Chapter Thirteen

Liar, liar, pants on fire.

I chanted the words like they would somehow alleviate my guilt. I’d lied to Sin, lied to Kaveri, and when Aaron and Kai had shown up, I’d lied to them too. Sin had called them the moment she saw the state of my apartment.

Kaveri, Aaron, and Kai knew nothing of my druid visitor. I’d told them the fae had appeared on his own, sabotaged my apartment, then left again. Sin, however, was suspicious. She’d noticed I was up to something before Twiggy knocked her out, and though I’d insisted it was all the fae lord’s doing, she wasn’t buying it.

Curled up on my bed, I held my glowing phone in front of my nose, idly scrolling through news articles, web comics, and silly memes. My alarm clock declared the time to be 6:03 in the morning, and no one was up yet. Kaveri and Sin were sleeping on air mattresses in the living room.

I should’ve been sleeping like the dead, but between the two potions Zak had fed me, I was feeling damn spritely. I could run a marathon right now.

Actually, no, I couldn’t. I’d never run a marathon in my life.

Tucked under my arm was a warm sphere. Smooth bumps and ridges covered the silvery-blue orb, its surface streaked with aquamarine and fuchsia. Zak had given it to me weeks ago. According to him, it was a dormant fae and he wasn’t suited to care for it. So now it was mine.

With no idea how to take care of it—and no instructions from the stupid druid—I’d been keeping it in the top drawer of my nightstand, nestled in an old sweater. At some point, I’d gotten in the habit of holding it while reading in bed, occasionally sharing random thoughts about my day. Why? No idea. Either I was crazy or lonely. Or a bit of both.

I scrolled through a few more dumb internet things, my mind wandering to Aaron’s and Kai’s concerned questions about the fae lord’s visit. Had it only been six hours ago? My fingers tapped across my screen, closing one app and opening another. Photos filled the small display.

As I flipped through them, a smile tugged at my lips. Aaron and me at a farmer’s market, pointing dramatically at a stand of oddly shaped watermelons. The three guys and me at the guild, toasting over a job they’d smashed. Sin and me at an outdoor concert last week, making faces at the camera.

I stopped at a photo of Aaron and me grinning at the selfie camera as we brandished big plastic guns. Behind us, Kai and Ezra stood at attention, faces grim, holding their own plastic firearms.

Two-on-two laser tag. Aaron and I goofed off from the start, but Kai and Ezra got hardcore into character—bleak and barking commands at each other, quipping military lines from movies, feigning injuries, and acting like they were in the middle of a war zone.

Aaron and I might have won the match if we hadn’t been debilitated by laughter. Kai and Ezra kept escalating their soldier game until even Kai couldn’t keep a straight face, but Ezra didn’t crack once, the sparkle in his mismatched eyes the only sign that he was fighting not to laugh. He finished the match with an Oscar-worthy death scene and Kai gallantly swore to avenge him. I almost peed myself laughing.

I swiped through a few more photos from that day and stopped on the final one. I stood between Aaron and Ezra, my arms over their shoulders, a pout on my face. Aaron’s head was thrown back in laughter—he’d gotten off a perfect zinger at my expense—and a huge grin lit Ezra’s face, his curly hair tousled in the breeze. Kai was taking the picture with my phone, his presence as palpable as the two visible mages.

Were these photos all I’d have once this was over?

A damn shame she isn’t a mythic. Ramsey’s words were burned into my memory. I wanted to be a mythic, to be one of them. I wanted it so badly it hurt my soul. I wanted to be part of their world, so entrenched that not even the MPD could banish me.


Twiggy’s high-pitched whisper came from the foot of my bed. I sat up, hastily wiping at my eyes.

He faded into sight, huge green eyes gleaming in the darkness. “The witch is awake. She is making hot leaf water.”

I canted my head, listening. A quiet clank drifted into my bedroom, followed by the sound of running water in the kitchen sink.

Twiggy inched along the bed, then sat a few feet from my legs. “She is angry.”

Yes, yes she was. While Zak and I had been speaking with Llyrlethiad, Twiggy had stolen Kaveri’s purse and led her on a merry chase up and down the street. All things considered, his efforts to distract her had been harmlessly funny. She didn’t see the humor in it, though.

