If you’re just tuning in, you’ll want to start at the beginning….
For half a second, they wobbled there together atop tilting chunks of concrete. One girl who hid a secret punishable by death. And one predator who was willing and able to perform said execution.
Beneath them, I clenched my fist around the strobing ball of light shielded by the fabric of my pants pocket while at the same time assessing possible approaches. The trouble was, while I could jump directly onto the wall from my current location, doing so would be royally stupid within view of an alpha werewolf. But ascending in a human manner would mean running halfway down the block to the gateway Kira had so agilely leapt across…while leaving my sister unprotected in the interim.
So I stood for one endless second mimicking a stranded fish, mouth gaping and metaphorical fins flapping while I tried to decide which approach was least likely to get my sister killed. Meanwhile, beneath my clothes, the incorporeal light that held half my soul oozed out of my pocket, slid around my hip, and slowed at last in the empty scabbard strapped to my back. There the ice-cold tendrils of my star ball lengthened and solidified into my favorite weapon—a rapier-thin sword, just waiting to be drawn and wielded against the unwary.
The entire magical manipulation—plus associated brain freeze—had taken only a second, one blink of the eye during which my sister’s assailant didn’t appear to notice he had any audience other than one twelve-year-old child. His slender fingers had neither loosened nor tightened, and he spoke now in a voice so deep it was dangerous. “Someone’s hunting innocents in this city. You shouldn’t be out here alone.”
Half of my brain occupied itself assessing that assertion. Was this werewolf—the most hazardous being we could possibly run up against—honestly warning my kid sister to steer clear of other predators? Or was that a threat half hidden beneath the throaty timbre of his overtly protective words?
But most of my attention remained focused on planning out my subsequent actions. I couldn’t toss the sword to Kira and risk her being cut on an edged weapon, not when the twelve-year-old still used training blades in the school gymnasium where I taught. And was it even a good idea to provide a weapon in the first place when anything I threw upwards could just as easily end up in the lightning-quick hands of an overpowering alpha?
While other possibilities flicked through my brain with the force of strobe lights, Kira answered back as airily as if she and this werewolf were chance-met friends chatting during a stroll through the park. “Oh, I’m not alone,” she said blithely. “I’ve got Mai.”
“No, not ‘my.’ Mai.”
Which is when I decided that running up the three-inch-wide staircase created by the cracking wall was almost easy enough to appear human. After all, the werewolf’s fingers remained poised inches away from my sister’s jugular. Didn’t Kira realize that a being so powerful inevitably thought anything he could hold onto was his to keep?
So, relinquishing all concern about appearing human, I took the first two steps up the side of the wall in one lunging leap. Then I froze as the male’s chin tilted down toward me.
His eyes were windows I was unprepared to gaze into. Piercing and assessing and, at the same time, as deep and full of mystery as the bottom of a well. He quirked arching eyebrows, the faintest hints of crows’ feet appearing at his temples…only to fade as he took in the rapier I’d unconsciously extended to prod against his jeans-clad calf.
“Ah, I see,” the male answered. “You are quite admirably protected. My mistake.”
Then, without so much as nudging the sharpened steel away from his flesh, the werewolf released my sister’s shoulders and offered me a perfunctory half-bow. He was as lithe as a swordsman, his body as perfectly proportioned as a statue hailing from ancient Greece.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mai.” And to my sister—“Mind your balance, child.” With that parting shot, the werewolf slid back out of my sight line, disappearing into the cemetery as quickly as he’d materialized in the first place.
And me? I was left with a hint of sweetness on my lips that reminded me of near-forgotten teenage kisses. Swiping one hand across my mouth to remove the tell-tale flavor, I jerked my chin at my sister. “We need to get you home.”
After all, my second job was calling. Cage fights wait for no woman.