Adele frowned when she saw an ambulance pull up, followed by another vehicle. Then her eyes widened when she saw Magda get out of the driver’s seat of the ambulance. She looked over her shoulder. “Are they back?” The professor stood up from where he’d been sitting with Lidia.
“I think…” She looked back at the vehicles, then swallowed when she saw Jim leaning on a young man she didn’t recognize. “Yes.” She saved a hand. “Keep Lidia here.” She started forward.
“Fuck that noise.” Lidia nearly pushed past her on the way to the door.
A smile came to her face when Adele saw the young man helping Michaels get out of the vehicle. He turned when Lidia got to them, and she threw her arms around him, holding her son close. Adele looked over at Jim, and he nodded to her. “We completed one objective.”
“Sweetie, don’t take this the wrong way but uh…” She went over to him to take his weight off the young man. “You look like hell.”
“Our medic and our healer are down, and we’ve got wounded.” He sighed. “I’m tapped out. Call Anra, if you would. I’d like her to see to Khait. His wounds are severe.” Jim nodded to the young man and smiled at him approvingly. “Fortunately, Ignacio here was able to hot-wire us an ambulance.”
“You stole an ambulance?” Adele blinked.
“Yes, well…” Jim shrugged. “It has been a couple hundred years since the last time I was banned from France. I figured I was due.”
“How…” Magda glanced at Adele before nodding to the door.
“He’s lucid, but that just means he’s aware he’s not safe to be around yet.” Adele nodded. “I gave him a remote for the TV and check in on him every couple hours.” She looked over at where the other wounded were laid out. “Anra is on her way. She’ll have everyone fixed up in no time.”
“Good to know.” Magda exhaled. “I’m operating on dregs right now, and I really don’t like the notion that Jormun is vulnerable at the moment.”
“Neither do I.” Adele narrowed her eyes. “I told reinforcements to be on alert until he’s back to full strength.”
Magda gave the young woman an appraising look. “You are able to call in Jormun’s reinforcements?”
“Who said I was calling in his reinforcements?” She raised an eyebrow. “As it happens though, my father is a congressman. I grew up working in campaign offices and interning for various political agencies before taking on the task of keeping an oceanography research team running and in grant money. I’m no warrior, but I can admin the shit out things.” She twitched a shoulder. “So yeah, if necessary…” She met Magda’s eyes. “I can.”
“I…” Magda exhaled. “Sorry, I’m just having a hard time wrapping my mind around a dragon putting that much trust in a human. Or anyone, for that matter.”
“People who can’t be trusted…” Adele nodded. “Tend not to trust.” There was a small chiming sound. “That’s Anra.” She started for the door.
After a moment of hesitation, Magda followed. Her eyes widened at what she saw in the office. A woman in a shimmering white dress was stepping out of a mirror. There was a faint silvery glow around her, and her eyes were alien. They weren’t human eyes, with a clearly defined iris. Instead, they were warm brown all the way through, and the pupils were horizontal bars rather like a goat or a… Her mouth dropped open. “Oh god…” She swallowed. “Anna is going to be so mad she missed this.”
She handed the cup of tea to Lykos. “You’re actually serious.” Bridget stared at him.
“Am last of kind.” He took a drink of the tea. “Is problem easy to solve.”
“Sex wouldn’t have to be involved?” She raised an eyebrow.
“Will not be unfaithful to my Christophe.” He gave her a mildly insulted look before putting a protective hand on the unconscious young man.
“Well, uh…” Bridget shrugged. “I mean, yeah, I’ll consider it. I did want kids one day, so…” She shook her head. “Let’s table this conversation for when things aren’t completely insane.”
“When that be?” Lykos rolled his eyes.
“Yeah…” She looked down at the ring on her finger, then over at the other side of the room. Abigail was laying on the cot that held the unconscious Khait, half cradling the unconscious demon. His wings weren’t visible at the moment, but last time she’d seen them all that had remained was scorched bone and a few ragged scraps of shredded membrane. “Tell me he is going to be okay.”
“When knew Khait before…” Lykos followed her gaze. “Not high opinion. Fool. Selfish. Fight if wanted, but deep down coward. Not to be trusted. That Khait would not have risked wings burning to shield another. That Khait would have run.” He nodded. “This Khait is…” He smiled at her. “Good man.” Then he frowned and shook his head. “Not tell him I said that. Knowledge would kill him.”
A small laugh escaped her. “Yeah.” She nodded. “It probably would.”