“You did an excellent job,” I told the faery. “The druid is impressed.”

Twiggy perked up. “The Crystal Druid is impressed?”

“Very much so. You did great.” I held my hand up. When he stared, I added, “High five!”

More blank staring.

“Human thing,” I told him, wiggling my fingers. “Hit your hand against my hand. It means, ‘Good job.’”

His whole face brightened and he enthusiastically slapped my palm with his branchy fingers. “High five!”

“Yeah!” I readjusted the fae orb in my lap. It seemed warmer than usual. “Kaveri will like you again in no time.”

He folded his spindly arms and sniffed. “I don’t care if the witch likes me.”

“Of course,” I agreed, hiding my amusement. “You’re just like the sea lord. You don’t need no humans.”

Twiggy shrank, giving the glowing marks on my arm an askance look. “The sea lord is a powerful fae.”

“Yeah, I noticed.”

“So is Lallakai, lady of shadow. The vargs of Gardall’kin are strong too. You know many powerful fae.”

Correction: I knew one powerful druid, and he came with a bunch of scary fae minions.

“You’re the best fae I know,” I told Twiggy. “You’re my movie buddy. That makes you better than any of them.”

He blinked slowly, then a beaming smile overtook his face. “The other smallfae say humans are stupid and selfish, but you are good.”

“Thanks, Twiggy.”

“Tori …” He inched closer. “Are we … friends?”

I chuckled at his desperately hopeful expression. “Yes, Twiggy, we’re friends. Just don’t slap me anymore.”

He nodded fanatically. “No slapping. Only high fives.”

Really, Twiggy wasn’t that bad. He was cute when he wanted to be, helpful when it suited him, a low-maintenance roommate, and an exceptional visitor deterrent. Last time my landlord tried to inspect my unit when I wasn’t home, Twiggy had treated him to an impressive rendition of the Frankenstein monster. The faery had told me all about it.

I hugged the fae orb to my chest. I didn’t want to lose all this. I couldn’t go back to living like a mundane human in the mundane world. Somehow, I had to find a way to keep hold of this world.

But first, I needed to survive the bond with the fae lord. Priorities.

Twelve hours later, I was ready to die, if for no other reason than the solitude. My apartment was like the start of a bad joke. A human, a faery, a witch, and an alchemist walk into a basement—actually, that sounded more like the start of a horror flick.

I liked Kaveri well enough and I adored Sin, but after twenty-four hours cooped up in my apartment with them, I was done. Thankfully, Kaveri had left ten minutes ago, but a new witch was on the way to replace her—Delta, a thirty-year-old woman with beads in her hair and an aversion to bras. I wasn’t looking forward to it.

“I need to get out of this house,” I moaned to Sin, flopped on my sofa with my legs hanging over one arm.

Absently tugging on a lock of her blue hair, she looked up from her phone. “I don’t know …”

“Let’s walk over to that sushi place near Chinatown,” I suggested. “It’s twenty-five minutes away. We’ll be back by the time Delta gets here.”

Her frown deepened.

“Why should I be under house arrest?” I demanded. “MagiPol doesn’t know where I live. They aren’t watching me, and the fae lord is sulking in Never Never Land.”

Zak had told me not to exert myself, but walking hardly counted as exertion. At the thought of the druid, I checked my phone in the vain hope he’d texted me. Aaron had called around noon with an update—“nothing yet”—along with news of more MPD snooping. He, Kai, and Ezra were researching fae relics and black magic while dodging Agent Harris and his female sidekick.

“All right.” Sin’s hesitation morphed into a grin. “I’m sick of this too. And I love sushi.”

“Gimme a minute to change.”

I skipped into my bedroom, stripped down, and redressed in jeans, a turtleneck, and my bomber jacket, now dry. The clothes covered all the markings, except the rune on my palm, but that’s what pockets were for.

Swinging by my nightstand, I pulled it open to grab my Queen of Spades and fall-spell crystal. Huh. The nest for the fae orb was empty.

Oh right, I’d left it on the bed. I flipped my blankets back, searching, but it wasn’t there. Had it fallen onto the floor? Before I could crouch to look under the bed, Sin called for me to hurry up.

Deciding to sort it out later, I shoved the sorcery artifacts in my pocket and joined Sin at the stairs.