“A dragon?”

“Echo. That’s how I know him.” I closed my eyes, enjoying the slow press of his strong fingers into the tight muscles of my shoulder. “I called Zak on Saturday after you dropped me off. Sorry I had to lie about everything.”

“You didn’t have a choice.” His hand caressed my neck and tangled in my hair. “You’ve been under a lot of stress these last few days.”

I resisted the urge to raise my head and look at the broken doorframe. At the moment, my stress levels didn’t concern me all that much.

“Will Ezra be okay?” I whispered.

“He just needs time to cool off.” Aaron sighed regretfully. “That situation was pushing all the wrong buttons for him. I should’ve sent him outside, but I was afraid we’d need him against the Ghost.”



“He hates being called the Ghost.” When Aaron smirked, I narrowed my eyes. “Don’t call him that just to be mean. Cut the guy a little slack.”

“Why? Why does he deserve slack?”

“Because he dropped everything to help me when he’s already up to his neck in problems of his own.”

The troublemaker gleam faded from Aaron’s gaze, replaced by a thoughtful crease between his brows.

Kai and Zak walked out of the dining room, the druid carrying the grimoire under one arm. He sat on the sofa beside me, all casual like this was his home, and flipped the book open to a page filled with circular diagrams, symbols, and miniscule handwritten text.

“This is the ritual they used,” he said without preamble, then turned several pages. “And this is a variation for transferring a fae link, which explains why Red Rum wants you. The ritual for transferring the link is significantly simpler than enslaving a fae, and I think I can alter it to dissolve the link instead. However, it will still require a fae-created relic to work.”

“So”—I sat up to get a better look at the grimoire—“we need to summon the Rat.”

“The what?” Aaron asked.

“The Rat. He’s the fae Zak asked that Mancini guy about. Llyrle—the fae lord told us about him, said he sells relics to humans and that other fae hate him.” I wrinkled my nose and asked Zak, “Can you buy the relic we need from him?”

“I’m sure I have something in my collection that will interest him. I know all the blood summoning arrays, and I can use one to call him from a distance.” Closing the book, Zak looked from Aaron to Kai. “Calling an unknown darkfae is risky. I’d have the advantage on my own land, where the local fae support me, but if I summon the Rat elsewhere, I’ll need you three to back me up.”

“If we help, where would you want to do it?” Kai asked.

“Stanley Park. It’s the fae lord’s domain. We can get the relic from the Rat, then immediately begin the ritual to separate Tori from the link.”

“Let’s do that,” Kai decided. “Will you need sorcerers for the ritual? Red Rum used four, plus their witch.”

“I am a sorcerer. I don’t need help.”

“You’re an alchemist and a druid,” I told him grumpily. “You don’t get to be a sorcerer too.”

“Why not?”

“Because you’re hogging all the mythic points for yourself. Look at me! I’ve got no magic at all.” I’d meant to sound flippant, but judging by the way Aaron and Kai glanced away, it had come out painfully bitter instead.

Zak made an annoyed rasp in his throat. Not a sympathetic guy, that one.

“You have your Queen of Spades,” he said. “And the spells you stole from me.”

“Stole? You all but gave them to me.” I folded my arms. “Besides, having a few artifacts doesn’t make me a mythic.”

“Doesn’t it? Magic is a tool. Whether you inherit it, learn it, bargain for it, steal it—it’s all the same.”

I scrunched my face. “Mythics have magic.”

He shook his head, exasperated as though I’d missed his point, and pushed off the sofa. “I need to—”

“Wait.” I yanked him back down. “I want to show you something first.”


“Uh.” Glancing around, I spotted my purse on the coffee table, where it’d been sitting since Kai and I left for the gallery. I slid it closer and dipped my hand in. My fingers found a smooth, warm sphere. Yep, it was back.

I lifted the fae orb out and offered it to him. He passed the grimoire to Kai, then took the orb in both hands and gently caressed its ridged shape. His expression softened, eyes losing focus, and he lifted it to his face, crooning softly. The closest I’d ever seen him looking this open and tender-hearted was when he’d been working with his horses.

