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“Why else did he send the Berserker with us?” she replied.

“He didn’t. I opted to come with you,” Thane said, his full volume unnaturally loud in the quiet car.

“To see the massacre?” Daisy clucked her tongue. “Sick.”

“This is not a murder scene,” Thane said.

“Yeah right, like we can believe you.” Daisy huffed softly. “You work for the guy.”

I pulled down the visor, Bria’s trademark surreptitious move, which really seemed to fit the moment. I made a mental note to make fun of her a little less.

“We’re not here to be killed.” I glanced out the window at a newspaper caught in the wind, scraping the street. “Probably.”

“This place is so out of touch, it has actual newspapers,” Mordecai said.

The pulse of Kieran throbbed in my middle, telling me he was away right. But the brick wall was away right, and any view of what lay beyond was obscured by enormous greenery. The other side of that wall was probably thriving and lovely. This side was that side’s toilet.

“This is the perfect spot for a murder.” Daisy leaned back to look out her window. “He could bury you right here. Who would know? There are four houses, and three are boarded up. The owner of the fourth must’ve decided boarding was too good for that ramshackle piece of shhh—garbage. It was just left to rot. Like we will be.”

“Yes, thank you, Daisy, for the running commentary,” I said dryly, pulling the car to the curb and hesitantly putting it in park. There had to be a reason Kieran wanted me in this rough part of the city. He didn’t do things like this without a purpose.

“Hell, the ocean is right there,” Daisy continued, almost like she was talking to herself. “He could just throw you off that cliff and have the currents take you away. He wouldn’t even have to bother killing you. Your magic doesn’t faze him anymore. He could throw you over his shoulder like the caveman he is, super-speed jog you to the edge, and plop goes the nuisance. Doneskies.”

I tuned her out. “Were we supposed to drive into the magical zone?” I asked in confusion. “Because that—”

“No,” Thane said. “You’re in the right place, and this is not a murder scene. Beyond that, you need to figure it out for yourself.”

A relieved breath exited Daisy. “Thank God,” she said. “It’s just training.”

Thane’s seat groaned. “Did you honestly think we would’ve spent all this time training you up, just to kill you off?” he asked Daisy.

I turned off the car and reached for the door handle. “Yes, she did. You have no idea what sort of upbringing she had. Trust is hard-earned.”

I ran my hand down the center of my chest as I walked around the car, feeling the pounding connection to Kieran. I crossed the grimy sidewalk and watched my step on the uneven, sandy ground. Dune grass stuck up beside shrubbery gone wild. I neared the wall, stepping around a suspicious looking bone that I hoped had belonged to a large animal.

“I smell blood,” Mordecai whispered, right behind me. “The scent is faint. Very old. But it’s there.”

“What would be so important about this place that the guys would postpone our actual training to bring us here?” Daisy murmured, catching up to my side. “It has to be more than a wall, right? It has to be more than a barrier. Somehow, this has to help our cause.”

“I agree, but…” Mordecai shook his head. He didn’t see how. Neither did I.

Divots lined the top edge of the wall. Occasionally four parallel lines slashed through the grime. They looked like claw marks. Like something big and bad had tried to escape over the wall and couldn’t quite make it.

“That doesn’t bode well,” Mordecai said softly, his eyes on those lines.

Down the way, in the direction of the ocean, a large black crack cut through the dirty, dingy rust-red bricks. Dark spots started near it on one side, and ended on the other side, almost like someone had painted them on. Around the line, a few bricks stuck out farther than others, or were crumbled away, like someone had taken a chisel to the wall in places. All in all, the area was just similar enough to the rest of the wall that I wouldn’t have noticed the differences if I hadn’t been looking for them, but now that I was…

“Am I losing my grip…” I started down that way. “Or is this area down here…not quite right?”

“You’re right, it’s different. It must be an illusion,” Daisy said with confidence. “Zorn did it.”

