I lowered my glass without drinking. The loud rapping sounded again. Bewildered and hopeful, I trotted across the room—and didn’t realize I was carrying my shot until it sloshed on my bare feet. Oops. At least I was already in cleaning mode.
Zooming up the stairs, I opened the basement door and stepped into the vestibule, but my hand hesitated on the exterior door. Fuzzily, I considered whether this was a good idea. Maybe they guys were here. And they hadn’t called first because, uh … because the MPD had confiscated their phones! Yeah, that was it.
Grinning, I swung the door open.
Two people stood on the step, but they weren’t Aaron, Kai, or Ezra. They weren’t even men. So disappointing. I scrunched my nose as I looked them over from head to toe.
“You,” I announced. “I don’t know you. Who are you?”
The women stared at me. Their pretty blond hair hung in pretty waves around their pretty faces, and annoyance bubbled through me. Their flowery blouses and ankle-length skirts were so nice, and I was dressed in a stained tank top and yoga shorts with a hole in the crotch. Why did pants always rip in the crotch first? Stupid.
“I’m Olivia,” the taller of the pair said, offering her hand. “This is my sister, Odette.”
I squinted at her hand, her nails buffed and filed into perfect half-moons. “Those’re your names, not who you are.”
“My apologies,” Olivia-or-Odette said. I’d already forgotten who was who. “I should have started with that. We’re from the Stanley Coven and … well, we were hoping to speak with you, if possible?”
“Stanley Coven,” I repeated slowly. “Coven. Ah, so you’re witches.” Of course. Covens had witches. That’s how that worked. See? I knew my mythic shit.
She gave a hesitant nod, still holding her hand in the space between us, waiting for me to shake it. I peered at the shot glass I held, half empty after my race across the apartment. Shrugging, I tossed the whiskey back, then gestured grandly.
“Come on in, witchy girls, and let’s hear what you’ve got to say.”
“Want a drink?” I asked over my shoulder, leading the way down the stairs.
“Thank you for the offer, but I’m afraid we don’t drink,” O-one said.
“That’s no fun. Just sit down then, I guess.” I ditched my shot glass in the sink as they perched gingerly on my sofa. Pretty blouses, long skirts, timid mannerisms, and disinterested in alcohol. Suspicion dawned on me. “Hold on. You aren’t here to convert me to Wicca, are you?”
O-two frowned delicately. “We aren’t Wiccan. Most witches aren’t.”
Oops. “I knew that. It was a joke.”
“Of course.” She forced a laugh. “How clever!”
I might be a bit tipsy, but I wasn’t drunk enough to believe that for half a second. Dragging a stool away from the breakfast bar, I positioned it in front of the TV and sat facing them. Then I stood, turned the music down, and sat again.
“So,” I prompted, “what brings a pair of witches to my house?”
An uncomfortable prickle ran down my spine. Huh. Now that I thought about it, that was an important question—one I should have asked before letting them inside.
Eyes narrowing, I looked them up and down. Meh, I could probably take ’em in a fight. I’d faced worse odds.
O-one folded her hands together. “Odette and I came in the hope that you and your guild could assist us.”
Ah, so that one was Odette. I committed it to memory. What was the other one’s name again?
“I’m aware we aren’t following the usual procedures—”
Ofelia? Or was it Odessa?
“—and I apologize for our rudeness in coming to your home unannounced—”
“—but we felt we had no choice after—”
“Olivia!” I exclaimed triumphantly.
Her brow pinched. “Yes?”
Coughing awkwardly, I composed my expression. “Let’s back up. First question: How did you find me? Like, seriously?”
Along with being unknown to MagiPol, I was also unknown to the magical community outside the Crow and Hammer. I wasn’t registered in the MPD database, wasn’t an official employee of the guild, and for all intents and purposes, I didn’t exist in the world of mythics.
So, what the hell were two witches doing here?
Odette offered a weak smile. “As Olivia said, we apologize for intruding. We inquired among the local fae, and several smallfae told us of the witch who lives with a forest sprite, and through them, we found your house.”
