“I pulled Henry, for now,” Kieran said, stopping beside me, his arm brushing mine and sending an arc of electricity between us. Primal energy crouched within him, emanating strength and power. Without trying, he stood out from even this group of exceptionable magical talent and fighting prowess. No one would have to ask which one of them was the Demigod—his radiance and air of command was all too clear. “Amber is active.”
Henry put his laptop down on the table in the suddenly still room.
“Who’s Amber?” I asked into the hush.
“Kimmie Draves.” Henry pulled out a chair. “Goes by Amber in the field. She’s one of three magical people heralded as the world’s best spies. Her skills at espionage far outshine most. Her attention to detail and ability to sniff out discrepancies is almost unparalleled. Word is, she has her team poring through digital files and records. No one knows what she’s hunting for, but she’s asking questions. Specifically, she’s asking about Alexis’s reassessment.”
My blood ran cold as Kieran stepped toward the island, putting himself in the middle of his crew. Something about him spoke of unwavering confidence, of his ability to control the situation, no matter how dire. His very presence calmed my trembling limbs. His hard gaze straightened my spine. He hadn’t said a word, but I trusted that he could lead and protect us.
I understood exactly why the guys put all their faith in him. His power of leadership was such that it really did seem like he had everything covered.
But Daisy had been right, too. He couldn’t do it alone. The pressure was increasing, and soon we’d be called upon to fight. We needed every advantage we could get.
“We knew this would happen,” Kieran said in a steady voice. “I prepared for it. I hid our tracks carefully—”
“I could’ve done better these past few months,” Bria mumbled, her expression frustrated. She shook her head. “I got sloppy a few times—”
Kieran put out his hand. “You’ve done fine. It’s taken them this long without any solid leads. It’ll take her a while longer to piece everything else together. He hasn’t discovered us yet. Jack, check that food.”
Jack started and turned.
“We’re procuring transportation as we speak,” Kieran went on, easily holding everyone’s attention even as Jack scrambled to calm down a steak engulfed in flames. “The bodies for our undead army have been magically sealed to stop further deterioration. Our land troops are watchful and ready. We have people swimming into the area from Europe. We may not have the numbers we’d like, but we’re prepared. My father is not expecting an internal battle. His strategies are geared toward politics and territory takeover. I will be a surprise to him, I am positive. That’ll give us an edge.”
I heard Daisy grumble but couldn’t make out what she said.
Kieran looked around the room. Spines straightened within the confines of his gaze. Just a look from him was enough to bolster his men.
But they didn’t feel what I did. They didn’t sense the anxiety rolling off Kieran in waves.
“We can do this,” he said. “We’re ready for this.”
Pressure settled on my chest, and Bria’s hard eyes met mine. I read her loud and clear—Kieran didn’t fully believe his own words, but I needed to keep that to myself for the sake of group morale. Part of leading was instilling your people with confidence in a dire situation. I’d practiced that with the kids often enough.
“We’ve done all we can for the moment,” Kieran said, reaching for a bottle of wine. “No one is scheduled to follow me tonight as long as I stay on magical soil. We have cameras set up all around the neighborhood—if someone comes spying, we’ll know in advance. Let’s enjoy a meal and some downtime. No wars will be starting tonight.”
His gaze hit mine, deep and open. A question lingered in their depths.
Another wave of anxiety rolled through me, and this time, it was all my own. I had a decision to make. A decision that might change my whole life.
Dinner went by much too quickly. Despite the danger nipping at our heels, the guys could banter and chitchat with the best of them. My sides split from laughing so hard.
When everyone had finished and rubbed their bellies, they stood up slowly to clear away plates.
“No.” Kieran stopped me from standing with them. He shook his head. “Let the guys do it.”
“Lucky.” Donovan crinkled his nose at me in jest.
“She’s banging a Demigod,” Bria mumbled, taking her plate to the sink. “She’s getting the short end of the stick on that one. Soon he’ll start cutting her meat for her.”
