Kieran, the one who’d been beaten on the most, hadn’t even allowed himself an hour off. The moment we’d gotten back to the beach, he’d stripped off his bloody shirt, tossed it to the side, and started to clean up the carnage. He hadn’t done it to look good, either, like Valens might’ve done. There were no photo ops, and he refused to even let the news crews onto the premises. He was doing the right thing—cleaning up a mess he had created. The same mess he was now working tirelessly to set to rights at the magical government office.
With Dara’s help to keep order, he hired and promoted people to fill all the holes he’d created in the magical hierarchy. He then created new holes, by firing those he’d found incompetent or untrustworthy before the battle. He was cleaning everything up and making things run smoother again.
And the people loved him for it. His levelheadedness, and kindness, and desire to honestly make a good change went a helluva long way toward garnering respect and goodwill. The people wanted to give him a job for it. The job. They didn’t want the matter to be decided for them at the next Magical Summit.
He was adamant about not taking it, however. Donovan tried to bet Jack a hundred bucks that Kieran eventually would, but Jack knew better than to accept those odds.
I grimaced and trudged over to the coffee pot, my legs and arms finally not aching a full week after the battle to take down Valens.
“Soul Stealer?” Thane said, grinning at Bria and joining in the fun. He shook his head. “More like soul crusher. You are so cold.”
I’d heard these jokes every day since the showdown. I guess I kind of deserved them. I may have accidentally blurted out “no” when Kieran had proposed. But honestly, he hadn’t been in his right mind. You don’t just accept the proposal of someone who was sitting in a small wooden boat covered in his own blood. We’d all had more than our quota of drama for the day, and no way was I going to start Round Two by accepting a proposal he hadn’t thought through and didn’t really mean. Besides, we needed to date and live together for a while before we decided on anything so legally binding. He might end up the Demigod of San Francisco. He’d need someone who was a little less of a shit show to help him run things.
“What’s on the schedule today?” I asked the room at large. “Same as yesterday? And the day before that?”
“You mean, hiding out from the masses because Kieran doesn’t want to make that mark public?” Bria lifted her eyebrows.
“That’s not what he is doing, and she knows it,” Thane said. “He just made the official announcement at the government building yesterday that the rumors were true, and there was indeed a Soul—sorry, a Spirit Walker at the battle. And that said Spirit Walker has been living in the dual-society zone, hiding from persecution, for years. He said it clear as day: she only used that side of her magic to save Kieran’s life. He also said they’re in a relationship.” Thane nodded at me with a smug smile. “The most eligible bachelor in the city has thrown in the towel, and the girls are pissed.”
I poured myself a cup of coffee. Kieran had told me all about his announcement. He hadn’t said so, but I knew people were freaked out beyond belief. They were scared I would be let loose on the city, ripping out souls wherever I went.
I was quite happy to hide from the magical world, just like I’d done all my life. The reasons might’ve changed, but the benefits stayed the same.
“We’re going shopping,” Mordecai said with a grin.
He and Daisy had gotten the week off, too. Mordecai because he’d taken some hard hits in the battle, ending up with a broken bone and few torn muscles, and then received my wrath for putting himself in danger. He wasn’t allowed to leave my sight.
Daisy because she was grounded for going behind everyone’s back, contacting Sydney with some damning secrets (my magic being one of them, Kieran’s plans another), and then arranged for Dara to come without telling Kieran. If Dara hadn’t contacted Kieran herself, the whole thing might’ve gone nowhere. Daisy had only gotten a week of punishment and a very soft chewing out by Kieran (or so the guys claimed—it had seemed pretty harsh to me with all of his magic being thrown around) because she’d saved the day.
“Rover!” A thunk and a grunt said Daisy had kicked him under the table. “That was supposed to be a surprise!”
“I’m not going shopping,” I said, grabbing juice out of the fridge. “My dream stores have crap in them. It’s no fun anymore.”
