Page 31

Abstract paintings adorned the flat gray walls of the office. A fake plant sat listlessly in the corner, and the desk lacked a clean and proper shine. It was as if his son had no pride in his working environment.

Forcing that issue aside for one of more precedence, Valens crossed an ankle over his knee and leaned back. “I missed your company last night.”

No emotion rolled through his son’s uninterested blue gaze.

Valens hated that look—the look of a spoiled child who’d never known true hardship. It was as if Kieran expected the world to be handed to him, and when it wasn’t, he whined about life being unfair. Youths were so tedious, especially in this day and age. Valens almost wondered if employing someone to run another territory would be better than grooming his own brood. If it wasn’t for his son’s impressive magic, he would without question.

Then again, maybe he ought to contemplate doing both. He certainly had the resources, and if he could claim Sydney, he would finally have the clout to pass his political proposals. Subduing the Chesters and establishing his power in their territories would then be a simple maneuver. He had already drafted out plans for the usurpation of over a dozen resource-rich areas. The Chesters had weapons, yes, but he had spies in powerful places and plans to cut them off from their war machines.

“Didn’t Sodge tell you?” Kieran said in that lifeless monotone of his. “I finally closed on a house. I left him the details.”

Valens entwined his fingers in his lap, fighting his annoyance. “Yes, Sodge mentioned it. He didn’t indicate you’d leave so…suddenly, however. Your mother never taught you the value of respect and the importance of a proper farewell?”

Something flashed in his son’s eyes, almost like the rolling turbulence right before a squall opened up on the sea. The next moment, it was gone.

“I apologize. I thought your assistant would’ve passed on the dinner invitation.” Kieran entwined his fingers, not unlike Valens was doing. “I thought you might like to wait until the weekend so we can celebrate with a few too many shots of your favorite scotch. Early meetings aren’t ideal when you can barely see straight from the night before.” Kieran’s smile didn’t reach his eyes. “I can have her schedule it for earlier in the week, if you’d like…”

Anger simmered, but Valens kept his composure. This wasn’t the first time she had failed to inform him of an important event on his social calendar. Usually it happened with regards to other women. The appointment would be grudgingly added to his calendar, though she’d leave it to his electronic devices to alert him when the date and time neared. Valens usually let those slide. Occasional jealousy could easily be reprimanded in the bedroom. But forgetting to mention his son’s appointment, causing Valens to make a fool of himself, would require swift and harsh punishment.

“Forgive me,” he said, the words tasting sour in his mouth. “I hadn’t realized.”

Kieran made a small movement, waving it away. Something hot and uncomfortable lodged in Valens’s core—an imperceptible power shift?

“I’ve booked the Regency,” Kieran said. “Sodge said that was your favorite.”

Valens nodded. “Indeed it is. They consistently serve top quality food.”

“Yes, I’ve enjoyed their lunches. Did you get a chance to look over the information I left with Sodge?”

Valens eased back, just a bit. That sounded more like the desire for approval.

“I did, yes. The manufacturer comes highly recommended. Their work generally speaks for itself.” His pause was carefully chosen to convey disapproval. “The placement of their properties, however…”

A muffled vibration interrupted the ensuing silence. Kieran’s brow pinched and he glanced down at the drawer in which he’d put the phone.

“There were options in more central areas,” Kieran said, pulling the drawer open and reaching in to silence it, “but the comparable houses were just too…prominent. I apologize if I’ve read the situation incorrectly, but I thought it might be better to stick to fashionable lodgings on the outskirts by the ocean. That will give you the prominent placement within the city, and the ocean view will shield me from chatter regarding the proximity of the dual-society zone. It seemed like a win-win for my first step out on my own. I am of the city, but I do not speak for the city, as it were.”

Valens stared at him for a speechless moment, his perceptions of his son shifting and changing. That answer had been perfect. Beyond perfect. It showed that Kieran not only understood his father’s position, but that he could navigate around the potentially sticky situation of having two Demigods within one territory.

Pride flowered. Yes, there was hope for Kieran yet, and with it, hope for Valens’s plans.

“Good,” Valens said, taking his foot from his knee. “Yes, that sounds—”

The phone vibrated again, and Kieran glanced down at it. A spark of something lit in his son’s eyes. Valens’s chest tightened in response, but before he could identify the feeling, it was gone again.

“Well,” Valens said, rising slowly.

Impatience soaked into his son’s expression. He squeezed his phone and shook his head apologetically, war in his eyes.

“The house is mostly quality, but it seems the plumbing…” Kieran waved it away. “Please excuse me, Father. There is only so much I will tolerate. The service staff needs a lesson on their work ethic.” Kieran saw him to the door in quick strides. “I’ll see you this weekend, if not before.”

As Valens walked out into the hall, he saw his son check his phone one last time before turning in the opposite direction.

Kieran even handled problems like a true Demigod—with a hard, dominant hand. Yes, he was coming around. His mother’s weaknesses were melting away. His son would be a ruthless and cunning ruler. Soon, they would rule together, and crush everyone in their path.

22

Alexis

“Something’s happening,” Mordecai said quietly as I pushed my shopping cart toward a display of candles. A girl could never have too many candles. They’d be good for mood lighting in the bathroom, a romantic evening with Kieran, or for adding a little pizzazz to the living room and kitchen. “Jack isn’t answering me. I have a bad feeling, Lexi.”

“Mordecai, it’s only been fifteen minutes. Jack’s probably busy chasing down that shifter I scared off.”

“Zorn went after him, remember?”

“Then Jack’s probably busy helping Zorn deal with him. They’d tell us if something was up.”

He bent to his phone again, and I tried to ignore the tightness in my gut, praying that I was right.

I grabbed a few candle options, and frowned when I couldn’t find any others to add to the cart. “I remember their selection being bigger.”

Mordecai glanced up before lowering his phone and looking toward the entrance. I just barely stopped myself from asking if he saw anything. Tight bands of warning wrapped around my chest before something akin to panic quickened my heart.

This wasn’t my panic. It was Kieran’s. What was he reacting to?

“Looks the same to me,” Mordecai said, thankfully not able to see the anxiety collecting in my body. “Usually you stand in this section and drool. Shouldn’t you know what you want by now?”

“I don’t love that attitude,” I said with a warning in my voice. “It’s just…all my past favorites would easily work for our old house, but they’d look seriously cheap in our new house.”

“Now we’re in a rich man’s house with a rich man’s things—you need to shop at a better store.”

I blew out a breath in frustration before moving along, knowing he was exactly right.

“Look, Mordecai, a lemon zester! I was hoping to find one of these. We can finally be one of those families that zests lemons.”

“We are one of those families. Donovan brought one over to the old house. He’s already used lemon zest in a few dishes.”

I stopped with my mouth hanging open. “Why did no one tell me?”

“What’s there to tell?” he said distractedly, meeting my gaze. “It’s just lemon zest. I couldn’t even taste it.”

I gestured at the object in question, trying to maintain focus. Trying to remember that Jack and Zorn were in charge and they’d communicate if there was anything to communicate about.

So why did it feel like I was in a waiting room, expecting bad news?

“It’s something extra that I could never justify buying in the past,” I answered. “Like these napkin holders. Like most of this stuff. And come to find out we already had it? That’s a big deal!”

Mordecai frowned in confusion right before his phone vibrated, taking away his focus.

My phone rang a moment later.

“Jack wants you to answer your phone,” Mordecai said.

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” I said, digging through my bag.

Bria’s name showed up on the screen. I swiped and put the phone to my ear.

“Tell me we’re in the clear,” I said immediately.

“We’re in the clear,” she replied.

***

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