“That depends on what you want to know and what you’re offering in return.”

“My offer first, then. I’ll introduce you to another independent mythic—one only an exclusive few can claim to know, let alone call an ally.”

Zak’s muted laugh hissed with dark amusement.

“Forging a relationship with him won’t be easy,” Kai added, “but I’ll make the introduction.”

“That’s my cue,” Zak whispered. “Wait here, Tori.”

As he rose to his full height, Lallakai’s shadowy wings unfurled from his back, then swept around him like an embrace—and his whole body faded out of sight. I clapped a hand over my mouth to stifle my gasp. He’d disappeared like a fae!

“Who?” Mancini asked sharply. “Who will you introduce?”

“You should know him by reputation alone,” Kai answered dryly.

Mancini pulled his cigarette out of his mouth, face contorted with annoyance—then the air beside Kai shimmered. Zak materialized in a swirl of fading shadows, his coat fluttering from the movement, hood pulled low over his face. Dripping menace, he loomed beside Kai, taller by several inches.

I rolled my eyes. Him and his dramatic entrances.

Mancini’s cigarette fell out of his limp fingers. He quickly waved at his bodyguards to stand down. “The Ghost! I—I had no idea …”

“Kaisuke and I are pursuing a joint venture,” Zak rumbled, pronouncing Kai’s full name perfectly. “Based on your contribution, should you make one, we might have a future as business partners.”

Kai flicked ash off his cigarette, looking as comfortable as could be next to the notorious druid.

Mancini looked between them. “And what do you require from me?”

“Knowledge, assuming you have it,” Zak crooned evilly. “I’m not convinced you do.”

The older man stiffened. “Ask, Ghost.”

“Fae enslavement. Are you familiar with the rituals?”

“There are many.”

“One that could bind a high-ranking wyldfae.”

“I know a few. They require rare resources.”

“Such as fae relics?”

A jerky nod. “You seem well-informed already, Ghost.”

Kai canted his head in a subtle invitation. Zak leaned down a few inches and Kai whispered something to him.

Zak straightened. “We don’t require any assistance with the Arcana. I want to know about the relics and the fae who provides them.”

“The fae … I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Don’t play games with me, Carmelo. How do you contact the fae who makes the relics?”

“How do you know—” Mancini bit off the question. “That’s expensive information, Ghost.”

“I’m an expensive partner.”

“Why would I want you as a partner?”

Shadows coiled around Zak’s legs. “Would you prefer me as an enemy?”

I heard Mancini’s wet swallow from where I crouched. He shot Kai a furious look, but the electramage merely blew a puff of smoke.

Tugging his suit jacket straight, Mancini forced a smile. “The fae answers to the name Bhardudlin. Use any of the blood summoning arrays.”

“And?” Zak prompted.

“And what?”

“How does the fae deal?”

Mancini grunted. “The usual way. Bring expendable underlings.”

“That is all I require.” A pause where I could imagine Zak smiling malevolently. “It would be unfortunate if your information were to produce poor results.”

“And if the results are good?” Mancini demanded.

“We’ll be in touch.”

“Well …” Mancini shrugged stiffly. “It was a pleasure, Kaisuke. Contact me if you wish to continue our earlier discussion.”

“Of course. Have a lovely night, Carmelo.”

Gesturing at his men to follow, Mancini strode back into the art gallery. The moment the doors closed, Kai dropped his half-finished cigarette on the concrete and stepped on it. Renewed by a spark of energy, I ran down the stairs.

“You did it!” I stumbled to Kai’s side and leaned against him, then recoiled. “Blah. You stink.”

“He’s a notorious smoker. It was the easiest way to get him outside.” He grimaced at the ground-up cigarette.

“It worked perfectly. You were amazing.” I looked between him and Zak. “You two work well together.”

Kai’s glare was instant, and it was mean. I could feel Zak’s equally nasty glower singeing my face.

I flapped a hand in placation. “Sorry, sorry. Did you get the info you need? I thought you would ask way more questions.”

“I’d planned to,” Zak replied. “But Yamada says—”

“Don’t call me that.”

