The die felt cold against my fingers. The rabbit’s foot felt too soft. The image of the kids stuck in my mind.
That was the one to focus on.
After returning the other items to the table, I went deeper into the trance, sending a pulse deep beyond the Line to call the owner of the locket, the father of the two little kids. Surely he must be missing them. He would feel their absence. He would feel them in my hands. On my mind.
Slowly, a presence awoke.
I ran my thumb across the metal, picturing the kids in my mind. Tingles spread across my skin and my small hairs stood on end. A faint line appeared before me, connecting me to the soul.
“I’ll be damned,” I said softly. This was like the ribbons I’d used the other day to grab all the souls in the living bodies, only fainter.
I’d used this method every time I’d called a spirit from beyond, something I’d taught myself way before Kieran had come into my life. So maybe the epiphany with the shifters had come from my subconscious connecting the dots behind the scenes.
I pushed that thought to the side. Now wasn’t the time.
The form materialized beyond the Line, blurry at first and then it resolved into the shape of a man. I kept pulling, dragging the spirit across the divide and into the world of the living.
Blinking groggily, a powerhouse of a man in his mid-thirties appeared beside me, his work boots scuffed, his cargo pants torn, and his shirt in tatters, revealing a hard body. He stared at me like he’d asked a question and was waiting for the answer. They all did, once they’d been beyond the Line long enough to let the sores of their past life fade.
“Hi,” I said, flattening my hand. His locket lay open on my palm. “Is this yours?”
His dark brown eyes dipped to the locket, and a spark of recognition eased him a little further into the present.
“Yes,” he said, his voice deep and rusty.
“Do you know who Kieran Drusus is? The Demigod of…Ireland, kinda. He didn’t rule there, he just lived there.”
This wasn’t going well.
“Why do you have that?” He moved to take the locket, and going by his speed—or lack thereof—I could tell he’d been out of the world of the living for at least a decade, probably two.
“Kieran Drusus gave it to me so I could call you. Do you know who he is?”
“Drusus?” Anger rose in his gaze, like a champagne bubble working up from the bottom of the glass. “Drusus…”
“Not Valens, but his disgruntled son. Kieran, the Demigod of—”
“Valens.” More anger lit up his gaze now. Tensed his body.
“Right. So you have a grudge against Valens, I take it? He did something to you?”
“He killed me. He killed my whole family.” His fists clenched and he took a step toward me, like he was contemplating grabbing my throat and lifting me into the air. In life, I have no doubt he could’ve done it. In death, he’d get an unwelcome surprise. “He blamed me for a fuck up that wasn’t my fault.”
“Yeah, he’s a real dick.” I checked my watch. I’d spent half an hour doing this so far, and I still had nine of these to go. I wasn’t moving fast enough. “He tortured his wife, did you know that? Kieran, his son, who was trapped with her, had to watch her die slowly. So now Kieran is seeking revenge. He thought you might want to be in on it.”
“Are you asking him to help?” Bria asked from the other side of the yard.
The man glanced up and the power within his spectral body kindled to life. It pulsed, then grew, then pulsed again, starting up like his brain had just done. When it was finished, I figured he was still damn near a class five. He must’ve been off the charts when he was alive. I had no idea why there wasn’t a class six.
“I’m just letting him get his bearings,” I said, leaning against the table.
“We don’t have time for bearings. Slap him in the body and let him figure out how it works on his own time.”
I crinkled my nose. I wasn’t really comfortable with that. He’d been happily…sleeping, or whatever happened beyond the Line. I’d torn him away without asking, and now I was throwing uncomfortable memories in his face. It didn’t seem right to force him into a body as a slave to my will. Besides, the guy clearly had a grudge. He’d probably love a chance to claim a little revenge, and like John, he’d probably want to do it on his own steam.
“Just pretend I’m putting you in a body right now,” I whispered. “Anyway, Kieran is going to take on Valens and we could really use some help. If you’re willing to strap on an old body, you can get your vengeance tomorrow.”
