Daisy’s lips pulled to the side before she nodded thoughtfully. “That’s true, I guess.”
Mordecai was nodding, too.
Thane was looking at me like I’d just sprouted two horns while stealing Daisy’s milk money. He just didn’t get it.
“Remember, too.” I held up a finger. “A lot of magical people focus on their specific form of magic. They train in that magic. So, sure, they’re really good at that one thing, but their other skills are underdeveloped. Bria’s a garden-variety psychopath without her dead bodies, Jack needs water to shift, and Thane could’ve ripped Donovan’s head off. See what I mean? You’ll only have a disadvantage in that one thing your magical adversary is good at. So make sure you’re good at everything else, and capture that fucker the instant they’re not in their element.”
Daisy heaved a sigh as Mordecai rubbed her back. “It’ll be a lot of work,” she said.
“Yup. It will.” I shrugged. “But someone else is paying for it, and what else have you got to do?”
Thane leaned around the kids to better see my face. His expression was one of incredulity. I couldn’t tell whether that was a good thing.
“Okay, let’s go see what Kieran is nervous about.” I about-faced.
“I can’t speak or open doors when I use my magic,” I heard Mordecai say in a soft, comforting tone. “Changing form quickly is really tiring and painful, and so is changing a lot. I’m mostly stuck in one form or the other unless I plan out good times to change. At least you can always stay in human form.”
“I guess,” Daisy said glumly, but I could tell she was coming around.
Grass met the line of trees, an expanse of it spreading out behind a huge two-story house with two chimneys. Sensor lights lined the wall behind the house and cameras covered every inch of the spacious backyard. My heart quickened as I hurried to the side, ignoring the kids’ comments on the size of the place. Through the plain, stained wood gate (yes, I noticed those things now, thanks to Bria and her fixation on decorating) and around the house—
My heart leapt.
His deep black eyebrows arched over those entrancing stormy blue eyes. His sharp cheekbones and strong jaw gave his face a severity that said badass, but his shapely lips softened his overall look into a rugged, godly beauty. Raven hair was cut short on the sides and longer on top, trendy yet wild. A tight white T-shirt hugged his broad, muscular chest and loosened over what I knew was a washboard stomach. His stylishly distressed jeans hugged his powerful thighs.
Good heavens, the man was so freaking hot. But that’s not what drew me.
An untamed, raw energy pulsed from his body, like a thunderstorm right before the lightning zapped down. He was all the strength and power of the ocean, wild and tumultuous, aching to be let free. The effect, teamed with his charisma, drew me to him and made it painful to walk away.
“You made it,” he said, a sexy smirk playing across those kissable lips.
“Yeah. We would’ve been here sooner, but we were debating our chances of being murdered and dumped in an unmarked grave.”
“We still could be,” Daisy murmured behind me.
Kieran’s smile increased in wattage. Fire raged through my body and I blinked in a lust stupor. He must’ve felt it through the soul connection because heat kindled in his eyes.
“You had a Berserker in your car, and you were worried about me?” Kieran asked lightly, but I didn’t miss the flash of fear in his gaze. He hadn’t taken that news about Thane’s loss of control very well, I’d bet.
I laughed. “He’s the only reason we aren’t still sitting in the car right now.”
Kieran nodded, his acute focus rooted to me. It used to be disconcerting. Then it was distracting. Now, I could admit to myself that it was enthralling, being able to command his attention like I did. I’d never seen him focus this hard on anyone else, as if the rest of the world didn’t exist.
“So,” I said, trying to pretend my cheeks weren’t burning. “What do we have here?”
Kieran blinked, as if coming out of a fog. He tore his gaze away, but it found its way back to me.
“Your new house, obviously.”
My eyebrows wrestled my hairline. I’d been in a nice little moment just then, basking in his presence. Now I was flung back into the real world, trying to make sense of what I’d just heard.
As if mirroring my thoughts, Daisy asked Mordecai, “What did he just say?”
