Page 47

“Trap her on that island without her skin. Torture her. Leave her to rot.”

His father tsked. “I left her there with you. Is your presence really that torturous?” He took another step forward. His shoulders hadn’t relaxed.

“I ask you again, do you have any remorse?” Kieran ground out, pain cutting through him.

His father smiled, an expression that didn’t reach his eyes. “Remorse? Yes. I have a lot of remorse. Had I known the sniffling weakling you would become, applying a mark to a poor nothing who will only bring shame and ridicule on this family, I would’ve stomped on you as a baby and taken my sweet time making that bitch mother of yours suffer for what she did. Torture? She didn’t know the meaning of the word. She had a cushy life compared to what I wished to do to her. I didn’t get to dole out the punishment she so aptly deserved. Yes, I have remorse. Some of which I’ll ease with your death.”

Kieran couldn’t help his mouth hanging open at the raw vehemence in his father’s tone. At the harsh and brutal words he had for the people he’d once loved and cared about, Kieran included.

“That poor nothing keeps me level,” Kieran forced out through suddenly numb lips. A strange ache formed in his middle, intensifying the pain from moments before. “She keeps me from turning into you.”

His father laughed. “Then she keeps you at a disadvantage.” Another step, closing the distance, fighting to keep his rage in check. The magical energy battering Kieran was almost a palpable thing. “It was a mistake, tampering with that box. I might’ve forgiven you for killing my men and corroding my staff. Your skills are impressive for one so young and inexperienced. I could’ve used you. But this…” He swept his hand to the side, indicating the box. “This is too far.”

“Just think, I could’ve lived my whole life in your shadow.”

Without warning, his father raced forward. The waters fell in behind him, the doddering old Necromancer forgotten.

Kieran barely had time to send out the blast of emotion that would summon his people.

It had begun.

34

Alexis

Kieran’s signal blasted through me. Adrenaline pulsed through my body.

“Let’s go, let’s go!” I slapped the side of the old yellow school bus filled with animated corpses before running to my BMW. We’d set up camp in the parking lot of a thankfully closed swanky restaurant, close to the beach.

“Show time everyone. Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!” Bria pulled the lever to close up the bus. Though she’d never driven one before, she’d offered to drive. She’d asked, “How hard could it be?”

I didn’t know, which was why I was taking my car. I wanted to make sure one of us made it there alive.

“Kids, get clear.” I pointed at Mordecai and Daisy, jogging toward my car. I’d told them we’d discuss the plan before piling into the car.

Now they were seeing the real plan, which was for me to leave them behind to make sure they were safe.

“Stay alive.” I sat into the BMW, ripped the door shut, and locked the car. Daisy reached the back door and yanked on the handle. I cracked my window so they could hear me but not reach in. “You have my bank account info.” I started the car as Mordecai reached the other side, his face panicked. He didn’t want me going off to battle without him.

Too bad.

“Raid the house. Kieran’s, too. Sell everything of value. Keep your head down and keep training.” Tears burned my eyes and terror filled my chest. What if this was it? What if I’d never see them again?

At least they’ll be alive.

“I love you,” I yelled, and peeled out of the parking lot.

The kids ran to the bus, but Bria was already lumbering behind me. They’d be fine. I’d made them survivors, and Kieran’s guys had made them warriors. If any teenagers in the world could be orphaned…again…and still keep going, it was those two.

I stomped on the gas, not waiting for Bria. The spirits I’d anchored to bodies were autonomous, and she didn’t need my power to control the rest of her smelly brood. My abilities would go to better use jacking up the living.

The car took the curves in the road without problem, so I pushed the speed well past the limit. Near the bottom of the steep hill, I sped through a red light before slamming on my brakes. A big black truck had pulled out of a side road, cutting me off. Hard brown eyes flashed in the side mirror for a brief moment before the trailer cut off my view.

The rest of the street was desolate, this wasn’t our truck, and Kieran had wondered if his dad would be expecting him.

Clearly the answer was yes.

