“The freight doors and back entrance will have security cameras, too,” I said, almost feeling the hard gaze of the man approaching us. His arms swung loose at his sides and his brick of a body swayed with each ground-pounding step. The rest of the pack followed behind him, power pulsing in their middles. Class threes and fours, all of them, and brick body was a lower class five.
Holy shit, they had a lot going for them.
“She says…you’re welcome,” Mordecai reiterated, having given her my message.
I spared a glance up at the freight doors, running my gaze along the top and then the sides. There had been three cameras, and now there were three fragments of cameras. Bria had prepared for an extraction.
I nodded as the shifters continued to stalk toward me. I knew it wouldn’t be long before they got a positive I.D. on us. When they did, the rest would come running.
Something zipped by out of the corner of my eye. I started and jerked my head, but saw nothing, including the dead. A trick of the mind, or something else? Regardless, I didn’t have time to worry about it.
The lead man kept reducing the space between us. His deep brown eyes came into focus, and then he nodded. But he wasn’t looking at me. He was looking over my shoulder.
“Turn him over, wench,” he said, slowing. “This is a pack matter. Our fight is not with you. You are free to go.”
“Wench? What is this, a pirate ship? This isn’t a pack matter. You fuckers killed a sick kid’s parents, then tossed that kid out onto the streets to die. You forfeited your right to make him a pack matter. Now it’s a bullshit matter…that I will be handling.”
The group slowed further, then stopped, all acting on the leader’s unspoken command. It was cool, I had to give them that, but it also made me want to start snapping my fingers and break into dance.
“Turn the Wolfram boy over, or die,” the man barked.
“We’ve got incoming,” Mordecai whispered behind me, his voice pinched with fear. “They’re changing. The others—the ones still at the front of the building. They’re changing.” He paused for a moment, and I could feel his arm trembling against my back. “Jack says they are getting into position for a kill.” His voice turned urgent. “Kieran is still too far away. We don’t have enough people, Lexi. Jack says to run.”
“It’s too late to run. Our only choice is to fight.”
The lead man lunged forward, still in human form. I took a step back to give myself more space while blasting a heavy dose of spirit and a whole lot of power, grabbing his spirit box and squeezing. He yelped, like a dog, but his hand kept coming.
I unlocked the gale force of the Line’s icy wind, something I’d gotten better at directing since my last training. It blew through the group, flapping the shifters’ souls wildly. Gasps and shrieks shattered the quiet of the day. Many staggered. One bent to a knee.
The lead man kept coming, as though attacking on muscle memory. Before I could dodge away, a dark arm came around me and whipped me to the side. The man’s hand closed on empty air and his body kept going, staggering beyond me.
Mordecai released me, and despite my earlier instruction that he should do nothing and stay by my side, he stepped quickly after the man and elegantly wrapped an arm around his neck. He spun like a dancer before crashing two fast punches into the man’s face. Between his attack and the effects of my magic, the man went down hard and fast.
I surged with pride. That’s my boy.
Souls glittered and pulsed as they moved around the building. Two familiar souls followed them, one of which stole my breath.
“Goddamn that Daisy, she shouldn’t be anywhere near this,” I yelled.
A woman broke away from the others and ran at me. I punched her directly in the spirit box, making no attempt to ease her into it.
Her spirit box jolted back, dragging her body with it.
I widened my eyes. That was neat. I hadn’t even known that was possible.
On cue, the rest of the shifters picked up speed, running at me now. Behind them, furry bodies turned the corner, the wolves from the front of the building.
“Act faster, Lexi,” Mordecai yelled.
“Right, yes. Faster.” I punched another, and another, hearing yells or grunts with each spirit assault. But I couldn’t keep doing it one by one—it was letting the other shifters advance on me, and soon there would be too many for me to handle.
A man reached me and struck out. I bent back just in time, watching an enormous fist sail past my head in HD. Mordecai’s hand jutted out, just as fast. His fingers curled around the man’s wrist. Using the man’s lunge to his advantage, Mordecai spun and yanked, bringing the guy’s body forward and meeting his face with an expertly thrown kick.