“Yes, you are going shopping.” Thane slid off the stool with a wince and gingerly walked to the sink. He was still stiff. “There is one kitchen worth of utensils and gadgets spread between two houses, and it is annoying as all hell to cook.”
“You’re going shopping.” Bria nodded solemnly. “Don’t piss off the cooks.”
“Are you seeing your people today?” I asked Mordecai. One day I hoped I could ask that question without sounding—or feeling—wary. They hadn’t just joined the fight to help Kieran or me (he’d forwarded them a copy of the video of my showdown with Will Green), they’d also gone because Ray and Moesha’s little boy was still alive. To them, he was still a member of the pack, and they’d wanted to help their own. His battle was their battle.
I was terrified he’d leave me for them, I had to admit, and even more afraid I wouldn’t be able to fake being happy for him. Daisy said I didn’t have to worry, but she did denial like no one else I knew.
“When is this shopping thing happening?” Bria pointed at Mordecai.
“You weren’t in on this surprise?” I asked her.
She frowned. “They won’t tell me anything anymore because one time I let it slip that Donovan was seeing two girls at once.”
“Yeah, because you let it slip to one of the girls,” Thane said. “Get a clue.”
“Get some morals,” she retorted.
“They weren’t official. No one said anything about exclusivity,” Daisy said, and took another bite of her breakfast.
“What do you know about dating rules?” Bria rolled her eyes.
“It’s not very respectful to the women,” Mordecai chimed in. “They aren’t like ice cream. He has to pick a flavor.”
“Not if they agree to be a double scoop to his cone.” Thane fluttered his eyebrows suggestively.
“All right, all right, enough. Kids present.” I frowned at Thane. He laughed and washed his plate.
“I’m never going to be tied down,” Daisy said.
“That’s because no one will have you,” Bria replied.
Mordecai nodded thoughtfully. Daisy kicked him again. “Really, Mordie? You’re going to agree with that?”
He shrugged. “You are a little terrifying. I doubt many men will be confident enough to think they’d survive one of your bad moods.”
“He’s too damn sensible for his own good.” Bria shook her head. “Well, anyway, I’m going to go shower. Let me know when it’s time to go shopping.”
“You’re not invited, I don’t think,” Daisy said as Bria walked out of the kitchen.
“Like hell I’m not,” she called back.
It turned out, she wasn’t. It would just be me.
Later that afternoon, I stepped out of the house in designer attire and my makeup and hair done. Mordecai had insisted that I should look nice, and Daisy had then picked out my clothes, because she didn’t trust my sense of style (I wasn’t complaining). A badly decomposing corpse sat off to the side, still filled with one of the nutters from the ghost house. He didn’t want to leave the body, and because he’d helped out, I didn’t want to make him. Still, it was getting a little gross.
The rest of the spirits had waited for the magical zone burial of Demigod Valens, held on day three after his demise, as a kind of celebration before moving on. They’d gone on their way, roaming to other places, or finally drifting across the Line. John had thanked me and said to call him back should we ever need anything. I got the feeling he wanted to go looking for Valens on the other side.
He’d never find him.
The strange presence without a real body or spirit form had shown me how to disintegrate a spirit by demonstrating on Valens. Clearly the…thing—being?—hadn’t trusted me to get it right the first time around. At this point, I was pretty sure the grump in the strange plane wasn’t actually my subconscious, though that left me with no idea who, or what, it was. Regardless, it was clear that even people in the spirit realm wanted Valens completely gone.
I couldn’t say I blamed them.
“Well, don’t you look nice,” Frank said.
Frank had figured out a way to make this his new home. Apparently, this spirit wasn’t attached to places, anymore, he was attached to people. Namely, me. Just my luck.
Kieran’s red Ferrari rolled up the street, five minutes late. He pulled a U-turn and stopped by the curb before quickly getting out and hurrying up the walk. I feasted my eyes on that handsome face, letting myself fall into his stormy blue eyes, open all the way down to his soul. A soul I held firmly in my magical grasp. His perfectly tailored suit molded to his outstanding body, his broad shoulders leading down into trim hips.
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