I slammed my foot on the gas pedal and pulled into the shared turning lane of the three-lane road. The truck’s engine roared, the vehicle picking up speed to block me, but come on—out-gunning a new BMW? He was dreaming.

A second later, I took those words back.

A jet of pure white light blasted from the window and across the bumper of my car. Metal screeched and then clanged. My car bumped up and down, running over what was probably part of my bumper. Metal screeched again, dragging against concrete. Yup, definitely my bumper. At least my tires made it.

Valens had his own Light Bender. One who either didn’t have the power to conceal the truck, or didn’t think he’d need to bother.

But guess what Valens didn’t have?

A Soul Stealer.

I reached into the driver’s chest with a thick rope of magic. His scream reached my ears. The truck swerved wildly to the right and hit the guard rail. I yanked on his spirit box as I pulled ahead in the BMW. For a brief moment, I thought about letting him go with a busted truck. But if I did that, he’d just get out, run a few blocks to the beach, and kill our people. This was war, and I was either the predator or the prey.

I slowed my car to match the declining speed of the truck and soaked down into the guy’s spirit box, disturbingly easy in a non-shifter, it turned out. I crushed the prongs and then yanked his spirit away.

Now what?

I slowed the car even more as I thought it through. Getting rid of him meant the other side was down one, sure, but what was he hauling in that truck? Chances were, Valens needed that rig, and we needed it gone.

“Plan B.” I jammed his soul back in, keeping a hold of that sucker and pushing my will on him, like Bria had taught me to do in Necromancy. He needed to turn that truck around, head up the hill, and…

A crawling sensation overcame me. I fought it off.

This is war. War is brutal. I joined the fight. I need to commit.

I took a deep breath. He’d head up the hill, pull into the lookout lot over the steep drop leading down to the ocean, and hop the curb. He’d go for a lovely roll and finish it off with a nice swim.

Padding the horrible actions with happy words, that was the ticket. I was sending him on a lovely little holiday.

The big yellow school bus slowed as it passed the now idling truck.

“Go.” I waved my hand at her.

She stopped and opened the bus doors. “What’s happening?”

“I’ve gotten control of the driver’s soul and now I’m going to send his truck up to the top and over the edge.”

A huge smile spread across her face. “Look at you! Donovan is gonna be pissed he lost the bet. I knew my girl had brutality in her.” She put up a fist. “Go girl!” Her gaze flicked to the large rearview mirror. “Sit down in the back you crusty old fucker, this ain’t our stop.” She rolled her eyes at me before pulling the handle to close the door. The bus shuddered forward.

Without wasting time, I rolled forward to give the bus enough space. I gave the soul another mental push, almost like an Encourager. The guy inside, strangely not terrified but certainly pissed (he was clearly a professional and probably one of the Elite) cranked the wheel and increased his speed. The truck just barely made the U-turn. I closed my eyes and felt the spirit, connecting with him as he traveled up the hill. As he neared the top, I almost lost him, the connection too weak with the distance. I just barely had enough time to make him slam on the gas, plow across the curb, sidewalk, and through the guard rail.

“A lovely sail through the air. What fun,” I mumbled, severing the connection. Blinking my eyes open, I started when I caught sight of the woman standing in front of me, dressed in some sort of red material, and holding a blow torch. “What the hell?”

I stomped on the gas pedal. She’d chosen a terrible place to stand.

Fire exploded across my hood and over my windshield, heat curling into the new crack in the window.

These people were seriously jacking up my car.

“Ouch. Ouch-ouch,” I said, smacking her with my car. “I win.”

Another two blocks and I saw the yellow bus pulled over to the side of the road. Nearly there, my heart lodged into my throat. Trucks like the one I’d just detoured were pulling into the parking lot up the way. Others had stopped on the road just outside it. Various men and women in black or red climbed out of them, and the troops jogged across the street to the beach.

Kieran had said that he’d collected nearly a hundred people. Judging from this crowd, Valens had organized a shit-load more, and who knew how many were hidden from view? How were we even supposed to get to him through all of Valens’s people?

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