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Valens steepled his fingers. “Can you find an explanation for where they might’ve gone?”

“Not one that doesn’t include death, sir. There’s more.” She shifted again. Clearly something was really troubling her, a constant in the last couple of days. “There is surveillance on the caretaker’s house—Miss Alexis Price. From what my people have seen, she hasn’t returned to her residence since the day after being followed.”

“She’s expecting trouble, or her friend tipped her off they were being followed.”

“Either way, Miss Price is poor. Or…she was poor. In the last few months, there have been uncharacteristically large deposits into her bank account. Now, she could still be someone’s toy, but if she is, I can’t figure out who’s toy that might be. And very few benefactors would take in her teenage wards.”

“The deposits?”

“Transfers from a dead-end account. In the last few days, she has made no withdrawals. Someone is paying for her lodging, and it isn’t the Necromancer, who is seldom home.”

Valens pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Several store clerks remembered seeing someone resembling the picture of Miss Price,” Amber went on. “But the person they saw was much more beautiful, they said. Model material. They said she was radiant. One said she actually glowed. They described her with awe. I saw it myself, they had stars in their eyes. Their reactions were characteristic of…” Amber paused and Valens could swear she gulped. “Their reactions were characteristic of a Chester witnessing the recipient of a Demigod’s mark.”

Valens’s stomach tightened up and the world froze around him, red tingeing the edges of his visions. Memories of Lyra and her radiant beauty bombarded him. He remembered the overwhelming need to own something so majestic, to showcase her on his arm for the world to see. She’d been more beautiful than any trophy in his trophy room, and more entrancing than any mortal, especially after he’d marked her as his.

He remembered people’s expressions like it was yesterday. They’d fawned over her as though they were star struck. She had silenced entire rooms upon entry, lit up crowds with just a smile.

He’d given her that. He’d given her the ability to amplify her beauty. And what had she done in return? Humiliated him. Ran out on him right before the Demigod of London and his miserable wife were due in for tea.

“Are you certain?”

He could barely get the words out around his rage. He wished he’d been able to trap her spirit and not just her skin. His Necromancer could have stuffed her into bodies so Valens could personally mutilate her for the mortification she’d caused him. If she hadn’t provided him with a Demigod heir, he would’ve treated her the same way in life.

And yet, for all that, he still wanted to look at her shining smile each day. He missed seeing her dancing in the waves, her flowing gown drifting in the ocean breeze.

She made him his weakest self, a disease for which there didn’t seem to be a cure.

“No, sir,” Amber said, cutting through the haze. “As of yet, I haven’t come across anyone who took pictures, and no reports have appeared on the internet. It is hearsay at this point, sir.”

Chesters were miserable wretches who hated the world and magical people especially. Their awe was rarely faked. Their insistence that it was the same woman, only more beautiful, spoke volumes. She’d now be the prize of the town.

His mind spun through all the details: the assessment a while back, the medical treatment for the Wolfram boy, the deposits from a dead-end account, his son’s sudden move… Then there was the matter of his spirit trappers disappearing shortly after Lyra’s death.

He struggled to breathe. How could he have been so incredibly blind?

“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.

Kieran had been unable to suppress his rage at first, hating the jab at his mother, but then he’d controlled it. Hidden it.

There were cracks in his son’s facade. Tiny cracks. Miniscule.

How could he have doubted his son for one moment?

Anger rose through Valens. The fools in charge of monitoring Kieran had failed him. Their incompetence had left him blindsided. That would need to be dealt with.

“I received reports that yesterday Demigod Kieran left the building in a rush,” Amber said.

“Yes, he mentioned he had an emergency with a plumber. Let me guess,” Valens said. “He would’ve been just in time for the big shifter party.”

“He did go home, but no one—plumber or otherwise—was waiting there to meet him. We suspect he left the house without anyone seeing him leave, though we cannot confirm.” She paused for a moment, and they both knew she didn’t have to say the next words. “He would’ve been in time, yes.”

Valens laughed and looked out over the ocean. “Magnum has had the right idea all along, it seems. Take out the children before they become a problem.”

“Sir?”

Valens waved it away. Another memory popped up.

Vengeance is a hardy pastime.

It had been staring him in the face all this time. He’d uttered those words himself about the silent benefactor of the Wolfram boy.

Jeffrey Smile.

Smile.

Kieran had been laughing at him. He’d moved into town, slick as they came, with a vendetta. He’d worn the cloak of weakness, showing off his bleeding heart, when all the while he was as cunning as Valens had ever been.

A note of pride disturbed his thoughts, but it couldn’t smother his rage.

Kieran had been after vengeance for that whore. She’d probably filled his head full of lies and deceit. She’d programmed him to wreak vengeance for her.

“You were right to come here. Tell no one of this. We’ll attempt to deal with the matter quietly. Get more information. Prove that your suspicions are true and my son is behind all of this. I don’t want to make another mistake as it concerns him. I will not be made a fool of.” He ground his teeth. “And get Vance. Tell him to meet me at Lyra’s tomb tomorrow morning at sunrise. I want to make sure it is still intact.”

“Yes, sir.” She turned and strode out of the room.

His son could’ve been great, but now they would never know. He would destroy Kieran before the next Summit, proving once and for all that he could not be crossed. That he was the only Demigod capable of leading the magical world into its next phase of existence.

Valens sat quietly, simmering in rage. Far out at sea, he felt a storm brewing.

30

Alexis

Light blared down from the noonday sun, glittering on the ocean as I fought for my life on the cliff near my new house.

I dodged a beam of light tearing through the air on my right side. Another raked the ground in front of me. It turned out Boman was a Light Bender, a really cool magic that gave him the ability to attack with light, or mask things by bending light around them. While I knew his position from being able to feel his soul, I couldn’t anticipate the white-hot jabs that pierced my body and split my skin.

A fist sailed at me from the left, huge and white-knuckled, attached to a Berserker’s enormous arm. From behind, a wave of mind-splitting power needled at my back.

“Not fair,” I forced out through clenched teeth as I bowed back, barely ducking Thane’s blow. “Three against one.”

I slashed spirit at Kieran, trying to take out the leader of the training session.

He grunted before another wave of power slammed into me. Light cut across my shin, leaving a trail of searing pain. Thane roared, and I knew he was about to charge again. The guys were barely pulling their punches now that I had increased reflexes and healing abilities.

“Three against one will be nothing in the battle we’re facing,” Kieran shouted through the blasts of salty air and heady power.

“Yeah, but I’m not allowed to grab Boman and Thane’s souls!” I punched Thane’s spirit box to knock him off course and spun, facing Kieran, who stood at the edge of the cliff. An enormous wave rose behind him, building in height and power even as he thwarted my attack.

“That’s because I want them alive for the battle.” Kieran ripped his arms forward. A wall of agony knocked me back, nearly knocking me onto my butt.

I’d been practicing with souls all morning. The guys had brought by the most bloodthirsty shifters from Will Green’s captured pack. Most of them had lost their senses and were trying to kill anything in sight, including me when they were unceremoniously released in the backyard. It was the only reason I didn’t feel badly for practicing on them.

I’d gotten pretty good…except I still hadn’t figured out how to re-dock their souls well enough for them to survive a shift. I had no idea what I was doing wrong.

Which was why I was forbidden to mess with anyone else’s. I was not trusted.

A ringing phone somehow cut through the commotion, and I could feel Kieran’s confusion trickle through our soul connection. All his people knew we were training and not to be disturbed.

“Wait,” I heard Boman shout from behind me.

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