I gawked like a simpleton. How dense was I? I should have recognized the fae’s color scheme last night. Rubbing a bewildered hand over my face, I hesitantly patted the fae orb. It didn’t react to my touch.
“You’re supposed to be dormant,” I muttered.
Not that I was unhappy the fae had woken up—and saved my ass—but it was one more thing I’d have to deal with. Why had Zak given it to me? He still hadn’t replied to my messages, and now I really wanted to talk to him.
Setting the fae aside, I minced to the door and cracked it open. The guys’ muffled voices carried up the stairs, and I waited until I’d picked out all three before closing the door and dialing Zak’s number.
Once again, it rang for half an eternity before he answered with a friendly, “I’m busy.”
“I’m half dead,” I retorted with a growl. “I can hardly stay awake. I need more of that potion.”
“Already?” he muttered. The distinct sound of many voices in low conversation trickled through the phone. “That was fast.”
“The fae lord had to make an appearance last night to obliterate some Red Rum assholes, so that probably contributed. Where are you? It sounds like a conference hall.” Or a wedding before everyone got drunk.
“The art gallery.”
“You’re not answering my messages because you’re at an art gallery?”
“There’s an event tonight with several attendees who might have useful information related to your fae problem.”
My fae problem. What a nice way to put it. “I didn’t know black-magic felons appreciated fine art.”
A quiet snort. “The location makes them feel classy. I’m ruining the mood with my lack of penguin suit and monocle.”
“Okay, well, I’d tell you to have fun, but I really need that potion.”
“I have another dose with me, but you’ll have to hang on until morning.”
“You won’t die, Tori. Just be patient.” The line went dead.
He had no phone manners. Or any manners, really.
Gazing at the fae orb—which he hadn’t given me a chance to mention—I considered my options. Sleep another twelve hours and hope I didn’t slip into a coma. Or … I bit my lip. Or go get my potion.
It wouldn’t be difficult. Pop over to the art gallery and tell him to duck out for a minute to give me the potion. He could return to schmoozing with barely a blip in his night.
As a yawn cracked my jaw, I gave myself a “wake the hell up” pep talk. The art gallery could only be one place, and I pulled it up on my phone. A thirty-five-minute walk through most of downtown, but by car, it was only ten minutes away. There and back in no time. I tapped my lower lip. One of the guys could take me. I’d make them wait around the corner or something while I met with Zak.
Ezra didn’t drive, so he was out. Aaron could drive, but he was kind of excitable. I needed someone calm and coolheaded. Someone who wouldn’t get worked up over a strange request.
Footsteps creaked on the stairs, and I could tell by the sound who it was. Huffing nervously, I opened the door and stuck my head out.
Kai paused with his hand on his bedroom doorknob, laptop tucked under one arm.
“Hey Kai!” I said brightly.
His eyes narrowed immediately.
“What?” I demanded, wounded by his wariness.
Faint amusement touched his features. “Tori, if you don’t want to seem suspicious, don’t act so sweet and sugary.”
“Oh, come on. Why is me being cheerful suspicious?”
Leaning back against his door, he looked me up and down like I might be carrying concealed weapons. “What do you want?
I smiled hesitantly. “Wanna take me for a ride on your motorcycle?”
His guardedness returned in full force. “A ride where?”
No matter how I answered that, he’d be suspicious, so I batted my eyelashes and chirped with all the sweet sugar I could muster, “It’s a surprise!”
He stared at me—then threw his head back in a laugh.
Fifteen minutes later, I was gripping Kai’s leather-jacket-clad waist as his motorcycle rocketed down Dunsmuir Street. Yellow streetlamps and red tail lights flashed past as we weaved through traffic. I pointed over his shoulder and he careened through a left turn, cutting it way too close to an oncoming car.
Ahead, the skyscrapers opened up. Squatting among the giants was an old-fashioned building with a stone exterior, four-story-tall columns marking the dramatic entrance, and a domed roof. The structure, once a courthouse, was over a hundred years old.