“That…” Adam looked at the blooming rosebush. “Is the coolest thing I have ever seen.” Coraline’s smile trembled before she threw herself into his arms again. He held her close, blinking back tears. “You got taller.” He swallowed past the lump in his throat.
“I can…” Coraline sniffled. “I can make trees, too. Apples. I don’t blow them up anymore.”
“You…” He kissed the top of her head. “You blew up apples?”
“I got applesauce all over the porch.” She nodded.
“I…” Behind him, his mother was crying again. “I had wondered what was going on with that.”
“So, tell me about this horse I’m buying you.” Adam glanced down at Coraline.
Her eyes went wide. “You’re…”
“Adam.” His mom tried to make her voice firm.
“Just don’t tell Mom.” He grinned.
Coraline made a show of zipping her lips and tossing an imaginary key over her shoulder before launching into the description of a palomino mare. “… and Aunt Stasya even came riding with —”
“Aunt…” Adam blinked. “Stasya is…” He swallowed.
“She lives across the street.” Lidia nodded. “She’s gone a lot, but always comes around for dinner when she’s in town. She uh…” His mom smiled. “She’s family.”
“Yeah…” Adam closed his eyes to blink back the tears. “She is.”
“You’re glaring.” Michaels watched the… whatever she was… work on restoring Daniel.
Next to him, Laura kept glaring. “Stephan told me.”
“Stephan told you…” He glanced at her.
“About what you were going to do with the motorcycle.” She narrowed her eyes.
“We, uh…” He shrugged.
“Do you even have a motorcycle license?”
“Who do you think taught Gabe?” He rolled his eyes, then sighed. His partner was still out there. “Any updates on…?”
“Erilon is in hibernation mode. She was bumping up Daniel prior to…” Her eyes went to where Khait was laying. “You saw what happened. Hero Boy is still in the game.”
“If it turns out he planned this all along, I am kicking his ass.”
“Don’t change the subject. You…” She leaned forward. “Made a human target of yourself. Like, more than once. I am so not okay with that.”
“Laura…” He turned to face her.
“No more of that, okay, cause —”
“Laura.” He put a hand on her shoulder. “Get this through your head, right now. You’re a crazy ass demon hobo girl, but you’re also my daughter. And you’re just going to have to live with that, okay? Cause it is way too late to back out of it now.” He smiled at her. “I’ve got the paperwork. Certified and in triplicate.” He poked her in the arm. “I declared you on my taxes, baby girl.”
Her smile trembled a little, then she moved to sit next to him. He put his arm around her, and pulled her to him, resting his head atop hers. “I guess…” She shrugged. “It’s not so bad.”
“That’s my girl.” He kissed the top of her head.
He blinked his eyes open, then immediately sat up and started looking around frantically. “Where are…” Daniel went still. “Uh…” He looked around.
“We’re safe.” Ash nodded to him. “Everybody lived.”
Daniel exhaled. “And we are back at Jormun’s place?” He started to sit up. “I should go —”
“Don’t.” Ash pushed him back down.
“Magda told me to sit on you if you tried to get out of the bed.” Ash shook his head. “And sit is definitely a command I can follow.”
“Bad dog.” Daniel snickered.
“Woof.” Ash nodded. “She tended to everyone else already and is working on Khait now. He’s messed up pretty bad, but he’ll be okay.”
“Who…” Daniel started to get up again.
“Uh…” Ash shrugged. Then Daniel blinked when Ash stood, shoved Daniel back down on the bed, and then sat down on his legs to pin him down. “I warned you.”
“You’re sitting on me.” Daniel glared at him. “Get off.”
“Woof.” Ash smiled. “I told you. Magda said to sit on you if you tried to get up.”
“Be a good boy and get off me.” Daniel grinned.
“I’m only a good boy for Magda.” Ash shook his head.
“I’ll give you a squeaky toy.” He smiled up at Ash hopefully.
“Magda lets me play with her breasts.” Ash smirked.
“Uh…” Daniel lay back. “Damn. Okay. So, who is healing people?”
“You uh…” Ash shrugged. “You might want to brace yourself for that.”
“I’ve got like a hundred and fifty pounds of dog sitting on my legs.” Daniel glared up at him.
“Adele called in a unicorn to heal everyone.”
“I…” He felt the wheels turning in his mind grind to a sudden halt. “What?”
“Her name is Anra.”