Kieran took a step back and made a grand sweep with his hand. Thane smiled like a gobshite.
“Happy early birthday,” Kieran said.
I left my eyebrows where they were and tilted my head. “My birthday isn’t for two months, number one, and…what?”
“I know. I’m early. I hate waiting and I love giving surprises, so…” Kieran gestured to the enormous house again.
Playing along, because it was never wise to antagonize Crazy, I took in the home I was standing in front of.
A three-car garage sprawled off to the left with a black BMW and Bria’s old Mazda (her actual car, not one of her stolen ones…I didn’t think) sitting in the driveway. Two more black BMWs hugged the curb out front. Clearly those belonged to the rest of the Six, hanging out inside like I’d thought. Two large stone pillars ran down each side of the front door, supporting stained glass windows. The door itself was embedded with one. Huge bay windows adorned the front of the house, overlooking careful landscaping.
Across the street was another large house, just as carefully tended, with Kieran’s red Ferrari parked in the driveway. The road ended not far from the houses, and beyond it the cliff bottomed out in the great wide ocean. The comforting roar of the waves washed over the quiet street.
We’d just been talking about Batman, and now we’d stumbled into a rich hermit’s paradise.
Two more houses could be seen at the other end of the street before a sharp corner took the road behind an array of leafy trees.
“It’s a gated community that didn’t take off like the developers had hoped,” Kieran said, following my gaze. “About half the houses are filled, and most of those are at the front, farther away from the dual-society zone. That one is mine.” Kieran pointed at the house where he was parked. “And this is yours. Well…” He spread his hands, and I had a strange urge to punch him in the stomach. “At the moment, it belongs to Henrietta Johnson, but since she only exists on paper, and all the paperwork is waiting for you inside, it’s as good as yours. As soon as we are out from under my father, she can sell it to you for a dollar, and that’ll be settled.”
I blinked a few times, and then blinked a few more times, and then wondered why neither of the kids were speaking. Turned out, it was because they were looking at me like two starving beggars eyeing a pot of gold.
“Okay, now hold on.” I put my hand up to stall whatever they planned on saying. “This isn’t like him buying us food, or the guys cooking it, or free training. This is…too much. Way too much. Like…way, way too much. So much too much that it is on its own planet of too much.”
“Yes, but you’re one-hundred-percent in his pocket now, and he is putting you in incredible danger,” Daisy reasoned. “He owes you this.”
I pushed my held-up hand her way. “For one thing, he’s my boss, which is different from being in his pocket, and for another, the danger he put me in is finished. The job is done; his mom is free. I’m now putting myself in incredible danger. If anyone is going to buy me a new house, it’s me. He doesn’t owe me squat but my next paycheck. Which I’ll use to buy myself that new house…someday.”
“He’s protecting us by putting us in a house without your name on it,” Mordecai said. I’d just known he’d have the better argument. The guy was too levelheaded for his own good. “You’d still have your house. A house that you can move back into when this is all done.”
“Right!” Daisy flung a finger at me. “The paperwork for Franny is inside—”
“Henrietta,” Mordecai supplied. Kieran’s smile sparkled.
“—but that doesn’t mean this is actually your house. It’s no one’s house. We can just squat here while all this Valens stuff is going down, and when that is done and we’re the victors, we can reassess.”
“It’s in the magical zone, Daisy,” I said. “You’re not magical.”
“I have an I.D. that says I am,” she replied smugly.
“That’s why I had Zorn put in—”
“No.” I moved my hand from Daisy to Kieran, silencing them both. “It’s dangerous here. If Valens’s people find her here, they can kill her outright. At least there are laws Valens has to follow in the dual-society zone.”
“Valens doesn’t have to follow laws anywhere,” Kieran said, his humor dissipating. “He sent that woman after Bria yesterday, and it won’t be long before he sends someone better. If he goes after you, Alexis, I’ll be the only thing standing in his way. I need you here so I can protect you. This is the best compromise I could make. You’ll be safer here. You all will.”