A foot in a pink sandal swung out of nowhere and kicked his hand. The knife caught my shirt with a loud tearing sound.

Rearing back, the sorcerer pulled out a new playing card. “Ori—”

His shout cut off and his face went slack. He tipped over backward, head smacking the pavement.

I blinked dazedly at the pretty pink sandals that had saved me. My stare rose up the woman’s legs, over a cute sundress, and found Sin’s blue hair. She stood with her hand extended over the sorcerer, a vial held upside-down over his unconscious form.

The vial disappeared into her purse as she crouched beside me. “Are you okay?”

“Um.” I pulled a jumbo bra off my wrist and tossed it away. “Now I’m okay.”

A crowd gathered around us, and three saleswomen from the store hung out the door, their faces ghostly white.

“We called the police,” a woman said. “They’re on the way. Do you need an ambulance?”

“I’m fine.” My voice sounded like crunching gravel and I massaged my sore throat.

Sin pulled me up, her arm around my shoulders. Someone handed me my purse and I clutched it to my chest. My purse. No one was allowed to steal my purse. It had my wallet in it.

“We need to leave before the police arrive,” Sin whispered in my ear.

“But I haven’t paid for this top.”

“I don’t think they care. The shirt is trash.”

Okay, that was mean. It wasn’t the most tasteful shirt, but my boobs looked fantastic.

Sin pulled me into motion. “She needs to sit down,” she announced. “There’s a bench this way. Come on.”

People moved aside for us, then closed the gap again, imprisoning the sorcerer behind a wall of captivated bystanders. Sin steered me away from the commotion, her pace increasing the farther we got. I stumbled along, my knees trembling.

Two blocks away, she pushed me onto a bench and dug out her phone. As she dialed a number, I hugged my purse and squinted at the bright street, trying to pull myself together.

“Hurry,” Sin was saying into her phone. “I think she’s in shock … I don’t know yet! Just hurry!”

She stuffed her phone back in her purse and crouched in front of me. “Tori, what happened?”

“That jackass ambushed me in the changeroom. He wanted his card back.”

“His what?”

“The artifact I stole when I helped Aaron.”

Her eyes widened. “He was one of the rogues from last weekend?”

“Yeah. He kept demanding his artifact back.” I frowned. “Where did you come from, anyway? Weren’t you meeting me at the café?”

“The bus drives right by the store, so I got off early. I thought we could walk to the restaurant together.” She tugged on my purse. “Let me see your stomach.”

“What’s wrong with my stomach?”

She pulled my purse away, and I saw what was wrong. The sorcerer’s dagger hadn’t caught only my shirt. Blood stained the fabric around the tear, but when Sin lifted the hem, we found a shallow scratch that had barely broken my skin. Well, this explained why she’d called my shirt trash—it was literally destined for the garbage.

“Okay, that’s just a minor cut. Good.” Sin tugged my shirt down. “Are you hurt anywhere else?”

“No, I’m just …” I took a shaky breath. “He used a spell … ori torqueo something … and it … really hurt.”

“Oh,” Sin murmured. “I’m sorry, Tori. That’s an illegal spell. He shouldn’t have had something like that.”

“Well, it’s not like he’s a law-abiding citizen.”

She sat beside me, patting my shoulder while I practiced slow, even breathing. In the frenzied panic of the fight, I hadn’t realized how shaky and dazed that pain spell had left me. The dizzy out-of-body feeling lingered stubbornly.

A revving engine rose above the other sounds, then the squeal of brakes. A car lurched as a black motorcycle cut it off and veered toward the sidewalk. It jumped the curb and slid to a stop, forcing pedestrians to scatter. The leather-clad driver flipped his tinted visor up.

“Kai?” I blinked at him. Whoa. How had I not noticed how badass he was before now?

Sin dragged me to the bike and pushed me onto the seat behind him. The leather vibrated alarmingly under my butt.

Unhooking a spare helmet from the back, Sin handed it to me. “Put that on.”

As I attempted to jam the helmet over my ponytail, she spoke quietly to Kai. I had to pull the tie out of my hair, freeing my curls from their ponytail, before I could get the helmet on. Sin stuffed my purse into the saddlebag behind my thigh, then squeezed my arm.

