There were several long moments of silence—I hadn’t even mentioned this idea to Killian.
“A strike team might be a good base design to work with.” Celestina tapped her fingers on the leg of her chair as she thought. “If we could get a well matched team they could cut through the Night Court army, straight to the queen and consort.”
“We could try match-making wizards and vampires together to find the best pairs to make up the team,” Franco suggested.
Josh unsheathed a dagger and studied the edge. “An intriguing idea.”
“Killian or I would need to be with the strike team,” I said.
“Why?” Felix asked.
“Because if the queen and consort surrender, we’ll need to be there to make it official and to give them the terms of surrender.”
Rupert shrugged. “Is that really necessary?” he asked. “Given they hate the Drake Family enough to break Cloister law and bring the wrath of all supernaturals down on their heads, they’re not going to give up.”
“I don’t care,” I said. “We have to give them the option of peace, first.”
There were a few eye rolls, but my people seemed a little relieved.
“We’ll create articles of surrender,” Killian said. “But there are some hard stipulations we’ll include—like requiring that they step down from their positions in the Night Court.” He smiled widely, flashing his fangs. “I will not allow them to surrender, simply so they can rebuild their forces and try again.”
“Yeah, that sounds about right.” I exhaled deeply and pushed some of my blond hair out of my face. “They’ve proven they have no honor, so we should expect they will try a stunt like that.”
“Celestina will research the various places where we can hold the battle and will test which one will be most advantageous for us,” Killian said. “We will continue to hold strategy meetings, but our main focus will be training and practicing together.”
“So let’s get to it!” I grinned. “Who wants to blow stuff up?”
The House Medeis wizards cheered, and more than a few vampires looked pretty pumped at the idea.
The meeting broke up as everyone stood.
I watched Gavino make a break over to the wizards, dragging Julianne, Manjeet, and Tasha with him.
Mr. Baree offered them a smile and his hand, pumping each vampire’s arm with great enthusiasm.
Great Aunt Marraine wriggled her eyebrows and playfully elbowed Gavino, making the pale vampire laugh.
“You’ll oversee the training today?” Killian asked.
I slightly shook my head and shuffled around to face him. “Yeah, Celestina and I came up with a list of things they should do. I already have a few groupings of who I think might work well with who, so I’ll be playing around with that today.” I pulled my smartphone from the pocket of my black jacket and waggled it. “Since we have more vampires than wizards, I think in most cases I’ll assign two or three vampires to a wizard.”
“There will be some exceptions?” Killian asked.
“I’m figuring that will be part of our surprise strike team, but I’ll have to wait for us to come up with an official strategy before I really settle on who works with who.” I groaned and rubbed my face. “I can’t believe we only have a week to pull this all together.”
“We’ll make it.” Killian slipped a finger under my chin and tilted my head up so I looked at him. “And we’ll protect your people.”
I smirked. “Actually, I think it’s the other way around. We’ll protect you! We’re the ones with shields, anyway.”
A hint of a grin tugged at his lips. “I stand corrected. But you really think a surprise strike will work best?”
“After what the Paragon told us, yeah. I had a conversation with Leila, too. You know she’s part fae?”
Up went his eyebrows. “Do you really think I wouldn’t vet my neighbors? Hazel, I am hurt.”
I rolled my eyes. “Whatever. She told me that because the fae will believe they are smarter, the fastest and easiest way to beat them would be to surprise them in a way they wouldn’t expect, or with something they believe can’t be changed.” I hesitated, then added, “She doesn’t seem overly fond of fae, and I don’t think she’s lying.”
“She’s not.” Killian rubbed his chin as he thought. “It is in their psyche to think they are the most devious supernaturals. A surprise attack would shock them. But I don’t know how we could surprise them more given that they already know about House Medeis’s awakened power, and that wizards and vampires make excellent teams.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “That is a problem.” I sighed and picked at my cellphone case.
“We’re going to keep our private practice session in two days,” Killian said.
I peered up at him. “Are you sure about that? It doesn’t seem like the best use of our time given what’s going on.”
