“Hello, beautiful,” he said with a mouth-watering smile. “Sorry I’m late. The treasury meeting ran over.”
He put out his hand and I took it. Electricity sizzled up my arm and settled into a low hum deep in my body. Lord, I was smitten by this man. I wanted nothing more than to glue myself to his side and run, eyes open, straight at our future.
Whoa, girl. Learn to crawl before you walk. Then think about running.
“You’re finally letting me out of the house?” I asked with a smile, hiding the nervousness twisting my belly.
“It’s time for you to finally join the magical world. I’ll be your guide.”
I took a deep breath as he opened the car door for me. “I don’t really wanna.”
He shut it and came around to the driver’s side. “I’ll happily live in obscurity with you after everything is all set up.”
He still believed he’d turn the job down and walk away. Amazing.
My anxiety grew as we headed for the center of magical downtown.
“Are you going to hang me in the middle of Union Square to win the love of the people?” I asked as we slowed for the increased pedestrian traffic.
“And accidentally kill half the shoppers when you resist? Not likely.” He chuckled and turned into an underground public parking garage under the square. Right out front, beyond the ticket booths, he pulled into a spot marked Demigod.
“You don’t want the job, but you sure do enjoy the perks, huh?” I asked as he put the car in park.
“Yup.” He walked around the car at a leisurely pace, slipping one of his hands into his pocket.
I stalled for a moment, collecting my thoughts. I wore his mark—the people who saw us would know who I was. They’d know what I was. I did not envision this going well.
He opened the door and stuck out a hand for me, the turn of his shoulders and lean of his body indicating he was unimpressed with his surroundings. Here came the ego.
I allowed him to pull me out. “Should I be playing a part, too?” I whispered as he entwined his fingers within mine.
“Yes. The part of a woman confident in her own skin. The Alexis Price who grabbed ahold of my vitals, literally, and won’t let go. Be her.”
“Except she scares people, and I might make you look bad.”
“Then be the Alexis Price who doesn’t care when she makes a stalking, possessive Demigod look bad. It’s the same Alexis Price, by the way.”
I laughed and looked away. “I’m just worried I’ll meet the lynch mob.”
“You might, but it’ll be because you stole my affections. They’ll want what you have.”
I rolled my eyes. “No wonder you’re so strong. You have to carry your enormous ego around all the time.”
“There she is.”
We exited the parking garage into the sunlight, Kieran now in charge of maintaining the weather. Instead of the perfect blue his father had favored, puffy white clouds drifted through the sky.
People had asked him if he didn’t have enough power to keep the sky clear. He’d responded that true power lay in diversity. True proof of magical ability was the act of keeping constant change peaceful. A cloudy day would make people grateful for the sun, and would give a more interesting canvas for the sun to paint when it entered and exited the sky. It would give daydreamers shapes to picture when they stared at the heavens.
As one might expect, his answer went over extremely well.
“Here we go,” he said with a strong, sure voice.
People passing by glanced over. Their gazes caught on Kieran, making them slow, then stuck like glue to me. Mouths dropped open and eyes widened. People started chattering.
“That’s the Demigod!”
“Oh my God, that’s the Demigod’s girlfriend. Quick, get a picture!”
“I don’t have a chance in hell with him…”
I laughed softly.
“What?” he asked as we crossed the street without waiting for a lull in traffic. Cars slammed on their brakes and drivers leaned forward against their steering wheels, watching us. More people waited on the other side, excitedly pointing at him or me.
“That woman thinking she wanted a chance in hell with you,” I said.
“Yeah. You made me walk through my nightmare, then I nearly got myself killed. She should count her blessings.”
“Ah.” He was quiet for a moment. “Solid point. You’re incredibly unlucky.”
“Don’t I know it.”
We strolled up the sidewalk, and I felt the soul of Zorn lingering in an alley we passed.
“You have the Six on watch?”
He slowed as we neared a cluster of stores. People stopped walking and gawked. I half waited for someone to throw their underwear at Kieran.