“Kai will get you out of here,” she assured me. “Just hold on tight, okay?”

I obediently wrapped my arms around Kai’s waist. “What about you?”

“I’m going to see what I can find out about that sorcerer before the police cart him off. I’ll check in with you later.” She nodded at Kai, then marched back to the scene of the crime.

“Pick your feet up, Tori,” Kai instructed, pulling his visor down.

“I’ve never ridden a motorcycle before,” I told him, reluctantly lifting my sandals off the ground and half expecting the bike to tip over, but Kai kept it steady.

“All you have to do is hold on.” He craned his neck to look back at me. “Use the footrests.”

Pulling my feet up higher, I found sturdy metal pegs to prop them on. Okay, this wasn’t so bad.

The engine growled and the motorcycle jumped into traffic. I clung tightly to Kai, wide-eyed behind my helmet visor. The busy street was bumper to bumper, but Kai zoomed between cars and down the center line with no regard for traffic laws. He cut off Robson Street and wound through a maze of side roads, heading east toward the edge of downtown.

As we left the skyscrapers behind, I expected him to turn north toward the Crow and Hammer, but he took a right instead. Small, quaint shops with colorful awnings and outdoor markets replaced the downtown buildings. We passed the edge of Chinatown, then he turned onto a residential street lined with mature trees and cute little houses.

The motorcycle rolled to a stop in front of a beige house with blue trim, the tiny front yard enclosed by a wooden fence with a trellis arch over the front walk. As Kai cut the engine, I took in the adorable cottage-style house, then carefully swung off and wobbled a step away.

Kai jumped off the bike, set the kickstand, then pulled me into his arms.

I squawked in surprise. “I can walk!”

He ignored my protest and carried me under the trellis as Aaron rushed out of the house to meet us, his expression grim.

“How is she?” he demanded.

“Sin said no serious injuries, but he hit her with a torque spell.”

Aaron hissed. Spinning on his heel, he backtracked up the stairs to the front stoop. “Ezra is on his way. He’ll be here in a couple minutes.”

“Guys, really, I’m fine.”

The way my voice croaked from my bruised throat wasn’t convincing, and unsurprisingly, they ignored me. Inside, Kai carried me past a landing with stairs up to the second floor. The living room featured big bow windows and French doors leading into a dining room. A large sofa and reclining chair filled the space, and a huge flat-screen TV took up the opposite wall, several game systems arrayed on a low stand beneath it.

Sweeping into the dining room, Kai deposited me on the table. I pulled my helmet off, glaring at them. “I said I was fine.”

“I know what you said.” Aaron took my wrist, his fingers pressed to my pulse. “But I don’t believe you. Torque spells can send the body into neurogenic shock.”

“Into … what?”

Kai dropped his helmet on the table, knocking a stack of old flyers onto the hardwood floor. “Do you feel dizzy? Disoriented? Weak? Clammy?”

“No,” I said indignantly, then hesitated. “Not anymore.”

Aaron and Kai exchanged knowing looks.

“There’s blood on her shirt,” Kai said.

I swatted Aaron’s hands away before he could lift my shirt, then pulled up the hem to display the shallow scratch. “It’s nothing.”

“I’ll get the kit.” Kai walked out, and his footsteps sounded on the stairs.

“Any other injuries?” Aaron asked.

“No. You guys are completely overreacting.”

Aaron’s eyebrows shot up. “Maybe it hasn’t sunk in yet that a rogue mythic hunted you down and almost killed you. Personally, I don’t think we’re overreacting.”

My stomach turned as belated fear shivered through me. When he put it that way …

Kai reappeared with a first aid kit so large it could store an entire paramedic team. “Tell us what happened. Every detail you can remember.”

Holding up my shirt, I recounted the tale while Kai cleaned the scrape on my stomach. Since it had already stopped bleeding, he didn’t bandage it. Dropping my shirt down again, I concluded with Sin’s rescue.

“He was waiting for you?” Aaron growled. “How the hell did he know you’d be there?”

“No clue. I told Sin this morning where I was heading, but that’s it. My brother knew I was going shopping, but not where.”

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