“It’s now more important than ever,” Killian said.
“Okay.” I shrugged. “If you say so. I’ll drop by after this first training session to let you know what I think.”
“Excellent. And allow me to lodge a suggestion?” Killian’s eyes had returned to a shiny shade of obsidian cracked through with red, and his smile was too open.
He looked innocent, which instantly put me on my guard. “What?”
“If you truly wish to surprise the Night Court, perhaps it is best to test your various limits. If you agree, I’m sure I could arrange some surprise experiments—for science, of course.”
I scowled. “You just want another excuse to throw me off the roof! Although I expect it will be something different, this time.”
“It would be,” he shamelessly agreed. “Or it wouldn’t be nearly as fun.”
“My answer is NO.”
“I can guarantee there would be a significant moral boost among the Drake Family.”
I was facing Killian down during our practice match with my shield raised between us. He tried to ram it, but it held steady—not even flickering. (That was an improvement.)
I jabbed a finger at Killian, and thick ice formed around his feet.
He crouched and jumped free, but I figured he would, so I pelted him with fist-sized chunks of hail. For once I was keeping up with him. (Yet another improvement!)
I blinked, and in that time Killian slipped out of the hail zone, charged around my shield, and stopped at my side.
I pulled in more magic, trying to create an electric charge that would travel up and down my body, but Killian grabbed me, flipped me over his shoulder, and firmly set me on the matted floor with just enough force to make me cough, but not knock the air from my lungs. (Despite being able to breathe, this was not an improvement.)
He lounged casually next to me, his hand loosely holding my throat.
I still wasn’t able to override my instincts with Killian when he had his fangs out, eyes red, and a general glee of bloodlust emanating from him. So I flinched, my whole body cringing.
He was back on his feet in a flash, not even looking winded or at all mussed. The jerk. Though he looked uncomfortable like he always did whenever I cringed. “Surrender?” he asked.
“Obviously!” I snarled.
He chuckled a little, his expression relaxing.
I groaned and peeled myself off the ground. “I am never going to beat you.”
“One day you might grow up big and strong.” He took my hand and popped me to my feet. “Is anything injured?”
“Nah. You’re always careful.” I rolled my stiff neck and groaned again.
Killian tossed me a black water bottle. “I try, but you’re getting better.”
I scoffed. “Yeah right. What does that mean—I’m about half way to keeping you on your toes?” I grumbled to myself before I took a swig of water, successfully tilting the bottle too far so water dribbled down my chin and splattered my shirt.
Killian wiped his hands off on his exercise pants. “Your reaction time has sped up quite a bit, and you’re figuring out what kind of magic most hinders me.”
I gloomily set my water bottle down. “You still finish me off in seconds.”
“Perhaps, but—as we have said before—I have years of experience.”
I closed my water bottle and set it down with an aggravated thump. “I know, I know. That’s why trying to beat you is like trying to strategize how to surprise the fae.”
“Ahh, yes, I wanted to speak to you about the Night Court.” Killian watched as I frowned at the water spots on my shirt. “You seem very insistent that we offer peace. Will you be alright if we have to kill Nyte and Ira in the end?”
“Yeah. I won’t like it, but they essentially chose this.” I frowned and stretched out my arms. “I want to offer them mercy, though, because I don’t want to be like them. If they don’t choose it, that’s their choice. It was the same with Mason and Solene.”
“What do you mean?”
“I offered both of them the chance to stand down and surrender. Solene wouldn’t, and Mason did and then tried to kill me when my back was turned, making his choice pretty obvious. I had to kill them both. I didn’t enjoy it—I won’t ever enjoy it—but they had made their decision.”
Killian nodded. “That’s about what I expected from you. Given your moral code, you want to offer everyone mercy and forgiveness, but you won’t tolerate it if they don’t choose it.”
“I guess,” I slowly said.
“Next round,” Killian said.
I scrambled to throw my shield up—whenever he cued the next match what he really meant was that it started two seconds before.
My shield flickered to life as Killian sprang at me, a blur I could barely track.
I swung my shield around to protect my back and created a cage of lightning around me.