My heart pushed up into my throat and I staggered backward, caught off guard.

“Hold, dammit!” Bria lunged forward at an angle to intercept. “Get a hold of yourself, Thane.”

I blinked rapidly, not sure if this was a drill, or if he was really losing it. The other two guys hadn’t reacted, though, which meant it couldn’t be that bad.

I batted down the fear and surprise and focused. Going off gut instinct, I wrapped the orange power around the blue, covering the hard box containing Thane’s soul. I squeezed, feeling for any give. There wasn’t any. I squeezed harder. Still nothing. Like an egg in the palm of a hand, the vessel’s design withstood the pressure. This wasn’t the way to his soul.

Thane pushed Bria to the side, closing the distance between him and me at extreme speed. He swung an arm, fist closed, aiming for my face.

“Holy shit birds.” I flung myself backward, lashing out with my magic.

Bria pivoted and kicked, clipping Thane’s moving ankles. His feet swept out from under him. He fell, eyes widening. He had barely hit the ground before Bria was on top of him, her knife poised to strike.

“Jesus, she’s vicious,” Donovan said with a gleeful smile.

“Uncle,” Jack said, clutching his chest. “To all of this. Uncle! I want to go home.”

I took another jab at Thane’s steel cage, trying to poke a hole into it. Like squeezing it, nothing happened.

“Hurra!” Thane’s word took no real shape.

He bucked up, a surge of strength and power that sent Bria flying, arms windmilling, knife catching and throwing the sun.

“She getting to ya, bud?” Donovan said, a full smile covering his handsome face. “Just need to hear that uncle.”

“Don’t taunt him,” Bria yelled.

“Why?” Donovan asked. “He’s been through worse than this.”

“She is”—Bria hopped up like she was on a spring—“messing around”—she grabbed the back of Thane’s shirt—“in his shit!”

The fabric ripped but held, Thane now dragging the knife-wielding Bria behind him as he attempted to get to me.

My body stilled and adrenaline pumped into my bloodstream. Without thinking, I slashed my magic through him. But I hadn’t increased the power.

Thane staggered but didn’t go down. He huffed through his nose, like a bull, and a shiver went through his body. The smile dripped off of Donovan’s face. A curse slipped from Jack’s lips.

Thane was about to reveal his magic, and I was no longer sure I wanted to know what it was.

2

Alexis

“He’s not a minotaur, right?” I asked with a tremor in my voice. “You’d tell me if something that dangerous and off-balance were participating in my training…right?”

“Drop him, Alexis,” Bria shouted, stabbing with her knife. The blade dug into Thane’s side.

He didn’t so much as twitch.

His heavy footfalls crashed onto the ground. His breath came out in hard pants. His rage-filled eyes shone with malice.

“Drop him now before he turns!” she yelled.

Cold dripped down my spine as another shiver traveled Thane’s length. Donovan stepped forward, and I felt his power pulse.

Like a panicked woman trying to fit car keys into the ignition as a masked madman revved a chainsaw nearby, I reached for more magic. The Line pulsed, promising power aplenty, but I had to keep some semblance of focus to use it properly.

Thane’s body grew, straining at his white T-shirt and cotton sweats. Muscles bulged along his frame, so big they were inhuman.

“Turns into what?” I demanded with a high-pitched screech.

Donovan shoved his hands forward. Thane jolted to the side, his face reddening.

“Don’t do that, it’ll just piss him off,” Bria hollered.

Donovan lifted his hands this time, and Thane rose up into the air.

“Donovan is a freaking Telekinetic?” I asked, jogging to the side of the house. I was no hero—if Thane was about to freak out, I was happy to get out of Dodge.

Donovan ripped his hands down, and Thane crashed into the ground. Jack jogged up on the other side, ready to help.

“Alexis, dammit, slice through him,” Bria said with her bloody knife in hand and legs bent.

A strange growl, like that of a rage-filled beast, rose up out of Thane’s chest. His eyes, beating into me, gleamed crimson.

“What the hell is he, a cross between a shifter and a vampire?” Fear tightened my throat as I hunkered down at the corner of the house.

