The drape of light fell away from Boman, revealing him as he turned in the direction of the houses. Jack ran toward us, a phone clutched in his hand—my vision was now freaking amazing.
Something hard hit the side of my head, knocking me sideways. Thane roared and his feet thumped the ground. He was clearly intent on finishing our battle.
“Enough,” Kieran shouted and a blast of power sideswiped me, cutting Thane down to his knees.
Stars swam in my eyes as Kieran’s strong fingers wrapped around my upper arm and hoisted me up.
“You okay?” he asked as Thane rolled and screeched not far away, fighting the pain. His power didn’t come with a handy off switch.
“Yeah,” I said, still dizzy, as Jack yelled, “We’ve got word from Henry. Answer your phone.”
The phone rang again as Kieran dug it out of his pocket. The rest of us had left our phones behind for the training session, but he’d insisted he could get a new one if it was damaged in the fight.
“Yes,” he barked as Jack reached us, his eyes hard.
Thane groaned off to the side, finally changing back to human.
“How’d training go?” Jack asked me.
“She’s ready,” Boman said, his eyes on Kieran.
“I still haven’t successfully re-anchored a shifter’s soul, though,” I said as Kieran turned away, bowing a little as he listened.
“We won’t be fighting shifters, and you don’t have to worry about keeping the enemy alive,” Jack said. He made a claw with his hand and clutched the air. “You’re good on ripping out souls, right?” He pulled his hand away. “This morning helped?”
He’d been in charge of making sure none of the blood-crazed shifters made it to me. He’d pulled up a chair and taken out a book. That had given me more confidence than anything.
“Yes. I can get at the souls just fine. I know how to alter the density of a spirit box in order to seep in and—”
Jack held up his hand. “I don’t need the how or why, I just need a green light.”
“She’s ready, I said,” Boman pushed. “What’s the word?”
“She’s only ready if she has the confidence to be ready,” Jack replied. “And I don’t know. Henry was keyed up. Something is happening. He wanted to talk to Demigod Kieran directly, so I got my ass out here as fast as possible.”
“You think it’s going to kick off?” Boman whispered.
Jack didn’t answer as Thane lay back on his back and looked at the sky. “Ow. I hate when Kieran ends the fight.”
Kieran pocketed his phone and turned back toward us, his eyes resolute. His gaze fell on me, and my stomach flipped. “Henry thinks they know.”
A loud breath left Jack.
Kieran started off toward the house, leaving all of us to scramble after him.
“Amber tracked my father down for an in-person meeting in his house,” Kieran said as he walked. “That’s not usual. She has something she doesn’t want spread around. Then she reassigned her whole team to hit the computers. Henry’s contact thinks they’re cyber-searching.” He pushed a branch out of the way, paused until I’d passed by, and let it go. Jack barely caught it before getting thwacked in the face. “They’re on my trail. Everything I did is hidden in layers of false leads and dead-ends, but the clues are there. With a lead, she’s good enough to find it.”
“Was it what we did yesterday?” I asked as we cut toward my house.
“Without question. Green didn’t make that move without clearing it with my father first. Even if my father’s people didn’t find out about the mark, the way I rushed out of the office would’ve been enough to tip them off. My father got lucky with timing.” I could tell Kieran was gritting his teeth in frustration.
Zorn met us as we emerged from the trees at the side gate to my yard.
“Their Necromancer has been summoned to the north end of Ocean Beach at sunrise tomorrow morning, where your mother’s spirit was hidden,” Zorn said without preamble. “He was heard complaining about it. Valens must have thought the spirit trap would hold beyond his crew dying. He wants to check it out.”
“Their Necromancer probably knows what collection of smokes and whatever to use to verify the magic is gone,” I said, thinking it through. “He’ll know the magic has worn off, but will he be able to tell what happened to it?”
“The box is gone.” Kieran pushed past Zorn. “I buried it deep in a cave in the ocean. He’ll never find it. She’s at rest. All of her is at rest, and that includes the fucked up shrine he made for her skin. He can go to hell.”
