Home > Sin & Magic (Demigod of San Francisco #2)(17)

Sin & Magic (Demigod of San Francisco #2)(17)
Author: K.F. Breene

“Jack, get up,” Kieran barked, lowering his hands from the doorframe. His eyes were on me, unreadable like usual.

Jack moaned, now fully curled up in the fetal position.

“I signed up to do a job, not defend myself from a guy twice my size,” I said, gingerly touching my throbbing cheek. “He slammed my face into the wall. And where are Daisy and Mordecai?”

Kieran stepped over Jack before reaching his hand down to me. I took it and a delightful hum ran through my arm and zipped into the core of my body. I grimaced against it, trying to hold on to my anger.

“Your wards are waiting on the couch,” Kieran said, pulling me up. He didn’t let go of my hand, standing too close. “They have a couple bruises, but are otherwise fine.”

Bria touched her fingers to her neck before wincing. I belatedly noticed four red parallel lines with little points of blood welling up.

“Bria let the situation get the better of her,” Kieran said in disapproval, his gaze drifting to Jack. “As did Jack.”

“No one told me she could fight,” Jack said, his sides rising and falling with deep breaths. “I didn’t expect her to move that fast. She hit me with a fucking bat.” His voice dropped into a mumble. “Why the hell did I volunteer for this?”

“You just had the one,” Bria said, shouldering her pack. “And she’s half your size, I might add. That chick ward is a nut. She doesn’t do anything like normal people. She’s like a little gremlin. Then the shifter kid plays off of her, and suddenly I’m under siege.”

“Like I said.” I shrugged Kieran off. I could not let him get to me again. I had to stand strong. “I didn’t sign up for people barging into my house in the dead of night.”

“It’s morning,” Bria said with a grin, heading for the door. “And you’re working with a Demigod now. What he says goes, regardless of what you signed.”

I felt my expression close down as I turned to face the handsomest jerk I’d ever met. “What he says does not go.”

Kieran’s gaze delved through me. “Mordecai was told this would happen someday. We wondered if he would share that knowledge with you and Daisy. Much to Daisy’s dismay, he didn’t. It seems he thought the attack would be focused on him. He didn’t realize it could affect the whole house. The whole pack, as it were. It was one of many tests.”

“Testing you was my idea,” Bria said. “I needed to see what you’d do under duress.” Bria disappeared through the door. “And see?” she called. “It worked. Now I just need to…”

I lost the thread of her words as Kieran stepped closer, his sweet breath falling across my face. His hand came up to graze my cheek where it had hit the wall, and suddenly I couldn’t breathe. Thoughts fled. His eyes burned into mine.

“Are you okay?” he whispered, concern ringing through his words. Through his eyes. “He was not supposed to physically harm you, just scare you. I think the fight got away from him.”

“He would’ve won.”

Kieran’s eyes flowed over my face as his fingertips traced down to my neck, stroking softly. “This time. But you’ve progressed in your magic. Usually you splay my chest open for a moment, then withdraw. This time…” A troubled look crossed his face. “This time…I felt you inside of me. I felt you digging in.”

“I know what part of the body I’m supposed to reach into, I just don’t know how to get in there.” I shivered in disgust, pulling my face away from him. I stepped back, letting the cool air wafting through the open doorway wipe away the haze caused by his proximity. “I don’t know if I should figure it out. It’s a dangerous place to hang around in, Kieran. I felt the power of the Line run through me. It’s intense, and just now, I wasn’t connected to my emotions while wielding that power. If I disconnect from my emotions, I’ll be no better than the Soul Stealers in those stories. I won’t have a firm grasp on my morals.”

He glanced down at Jack and then back to me. He shook his head. “You underestimate yourself. I know that because I’ve had those thoughts before—when I was learning my magic. I tested the limits. I was young and dumb and could get away with murder. Literally. I know what it is to be tempted by power, but I’ve never shied away from feeling the rush of using it.”

“We’re different. You’ve been trained since you were young.”

“I was taught to rule with an iron fist. I was taught ruthlessness over goodness. I constantly fight against my training. But you’re right about one thing: we are different. And that difference is what makes me trust you without hesitation. What makes me fight my primal instinct for self-preservation so that you can threaten my very soul. So that you can learn.” He shook his head again, more adamantly this time. “There is no worry of you losing your way, Alexis Price, even for a moment. Your statement just proved it. The power doesn’t flirt with you, as it does with most. It stands ready for your use. You’re in control, not it. That distinction will save you from the thing you most fear.”

