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Will that happen to me? Will I continue the family tradition by losing my sanity and imprisoning the one I love?

He pushed back the covers and climbed out of bed while grabbing his phone from the nightstand. A few messages waited for him. The first was from Zorn. The kids had settled into their new home easily and had met in Mordecai’s room to discuss how to make the situation permanent. Then Daisy had disabled the monitoring device outside of her door, found the listening device in her room and taken that out, and proceeded to lock herself inside. She hadn’t turned out her light until the small hours of the morning.

Zorn’s message held some strong notes of pride. Apparently, he had installed the devices to see if she’d look for them, but hadn’t actually expected her to find them. She’d proved to be a more cunning and insightful protégé than he’d originally expected.

The last message from Zorn made Kieran smile: She’s plotting something.

The pupil was trying to out-do the teacher. That should keep Zorn on his toes.

He didn’t bother replying. He didn’t want to spoil their games.

The next message was from Donovan: One of the cameras was disabled at Lexi’s house. Can’t tell what knocked it down. Nothing seemed amiss around the property. Don’t think there’s anything to be alarmed about if she’s staying with us.

Donovan again: btw- I bought the kids new laptops. Theirs was beyond shitty. You might get Alexis one.

He frowned as he set his phone aside to slip on some sweats. Scenarios of his father’s people knocking down a camera played through his head. Possibly someone of Flara’s skillset might’ve resorted to such an obvious attempt to create a blind spot, but if that had been the case, Donovan would’ve noticed their intrusion on the property.

He snatched up his phone again, thinking it through as he headed downstairs. Jack waited at the island with an open laptop next to him. His phone sat off to the side and he had a half cup of coffee in front of him. He was manning the mobile security feed for Alexis’s home house.

“Any news?” Kieran asked, heading straight to the coffee pot.

“Breakfast is in the oven.” Jack absently gestured that way, his eyes not leaving the screen.

“I’ll make something fresh, thanks.”

“Did you get Donovan’s message?”

“About the knocked-down camera?” Kieran waited for Jack to nod. “How do you think it happened? Donovan said he didn’t see any cause for concern.”

“The camera caught a brief blur before it went out, like the flap of a wing or something.” Jack scratched his cheek. “The moisture from the constant fog had weakened the bindings and the weight of the camera stretched ’em out. The other cameras needed to be re-secured.” He shook his head, frowning at the laptop. “They were high in the tree and nothing else was messed with—I agree with Donovan’s assessment. I’m more concerned about Amber.” He looked up at Kieran. “If Alexis is planning on hanging around here with us, of course.”

Kieran filled the coffee pot and set it to brewing. He felt a smile as he placed a pan on the stove before opening the fridge. Despite the new threat and mountain of odds and ends he had to see to, at least Alexis would be close. It was one huge worry off of the table.

“She decided to stay,” he said, and couldn’t help the smug tone to his voice.

Jack nodded, going back to surveillance. “Good deal. What are your plans?”

Kieran gestured at the breakfast preparation, feigning a relaxed manner even though he felt anything but. He had to see how far Amber had gotten and try to head her off as well as he possibly could while he continued organizing a war effort with dwindling time and resources. Knowing Alexis could feel his inner turmoil, he needed her effectively distracted so no one would see her resulting worry, all while he played it cool to his peers.

He took a deep breath and focused in on the moment. “I’m making my lady breakfast in bed, what does it look like?”

Jack grinned and shook his head. “Late to the girlfriend game, and you’re still going to make us all look bad.”

Kieran laughed. “That’s because I intend to keep this one.”

He took the eggs out of the fridge, his thoughts slipping back to the danger at hand. “I need to figure out how far Amber has gotten,” he said. “And I have to start putting things in motion. Ready or not, we need to move.” He gritted his teeth. “I don’t know where I’m going to find any more troops. We’re going to be the underdogs in this one.”

