“I thought you’d never get out of there,” Bria said, starting forward. “I was about to leave you behind.”

“Had to dig out those last two dollars,” Mick grumbled. “Those Kerry men are as tight… If the Titanic were that tight, it wouldn’t’ve gone down, boy! They’re that feckin’ tight, boy.”

I knew he meant tight-fisted. Clearly the huge discount he had already gotten wasn’t enough. He’d wanted to stop at paying thirty.

I pushed it out of my mind as we crossed the street, hurrying in front of an approaching car. This was the moment of truth. We’d left the bar, and we were moving slow. It would be easy for the woman to follow us, and just as easy for her to catch up and engage. I was pretty sure we could take her, but what if she had left the bar earlier to organize reinforcements?

A horn blared, making me jump. I turned around just in time to see Mick stagger out of the way of the oncoming car, nearly clipped by the bumper. “Ah, ya cheeky fucker, ya,” he mumbled before pinging off the front of one parked car and then the back of another.

He stepped up onto the curb but hadn’t lifted his foot high enough. His toe hit cement and his weight pitched forward. He slammed into a parking meter.

“Ya feckin’ ol’ bag!” he hollered. I wasn’t sure if he knew he’d hit an inanimate object.

Bria laughed as I caught movement near the bar.

The door slowly swung shut. There wasn’t a soul in sight, though there was one on my radar. Whoever had just walked out had slipped into the shadows at the side of the building.

“She’s out,” I whispered. “I can’t be sure it’s actually her, but who else would it be?”

“It’s her,” Bria said quietly before stubbing her toe and jogging forward to catch her weight. “She nursed that one beer the whole time while listening into our conversation. If it’s Valens, he must be grasping at straws. Clearly he sent a lackey.”

“She’s powerful, though.”

“I don’t know what her day job is, but it ain’t spyin’.”

The soul moved, coming up the other side of the street. I barely kept from looking.

“We’re being followed,” I said, my mouth going dry.

“Okie dokie.” Bria rubbed her hands together as Mick finally caught up to us. “Her efforts are laughable, but being a target is interesting, at least, so let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth.”

“Why can’t you take anything seriously?” I muttered as my heart sped up.

“Are you kidding? I could write a book on this. It would be called So, you’re being followed. Sub-title: Tips and tricks to keep you alive.”

Mick snickered.

“First thing is,” she said, “and this goes doubly for you, Lexi, because Mick is much too drunk to be afraid—don’t panic.”

“Working on it,” I said. My stomach flipped over. “Crap, I never got a chance to text Kieran.”

“Second thing is, figure out who the primary target is.”

“’S you,” Mick slurred. “She kept lookin’ at ya. Worst spy I’ve ever seen, boy.”

“Shhhh,” I said, making a shut-the-hell-up gesture with my hand.

“What?” he asked, his voice ringing out across the quiet street.

“Third thing is, figure out how the primary target should engage.”

“I thought you said not to engage,” I said, monitoring the soul across the street. The woman was a ways behind us, keeping our slow pace instead of overtaking us. Given the distance, I doubted she could hear anything other than Mick’s random shouts.

“I’m pretty sure I said not to freak out. I really don’t remember saying anything about not engaging. If you’d contacted that lover of yours, then we’d know for sure. As it is, I’ll have to make an educated guess.”

“No, no.” I pulled out my phone. “I’ll text him right now. See look: spy came to the bar. She’s now following—”

“It’s good. I got this.” Bria rolled her shoulders and veered around a sidewalk sign a business had left out.

“Liquid courage,” Mick said. “Just tell me where the—what da fuck?”

A loud crash made me whip around, just in time to see a fallen Mick pulling the sidewalk sign down on top of him. He lashed out, swinging a wild fist, missing the object directly above him.

“Good call, waiting for him,” I said, risking a glance at the other side of the street.

A flicker of movement caught my eye, but I didn’t dare look harder. I could feel her there, waiting. Watching.

“Let’s get moving,” I murmured.

