Oh, fuck. She was right. But we had to be sure he could deliver. “Can you do it? Can you get us in and out of the Eye? Can you help us save our friends?”
“If they’re stuck in the Eye, then they will be anchored by powerful memories. In thrall. At least that is what I’ve heard, here and there. Only a strong connection will be able to draw them out.”
Shit. Conah had said thinking of me had helped him break free. Cora and I exchanged glances, and she pressed her lips together.
Fuck. “I have to come. I have to be there.” Part of me was relieved to be going, to be able to help, but the other part responsible for my self-preservation growled at me to stop. To think.
“You’ll break bail if you come,” Cora said. But she wasn’t arguing. She was merely pointing out the facts.
“I don’t have a choice.”
“In that case, we better make sure we find Lucas.”
“I will get you both in and out of the Eye,” Jasper said. “But when it comes to retrieving your friends, that is up to you.” He gave me a sly look. “You free them, and I will transport you out. But first, you must pay my fee.”
His fee was Cora.
“We have to do it, Fee,” Cora said.
Oh, God. I couldn’t believe I was going to do this. I nodded. “You won’t hurt her.”
Jasper’s eyes lit up with glee, and he stood straighter. “Not unless she wishes me to. It would be in my interest to keep her alive.”
“Didn’t seem to bother you with the blood witch, did it?”
“I didn’t realize the extent of her cosmic manipulation until I snapped her pretty neck.”
He needed out of this house, and he needed a tether. “Fine.”
Jasper was across the room and looming over Cora in a blink, and it took everything in my power not to grab the back of his coat and yank him away from my best friend.
Cora’s cornflower blues glanced my way before settling on Jasper’s face. “Okay, what do I have to do?”
His hands came up to cup her face. Long, slender, pale fingers sliding over her skin. I noted her shudder from his touch.
“All you have to do is invite me in.” His tone had dropped to dulcet and coaxing. He leaned in and whispered in her ear. I saw her mouth move, but no sound emerged, and then he was gone.
Her body jerked, arms flying out, hands splayed like starfish. “What the fuck?”
He materialized behind her, back to back. He was brighter, somehow. More real now.
He looked up at the ceiling and let out a bark of laughter.
Cora touched her chest, just below her diaphragm, and made a face. “Fuck, that feels weird.”
“You’ll get used to it,” Jasper said. He circled her like a predator surveying its prey. “My, my, you have no idea.”
“Idea about what?” she snapped.
“What you are.”
“I know exactly what I am. I’m a tulpa.”
But Jasper’s gaze was on me. “And you have no idea what you gave up to create her.”
I arched a brow. “Why don’t you enlighten us.”
He smiled thinly. “No, I don’t think I will. That was not part of the deal.”
Cora and I exchanged glances. I couldn’t take any chances when it came to Cora’s welfare. “Is she in danger?”
“No,” he said with a smirk.
“Fuck this,” Cora said. “I’m fine, now get on with it, and honor your part of the deal.”
Both his brows shot up. “Bossy.”
I bit back a smile. “You have no idea.”
She shot me a glare but wasn’t able to hold it without grinning. Bitch. I loved her stupid ass.
“Let’s see if you’ve honored yours first,” Jasper said. “Let’s leave the house.”
Cora shrugged and then walked toward the exit. I followed. Jasper winked out as we stepped over the threshold and then appeared again on the pavement.
“Well, that was anticlimactic,” Cora said.
“How did it go?” Grayson asked, and then he spotted Jasper and his body tensed, ready to attack, defend, or whatever Loup did.
“It’s fine.” I stepped off the porch. “We’re all good.”
“And he’ll help?” Grayson asked, jerking a thumb in Jasper’s direction.
“He can hear you,” Jasper said.
Grayson ignored him.
“Yes,” Cora replied.
“And you are no longer required, beast-man,” Jasper said. “Ladies.” He held out his hands to us. “Shall we take a trip?”
“Look at you, trying for chivalrous,” Cora said, but I didn’t miss the way her hand trembled as she slipped it into his. My friend was scared, and my gut twisted. What had I done? What had I allowed her to do?
“Where’s Vi?” Cora asked.
“I sent her to get help. You were more than fifteen minutes. I was about to come in.”