Twiggy, that leaf-brained gossiper. What had he been telling his sprite friends about me?
She leaned forward. “We’re delighted to meet a spirit sister. We thought we knew all the—”
“I’m not a witch.” The words were out of my mouth before I could stop them.
“You … you aren’t? But you live with a fae.” She pointed at my arm. “You have a fae token of debt.”
I looked at my inner wrist. Almost invisible against my skin was a small, elegant rune. “Uh … special circumstances. But yeah, not a witch.”
“Oh.” She waited, probably hoping I’d tell her what kind of mythic I was, but I knew how these things worked. Asking a mythic for their class was super rude.
I wished I could tell them my mythic class. If I were a mythic, I wouldn’t be here right now—I’d be at the guild with the guys.
“You said you had a request,” I prompted before my self-pity could take hold.
“We, well …” Olivia winced. “We aren’t very comfortable among the … upper echelon of mythics. We find it difficult to meet with other guilds.”
Odette’s shoulders drooped. “And our experiences with this issue have left us even more uncertain. We’d hoped a casual, more intimate meeting would be easier.”
Easier for them, not for me. They were here on guild business, but I wasn’t a guild member and this was way above my pay grade—meaning it was time to end this “meeting” before I got myself into real trouble.
“Alrighty then,” I declared, hopping to my feet. “It was nice meeting you, Misses Double-O’s, but I’m afraid I’m the wrong person to talk to. If you want help with something, you’ll need to speak with—”
“Please, Tori,” Odette interrupted, her soft voice somehow cutting through mine. “Please, hear us out. You don’t have to do anything. Just listen, and pass on our plea to your guild.”
I hesitated. Hear them out? That didn’t sound so bad …
But no. One, strange mythics were in my house and that wasn’t safe. Two, I was already under MPD investigation for interfering in guildy things. And three, I was possibly drunk. Okay, probably drunk.
At the thought of my banishment, sorrow and loneliness trickled through me. Were the guys at the pub right now, drinking in their usual spot beside my station? Kai, scrolling on his laptop, looking for their next bounty to chase, while Aaron and Ezra bantered. I should have been there, serving their drinks and bantering with them.
Slowly, I sat down on my stool again. I was cut off when I so desperately wanted to be part of their world, but here was a tiny piece of it, sitting primly on my sofa. I couldn’t bring myself to show them the door.
“Okay,” I grumbled. “Spit it out.”
“Thank you,” Olivia gushed. She tucked her wavy hair behind one ear, blue eyes shining with gratitude. “You have no idea what this means to us. We have no one else to turn to.”
“Yeah, sure.” I waved at her to continue.
“Allow me to start at the beginning. My coven’s territory, as I’m sure you know, spans the entirety of Stanley Park, as well as the downtown area, though, of course, there are few fae in the city.”
“Of course,” I agreed, pretending I’d known that.
“Early this spring, several fae went missing in Stanley Park. It’s a large space as far as parks go, but it’s a small pocket of wilderness with daily visitors, so the fae population is limited to faeries, sprites, and pixies. We searched for the missing fae, but they’ve vanished entirely.”
“You sure they didn’t just leave? Twiggy vanishes whenever he feels like it.”
“Ah.” Odette coughed. “You may already know this, but as semi-corporeal beings, fae can move between our reality and their own. Those without the Spiritalis gift can’t detect fae who have crossed into Elysium, but we can.”
“Oh. Sorry, yeah, I’m not up on all the witchery stuff.”
“Many mythics aren’t,” she lied kindly. “Trust us when we say these smallfae have truly vanished.”
Olivia straightened her skirt, her motions stiff. “Unfortunately, that was just the beginning. The fae have continued to disappear from the park. In total, eighteen smallfae have gone missing in the last four months.”
Concern rose inside me, sharpening my thoughts. “That’s terrible.”
“We went to the other guilds, but every single one turned us away.” Odette’s eyes flashed. “Non-Spiritalis mythics aren’t equipped for fae, they said, but really, they simply couldn’t be bothered to help. They don’t care about smallfae.”