“I want someone to cut my meat for me, are you kidding?” Henry dropped some dishes next to the sink. “Feed me, too, I don’t care. It’ll leave my hands free to scratch my balls.”
“You’re considered the charming one of the group?” Bria shook her head. “And you wonder why I don’t date?”
“Not with that personality I don’t.” Henry laughed.
Kieran stood and ran a lock of my hair through his fingers. He directed his comment to the kids. “We have ice cream and cake if you want some. I’m going to show Alexis—”
“Come on, man!” Bria cupped her hands over Mordecai’s ears. “They’re just kids. They don’t want to know what you’re going to show Alexis.”
“No, we certainly don’t want to know what you’re going to show Alexis,” Henry mumbled.
Kieran gave Bria a flat look.
“It’s fine, go.” Daisy waved him away. “Woo her into accepting that house.”
“Boy has your tune changed,” Jack said, bumping Thane out of the way to get at the cake Donovan was uncovering.
“For my own bedroom and bathroom, I’ll join a chorus and sing his praise,” Daisy replied dryly.
“Come on.” Kieran slid his fingertips over the bare skin on my neck. Goosebumps covered my flesh and heat raged in my core. “I have something I want to show you.”
“Does it rhyme with—”
“No.” Henry held up his hand to stop Bria. “There are actually kids present, in case you forgot from two seconds ago.”
I took Kieran’s hand and let him pull me up, ignoring the tomfoolery going on around me and instead focusing on the delicious hum spreading through my body. He led me out of the room and stopped at the base of the stairs, looking down onto me.
“Do you want to go up?” he asked quietly.
I took in his handsome face and those perfect, shapely lips. “It would be awkward to strip you naked right here. Otherwise, I’d say no.”
He pulled me closer in a rush and planted his lips on mine. I fell into the kiss with everything I had, wrapping my arms around his neck and hugging him tightly. His hands spread across my back, his fingers lightly pressing in, as he angled his head and swirled his tongue with mine. I moaned into his mouth and ran my fingers through his hair.
“Stop,” he said, gripping my hips hard, breathing heavily. “Let’s stop, or we will end up naked right here.”
Face turned up and mouth open, I panted with need.
“I want you to take that house across the street, but after learning this recent development, now it’ll have to come with strings—” His step back turned into a stagger. Still hanging on to him, I stepped heavily after him. He grinned sheepishly but didn’t apologize.
He turned and took my hand before climbing the stairs.
“My guys will take turns staying here. If the heat turns up, I’ll keep them here or at Henrietta’s house. If you stay at your home house…” I knew home house was what the Irish called their parents’ houses—where they grew up. Fear and anxiety bled through the soul connection, but his voice remained even and confident. “If you go back, we’ll reassess the schedule. I might have two guys on you at all times, and we’ll need an exit plan.”
I didn’t comment as he turned down the hall, so similar to the layout of the other house. He pointed at rooms we passed, all fully furnished guest rooms, just like mine—
I grimaced and squeezed my eyes shut.
Not mine. Henrietta’s.
Get out of my stomach, butterflies, it’s not my house!
He paused at the last door, straight ahead, and I knew from the layout it was his room. His fingers curled around the door knob.
“Are you afraid of rejection or something?” I teased, seeing—and feeling—his hesitation.
He chuckled softly but didn’t comment as he turned the handle and pushed the door open. The dwindling light of the early evening blazed through the airy and artfully decorated room. It cut across a deep blue rug that complemented the palette of a large oil painting on the wall. A king-sized bed took up the far wall and a little couch and two chairs congregated around the massive window facing the gorgeous blue ocean. Way out in the distance, a curtain of white waited for its chance to drift in and cover the mainland.
The soft click said he’d closed the door behind me, and heat unfurled within me. “This is beautiful,” I said, out of breath.
“I have a few less trees blocking my view than you do.” He wrapped his arms around my middle and held me close. “Whatever you decide about the house, it has nothing to do with this moment,” he whispered.
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