“Fall back!” I shouted.
Ira pointed to me. “Push our advantage!” he shouted.
It was his mistake.
Felix had his arm resting on my shoulder, and my arm pressed against Momoko’s back. When she twisted her neck to grin at me, her wizard mark was still the dark color it had been when we had our shields raised.
“Now?” Felix asked almost lazily.
“Now,” Momoko agreed.
Together we unleashed our intertwined spells, creating a lightning bolt blast radius that was the perfect size of the area the fae occupied. It rocked the Curia Cloisters and spawned cracks of thunder so loud, we temporarily deafened ourselves.
I had named this formation blast edge for a reason.
Lightning strike after strike pulverized the fae, crackling around them like a summer storm.
The fae scrambled to activate their magical items and raise their shields, but it was clear we had rattled them.
I didn’t know for certain that we’d turned the tide until a particularly big bolt of lightning struck Consort Ira, and sent him flying. He bowled over a couple of his men, and they lost their ranks.
“Open a door to the Night Court!”
“We can’t in here—they’ll follow us!”
The fae bolted, abandoning their injured and sprinting through a side door.
I glanced over my shoulder just in time to see the spell caging in the Drakes fade from the ground and then evaporate entirely.
“Follow them!” I shouted to my family.
I took the lead with Leslie and Franco pairing up and taking their place behind me, and the others falling in line behind them so we made one straight line. We sprinted out of the chamber and down one of the long, snaking hallways, trailing the Night Court. Fae are naturally faster than humans, but these jerks were carting a lot of artifacts, so while they were putting distance between us it wasn’t too much.
Franco, as if sensing my thoughts, shot a fireball at the fae party. Leslie followed his attack up with a carefully constructed fireball under one of the fire alarms, triggering the sprinkler system, which rained water down on the hallway.
It didn’t bother us wizards too much, but it made the laden down fae slip and slide.
The fae made it out a door and rushed to open a gate to their Court on the front lawn.
The House Medeis wizards and I clambered outside, releasing a few more blasts of magic that the fae blocked.
A rectangular shape covered with black-ish purple mist solidified, and the fae started to pour through it.
I slowed to a stop and threw a few more lightning bolts at them, but it was over. They were gone.
And just barely in time. A blur raced past me, stirring my sodden hair.
Killian reached them as the last fae scrambled through the door, and it evaporated behind him, the mist disappearing in the haze of the night sky.
I finally dropped my hands—which I’d been holding fizzing electricity in, and turned around to face my family.
Mr. Baree’s cut was still bleeding, but it didn’t look like we had any other major injuries. In fact, everyone had humongous smiles stretching their faces.
“It worked!” Momoko squealed. She elbowed past Felix so she could hug me.
“That was brilliant!” Franco lowered his weapon, but couldn’t stop grinning. “We worked so perfectly in time—all those practices paid off!”
“And that shield spell!” Mrs. Yamada wistfully tapped the hilt of her falchion. “It worked so beautifully! I can’t believe such a useful form of magic ever slipped out of our training.”
“We should talk to Elite Bellus about it,” Leslie said.
“I’m sure after witnessing it in use, he’ll be more open to the idea,” Mr. Baree said.
“You guys didn’t follow my orders,” I said with a fake whine to my voice.
“That’s because they were stupid orders,” Felix said.
“We called Great Aunt Marraine, so the House is still on lockdown like you wanted,” Momoko said. “But we couldn’t let you go in there alone.”
“Heck no we couldn’t!” Leslie snarled. “You’ve fought alone too many times—and this is why you are training us!”
“You were perfect, Hazel. Exactly how an Adept should be.” Felix ruffled my hair.
“Thanks.” I laughed as I looked around the circle of wizards, but some motion just behind them caught my attention.
Josh and Celestina stood together, watching me with intense eyes that glowed crimson in the evening light. I couldn’t quite read their expressions, but they looked pretty stoic considering what they must have gone through.
I felt more than heard Killian behind me. So I slowly turned away from my family to face the Midwest Eminence.
Annoyingly, he didn’t look too bad.