“Zorn can pull off illusions?” I kept my eyes on the area so I didn’t lose it, worried that I’d look away and not find it again. Some of the spaces between the bricks were brighter than others, with fresher mortar. Occasionally, though, unless my eyes were playing tricks on me, the brighter spots shifted position. “Zorn’s an Illusionist?”

“No, Illusionists can create nuance and detail a Djinn can’t. Wait, you didn’t know what he was?” Daisy asked, shocked. “You have these guys in your house, you train with them, and you don’t even know what they are?”

I stopped walking. I couldn’t help it. Nor could I help the smile sneaking up my face. “Zorn is a genie?”

“Yeah.” Daisy motioned me on. “A Marid. The most powerful kind. Why do you think he makes such an awesome spy and assassin? He can turn into gas, for God’s sake. Gas, Lexi! He can drift through cracks in walls. And he somehow thinks I can be as good as he is?” She snorted. “Fat chance.”

“He said that?” Thane asked as I started forward again, my grin bigger. “That you can be as good as him?”

She ignored him. Daisy wasn’t one to tell stories or throw around her ego. Apparently, she was also having trouble believing in herself. I’d need to circle back to that.

“He doesn’t grant wishes, though,” she said, her voice softening as we slowly walked along the wall. “I looked it up. Only nobility can do that, and he was born a nobody. His father had a gambling problem and his mother didn’t like working. They were both powerful, but they didn’t do much with it. Besides beat their kid, I mean.”

“Daisy babbles when she gets nervous,” Mordecai said to me, as though I hadn’t lived with her as long as he had. He looked up at the sky. “I smell Kieran on the breeze.”

That was because he was close. Not far beyond the wall.

Why did Kieran want us in the magical zone? Even being on the outskirts was dangerous, especially for Daisy. She had no business going beyond that wall. And neither did I if I wanted to stay undetected.

“This isn’t a murder scene, but is that?” I muttered, thinking of our destination.

“Still no,” Thane said, checking his watch.

With a furrowed brow, Daisy reached for the patch of brick that didn’t seem quite right. Her pinkie brushed against the strange discolored crack.

“I was right,” she said softly. Her hand still looked like it was reaching toward brick, but as I stepped up closer to the wall, I could see that her hand had passed right through the supposed barrier.

She swung her other hand to the side and I pushed back, giving her room. I could tell this wasn’t the first time she’d had to feel through one of Zorn’s illusions. Her right hand jerked to a stop as it bumped against another edge, indicating there was a large hole through the magical barrier.

“Another brick wall was put in back here.” Daisy stepped forward and her body disappeared beyond the crack.

I followed, in time to see her palms bump up against the second brick wall. My senses revolted again before piecing the situation together. A six-foot-wide or so hole had been knocked through the old brick wall, the original barrier between the dual-society zone and the magical zone. A new wall had been built about five feet back, connected to the old with brick on one side. The other side had been left open as a pass through, like the opening of a labyrinth. On top of that, Zorn’s magic had smoothed everything together so it looked like the old brick wall was one long plane. Clever. He wasn’t an Illusionist, but he’d done the job just fine.

“Do you think the guys created this hidden doorway?” Daisy asked. “Or was it here and they just covered it up?”

“We did it,” Thane said. “The location fit the intent.”

“What’s on the other side?” Mordecai asked.

My stomach fluttered. “Kieran.”

11

Valens

“Report,” Valens said, leaning back in his chair. Soft music played from the other side of his large office and light streamed in through the many windows facing the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. He stalled to straighten a piece of paper before fully facing one of his best spies.

After Flara’s lackluster report last night and his inability to reach climax, he’d been left with no choice but to listen to his gut. The Necromancer was a stronger lead than Flara would have him believe. He could feel it.

Amber, a name solely used when she was working, chosen at random from a list of top stripper names, stood straight and tall just inside the door. Her silky black hair cascaded over her slim shoulders. Intelligent onyx eyes surveyed him, no doubt cataloging each nuance of his tone and body language to determine his exact mood and level of patience. She’d know she was under the gun to perform.

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