Darius rubbed his beard ruefully. “It’s been a hectic few hours, I admit. Once we realized there was no way to clear you of the impending murder charges, the only solution was to shift you out of the human justice system and into our own. The paperwork wasn’t an issue, but what to register you as …”
“A witch?” I muttered, shaking my head.
“It wasn’t the first thing to occur to me.” An odd smile tugged at his lips. “As we were debating whether you’d learned enough taromancy to fool an MPD agent, I received a call from an unknown number.
“The mysterious caller gave no name. Not one for small talk either. But he made a few highly salient points. He said a human who contracts with a demon is considered a mythic, so a human—like you—who has a familiar bond with a fae should also be considered a mythic. I agreed that sounded reasonable, and he told me to convince the MPD of the same. Then he hung up.”
Every part of that, especially the rude hang up, sounded like someone I knew. I looked down at my arm, Hoshi’s magic glowing faintly over my skin. A familiar mark. That sneaky druid.
“I confess I was worried when it came time to call your familiar,” Darius added thoughtfully. “I wasn’t sure you had one.”
I turned to Twiggy, who didn’t normally venture far from the house. “How did you know to come here?”
“The Crystal Druid called us to him!” Twiggy chirped happily. “He told us to find you and wait for the right moment. Was it the right moment?”
“It was definitely the right moment,” I replied, cautiously observing Darius’s reaction to Twiggy’s mention of “the Crystal Druid.”
Darius gave me another wink. Of course. He was too smart not to suspect who his mysterious caller had been—or who had helped us summon a darkfae in Stanley Park, assuming the guys had filled their GM in on that part.
Anxiety trickled through me. “Darius, what about the charges against the guild? What about—”
“Don’t worry about that, my dear. Dealing with the MPD is my job. It’s one of the many privileges that come with being your guild master.”
A slow roll of emotion left me dizzy. “My guild master …”
His mood sobered. “I must apologize, Tori. I couldn’t ask you in advance if you wanted this, but it was the only way to keep you out of prison. You’re registered as a mythic, meaning all our laws, both good and bad, now govern your life.”
Laws, shmaws. That wasn’t what I cared about. “Am I a member of the Crow and Hammer now?”
“Yes, you are.”
A grin spread across my face, so wide it hurt, and tears pricked my eyes. Tossing decorum out the window, I threw my handcuffed wrists over Darius’s head and hugged him, doing my best not to strangle him in the process.
“Thank you,” I choked out.
He returned the hug with an extra squeeze. “I’m delighted to welcome you to the guild. Our very own mythical human.”
“Mythical human,” I repeated as I sat back in my chair, equally amused and amazed. “Can we make that an official class?”
Chuckling, Darius gathered up his folder. “Shall we? I think dear Agent Harris has had enough time to clear you for release.”
Ten minutes and one handcuff removal later, I walked out of the station and into the gloriously fresh air, the horizon stained by the orange tinge of dawn. Vaguely missing the feel of Hoshi’s little paws, I rolled my shoulders. I’d already sent her and Twiggy home, where they couldn’t shock any not-so-nice policemen.
Standing at the bottom of the steps and casting long shadows across the sidewalk, three figures waited.
A spurt of energy revived my flagging strength, and I sprinted down the steps two at a time, arms outstretched. In the next moment, I was engulfed in a three-way hug and I hardly knew who I had my arms around.
“Guys!” I gasped. Then I burst into tears. Again.
“Tori!” Aaron half laughed.
I gulped back my hysteria after one sob, and Kai produced a handkerchief to dry my cheeks. I squeezed Aaron’s and Ezra’s necks, refusing to release them.
“How’d it go?” Aaron directed the question over my shoulder, and I looked around as Darius joined us.
He smiled like a proud father. “I arrived just as she was telling dear Agent Harris to go to hell. The rest went about as planned.”
Aaron clamped me against his chest, his strong arms squeezing the air out of me. “Then you’re a mythic now.”