“Calm down, buddy,” Jack said in a smooth voice, his hands out. “She’ll fuck with your head, but she won’t kill ya. You gotta have faith.”

“The boss trusts her, bro,” Donovan said, and he lifted his hands into the air. Thane rose ten feet off of the ground, his ridiculously large muscles flexed, ready for action.

“Quit knocking him around,” Jack berated. “Let him get his head straight. He can still come back from this.”

Another low growl started in Thane’s chest, shivering up through his body and gaining strength and volume as it did so.

“Fuck,” Bria said softly, drifting closer to Jack. “Alexis, you’d sure be a lot of help right now. You know, if you used your fucking magic. Don’t worry about hurting him. He might be past that now. Just worry about taking him down.”

“He can come back from this,” Jack insisted. “I’ve seen him come back from the brink. He has the most incredible control of any of his kind.”

“What should we do, run?” Bria asked.

“From a Berserker?” Jack yelled. “Are you out of your fucking mind? They love a chase.”

The color seemed to drain from my reality as Donovan magically lifted Thane a little higher. I barely heard him say, “I got it.”

“Did you say…a Berserker?” I asked through suddenly numb lips.

Berserkers were basically mindless killing machines. They were faster and stronger than an average man, and could rip through shields, magical and otherwise. On the battlefield they were hard as hell to kill, and once they got going, they didn’t stop until everyone was dead.

I’d just set loose a Berserker. In my backyard.

With the kids in the house.

Thane threw his arms wide with an agonized roar. Fabric tore across his shoulders. Red infused his cheeks and anger burned in his crimson gaze, still rooted to mine. He convulsed and arched, letting the roar build until it filled the backyard.

The sound stuck my tongue to the top of my mouth and fear rooted my feet to the ground.

Thane thrashed in the air, ripping and tearing at the invisible hold. Glowing red whips of magic lashed out, crackling through Donovan’s magic.

“Never mind. It’s not fine.” Jack took a step back. The panic I felt laced his words. “Call Demigod Kieran.”

“I got him,” Donovan insisted. He backed up, distancing himself from that lashing magic.

A glowing red whip glided delicately through the air before savagely cracking Donovan across the face. He jerked back and Thane lowered dramatically.

“We have to stop him.” My voice was no more than a whisper. I could barely feel my shaking legs. “The kids are in danger.”

My heart, already galloping, kicked up its pace. I ripped my foot from the ground and struggled it forward, toward the enormous man-beast. Then the other foot. A strange primal fear gripped me, and I fought through it with gritted teeth.

Thane pointed his toes in the air and stuck his fists out to the sides before a roar-scream erupted from his mouth. Magic shimmied around him. The ripped remains of his shirt fell away, revealing a torso so lumpy with muscle it looked unnatural. His skin shone, almost metallic, and flares of magic whipped out in all directions, electrifying the air.

Those whips merged into one thick line, sizzling like a live wire. It rose, almost lazily, before snapping out at lightning speed. The end sliced across Donovan’s right arm, opening a large gash. Blood oozed out a moment later.

Donovan screamed and staggered backward, his right arm dropping. Thane’s body jolted downward. One foot touched the ground. His huge band of magic whipped again. The air crackled as it struck, but Donovan dove away, barely escaping the attack.

Thane’s second foot touched the ground. He staggered forward.

Bria dashed in with her knife, raking it across Thane’s wide chest. It didn’t leave a mark. Steel couldn’t damage a Berserker once they shifted.

“Shit, I forgot about that,” she said before throwing herself to the side, away from one of Thane’s huge fists.

Donovan grabbed the air with both hands, one of them trembling. Thane roared and shook, magic sizzling around him, and threw off the hold. Jack dodged in, ducking under a fast-moving fist. He grabbed Thane around the middle and tried to rip him to the side.

Thane barely budged.

He clapped his enormous hands on Jack’s back before grabbing and flinging. Jack flew ass over end, like a doll, into my fence.

“Holy…” I struggled with my foot, trying to override the intense desire to step backward again.

The back door swung open and a confused Daisy stuck her head out. “What in the hell is—” She caught sight of Thane at the exact moment he caught sight of her. “Is that Thane?”

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