I looked around for a parking spot, but dozens of sleek cars and SUVs, most of them black with the occasional silver or gunmetal gray, were parallel parked bumper to bumper. Kai slowed the bike, and I gestured helplessly toward the gallery as we passed it.
“Here?” he shouted in disbelief over the road noise.
His helmet swiveled as he scanned the street. The engine revved, then he spun a one-eighty into the opposing traffic and shot back down the road. With a squeal of tires, he cut across the pavement and onto the sidewalk. Slowing to trolling speed, we passed a grand three-sided staircase that looked like it had spilled off the second-level terrace. The gallery entrance was tucked into the inner corner of the L-shaped building.
Stopping the motorcycle beside a row of trees in concrete planters, Kai killed the engine. I loosened my death grip on him and looked around. Yeah, this wasn’t a parking space, but who would complain? The felonious rogue we were about to meet?
Kai pulled his helmet off to take in the pillared front entrance and even grander next level. When his gaze came back down, his dark eyes squinted with familiar suspicion.
Tugging off my helmet, I hunched my shoulders guiltily. “Umm …”
“We’re not meeting Sin to pick up a potion, are we?”
We were here to get a potion, but not from Sin. I’d had no choice but to lie; revealing the true nature of my errand could trigger the deadly oath spell.
“I need to pick something up, and I swear it’s important,” I told him, pleading for forgiveness with my eyes.
Hooking my helmet on the saddlebag behind me, I dug my phone out of my pocket. Zak hadn’t answered my message warning him that I was on my way. I shot off another text telling him I was waiting outside and that I had a friend with me. If he wanted to meet in private, he could tell me where.
Kai rolled his shoulders. “The art gallery,” he muttered. Judging by his growling undertone, he was immensely displeased that I’d tricked him. “Looks like there’s an event tonight. I wonder what it is?”
He shot me a pointed look, and I shrank in my seat. “I don’t know. That’s not why I’m here.”
Grumbling something I was glad I couldn’t make out, he surveyed our surroundings like a scout searching for enemy soldiers. Jiggling my phone impatiently, I stifled another yawn and fought the urge to slump. Zero energy. It was ridiculous.
“You okay, Tori?” Kai asked, his tone gentling.
“Yeah.” Silence fell between us. Giving in, I leaned against his back and pillowed my cheek on his cold leather shoulder blade. “This sucks.”
“Philip warned us the link with the fae would tire you, but I didn’t expect it to be this extreme.”
“I can survive being tired.” Probably. I shot off three back-to-back messages, hoping to catch the distracted druid’s attention. “How’s it going with the grimoire?”
“We’ve gone from ninety-five percent sure it contains the correct ritual to ninety-nine percent sure. If it’s not the exact ritual they used, it’s very close. We gave copies to several witches and sorcerers. They’re working on a counter spell that could break the link.”
“How long will it take?”
“No way to know. This isn’t a common area of expertise.”
I considered that. “Do you have any extra copies?”
“Not on me,” he replied cautiously.
“Never mind then.”
“Tori …” His back shifted under my cheek as he tried to look at me. “You know we’ll keep your secrets, right?”
“I know,” I whispered.
I felt him nod. Quiet settled over us.
After a minute, he asked, “So why did you ask me to drive you and not Aaron?”
Squirming from the question, I muttered, “No reason.”
A hundred thoughts crowded my head at once, including the memory of the conversation I’d overheard between Aaron and Ramsey. But no, that had nothing to do with my choice of chauffeur. Kai was the better option for a covert mission. Way more suited to it. Definitely.
Okay, fine. I’d been avoiding Aaron, and not very subtly either, since Kai had noticed. Meaning Aaron had probably noticed too.
“I don’t think I can date Aaron anymore,” I blurted.
Kai twitched like I’d poked him. “Oh?”
“Great.” My shoulders hunched. “If it surprises you, how will Aaron react?”
“I’m not surprised by what you said,” Kai corrected, his tone dry. “I’m surprised you admitted it.”