I blew out a breath, not sure about all this. He didn’t know me very well. Hardly at all, in fact. He couldn’t know how it would affect me. I didn’t know how it would affect me.

I was terrified to find out.

“Now, let’s go. The first shift is fast approaching.” Kieran turned, apparently satisfied with his obscure explanation, before stepping over a prone Jack.

“Where are we going?” I asked, wondering if I should help the poor guy up. He just laid there, staring at the ceiling with his hands flopped out to either side and dried blood smeared across his upper lip.

Kieran glanced back before walking through the door. “I took a harder look at my mother’s list. It’s time to break into the first of my father’s strongholds and see what he’s hiding.”

13

Alexis

“All right, here’s the situation,” Bria whispered as I turned down a desolate street between what seemed like intentionally shabby buildings. Trash rolled along the sidewalk, occasionally disappearing beneath a graffiti-covered van or a truck pulled up to the curb. Up ahead, Kieran rode with a shaky Jack (apparently, I’d freaked Jack out with my magic, and Kieran had then pounded him with his. The guy was not having a good day so far), and Zorn in Donovan’s car. Boman and Thane, two more of the Six, followed behind me in an identical BMW. Henry, the final member of the Six, had stayed behind to play babysitter to my wards, who were mad as hell that they didn’t get to come. “Demigod Kieran is working off of some list that his mother left to him—”

“It’s a list of places that are important to Valens,” I replied. “She gave me the names earlier this evening. Or…last night, technically.”

Bria paused with her finger up and mouth open. She lowered her finger slowly. “Oh. Do you remember all the places?”

“Most, though some were random names I didn’t recognize. Why? And why are you whispering? It’s just us in the car.”

She continued to whisper. “Oh good. Then pick-pocketing Kieran wasn’t in vain. Cool. I overheard him talking about the list before we broke into your house—”

“I was meaning to ask you—why did you knock and then break in…using a key?”

She waved her hand at me, annoyed by the interruptions. “To see if you would attack or just wait and see what happened. Anyway, you’re obviously here to check for that skin. I’m here to further your training while you do it. They’re here to see what this warehouse is, and possibly steal secrets—”

“I know. They told us before we loaded up into the cars, remember?”

“Right, yeah. But why do you think we’re in a separate car?”

“So we don’t have to wait for them if the skin’s not there but there’s other stuff Kieran wants to check out.”

“No.” She ducked under the visor to look at a shiny chain-link fence stretching out in front of us, blocking off a mostly empty gravel yard. Barbed wire topped the fence in lazy circles, the points gleaming in the dawning morning light. The other identical BMW in front of us started the left turn at the T-intersection. “He’s used to people waiting on him. He expects it. And if there is trouble, he usually expects his people—including me—to stay and fight for him. He’s a Demigod, Alexis. They play by different rules. You need to start realizing that and stop being a good little puppet. No, he’s separating you out so that if something goes down, you can run for the hills. I’ve been put with you so that I can help you escape. Tweedle Dingleberry was left behind with those maniac kids so that he can watch over you when I deliver you to the house. That clown Demigod has taken a liking to you, and when they do that, they basically piss on their item of interest to claim them. They’re all the same. It’s suffocating. I hate it. But here we are.”

“Riiiggghhhtt. Except…I don’t know how to fight. Me getting out of there sounds like a good idea.”

“Yes, you do, you’re just bad at it.” She touched her visor to make sure it was all the way down—even though the sun hadn’t fully crested the horizon—before slouching down further. “Sure, we’ll get out of there. After we look around. He’ll try to ship you off at the first sign of danger, but dangerous situations are the best learning experiences. I mean, people like us deal in dead people. We’re already up to no good. Sometimes you gotta get caught up in trouble to do your job.”

I squinted my eyes and cocked my head, seeing where she was going with this, and not stoked about ending up in her profession. Going back to my quiet life sounded like a nicer, and safer, alternative.

She whistled softly as she looked out the window at the gravel yard that continued to run beside us, the barbed wire atop the fence nonchalantly telling lookie-loos they weren’t wanted, and if they trespassed anyway, they’d end up as shark bait in the bay not far away.

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