Of course he had been. Stubborn and brave Grayson. “We’re okay.”
“You can’t go to the Eye,” Grayson said to me. “Fee, the OPS will arrest you if you break bail.”
“I don’t have a choice. I can’t let them die.”
Grayson opened his mouth to protest, but I cut him off with a quick hug, wrapping my arms around his neck and inhaling him before releasing him quickly.
He stared at me, dumbfounded. “Fee…” His voice cracked.
“I’m sorry for earlier. I’m sorry for…for not being able to give you what you want. I just want you to know that if it were just you and me, no pack, just the two of us, then I wouldn’t have stopped.”
His nostrils flared, and he reached for me but thought better of it. “I know.” He glanced at Jasper. “Can you trust him?”
Despite the fact that he was a malevolent spirit, and despite the fact he gave me the creeps… “Yes, we have a deal. We can trust him to honor it.”
“I’ll be waiting outside the Eye,” Grayson said. “I’ll do what I can to pacify the OPS.”
“Get out of here quickly. Don’t look at anyone. Do not go all alpha and engage.”
He gave me a lopsided smile. “I’ll try to minimize my alphahole nature.”
He’d made a joke. God, he was something else. Infuriating and undeniably attractive.
“Tick, tock,” Jasper said.
I took a deep breath, strode up to him, and grabbed his hand. The world exploded into stars, and galaxies whizzed by me, and then we were on a gray street. Broken, blackened buildings rose up on either side of us, and the road beneath our feet was cracked cement. Black ash floated on the air.
“This is it,” Cora said from beside me. “We’re inside the Eye.”
Jasper walked ahead and stopped to adjust his cuffs and smooth back his hair. He canted his head.
“They know we’re here,” he said.
A strange howling drifted toward us. Like the wind. Like a storm.
He looked over his shoulder at us. “You two should probably run.”
The howling got louder, closer, and then shapes appeared on the dull horizon—crimson and black specters racing toward us.
Jasper rolled his eyes. “Now!”
Cora grabbed my hand, and we turned and ran.
We stood in the alley, our backs pressed to the wall.
I fucking hated alleyways. Nothing good ever happened in an alley, and as if to prove my point, a screech ripped the air to our right, and something with a ravenous open mouth flew toward us.
“Fuck!” I grabbed Cora’s hand and tugged her after me. We broke out of the alley to see a swarm of those fuckers in the exact spot where Jasper had stood. They were on him, tearing at him.
“Don’t stop,” Cora yelled. “The building up ahead is glowing.”
It looked like all the other buildings to me, but if Cor said it was glowing, then it was glowing. We crossed the wide street, hammered across the pavement, up the path to the three-story house, and through the battered, hanging-off-its-hinges door into a musky haven.
Cora scanned the building. “This way.” She tugged me left through an arch, into a cavernous room filled with busted furniture, and through a door at the back.
“Where are we going?”
“Following the silver threads,” she said.” I assume you can’t see them?”
“Nope, but I’m happy to let you take the lead if you can.”
“I’ve been seeing a lot of shit recently,” she said. “But we can discuss this when the guys are safe.”
“You think the threads lead to the guys?”
“I know they do,” she said. “I can feel it.”
That was good enough for me. We pushed through the door into a narrow corridor that opened out into another room. It might have been a kitchen once, a huge kitchen-diner space, but it was now a blackened husk of its previous incarnation, and pinned to the wall, side by side—by what looked like inky webbing—were Azazel and Mal. Their eyes were closed, faces relaxed as if in sleep.
“Motherfucker,” Cora said.
“What do you see?”
“They’re covered in the glowing stuff, like threads, but the threads are alive, they’re fucking pulsing.”
“Feeding. This place is feeding off them.”
“I’d hurry up if I were you,” Jasper said from the doorway.
“You’re okay.” Cora blinked at him in surprise.
“Just a minor disagreement with the locals. They’ve gone to get reinforcements. The big boss or so they call him. So, chop, chop.”
I grabbed my dagger and sliced at the threads, but each cut thread was immediately replaced by another.
“It’s not working,” Cora said.
“What do I do?” I looked from Jasper to Cora. I hadn’t thought this far ahead. And then something that Conah had said surged to the forefront of my mind.
You woke me up. I remembered you, and it woke me up.