His fancy designer suit was streaked with dust and a little singed, and he had a smudge on one cheek, and his hair was extra mussed. His eyes had a little more of a red light in them than usual, but as he stared down at me—and believe me, with our height difference I had to crank my neck to look up at him—he didn’t appear hurt. He looked like a super hot villain who had just stepped out of a movie.
Intimidated a little despite myself—not because I was actually afraid of him, but I was a little afraid of what his reaction would be—I nervously twitched my shoulders. “Hey,” I said, using one of the greatest openers ever. “I think backup—”
Killian swept me up, lifting me off the ground and crushing me against his chest.
It took me a few seconds to process it. It wasn’t until the angry squawks of my family—who sounded like a flock of fuming parrots—broke through my daze that I realized Killian was holding me in his arms.
I stiffened, and my frustration and anger reared to life. “Killian—” I intended to rip him a new one, but I fell silent as I took it in.
Not that Killian was holding me in a dreamy way most girls would sigh over—I didn’t care about that. Actually, I was pretty tempted to pull his hair for it.
No, it was that when I set my fists on his chest, intending to push off him, I realized he was shaking.
I hesitated and flatted my hands so my palms were smooth against his dress shirt as I tried to gauge him.
He had his head pressed against the nape of my neck, and took in a very slow and steady—but long—inhale. No rattling, no extra noises. His grip on me was firm—perhaps the tiniest bit tight—but his hands were steady, and he didn’t react at all to the House Medeis wizards who were quickly raising their weapons.
He wasn’t shaking with fear or leftover adrenaline like I was. Not a chance. Based on his body language, I’d guess he was shaking with barely repressed emotion.
I wasn’t entirely certain what kind of repressed emotion. With his head still pressed against my neck I couldn’t see his eyebrows—which were the best indicators of his current mood. But I knew it wasn’t a great mix to have my wizards—who were overly protective—mixed with Killian—who was suspicious at best. (And that didn’t touch his minions.)
I cleared my throat. “I guess now would be as good a time as any to tell you that you are a raging moron.”
The House Medeis wizards quieted at my words, but I could feel their tension—and rage on the part of Felix and Momoko, who were probably staring holes into my back.
It was the right thing to say to Killian, though, who had frequently referred to my snark as the “amusing yaps of a puppy” when I first met him.
He finally peeled his head back, a hint of a smirk playing on his lips. “I guess,” he echoed. “Though I expected you to first complain how close my hand is to your butt, given that you seem very protective of it.”
Someone made a strangled gurgle—I’m pretty sure it was Mr. Baree.
“You are right,” I said. “Move it an inch, and I will call down a lightning strike right here and now.”
Killian raised both of his eyebrows. “It might be worth it—just to see exactly what makes you so defensive.”
And just like that it was as if the past few weeks fell away. It was as if he’d never kicked me out, as if no time had passed at all.
Oh, no. He’s not getting off that easy.
The smile fell from my face. “Put me down.”
Killian’s smirk slowly faded, and he studied my face, his eyes turning black in the dim light.
“Now,” I growled.
Killian slowly set me down, letting my feet tap the cement before fully releasing my weight. “Thank you for your help,” he said.
I shrugged. “The Night Court played dirty. Someone had to show them society isn’t just going to sit by and let them break the law.” I forcibly turned my back to him. “Leslie, check in with everyone back at the House, would you? I want to make sure no one dropped by to play.”
“Are we heading back?” Mr. Baree asked.
“That depends.” I shifted my gaze to the Curia Cloisters—the sirens were blaring, and even though the parking lot was on the other side of the building I was pretty sure I could hear the endless rumble of cars. It sounded like Elite Bellus’s backup had arrived.
“What does it depend upon?” Mrs. Yamada asked.
I bit my lip. “Do you think my notes on the lecture survived that?”
Felix snorted a bark of laughter before he could muffle it. “Are you joking?”
I scrunched my nose at my much taller friend. “I worked hard on those notes! And you can bet Elite Bellus will call on us and want to know what we thought of the presentation, just to bug me.”
“You might deserve it for all the paperwork you inflict on the Wizard Council,” Momoko said.
“Hey, they could end that standoff any time,” I reminded her.
“Hazel,” Killian said.
I stiffened my shoulders. “What?”
“I want an alliance.”
Against my will, my traitorous body spun around so I could face him. “You want what?”