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“What’s this now?” I asked.

Bria half turned and waved her BBQ fork in the air. “The mark he put on you. Some people would say it makes you co-ruler, but a Demigod will always rank higher than you. Which is why I said, in the very beginning, don’t get involved. Remember that, when I first met you? I said don’t get involved, and now look, you’ll always be second best.”

Mordecai huffed out laughter as he stared down into his nearly empty glass of milk.

“She’s in a more powerful position,” Daisy said with a smirk. “He gets all the attention, and she gets all the time in the world to stick a knife in someone’s ribs.”

“Wow.” I dropped my face into my hands again. “What has become of my sweet family?”

“As the beta to Kieran’s pack, that makes Kieran ultimately responsible for Green’s death.” Daisy put her glass of water on the counter. “Regardless, Green was the one who picked the fight. So you see, Mordie? You are doubly, or even triply, not responsible for this. But if you were… dude. Take it and run! That will really up your shifter points.”

“I agree. You’ll need to challenge into or create your own pack someday.” Bria ripped open the bun bag. “It’s time to harden up. Shifters aren’t a soft group of people.”

Mordecai slumped his shoulders. “I won’t lie—I’ll lose sleep over this, but… I know it wasn’t wrong. He killed my parents, threatened my new family, and he threatened me… He couldn’t have been a good leader. His days were numbered. I get that. It’s just…”

“You haven’t seen death before.” Bria nodded. “It’s jarring. Just think how it is for me—I deal in death all the time.”

“And look how you turned out,” Daisy said.

“Exactly.” Bria lifted her hands in triumph, missing Daisy’s point.

“It’s not really death, as you think of it,” I said as I heard the front door open. “He’s still alive, it’s just that he doesn’t have a body.”

“No, thank you.” Daisy showed me her palm. “That’s creepy, Lexi. I don’t like hearing about that stuff.”

“It’s comforting!”

Both kids shook their heads.

“Eh.” Bria rolled a few more blackened dogs off the grill. “Kids these days. Too soft, if you ask me. Here’s a joke: what did the spirit say to the other spirit?”

“Stop,” Daisy said, shaking her head.

“Mooove over. No, wait…” Bria looked upward. “That was the cow. What did the spirit say to the other spirit?”

“What’s for dinner?” Jack sauntered in with Thane and Boman at his back. Crimson stained their shirts and fresh scrapes marred their bare arms.

“What happened?” I pointed at the red splattered across the dirty white fabric.

Jack looked down. “Oh, that. Yeah, you drove a few of them nuts, and Kieran only made it worse. When they woke up…” He made a circle at his temple with his pointer finger.

“It was crazy town.” Thane rolled his shoulders. “A whole bunch made it through, though. You didn’t drive them all crazy.” He winked at me.

The front door opened and closed again, more of the guys coming in. I could sense Kieran, miles away, swimming in the sea. He was re-energizing in a way I wished I could.

“See there?” Bria pointed at the guys with her BBQ fork. “See what you’ll turn into, Mordecai? Hardcore.”

“That’s not helping,” Daisy mumbled, tucking her glass into the dishwasher and slipping to Mordecai’s side. She laid a hand on his shoulder. “This was all Green’s fault, Mordie.”

“Nah, it was her fault.” Boman pointed at me with a giant, glittering smile. The man was a looker when he rolled that smile out. “The secret weapon.”

I frowned at him, but for the life of me, I didn’t feel remorse. Couldn’t. That crew had been there to kill a fifteen-year-old boy. They didn’t deserve remorse, nor would they get it from me.

“Nah, it was Green’s fault,” Jack said, stretching his hugely muscled arms out in the suddenly much smaller space between the table and the island. “All of this was his fault. He was twisted, and he accumulated a group of thugs who liked sick shit. They were half mad already—Alexis and Kieran just pushed them over the edge. That whole crew needed to be handed their hats. I wish I could’ve played a bigger part in it.”