“She is absolutely gorgeous,” I heard.
“She could’ve at least brushed her hair,” someone else said.
“What I wouldn’t give to hit that…” some douche said.
I gritted my teeth to keep from sucker-punching him in the spirit box. However well deserved, it wouldn’t be great for public goodwill.
Kieran turned slowly, his face a terrifying mask of viciousness. Magic seeped around him. His gaze hit Mr. Douche with a force that had the other man stepping backward.
“Sorry, sir,” the man mumbled, his face paling. “I meant no disrespect.”
“Subtle,” I said as Kieran turned back.
“You wear my mark. Disrespecting you is disrespecting me.”
“You sure didn’t seem to mind the hair comment, though…”
It hadn’t even registered.
He gestured around us. “Where shall we go first?”
I finally clued in to my surroundings. Top of the line stores crowded the streets, everything from domestic items to expensive lotions to handbags.
“We can’t shop here,” I said quietly.
He looked down at me, and I saw the love in his eyes. “This is the best this town has to offer. We’ll start here. When things with the government are resolved, we’ll hit Italy and France. We’ll visit the castle in Ireland. I have all the money you could want, Alexis, with more on the way. You can have it all. I just want you.”
“Did you hear what he said?” someone asked wistfully.
“She is so lucky,” someone else said.
“I would give my left arm for that man.”
I quirked an eyebrow. “Gonna let that one go, too?”
He gave me a crooked grin. “That’s your department. I just take care of the guys.”
I shook my head and noticed Chef’s Kitchen just up the way, a store that I’d never dreamed, in a million years, I’d ever have the money to shop in. It wasn’t even a big dream, it was a dream for another person in another life.
A strange nervousness washed over me, and suddenly I wanted to run. To hide. This was all too good for me. He was too good for me. I was the nothing daughter of a nobody, having grown up in the crack of nowhere. I didn’t belong on one of the most expensive streets in magical San Francisco about to go into a bunch of top-of-the-line stores. That wasn’t my MO!
My phone vibrated and I distractedly fished it out, aware that I was stalling. That people were staring at us expectantly.
A text from Bria: I see you left without me, you dick. I would’ve bought that store out, too. Make good choices.
I couldn’t help responding: I’m about to bolt. I don’t belong down here. Everyone is staring.
Kieran lightly moved my hair over my shoulder before stepping closer and sliding his arm around my waist. He wasn’t in any hurry, and he wasn’t concerned about showing affection in public. He was backing up his mark.
I leaned into him, relishing his comfort and support. Wishing it could only be him and me.
Bria: Just wait until you walk into Prada with me by your side. They’ll be following you thinking I’m a shoplifter. Been there, done that. Stole the purse to prove it.
I spat out a laugh and then wiped down Kieran’s shirt.
“What’s up?” he asked softly before kissing my temple.
“Bria is talking me down from freaking out.”
“She’s worth three million dollars, did she mention that?”
I reeled backward with wide eyes. “What’s this now?”
He smiled and I swear every woman in the area swooned. “She lives frugally and saves like hell. She’s worth a lot of money. Zorn nearly blew a gasket when he found out. If she can waltz through here, with her metal shirts and dog collars, so can a hard-working woman with floodwater pants and messy hair.”
“You did hear that comment.” I playfully slapped his chest and he laughed.
“Be you, Alexis,” he whispered near the shell of my ear. “I love you, in every way. No one else’s opinion will change that. Just be you.”
“I love you, too,” I said, and pointed at Chef’s Kitchen. “We might as well get some good materials for the guys.”
“Good thinking. I hear that store has one hell of a lemon zester.”
As we entered the store, I squeezed his hand and leaned my arm against his. “The kids wanted me to get my miracle. They both thought they’d already received theirs, and wanted me to finally get mine. I never thought I would. Not in my wildest dreams. And yet, here I am, living a fantasy with a man I love. Everything I’ve done has been worth it. I’d do it all again. You are my miracle, Kieran.”
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