“Not even close. Your bond isn’t a true familiar relationship. It’s enslavement.” He stepped sideways to draw the runes that curved around my back. “You have a real talent for getting yourself into trouble.”

“Well, this is probably the last time. MagiPol is investigating my guild, so I’ll be getting the boot back to the regular world any day now.”

His hand stilled, and I grimaced. My voice might have quavered on that last bit. He resumed drawing without comment.

“How’s Nadine?” I asked.

“Well enough. Angry with me.”

“Angry? Why?”

“She doesn’t want to leave.”

“Leave?” I yelped, stepping toward him. “You promised to take care of her!”

His mouth pressed into a thin line. He spun me around and poked my back with his pencil eraser. “Don’t move. And I will make sure she’s safe, but she can’t stay with me anymore. None of them can.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’m shutting down the farm.”

Gasping, I started to spin but he caught my shoulder, holding me still. His statement burned my ears. Somewhere in the nearby mountains, Zak owned an entire valley where he sheltered a rotating dozen or so homeless teens and young adults who needed a safe place to get back on their feet. For all that his reputation was terrifying—and his morals allowed ruthless murder—he was a decent guy.

“Why are you shutting it down?” I demanded.

“It’s not safe. That bitch sorceress found me. She knows too much, and she’s already spreading the information around. I sent the older ones on their way within a week, and Terrance took all his apprentices except Nadine. She needs better protection than he can give her.”

My hands balled into fists. “How much of this is my fault?”

“None. I took in Nadine. Varvara would’ve found me sooner or later based on that alone, and if not for you, I wouldn’t have known I’d been discovered—or by whom.” With the sound of tearing paper, he added, “I’m finished.”

Turning, I glanced over his work—all the runes marking my body were drawn in 2D as though he’d skinned me and laid out my hide to tan.

“So?” I prompted as he studied the drawing.

“Not great.” He pointed to a few gaps in the design. “There are missing pieces—parts of the ritual that weren’t completed properly. Probably steps you were supposed to take when you bound the fae.”

“I’m not so worried about whether it’s working properly,” I admitted. “I’m way more concerned with how to break it.”

“Yeah,” he muttered, frowning at the page. “That might be a problem.”

“What do you mean?”

“These things are usually for life. Like a demon contract, it only ends when the contractor dies.”

I swallowed. Why did I get myself involved in these things?

A warm hand closed around my elbow. “Tori? Don’t faint.”

“I never faint.” Except for that one time. Very recently. It didn’t count.

He steered me around the sofa and nudged me onto the cushions, then sat beside me. “Our main problem is that fae relic you told me about on the phone. If this was dark-arts Arcana alone, I could break it, but a fae created the magic. The Arcana merely gave it shape and rules.”

“Are you saying it’s unbreakable?”

“I’m saying it won’t be simple. But it needs to be broken.” His solemn green irises slid over me. “You won’t survive it for more than a few weeks.”

My stomach dropped out of me. I pressed a hand to my spinning head. “Shit, Zak.”

His gaze snapped to the stairs. “Someone just parked out front. A woman.”

“How do you know?”

“I left a varg to keep watch.”

I shuddered at the memory of his loyal fae wolves. “It’s Kaveri. I sent her to the store.” Panic rose through me. “If she sees you, will I die on the spot?”

Confusion flickered over his features, then he grunted. “No. The oath doesn’t work that way. I’d be revealing myself—which I’m not planning to do. Taenerpatninarkin?”

For a second, I thought he was having a stroke, then I realized that was Twiggy’s real name. Wow, Zak had remembered it?

Twiggy peeked out from behind the sofa. “Crystal Druid,” he squeaked reverently.

“Can you keep the woman from entering the house?”

“Yes. Yes, I can!”

“Without hurting her,” I added sharply. “Just distract her or something.”

Twiggy nodded so fast his whole body rocked. “I can do that!”

“Then do it,” Zak ordered. “Tori will let you know when you can come back in.”

Beaming, Twiggy vanished on the spot.

“Now what?” I asked.