“Ash…” Daniel started shaking his head. “I need to go see this.” When Ash didn’t move, Daniel tried shoving him. The man didn’t budge. “Ash…” He made a whimpering sound. “Unicorn.”
“Okay, one thing I don’t understand…” Stephan sat down.
“One thing?” Matthias raised an eyebrow at him. The woman Jormun had called in had been able to clear the dregs of the poison from his system. He’d been a little worried about having two alphas present in the same room, but upon being introduced to Matthias Iggy had gone straight into fanboy mode. He was following Matthias around like a puppy, which was amusing on multiple levels. Matthias was tolerating it. Daniel was still over in the garden with Coraline, and he wasn’t sure which of them was squeeing harder over Anra.
“Why are none of us being hauled off to jail right now?” Stephan glanced at the front door. A couple of folks in uniform had taken the stolen ambulance and the other vehicle away, but nobody had come in with handcuffs.
“Ryuu…” Jormun took a deep breath. “Has chosen to employ his most potent weapon on our behalf.”
“Fire breath?” Laura leaned forward from where she was sitting next to Adam.
“Lawyers.” Jormun shrugged. “I’ll be dead of old age before anyone figures out what and how to charge us with anything.”
“Then he…” Lidia’s voice trembled. She sat on Adam’s other side, occasionally putting a hand on his arm or shoulder as if to reassure herself he was there. “He’s helping?”
“The situation is…” Jormun frowned. “He’s muddying the waters. With Merlin licking his wounds, Ryuu is currently the strongest in the council. He introduced a complication.” Jormun shook his head. “I disagree with his tactic, but it does appear to be working.”
“How much time do we have then, before we’ve got big scary fire-breathing problems?” Stephan raised an eyebrow.
“Ryuu…” Jormun sat up. “Pointed out that the nephilim were a problem due to their uncontrolled nature.”
“And that’s…” Adam frowned. “Somebody is going to have to explain some parts of this to me.”
“In due time.” Jormun flicked his eyes toward Lidia before looking back at Adam. “The gist of it is that you and I have some interesting things in common.” He leaned back. “Ryuu hasn’t so much introduced a problem as tied my hands regarding fixing one. He pointed out that unlike the other Nephilim, Adam is not a free agent. He’s contained. They have agreed that makes Adam’s existence acceptable, and provided he makes no attempts to take over the world, have decided the matter is thereby settled.”
“They…” Lidia’s face darkened to fury. “They want him to stay bound to that…”
“Mom…” Adam put a hand on her arm. Then he nodded. “I’d rather not have anybody else hurt with…” He exhaled. “Mom, I just watched a guy I don’t even know nearly die trying to save me. If I have to stay linked, it uh…” He swallowed. “Enough people have risked their lives for me lately.”
“I…” Bridget held up the hand with the ring and pointed to it. “Khait’s not human or human-ish even. What about the me not being a witch part and I was barely okay having this on when it was him. I can wish he’d jump off a cliff and it doesn’t damage him at all. What if I…” She made a slight whimpering sound. “Not okay with this.”
“Yes, well…” Jormun smiled. “While I am, theoretically, bound to obey the letter of the council’s law…” He shook his head. “The council isn’t going to let the talisman remain in the hands of a human anyway. They’ll be arguing the who gets control of it point for a few decades at least, and I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it.” He shrugged. “In the meantime, there appears to be a simple solution to this little issue.”
“Little issue?” Lidia glared.
“Adam is bound to the ring, the ring is magic, and the ring needs to be worn by a witch. I think I know just the witch.” Jormun turned to look at Stephan.
Stephan blinked. “But I can’t…” He trailed off, then grinned. “The ring won’t actually function if I wear it.”
“It’s properties as a vessel will remain unaffected, but otherwise…” Jormun nodded. “You are correct.”
Lidia held her son as she watched Bridget hand the ring over to Stephan. He slid it on his finger, then frowned at it for a moment. Then he glanced at Adam. “I’m trying very hard to have you go over to the bar there and pour me a beer.” He raised an eyebrow. “Anything?”
“Not a…” Adam stared at him. He swallowed, and she saw tears in his eyes. “I don’t…” He started shaking a little. “I don’t feel any…” He started laughing. “I don’t feel anything. I don’t feel anything.”
Her arms went around him as he started crying. She pulled him in close and felt Laura hug them both. She mouthed the words ‘thank you’ to Stephan and saw him nod. Then she closed her eyes and held her son as he wept.