Flara means he’s still sniffing. But he’s headed in the right direction. Things will start moving quickly now.”

“Yes, sir.”

Kieran paused. “You saved this for the last piece of news. It would’ve cut our conversation in half. Why wait?”

Another sly smile curved Zorn’s lips. He shrugged. “Curiosity. I wanted to see what you’d do with the other information before I…pushed the agenda.”

“You’re ready to go to war.”

“Been ready, sir. All we have left is the details.”

Kieran turned, lead in his middle. “Wars are won and lost in the details.”

And he intended to win.

8

Alexis

Good morning, beautiful.

A smile graced my face as I read the message on my phone. Kieran was smooth, I had to give him that, and right now, I needed it. It helped me ignore the lingering feeling of impending doom from the night before. Bria didn’t seem that stressed considering she was being watched by a Demigod, but I was plenty freaked out on her behalf.

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