“Kai,” he amended irritably, “says he’s already acquired the ritual. The only thing left is the fae relic. Tori, send me a copy of the ritual from the grimoire, and I’ll—”


Yellow paintballs exploded against Zak’s and Kai’s backs. Kai shielded his head with his arms and I ducked as another volley flew past, half the shots bursting against Zak’s leather coat.

Even as panicked urgency rushed through me, I had an aha! moment: leather clothes were resistant to potions. That’s why Zak dressed like a supervillain.

The druid straightened, his hidden face angling toward the street.

“Looks like I was wrong,” he growled. “Red Rum is here after all.”

Chapter Seventeen

Red Rum was back—but this time, I had allies of a different caliber.

Deep animal snarls erupted from behind the parked cars on the nearest street, followed by yelps of surprise—and pain. Sounded like Zak had brought his vargs along. Lights blazed as our attackers unleashed defensive magic.

Zak flexed his arms and yellow magic spiraled around his wrists. “Well, Kai? Care to cover me, or should I watch my own back?”

Short throwing knives appeared in Kai’s hands from under his jacket. “I’ll cover you.”

With no more discussion than that, they strode toward the parked cars where the rogues were hiding—and now pinned between snarling vargs and two highly displeased mythics.

I stayed right where I was, breathing hard. Useless little human. Slipping my Queen of Spades out of my pocket, I glanced at the painted royal’s mysterious smile and hoped Zak didn’t kill anyone. MagiPol discouraged dead bodies in the streets.

The thought had scarcely crossed my mind when metal screeched. A parked car flipped onto its side, then rolled onto its roof, forcing Kai and Zak to dive out of the way.

A man the size of a Viking on steroids stood in the new gap, flexing his huge arms. What looked like two bowling balls floated on either side of him.

Gulping, I scrapped my opposition to corpses. Whatever Kai and Zak needed to do to survive a Hulk-mode telekinetic was fine by me.

Silver flashed—a scaled underbelly filling my vision. The not-an-orb-anymore fae hovered in the air, facing me with its undersized wings spread. I blinked. Where had the fae come from? I’d left the orb in my purse, and I’d left my purse in Aaron’s living room before Kai and I had departed on our errand.

The fae’s fuchsia eyes fixed on something behind me.

I whirled toward the steps that descended into the sunken square. Two figures were crouched in the shadows, their guns aimed at my chest.

The fae’s small paws touched my shoulders, cool and tingling, then its long tail spun around me like the coils of a snake. It squeezed and chilly magic surged through me. My vision blurred into wild ripples.


The guns fired, but I only felt the fae’s power sizzling inside my body. The men emptied their weapons—but nothing touched me.

The fae’s tail loosened, then the creature faded out of sight. My vision steadied.

The men holstered their empty guns, then marched up the steps. I looked around sharply. The fae creature was gone, and Zak and Kai were busy fighting Telekinetic Hulk, plus an unknown number of goons. Crap. I was on my own.

I spun on my heel, ran toward the gallery entrance, and ducked behind a wide concrete column. Clutching the Queen of Spades, I waited. Footsteps approached, and I heard the two rogues split up to flank me. Scarcely breathing, I listened.

A footstep scuffed close on my left.

I jumped out, card extended. “Ori—”

The smirking rogue ducked, no spell in hand or magic underway. Shit, wrong guy! I whirled in the other direction—

“Ori tacitus esto!”

A white flash blinded me and I stumbled backward, swearing furiously—or trying to.

My lips moved, but no sound came out of my mouth. Panicking, I tried to scream—not a peep. That spell had muted my voice!

The stocky sorcerer, bulky artifacts clipped to his belt, walked around the pillar. I retreated unsteadily, clutching my useless card. I couldn’t even call for help. Leering, the two rogues followed me.

“Surrender and you won’t get hurt,” one suggested.

Yeah, right. Since I couldn’t say that, I flipped him the bird.

“Can you restrain her?” the sorcerer asked the other guy.

“Probably, but she looks like she might bite. Just use a spell.”