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Seems important they be jealous, though I’m not sure why.

I shake my head, blaming the fact I’m still a little poisoned for my even more random-than-usual thought process. I feel so clean now at least.

“She’s back, isn’t she?” a familiar voice asks from behind me somewhere.

Kai leaps up, and I end up on the chair alone as he passes through me and turns around, taking a defensive stance.

I poke my head through the chair, seeing Lamar standing there and looking overly excited. Jude swirls a sword in his hand, coming to stand a little in front of my head like he’s protecting me.

“I thought so,” Lamar says as he takes them in. “We heard of a botched attack on one of you in New Orleans last month. Then I lost the feel of her,” he goes on, stepping closer. “Then I felt her again, and knew this time without a doubt it was her. She feels weakened, though.”

Jude takes a step toward him, and Lamar frowns at him like he’s offended for some reason.

“I’m not sure what’s going on right now,” he says, sounding genuinely frustrated. “I understand she somehow resurrected you as mortals and gifted you a chance to live with a balance that defies all laws. She never was much of one for the rules, and she broke them quite frequently. But why keep up the charade now that you’ve clearly been outed?”

“Is he talking about me? I think he’s confused,” I tell the guys, moving closer to Kai, even though the wound is starting to drain me now that the adrenaline is wearing off.

“She’ll heal faster in hell,” Lamar goes on. “You know it. They’ll never know I gave you passage, and you can continue to keep your secret. I won’t tell them, if she really doesn’t want them to know. But why keep it a secret from me?” Lamar asks, actually sounding a little hurt. “Especially when she’s spent over a month healing from whatever it is she could have healed immediately from with my help.”

“Anyone have a clue why he sounds betrayed?” I stage-whisper.

“No,” Kai says from beside me, confusion written all over his face.

Lamar looks between the four of them, who are all staring at him like he’s just tipped over the edge of the weirdo cliff.

Lamar has a moment of confusion cross his features when he sees it written all over theirs. I’m not sure if he’s mimicking subconsciously, or if he’s genuinely confused by their confusion.

It’s all really confusing, if you want my opinion.

Then his eyes widen as though he’s just realized something as he takes a shaky step back.

“You truly have no fucking clue who I am, do you?”

“Yes…” Gage’s drawl is exaggerated, as though he’s talking to a crazy person. “Your Manella’s boyfriend.”

“Only because the royals don’t believe in marriage of any kind,” he feels the need to defend. “But at least you said boyfriend instead of lover,” he goes on.

Noted.

“That’s all you know me as? You’re not just playing some game?” Lamar asks as though this is a very crucial question.

The quad exchanges a look of confusion, and Lamar takes a step back. “Son of a bitch. How the hell did she do that?”

“He’s not making a damn bit of sense,” Ezekiel points out.

“Thank you,” I groan. “I was worried that I’m just stupid.”

“Is that how you have a balance now?” Lamar says as though he just thought of something that makes him a genius.

“I’m about to go whole and shake him down for answers that make sense if someone else doesn’t do it for me,” I say on a sigh.

Ezekiel is grabbing Lamar in the next instant, but Lamar simply winks, and we’re suddenly in a windowless room full of elegant décor.

“And we’re in hell,” I say on a sigh. “Again.”

But the pain vanishes, and I make the phantom shirt disappear to reveal the bruise is finally gone.

“She’s better, isn’t she?” Lamar asks, and I quickly make my shirt reappear and dart a gaze up at him.

He’s not looking at me. Whew. Thought he could see me.

His eyes are on the four guys who are all slowly looking away as though they were studying the healed injury as well.

“Feeling much, much better,” I tell them. “Don’t kill him yet,” I add to Ezekiel, whose lips twitch as he takes a step back and releases Lamar.

“She just told you not to kill me yet, didn’t she?” Lamar asks with an excited grin.

“You heard her?” Jude growls, as though Lamar has committed a grave offense.

In the next instant, Kai is behind him, a sword pressed to the base of his neck.

“Either you’re being very cruel right now, Paca, or they’re not the only ones who lost their memories. Which means everything I just think I figured out will be null and void, and you might very damn well let them kill me. Which means I’m an idiot for bringing you all here without alerting anyone.”

He clears his throat.

“A big, dumb idiot,” he says nervously as he looks around, waiting for someone to crack a grin and tell him we’re all kidding.

No grins are cracked.

“I can’t hear her. I just know that’s something she’d say if she was toying with me. But I’m starting to think she genuinely has no clue who I am. But why would she save me in that damn prison if she didn’t know me? She knows my role with spirits and—”

“She doesn’t know your role with spirits, but I’m really intrigued, because I’d also like to know,” Jude tells him, smiling wickedly as Kai steps a little closer with that sword, bearing in a bit, just barely not breaking the skin.

“You should sharpen your blades some time,” I tell him. “Apparently you’ve all gotten volatile and lazy this past month when I wasn’t around to make you awesome.”

Ezekiel blows out a harsh breath, as though he’s silently imploring me to shut the hell up.

“I think it’s time I explain a little better,” Lamar says a little less confidently, keeping his hands raised to show he’s no threat. But I’ve seen a lot of power roll out of him.

He could easily knock them away long enough to disappear. Or possibly kill one.

That has me on high alert as I cross my arms over my chest and pay attention to his every movement. Lake taught me to never be caught off guard again.

No wonder the guys are so paranoid. Now I finally get it. You just can’t trust people associated with hell. Who knew?

I never trusted her, of course, but they spent centuries trusting her—even caring for her.

I’m so glad she’s dead.

“You see, we worked really hard to keep you out of the trials, because—”

“It was you?” Kai growls, at the same time I say, “That’s a terribly stupid way for him to start this explanation.”

Jude snorts, then looks really angry when he has to fight a grin while he’s trying to be really pissed off. It results in him glaring at me as he finally straightens his face.

“For a reason!” Lamar shouts.

Kai barely eases back.

“For a reason,” Lamar says again, swallowing thickly.

Then he disappears, and we whirl around as he lands on his desk, sitting comfortably.

“I’m afraid I’ll need some distance from you four until Paca remembers me.”

“Paca is so not the badass name I was looking for,” I tell them. “I’m a Xena, or Phoenix…something like that.”

Kai groans as he glares over at me.

“She’s consistently saying inappropriate things at the worst possible times, which debunks the very serious nature of the situations around. Am I right?” Lamar asks them. “Is she the same?”

“I think he can hear her,” Ezekiel decides.

“No!” Lamar shouts when they start to advance on him. He holds his hands up defensively, then adds, “I can kill you, since you’re lacking a lot of information about your power, it seems, but you can’t kill me. However, I can swear I won’t touch you at all. She’d kill me if I did.”

“That last part actually made sense to me, so that’s improvement,” I tell them.

“She loves hard,” he goes on. “Very hard,” he adds, smiling like he’s proud of that. “She’s the most jealous person you’ll ever find.”

That makes a few of them smirk.

“I’m not that bad,” I remind them.

“She’ll go to the ends of the earth to save you four. And she’ll always be serious when it counts. Because while she distracts you from the intensity of the situation, she’s cataloguing each new piece of information, filing it away, recording it for later, then she puts it all together with the most reasonable way to approach a situation. Though to us, we often find it maddening or just crazy. But we don’t have the same ability to reason as she does.”

“He was doing good until the end,” I say, convinced he’s kissing my ass because he thinks I’m running this show. It’s rather empowering, if I do say so myself.

“Let him live. I’m healed, so take me home and give me many orgasms,” I state like I’m the queen and they must do my bidding.

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