“Huh.” I peered at Kai. “Is that what it is for you?”
He didn’t so much as twitch for a full minute, then gave a short nod. “Arranged at birth. I left the family seven years ago, but the engagement still stands.”
“But … you wouldn’t actually marry …?”
“No. Never.” His jaw flexed and I swore I heard his teeth grind. “But until she marries someone else, I’m technically spoken for.”
Spoken for. Kai, who dated an endless horde of beautiful women but never progressed to a relationship with any of them, considered himself unavailable. I didn’t understand how an engagement arranged by a family he’d ditched years ago could affect his romantic decisions now, but his fiancée had to be the reason he never dated anyone seriously.
Though why he didn’t just not date at all, like Ezra, confused me. Was it a distraction? A big middle finger to his family? Easy sex? Who knew, but that wasn’t a question I could ask in front of Zak. I did have some concept of boundaries.
I randomly clapped my hands. “This is just like a road trip! We should stop at a drive-through.”
“Have you lost your mind?” Zak demanded.
“Possibly. Have you ever been so tired that you surpassed tired and went giddy instead?”
He pressed his sexy mouth into a flat line. “The potions are in my bag behind the seat. I’ll get them out as soon as we stop.”
“What have you been giving her?” Kai asked sharply.
“I dosed her with a magic buffer potion, targeted to block fae magic, and a vitality potion altered for a human’s stamina. I might need to adjust the potency. The fae lord is burning through her strength.”
“You are an alchemist,” Kai muttered. “We weren’t sure.”
“He’s the best alchemist on the west coast.” Was I slurring? When they both looked at me, I figured I must be. I poked Zak in the arm. “Eyes on the road.”
“I’ll be frank, Kai,” Zak said as he returned his attention to driving. “She won’t survive this for long. I don’t know how anyone could. I can only assume the part of the ritual that would’ve protected the link’s recipient is missing. Otherwise, Red Rum’s witch would’ve been a dead man too.”
Kai absorbed that in silence. “Park here.”
Zak pulled up beside Aaron’s cottage-style house and executed a flawless parallel park between two sedans. I wasn’t jealous. No way.
Kai leaned around me to study the druid. “Tori can send you copies of the ritual, but I think it would be more efficient for you to examine the grimoire.” A long pause. “You should come inside.”
“Whoa,” I breathed. “You just invited the big bad Ghost into your house.”
“So your mage friends can ambush me?” Zak said, ignoring my babbling. He propped an elbow on the steering wheel. “I’ll pass.”
“Let me handle them.” Kai’s dark gaze flicked to me. “We don’t have time to waste. If I’ve learned anything from my family, it’s that enemies with the same goal make the best allies.”
“Only until the goal is met.” Zak rubbed the back of his neck. “Seeing the grimoire in person would be more useful.”
Kai nodded. I goggled in silence, unable to believe it.
“Don’t make the mistake of thinking I can’t protect myself against mages,” Zak warned. “You can’t see my familiars, but they can see you.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” Kai threw his door open and slid out.
Zak frowned at me, then opened his door and jumped out too.
I sat alone on the seat, blinking dumbly at the glowing windows of Aaron’s house. Then I scrambled into motion, hauling my exhausted ass out of the truck.
My mages and my biggest secret were about to clash, and I knew it was gonna get ugly.
Did I say ugly? I should’ve said gorgeous.
On one side of the living room, Zak and his godly face, supernaturally green irises, and short black hair contrasting with his fair skin. Beside him, Kai with his striking features, dark-as-sin eyes, and badass biker pants.
Across from them, Aaron with his copper hair mussed, a reddish shadow along his rugged jaw, and his intense blue eyes blazing. Ezra beside him, feet braced in a fighting stance, well-worn jeans hugging his strong legs, his brown curls teasing his mismatched eyes.
And me, leaning against the wall halfway between them, trying not to pant too obviously.