“You’re a Necromancer?”
“No. I’m a novice Spirit Walker.” His brow furrowed in confusion. I sighed. “A Soul Stealer.” Mistrust warred with the anger in his eyes. “Don’t worry, I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“You work for…”
“Kieran. Valens’s son. Who is going to try and kill Valens.” I knew this was a huge jolt to the guy, but he really needed to get with the program. Time was ticking.
“You want to put me in a body…without controlling me?”
I made an irritated sound. “I could rip you back out in one second, no problem. I can send you beyond the Line again just as fast. It’s not the stressful situation your tone suggests. Just get in the body, figure out how it works, and hang out until the fight. First one that gets Valens wins.” I checked my watchless wrist and grabbed my phone. “I need to get going. I still have a body. It gets hungry and tired. I have to move.”
Utter confusion screwed up his expression, and humor, of all things, bled into his gaze. “The Drusus child was newly born when Valens destroyed my family. I wondered how it would play out with the mother.”
“Badly. He basically tortured her until less than a year ago when she finally died.”
He nodded slowly. “Sounds like Valens. And now the father will have to answer to the son.”
“Tell me, is his son a good man?”
“Oh my God, seriously? Yes, he’s a good man. I mean, I’m doing this for the guy”—I spread my arms to indicate the yard littered with bodies—“instead of taking him up on his offer to get safely away. Dealing with half decomposed bodies isn’t awesome, in case you were curious.” I was doing a bad job of selling his new home.
A wry grin twisted his lips. “You wear your heart on your sleeve. It’s easy to see.” He stuck out a hand. “Chad.”
“No.” I pulled back and waggled my finger at him. “No touching. You’re a spirit now. If you touch me, you can siphon my energy. And it feels weird.”
He pulled his hand back. “Show me to the body.”
It turned out, he didn’t much like the one he was supposed to fill. Rather than argue, or give Bria another reason to yell at me, I just let him pick another and then shoved him on in.
Once he blinked the body’s dry eyes open, I paused. If Valens had a good Necromancer, he or she could just rip Chad out again. We’d lose a valuable fighter. But if I anchored his soul…
“Hold tight. This might feel weird.” I lowered to a squat beside his borrowed body and built a prong from the spirit crowding the air. It wasn’t great, but it would work. “If you don’t mess too much with the body, that prong will hold, and so will you.”
The mouth moved, but nothing came out. That was the problem with this setup—communication was lost. It was the only way they could fight, though.
“Okay.” I moved to pat him, seeing the mouth move again, but held back. That would’ve been gross. “Head out of the line-up so we don’t accidentally try to shove someone in on top of you. We’re messing with Bria’s system.”
“You’ve totally fucked it up, and now I have to start over,” she grumbled, a machine when it came to putting spirits into bodies. “You had better control that S.O.B. He’s powerful, even as a spirit. He could inflict some serious damage.”
It wasn’t a great time to break it to her that I didn’t intend to control him at all.
Back at the table, I grabbed the next cluster of trinkets, and set about calling the spirit attached to them.
Kieran checked his watch as he exited his car, parked in his driveway. Nearly nine. It wouldn’t be long now. The last eight months were winding down to a handful of hours.
He’d gotten word that his father was amassing his forces. Either he already greatly suspected Kieran was the snake in the grass, or he knew outright.
Nervousness churned Kieran’s stomach. He’d accepted his father’s invitation to join him in San Francisco with one thing in mind—revenge. Besides freeing his mother’s spirit, that was all that had mattered to him. Now, however, he had found a reason to wake up every morning that didn’t entail the destruction of another person.
“Sir, we’re ready.” Jack jogged up with damp clothes sticking to his body. “He doesn’t have anyone waiting off the coast. The army he’s amassing is all land-based, from what I can see.”
Valens was confident that he could dominate in the water. As well he should be.
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