“So Valens won’t find anything there tomorrow?” I asked, following Kieran out of the side yard and to the grass.
“He will. But not what he’s expecting,” Kieran answered, slowing as he rounded the corner of the house.
My mouth dropped opened as I saw what was happening in my backyard.
Bria and Donovan each worked beside a pile of dirt, digging down through my manicured lawn. Judging by the two dead bodies they’d already unearthed, I had a pretty good idea what they were looking for.
“You stored bodies in my backyard?” I whined, putting out my hands. “How long have you had this house? Because the grass was perfect…”
“I had them get working, sir,” Zorn told Kieran. “I figure we can always put the bodies back.”
“We won’t be putting them back. The time has come, ready or not.” Kieran stopped near the others. “What’s the time frame?”
“I have about fifty to go, but with your guys, it’ll be quick,” Bria said, eyeing the rest of my beautiful grass.
“Fifty?” I asked, unable to focus on the real problem at hand. I’d never had a lovely manicured backyard with lush green grass before, and come to find out it had been a crypt the whole time. “Why couldn’t you leave them in the cemetery where you got them?” I paused. “You did get them out of a cemetery, right? You didn’t murder them yourself?”
Bria glanced my way. “Of course I got them in a cemetery—we didn’t need cops breathing down our necks. And they’re here because your boyfriend wanted them close at hand. The grass is sod. It hasn’t been down long.” She straightened and put her fist to her hip. “You really know very little about home gardening, don’t you?”
“I’ll get the spirits assembled,” Kieran said, ignoring our exchange. “You’ll have your pick of everyone we could collect. I have personal artifacts of a few extremely powerful spirits beyond the Line. Lexi will need to control those.”
My attention snapped to him. “You want me to fight and control spirits?”
“Yeah.” Bria gave me a thumbs up. “Don’t worry, you’ll be great. I have all the faith in you.”
“I don’t think I can multitask,” I muttered, following Kieran into the house like a lost lamb.
The kids sat at the table with tight eyes as we all filed in, leaving Bria and Donovan behind for obvious reasons.
“A couple days ago, you didn’t think you could yank a soul out of a body, let alone put it back in.” Jack patted my shoulder. “You work miracles under pressure. You’ll do great, don’t worry. Just don’t take off running.”
“Tell Henry to get all our forces mobilized,” Kieran said to Zorn, the energy caged within him threatening to break free. His magic filled the room, materializing as heavy pressure. “It’s finally here. Once we get that army of souls, we’ll be ready to go.”
“What about…” Donovan’s words trailed away.
Frustration came through the soul connection. Kieran’s gaze darted to Daisy and I had to wonder why. “We don’t have any more time. We have to go with what we have and pray that it’s enough.”
A few hours of digging later, Bria put out her arms and looked over my horror show of a backyard. “First thing’s first, let’s look over our work station.”
Some work station. My lovely grass was in shambles. Holes dotted the expanse in four neat rows. On one side of each hole sat a heaping of dirt peppered with clumps of grass, and on the other lay a dead body stolen from the peaceful resting place it had been lovingly placed by family members who’d thought the grave would be the end of it.
The joke was clearly on them. Or maybe me.
The bodies were in various stages of gross, from “fresh” (recently dead) to “corroded” (some stage of rot). A few were so far gone, the flesh barely hung on the dirty brown skeleton beneath it, not having received the benefit of being bleached by the sun. I had no idea how Bria was going to keep a soul stuck in there—or maybe that would be my problem.
I could feel the evening slipping by as the clock counted down. We all understood that if Valens didn’t make a move by sunrise, Kieran would. Worst-case scenario, we had a little over twelve hours to do a shit load of necromancy, take a power nap, and then I’d be plunged into my first real battle where my whole world was on the line.
To say I was nervous was like saying the ocean was a puddle.
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