“Darius says I’m a mythical human. My very own class. Pretty cool, huh?”
He laughed exuberantly. “I love it. You’re a misfit just like the rest of us Crow and Hammer myth—”
I peeled out of Aaron’s arms as Justin ran down the stairs, his hair rumpled and stress lines around his eyes. As his wary gaze snapped across the four men, I stepped away from them.
“Justin! Did you hear? I’m a free woman—”
“Tori,” he interrupted tersely, grabbing my arm and pulling me farther from the others. “They said you’re under their jurisdiction.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
His hazel eyes were frantic. “But you’re not one of them.”
“It’s a long story.” And I had no idea where to begin. Was I allowed to explain? Didn’t matter, because I was telling my brother the truth whether MagiPol liked it or not. “I’ll explain everything later, okay? I need to go. I’m beat.”
“Tori,” he tried again. “You don’t—do you have any idea what you—”
“Actually, I do.” I took a deep breath. “Justin, I’m sorry I kept secrets from you, and I promise I’ll tell you all about it. But now isn’t the time. They’re waiting for me.”
Justin’s expression darkened. “I’ll take you home. You don’t belong with them.”
Anger sparked through me and I struggled to keep my tone even. “That’s my choice.”
His jaw tightened. “You killed someone, Tori. Don’t pretend that had nothing to do with these people. Even if you don’t go to jail, you killed someone. Is this the road you want to go down?”
My stomach twisted painfully. I pulled my arm out of his hand. “I’ll call you this evening.”
Each step hurt me, but I walked away. Making Justin understand wouldn’t be easy and I didn’t have the time or energy to talk him through it now. I’d smooth things over with him later.
When I reached the guys, I slung my arms around the two nearest me—Aaron and Kai—and together we walked away from the station.
After thirty hours of sleep in the last forty-eight, you’d think I’d be well rested.
I stifled a yawn as the instructor described the class syllabus and major assignments. After missing the first three days of the fall semester, I’d refused to skip my Friday class. I was kind of regretting it, though. Nothing could put me to sleep faster than the droning of an old man who spoke at the same pitch as a distant vacuum cleaner.
Glancing at the clock—fifteen more minutes—I stretched my legs out and slipped my phone under the long table. It blinked with a new message.
I rolled my eyes. It had to be Aaron, reminding me that he planned to walk me to work. He, along with a healer and two alchemists, had tried to convince me to skip school and work today so I could start fresh on Tuesday instead. But I’d already missed two weeks of work since that first MPD raid, and I wasn’t missing another day. My bank account was alarmingly low.
Opening my messaging app, I read the brief text.
I’m in the atrium. Get out here.
Halfway through the thought that the pyromage sounded awfully grumpy today, I checked the sender. The message wasn’t from Aaron.
A startled yelp escaped me. As the instructor squinted in my direction, I rammed my laptop into my purse and shoved back from the table.
“Sorry,” I called as I rushed to the door. “Family emergency. Have to go!”
I bolted into the hallway. The atrium, he’d said. I zoomed to the nearest stairwell and descended to the second level, then jogged down a long corridor of classrooms. The hall opened into a two-story space with huge windows that arched over the roof like skylights.
At the staircase railing, I looked down. A couple dozen students wandered through the lobby-like space below, coming in and out of the library that bordered it. A few more were seated on the U-shaped banks of seats along the wall and—
There. A man in a gray sweater, the hood drawn up, leaned against a wide pillar.
I sprinted down the stairs and across the tiled floor. He glanced up from his phone, sunlight striking his handsome face.
“Zak!” I slid to a halt, scanned him from head to toe, then grabbed him in a hug.
He grunted as I squeezed him. “You’re strangling me.”
“Not if you keep strangling me.”
I released him and stepped back—then smacked his shoulder with enough force to sting my hand. “Why didn’t you text me sooner? I was afraid you’d died.”
“Of course I didn’t die.” He rolled his otherworldly green eyes. “Who do you take me for?”