“Yup.” Bria ripped the sidewalk sign away from Mick and put out her hand to pull him up. “Let’s split up.”

“Terrible idea,” I said, my thumbs flying across the screen of my phone. “You’ve had a lot to drink. You’ll make poor decisions.”

“I had a lot to drink so I wouldn’t make poor decisions, actually. It’ll muddle my cat-like reflexes. Now I’m down to her level while pleasantly buzzed. It could be worse.”

The person moved, creeping a little closer. Nearly within earshot. “Where do you live, Mick?” I asked a little louder than necessary.

Bria cocked her head, clearly picking up on my signal. She closed her eyes for a brief moment, then shrugged. “Still can’t feel her,” she whispered.

Dawning understanding made my thumbs still. “Would she know a class-five Necromancer’s range for feeling souls?”

Bria’s eyes narrowed as Mick struggled to his feet. “Probably,” she said. “Even a useless spy or assassin would know that much. Zorn can mark the distance to within half a foot. She’s probably just gauging a rough estimate, if she’s thinking of it at all.” Bria clapped Mick on the back and raised her voice. “All right, buddy, which way are you going? I’ll escort you home and make sure no sidewalk signs mug you.”

“Feck off,” Mick muttered, staggering on.

“Head home,” Bria said to me quietly, her body loose but her eyes tight. It was as though all the alcohol had magically evaporated from her system. “I am ninety-nine percent sure I’m the target. You should be fine. If any muggers or rapists come out of the woodworks, kill them. In this part of the world, no one will care. But if I’m wrong, and she goes after you, communicate through text only. If she tries to engage, run like hell. Don’t use your magic with her if at all possible. If you do have to use your magic, aim to kill. Do you understand?”

“I don’t know how to kill with my magic,” I said, tremors running through me.

She smiled. “I have a feeling you’ll figure it out. Worst case, eye gouge and take off. Just get home safe. If something happens to you, nothing in the world will protect me from your overbearing boyfriend.”

“What about you?”

“Come the fuck on,” Mick shouted, swerving from side to side on the sidewalk up ahead before stopping and turning back.

Bria chuckled. “I train with Zorn. That bitch ain’t got nothin’ on me.” Her expression turned serious again. “Just keep you safe, okay? Kieran will probably send the brigade to scoop you up. I’ll text you when I’m…where I end up.”

“Ew. It better not be in Mick’s bed.”

Her expression soured. “Good God, Alexis, what is wrong with you?” She shook her head before jogging after Mick.

It was a fair question. That had been a pretty gross thought.

“You didn’t need to stop,” I heard her say when she reached him. “You go as far side to side as you do forward. I could give you a half hour head start and still beat you home.”

“I’m getting my exercise,” he grumbled as they turned the corner.

I hurried past them, crossing the street and slipping into a patch of darkness on the other side. Their voices trailed away into the night. A car motor revved somewhere ahead. Behind, a shoe scuffed the sidewalk.

I chanced a quick look back. The dim light fell across the woman’s yellow shirt as she hurried diagonally across the street. An unlit cigarette stuck out between two fingers. Her prop was at the ready should she be noticed.

I lurched forward, walking quickly, putting distance between us. I needn’t have bothered.

After stalling briefly to take a look around the corner, the woman slipped after Bria and Mick.

The hush of the late evening wrapped around me. Someone called out in the distance, disturbing the quiet, before the distant crash of the waves invaded the scene once again.

I opened up a little to the Line, then expanded my magic as far as it would go. People sat in houses, going about their lives. A few spirits wandered around, and one sat in an upstairs bedroom. No one else was waiting to intercept me. Bria had, as expected, been the target.

The soft sting of guilt prickled my conscience.

If anything happened to Bria, I would never forgive myself. I was the one who’d released the spirits, after all, not her.

My phone vibrated in my hand.

Kieran: Where are you?

I bent to my screen.

Me: Three blocks from home. The woman went after Bria. Bria needs to know what you want her to do.

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