Zak rose to his feet. “Now it’s time to talk to the fae lord. We might need extra space.”

When he crouched to take hold of my sofa, I hopped up and grabbed the other end. We pulled it out of the way. Luckily, that was it for furniture.

“What’s the fae’s name?” he asked.

“Uh … Llyr-something.”

His eyes went out of focus. “Llyrlethiad, then. This will be interesting.”

He flexed his arms and the dark feather tattoos that swept down from his shoulders shifted. The black design blurred, then shadowy wings lifted away from his skin. An ebony eagle emerged from his back, shadows rippling off her feathers.

His familiar swept to the breakfast bar and perched on the counter. I was still gawking at her appearance—not that I hadn’t seen Lallakai before, just that she was magnificently beautiful—when two shaggy black vargs materialized on either side of the druid.

“Uh …” I muttered.

Zak rolled his shoulders like he was warming up for a boxing match. “I’ve never met Llyrlethiad before. He might try to kill me.”

Not comforting. “What about me?”

“He can’t kill you, or he’d have already done it. The magic prevents him from harming you.”

I remembered the leviathan’s massive jaws snapping inches from my body. Then I pictured the beast and looked around my apartment. “Zak, he won’t fit.”

“He will.” His eyes lost focus again.

“No, really, he’s too—Zak?” I stepped closer, weirded out by his blank stare. “Hello, Zak?”

“Shut up, Tori,” he growled. “I’m trying to call the fae.”


His eyes went vacant again, and I realized he was looking at something I couldn’t see—or listening to something I couldn’t hear.

Tingles rushed through the fae markings on my skin.

“Here he comes.”

I didn’t need Zak’s warning—I could feel the fae’s approach like a rising tide inside my body. Foreign power surged through my flesh.

The air in the apartment blurred as the humidity shot up. Water coalesced out of nowhere and a wave of salty liquid plunged down on us.

Pouring over our heads, the icy wave flooded the floor. Water swirled and spun, and out of it, massive coils emerged, filling the entire room. The serpentine body writhed, smashing into the walls.

The leviathan’s head burst out of the water, massive jaws gaping, and it lunged for Zak.

Chapter Twelve

Lallakai dove in front of her master, wings spread wide. The wolfish vargs flanked her, hackles raised and teeth bared. Shadows roiled around the eagle and she whipped them at the leviathan. It recoiled with a snarl.

Zak sprang through her dark magic and pressed both hands to the leviathan’s scaled muzzle. The creature went still, its pearly eyes shining with outrage. The fae was maybe a third the size it had been on the beach, but it was still a lethal giant.

Cowering in the corner, I crouched in a foot of cold salt water, arms wrapped protectively around my head. My body pulsed strangely, as though everything inside me were trying to expand through my flesh. I could scarcely breathe, my head spinning and lurching. The world had detached from my senses, my mind overwhelmed by a thousand zinging barbs of alien power driving through my skin over and over with each passing second.


I didn’t realize I’d squeezed my eyes shut. I cracked them open.

Zak crouched in front of me, and the leviathan’s thick coils no longer filled the room. The serpent had shrunk again; now it was merely the size of a monster anaconda. With its pectoral fins braced on the floor, its horned head almost touched the ceiling. Its long body snaked through the water that filled my apartment, pointed dorsal fins lining its back.

Zak helped me up. I wobbled to my feet, disoriented and unsteady. The disconnected feeling between my mind and body had mostly faded, but fae power still shuddered through my limbs.

Ivory eyes gleaming murderously, Llyrlethiad waited with unnerving stillness reminiscent of a hunting reptile. Lallakai was back on the kitchen counter, and the two vargs stood on my sofa to keep out of the water.

“Are you okay, Tori?” Zak murmured.

I stretched my arm out. The fae markings were blazing as bright as the moon. “I can handle it.”

He nodded and guided me toward the serpent, which was large enough to bite my limbs clean off. I resisted the urge to flee. Or curl up in a terrified ball and cry like a baby. That was an appealing option too.