Was this a normal reaction to witnessing a confrontation so tense it was liable to break into violence at any moment? Probably not, but I was out of my mind with exhaustion and this much hot maleness in one room was too much to handle. My stupid brain refused to focus on anything else.
“So,” Kai said cautiously, having just finished a brief explanation about how Zak was helping me, “we’re going to play nice until Tori is safe.”
Oh yeah, baby. I wanted them all to play nice. Mm-hmm.
Realizing the direction of my thoughts, I gave myself a mental slap and focused properly on the threat of impending violence. A crystal around Zak’s neck was glowing. I didn’t remember him uttering an incantation, but he wasn’t taking any chances. His vargs were probably lurking nearby, invisible to all us non-Spiritalis people.
“I won’t tolerate a dark-arts-dealing, piece-of-shit rogue in my house for even a minute,” Aaron spat.
“You tolerate me,” Kai retorted.
“You gave that up years ago. Totally different.”
“Zak isn’t completely terrible,” I said dreamily, my attention diverted by Aaron’s eyes and the way they sparked like hot blue flames when he was angry. “He only murders bad people.”
All their gazes jerked toward me and Zak looked furious, but I didn’t know why.
“He’s a liar, Tori. Don’t believe anything he tells you.” Aaron’s lip curled. “I’m surprised you’re buying his act, Kai.”
“Have you ever known me to be gullible?” Kai barked. “Use your brain, Aaron. We have a dark-arts and fae-magic expert standing here, offering to save Tori. He can read the grimoire.”
Aaron bared his teeth. “He’s more likely to steal it than—”
“This isn’t about your ego—this is about Tori. Look at her! She’s practically delirious. The fae bond is killing her.”
They all looked at me again.
I smiled hesitantly. “Hi.”
Aaron shifted his weight. “No. It’s too risky. We found the grimoire and we’ll find someone we trust to read it.”
“You’re an idiot,” Zak snapped.
“You’ll regret ever laying a hand on Tori,” Aaron snarled. “Now that we’ve seen your face, and know your classes, and know your name, your date with the MPD is set.”
A slow, fierce smile curved Zak’s lips. “I think you’ll protect my identity, Sinclair.”
“Why the hell would I do that?”
I knew that look in Zak’s eyes. The same merciless, arctic anger had filled him when I’d revealed I worked at a guild—moments before he hit me with back-to-back spells.
His chilling gaze lingered ominously on Ezra. “You keep my secrets … and I’ll keep yours.”
A pulse of silence, then Kai swung away from Zak. Realigning. Changing sides. Now, instead of two against two, it was three against one.
“Oh?” Zak’s arms lifted away from his sides, limbs loosening as he readied himself. “You’d rather kill me?”
The terse truce was over. Battle was about to commence.
“Wait!” I shrieked, and all four men jumped. I lurched away from the wall, waving my hands. “Don’t fight, don’t fight! It’s fine! We’ll just—we can all swear super-magic oaths, okay? Everyone’s secrets will be safe.”
“Swear what?” Kai demanded.
“Magic oaths,” I babbled desperately, still waving as though the faint breeze produced by my hands could keep them apart. “Like the one he made me swear so I wouldn’t reveal anything about him and his …”
I trailed off, the rest of my sentence forgotten. My fatigue-logged brain caught up to what I’d said—and panic exploded through me.
“Oh god!” I gasped and clapped my hands to my mouth. “Oh, no no no, I didn’t mean it! I didn’t say that!” My wild eyes shot to Zak, who was staring at me with growing horror. “Zak, I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”
“Tori—” he rasped.
The oath forbade me from revealing its existence. I’d just blurted out everything in front of the guys—and now I would die.
My knees gave out. I crumpled to the floor, wailing in terror. “Zak, don’t let me die! I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”
Kai was at my side, arms wrapping around me. “Tori, what’s wrong?”
“I’m going to die,” I cried, my panic so intense it hurt, my chest bursting with terror—or was that the spell? Was the oath killing me already? “Zak!”
“What did you do to her?” Aaron roared, jumping between me and the druid.