If Jack heard the uncertainty in Kieran’s voice, he didn’t let on. “We were always going to be the underdogs, sir. But that’s just fine because the gremlin says we’ll win so long as we have her family on board.” He shrugged. “Thanks to you, we do. We’re good.”

The gremlin was what the guys and Bria had started calling Daisy because of her vicious fighting style.

Kieran wished he could believe Jack—he just didn’t know that they’d be enough. He needed a miracle.

“You and Zorn are on Alexis and the kids today,” he said, cracking an egg. “She’ll probably want to go shopping for the house, which is fine as long as she stays in the dual-society zone and you stay out of sight. We don’t need to help Amber connect the dots. But the second you sense danger, get her out of there. My father is still following breadcrumbs, so I doubt he’ll act just yet, but it’s better to be safe.”

“Yes, sir.”

Kieran paused in whisking the eggs, a pang hitting him center mass. He had wanted to be there for Alexis’s shopping spree, watching her eyes glimmer as she roamed her favorite stores without compromise. He remembered the way she’d argued with herself over that blanket she’d wanted to buy for Mordecai. She wouldn’t have to hesitate anymore. Anything she wanted, he’d give her. Anything in the world. Except, at the moment, his time.

Fire burned in his middle, but he pushed it down. It couldn’t be helped. He was too far on this path to walk away. It wasn’t just about vengeance, anymore. His father needed to be stopped. A lot of people would die if his father’s plans were realized.

Valens had to be stopped, and his allies needed to be torn down.

One thing at a time.

“So long as the coast is clear when she’s shopping,” he said, “let her take as long as she wants. I’ll be furnishing her with a credit card. Make sure she has a good day of it.”

“Of course, sir. She’s great at spreading her good mood. A pity she couldn’t go to better stores, though. Dual-society stores sell cheap crap. It all breaks too easily.”

“Maybe you should be kinder on her things.”

Jack smiled. “Maybe she should gain some muscle and feel my pain.”

Kieran layered the pan with eggs. “You’ll probably live to regret those words.”

He sure hoped so, at any rate. He’d need all the help he could get.

19

Alexis

“Wait. Stop right there.”

I barely heard Bria as I paused in the entryway of my new kitchen. I’d left Kieran’s as noon waved goodbye. While part of me had hated leaving his warm body and exhilarating touch, another part of me was desperately excited to check out my new digs. Like this kitchen.

I had a new kitchen.

“I said stop right there.”

I kept ignoring Bria as I swept my fingers over the kitchen table, then looked out the window at the windswept trees swaying in the backyard.

My backyard. My large, carefully tended backyard.

The crash of the waves pounding against the cliff face pulsed through the room and my body. The pull of the current tugged at my awareness, a strange feeling that I imagined would be ten times stronger and more useful if I were actually in the ocean.

Kieran had given me a bigger dose of his magic last night, and my blood was singing. I’d also imparted a bigger dose of my magic on him—if the soul connection could be called as such—and could feel his tranquility and contentment as though it were my own. Or maybe it was.

I smiled and stopped by the sink as I felt the distance between us increase. He was on his way to the magical government building, then to the magical fair that was about to open in the dual-society zone. In other words, he was keeping up appearances.

Somewhere along the way he’d have to talk to his father, too. He hadn’t told his dad, in person, that he was moving out.

My stomach flipped and I let out a breath slowly, aiming for calm.

Steady girl, we’re not under fire yet.

I opened an empty drawer and stared at the interior blankly, willing my worry to drift away. I needed to furnish this kitchen. The guys needed to cook, and to do that, they needed appliances and kitchenware.

There has to be a better use of my time.

“I’m going shopping,” I said, pushing for exuberance. I took another deep breath, ignoring the anxious feelings coming through the soul connection. It wouldn’t be long now before the battle. It sounded like Valens was practically knocking on our door.

I wasn’t ready.

It didn’t sound like any of us were.

“I NEED TO GET THINGS.” My volume had gotten away from me.

“You have bigger problems than a can opener,” Bria said. “What’s with—”

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