The orb twitched, then uncoiled in one smooth motion. Suddenly, Zak’s arms were full of fae, and the silvery blue creature rubbed its cheek ecstatically against his face, its vibrant pink antennae bobbing. Its excessively long tail was piled in his lap, and its small wings flared open and closed.

Zak stroked its smooth neck, then looked at me with glazed eyes. “She’s awake.”

“I noticed,” I said dryly, boggled by the sight of the creature squirming all over him like he’d bathed in catnip. I’d heard fae were drawn to druids—like vultures to a corpse, as Kaveri had so poetically phrased it—but this was my first time seeing it. “She’s been following me.”

“Hmm.” He focused on the creature again. “The fae lord’s power woke her, but she remembers your voice and scent from before that. She’s quite fond of you.”

“You can speak to her?”

“Of course.” He tilted his head. “She doesn’t have a good grasp of human language, though, and can’t understand you very well.”

“What is she? What’s her name?”

“She’s a sylph—an air sprite. Her name … hmm, not very pronounceable. It means stars … starry night … starlight? Something like that.” He rose to his feet, and the fae slid around his shoulders. He listened for a moment. “She wants to stay with you.”


“She likes you.”

Uncoiling from around him, the fae weightlessly drifted down to pool in my lap, her huge pink eyes staring up at me.

“Uh.” I hesitantly touched her smooth neck. “I was okay babysitting a dormant orb thing, but I don’t know how to take care of a sylph.”

“You don’t need to take care of her. She just wants a friend.” He stretched, cracking his neck. “Now can I go? I have a lot of work to do.”

“Zak, why did you give her to me?”

He shrugged. “I suspected she needed somewhere safe and quiet to recover for a few months—somewhere away from me. You were a convenient solution.”

“Convenient,” I repeated in a mutter. Curled in my lap, the sylph blinked at me.

“What’s with that tone?” His eyebrows arched. “Are you disappointed it wasn’t a fated union?”

I snorted dismissively.

Zak turned to Kai. “Tomorrow night in Stanley Park, nine o’clock sharp.”

“We’ll be there.” Kai headed for the entryway. “I’ll help get my bike out of your truck.”

They disappeared through the door and it clunked shut. I looked down at the odd creature in my lap, a weird blend of gecko, insect, and something wholly unrecognizable. She sniffed curiously at my shirt, then tucked her head under her chest. Her entire body curled up and shrank into a tight ball again.

Zak giving me the fae had been an act of convenience, nothing more. That the sylph had awakened while I was caring for her was a coincidence, nothing more.

Everything had been a coincidence.

All this time I’d been searching for an explanation—a reason behind my involvement in this world—but it had been dumb luck from the start. Dumb luck I’d found that printout with the guild job listings. Dumb luck I’d been stubborn enough to walk through the repelling ward on the Crow and Hammer door. And dumb luck that they’d needed a bartender so badly they’d hired a human.

Human was all I’d ever been. There wasn’t a drop of magical blood in my body. I had no mysterious heritage, no secret destiny, no hidden power. I was just a human who’d bulldozed her way into this world through sheer force of will.

I raised my eyes from the fae orb to Aaron, who stood at the window, watching Kai and Zak outside. I’d gotten this far with no magic of my own. I wasn’t a mythic, but maybe I didn’t have to be. All I needed to do was to hang on to this life with every stubborn bone in my body.

Chapter Nineteen

The most annoying sound in the world: plastic taped over a broken car window while the car is in motion. Flapping and snapping and rippling and just arg. I clamped my hands over my ears, jaw clenched.

So maybe I was irritable tonight. Just a little.

In the backseat of Aaron’s car, Kai and Ezra were silent, probably because they couldn’t think over the sound of the plastic. Was it supposed to be this noisy? Maybe Aaron had done a crappy tape job.

Signaling, Aaron pulled the car off the Stanley Park Causeway and onto the narrow road that led to the parking lot. When the car rolled out of the trees, we saw the lot wasn’t as abandoned as last time. Unfamiliar cars were scattered around, and a man and woman in running gear were guzzling water from plastic bottles.