“Okay, yes, go ahead and fight,” I said, slashing with spirit and taking two shifters down at once. But the wolves were almost upon us, running as a pack with perfect synchronicity.
“Focus on the living… Focus on the group…”
The voice was like a dying breath, rippling through the world of spirit. I barely understood the words while understanding them perfectly. I knew exactly who’d uttered each syllable while having no idea.
A shock of spirit blasted through the scene, bleeding away the colors of our plane a little more. Like an extremely heightened trance, time slowed down, then fell away all together. I felt tiny little strings connected to each of the souls around me, the ends all hanging loose. All inactive and waiting for me to grab them up.
A light breeze fluttered all the strings, and then I saw, abstractly, what I had previously only felt. Each string had a different hue, but they could be grouped into five overall categories—one for those without bodies, one for those with, and three more I didn’t understand.
“Not yet…” I couldn’t see a body, spirit or otherwise, but it felt like the breath of a dying man had fluttered my hair.
Now I knew why people thought ghosts were so scary.
Fear jumpstarted my heart and suddenly I was falling. Rolling. Turning end over end.
The sun blasted my face. Someone yelled my name. A body flew to the side.
I blinked and wiggled my fingers, which felt strange. My body felt strange. Too…present, somehow. Too…substantial.
“Alexis,” Mordecai yelled, terror in his voice.
I blinked twice, getting my bearings, only to realize I was standing stalk still while Mordecai spun and turned around me, grabbing people, delivering strikes, and throwing bodies out of the way. It turned out he did know what he was doing. He was utterly magnificent, and here I was, a dead weight.
“Alexis, what’s happening?” Mordecai asked, thrusting his foot up and crunching a guy right between the legs. That’s what you got for picking on someone who trained with Daisy—no rules.
“I freaked out, but I’m back. I’ll—” I cut off as I realized the wolves had surrounded us in a large circle. Those in human form—the ones still standing, at least—slowed and took a few steps back, their postures changing. They were waiting for something. I could sense Bria, Jack, and Daisy lurking behind us a ways, and Zorn was following a moving soul that stepped out from around the far corner.
Tall and stacked with muscle, the man walked toward us with a slow, hunched-over gait, like a cage fighter entering the cage. His tight jeans must’ve cut off his circulation and his equally tight button-up shirt looked far too expensive to rip when he changed. Like the earlier shifter, he had a pricy watch on his wrist.
It had to be Will Green. His minions had secured his prey, and now he would show that he didn’t need to change shape to finish the job.
“Look who it is,” the man said as he entered the outer ring of wolves. The shifters in human form parted to the sides, giving him more space. “The little Wolfram boy. Amazing that you’re still alive.”
His pale blue gaze swung to me, the first of the shifters to voluntarily notice my presence. His twisted stare, filled with unhinged menace, hit me like a Mack truck, manifesting as a blow to my middle. I barely kept myself from stepping back with the force of it.
“And what have we here? I do believe you have the mark of a Demigod.” His head tilted, surveying me, and his eyes lit with a vicious gleam that made my skin crawl. “You couldn’t have been marked by the father, or I wouldn’t have gotten the tip off. So that must mean you’ve been marked by the son.” Greed filled his dead, pale eyes. “Does the father want you dead, too, I wonder? He learned his lesson the hard way—everyone knows he’s tried to scare the son away from making the same mistake.” A sickly smile spread across his thin lips. The scar running down his cheek and curling around his chin stretched grotesquely. “What would you be worth to the son, I wonder, if we were to let you live?”
“Wow.” I blew out a breath and glanced to the side with dramatically played-up fatigue. “Do you always babble this much, or just when you’re meeting new people?”
A vein pulsed next to his eye and his jaw clenched. A wave of aggression washed over me, and a manic light entered his hardening stare.
This guy wasn’t right, in the way a circus clown with blood dripping from its mouth wasn’t right. Something was off in his gaze, in his bearing, and in the way he was looking at me. Like his intellect had dimmed, making way for the rabid animal to take over.
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