“I’m sure Daisy wishes you had.” Donovan’s nose crinkled as he laughed. He’d just filed into the kitchen behind the others with Zorn and Henry at his back. “She was a one woman show, turning people away and shutting down gossip. How did you get that woman to give you her phone so you could erase the video?” He leaned across the island, grinning at her. “I thought for sure we’d have to knock her down and steal her shit.”

“A little too hardcore,” Bria muttered, her back to the room as she worked.

“Yeah. I’ve never seen a person change personalities so many times in the space of twenty minutes.” Boman peeled off his dirty shirt and tossed it into the corner. That was a habit that’d be short-lived, just as soon as I could work up the energy to yell at him. “That was a handy skill.”

“You have to know how to talk to people to get what you want.” Daisy shrugged, seemingly nonchalant, but her cheeks were noticeably red.

“That is just one of her many handy skills,” Zorn said quietly, drifting to the corner of the room.

“Zorn is tired of everyone praising Mordecai, and not his pupil.” Bria laughed as Jack joined her.

“What the…” Jack stepped back, outrage on his face. He gestured at the stove. “What the hell is this?”

Bria pushed a charcoal-encrusted bun off the grill. She flung another after it. “Dinner,” she said without looking up.

“Dinner?” Jack motioned Donovan in for a look.

“No.” Donovan looked over her shoulder, his good mood vanishing. “That’s dog food.”

“Mordecai, dinner’s ready.” Daisy gestured him on. Apparently, she felt she’d given him enough touchy-feely support.

“You wanted me to cook dinner, and so I cooked dinner. You didn’t seem to care that I don’t know how to cook, so…” Bria raised her eyebrows at them. “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.”

Jack and Donovan’s mouths dropped open. A small smile crept up Zorn’s face.

“What happened?” Boman asked, his smile failing.

“How hard is it to cook hotdogs?” Jack asked with a raised voice. “They’re already cooked. You’re basically just heating them up. How hard is it to heat up food?”

The door closed softly and I zeroed in on the soft pulse in my middle letting me know Kieran was near. I looked up and my breath caught. All noise in the room dialed down to nothing.

He filled the entrance of the kitchen in a wet shirt that clung to his perfectly sculpted, powerful body. Ripped jeans hugged his muscular thighs, ending in sandy flip-flops. His raven hair fell across his forehead and his stormy blue gaze rooted to me with an intensity that gave me goosebumps.

“Alexis, may I speak with you?” he said, his voice thick and raspy, and fear crawled through me at his formality.

27

Alexis

“What, and miss the dinner I toiled to make?” Bria flipped another bun off the grill.

“You’re not missing anything, sir,” Jack grumbled, watching Bria’s handiwork with wide, horrified eyes. He seemed powerless to stop the train wreck.

“Sure, yeah.” I pushed up from the table as he glided through the kitchen, smelling of salt. His mouth-watering male magnetism tightened my core. His power and strength and intensity filled the space, sending out silent waves of explosive energy. The guys all turned, giving him their undivided attention. Daisy’s face lost color again, and Mordecai looked down at his feet. Even Bria had turned, all serious, ready for a command to action.

The Demigod was in the room, more powerful than any pack leader could be, and he was owning his mantle. It didn’t matter that everyone in the room was powerful in their own way and, besides Daisy, magical—he dominated their awareness and owned their focus.

I took his hand and melted at his touch, my legs going wobbly.

Without another word, he led me back the way he’d come and then up the stairs to my new bedroom. Once we were both inside, he shut the door behind us and motioned for me to take a seat on the couch by the window. The sound of crashing waves grew louder when he lifted the window. A wave of his hand, and his magic brought a gentle ocean breeze in, mussing my hair.

With serious eyes, he sat down next to me and silence fell over us. I couldn’t read the surge of emotion coming through the soul connection. His stony face gave absolutely nothing away.

“I don’t know how to begin,” he said after a moment, his voice deep and thick.

“From the beginning?” I tried.

He looked at me for a long moment, and I thought I recognized uncertainty in his gaze.

“My father marked my mother,” he started, and my heart skipped a beat.

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