Authors: Lesley Livingston
his is not right .Â .Â . ,” Mason Starling murmured softly as she sank to her knees beside the crumpled form at the center of a swiftly widening circle of blood.
The stone tiles beneath her shuddered with earthquake tremors and her ears rang with the screams of the white-robed crowd gathered on the terrace swaying high above the streets of Manhattanâstreets tangled in chaos, awash in a blood curse that had turned the city into a slumbering wasteland.
None of that mattered.
None of it even touched Mason in that moment.
“I am the chooser of the slain .Â .Â .” The words drifted like smoke from between her lips. “I did
“Neither did I, sweetheart,” Fennrys whispered. “Not this time .Â .Â .”
A gout of blood bubbled up and spilled from his mouth down the side of his face, shockingly red against the pallor that washed his skin white. It sparked fire and fury in Mason's heart and the roar of her denial was so loud in her head she thought her skull might burst.
A clap of thunder shattered the night.
The raven, perched on the spear Mason held, shrieked and her mind snapped back into focus as the bird launched itself into the stygian darkness of the stormy sky. She stared in horror at the Odin spear, clutched in her armored fist. With a cry of outrage, she threw it away from her. It clattered against the black marble altar where her brother Roth lay bound, bleeding, gasping, whispering apologies for the murder he'd done. A deed, past and gone, that fueled the Miasma curse spilling out over the city.
That could wait.
.Â .Â . couldn't.
Mason lurched forward, reaching for the dark slender figure kneeling on the other side of Fennrys's blood-soaked body. She grabbed the Egyptian god of death by the lapels of his sleek designer suit and said, “Fix this.”
she howled, cutting short Rafe's protestations. Her hands balled into fists and she hauled the god toward her until they were almost nose to nose. Her howl turned into a harsh, choking sob. “I'm begging you. .Â .Â .”
The muscles of Rafe's jaw twitched and his dark brows drew together in a fierce frown. “You know damn well there's
only one way I can do that. And there is no guarantee thatâ”
Still the god hesitated. Mason could see the anguish in his dark, timeless gaze. The thing that had just happened .Â .Â . it was wrong, and Rafe knew it. Fennrys had beaten the odds. He deserved a second chance and now, to have that chance stolen from him .Â .Â .
Mason shivered in the wind. The water from Calum Aristarchos's trident soaked the front of her chain-mail tunic, shockingly cold. It had taken only a moment of thoughtless reaction on Cal's part to form the weaponâtransforming water from a weeping fountain, turning it hard as forged steel with his newfound, godlike powers. And only another moment more to pierce Fennrys's body with the lethal instrument.
It had all been a terrible mistake. Still, Cal would pay for it. Later.
Cal could wait.
Fennrys's breath had gone from shallow to a rasping gasp. A death rattle .Â .Â .
Mason snarled at Rafe.
The god squeezed his eyes shut.
you,” she said.
His eyes snapped back open. And there was fire in their depths.
Rafe, who was Anubis, growled low in the back of his throat
and his shoulders hunched forward toward his ears. Suddenly, he threw his head back, his helmet of dreadlocks whipping around his face and his features blurred like inky smoke. In the blink of an eye, the stylish young man in the tailored suit was gone and a huge, sleek black wolf crouched on its haunches on the stone terrace, lips pulled back from long, white,
teeth bared in a vicious snarl. The wolf shook its head from side to side, ears flattened back against its skull. The muscles along its shoulders and spine rippled and Mason backed off, fighting the urge to wrap Fennrys's body in an embrace and shield him from the monstrous creature.
She looked down and saw Fenn's eyelids flutter and go still.
The planes of his face went slack.
Then her view of him was blotted out by the dark shape of the wolf as it lunged, jaws opened wide .Â .Â . to sink his teeth deep into Fennrys's throat.
Fennrys was dying.
Again .Â .Â .
Only, the weird thing was, it actually felt different this time.
He could feel the warm breath cooling in his lungs.
Hear the rhythm of his heart, slowing .Â .Â .
There was peace.
Acceptance .Â .Â .
And then, just as his eyes were drifting closed for the last time, his fading vision captured a glimpse of something twisting in the depths of Mason Starling's sapphire-blue gaze. And
all of it shattered into a thousand jagged shards of pain.
Of course. It was never gonna be that easy, was it?
The sudden, scorching agony that tore at his throat flooded down into this chest and up into his brain. His heart squeezed like a fist and his body arched like a bow, stretching away from the cold marble floor and the warm pool of blood. A sudden, overwhelming, gut-deep feeling crashed down on him like a load of bricks falling from a great heightâa purely, potently physical sensationâsomething that Fennrys was pretty sure he shouldn't be feeling in his death throes.
A dark red ravenous wave washed over him, pounding him insensible. .Â .Â .
And then there was nothing more.
ightning flashed overhead.
And one last time.
The glass barriers surrounding the terrace shattered and shards flew through the air like deadly arrows, propelled by gale-force winds. Chaos erupted as the gathered crowd of white-robed Eleusiniansâmost of them the parents or relatives of Gosforth Academy studentsâscattered, pushing and shoving to get back inside the Weather Room and running for the elevators and the emergency stairs as they abandoned their truncated ritual. They fled from the terrace, and the black marble altar where Mason's brother, Roth, lay bound and bleeding, fueling the curse that had cast all of the island of Manhattan in a death sleep.
Mason didn't care.
Let them run
, she thought.
They are sheep. They don't matter
All that mattered was the Wolf.
The Fennrys Wolf, whose body writhed and contorted before her, his throat gripped in Anubis's lupine jaws. Mason watched, numb, as the horror of the moment stretched out to seeming infinity.
She felt hollow, transparent .Â .Â . a phantasm.
Anubis sank his long white fangs into Fenn's flesh, spilling even more of the precious blood from his body, and in that moment the world all around her went from bright white to dark red .Â .Â . and then faded to a gray, grainy static. She stood there, detached, distant.
Fennrys is going to live
He had to. Anything else wasn't an option.
Mason was dimly aware of when Toby Fortier and Maddox, Fenn's fellow Janus Guard and friend, stepped out onto the terrace. She heard their voicesâangry, frightened, demanding to know what the hell was going onâand she ignored them. She saw Maddox step in front of Daria Aristarchos to keep her from going anywhere, and Toby rush to where Heather Palmerston still knelt, crouched in a ball behind the altar near the gaping space where the glass barrier used to be. The fencing master used his black-bladed knife to free her from the cloth ropes that tied her hands and helped her stand. She was covered in sharp, tiny shards that tinkled as they fell from her hair and clothes, but she seemed unharmed. Mason knew she should have been happy about that. Or relieved. Or something. Heather was a friendâa good oneâand she'd gone to the wall for Mason and had suffered for it.
But in that moment, all Mason could think about was Fennrys. Time seemed to stop and the universe spiraled out in a dark wave from the single, spotlight circle where she knelt beside him. Beside him .Â .Â . and the dark god who was, at her demand, doing his best to save Fenn's life. In the worst way imaginable. She closed her eyes, willing herself not to see how much blood had already spilled from Fenn's body. An eternity passed, and then she heard a shredded gasp escape Fennrys's lips.
Mason's eyes flew open and she saw Rafe falling back and away from the prone body beneath him. The ancient Egyptian
god, his human shape still blurred around the edges, staggered to his feet. He wiped the back of one hand across his mouth, lips pulled back in a feral snarl, teeth crimson with blood.
When he turned his gaze on her, Mason saw that his eyes were completely black. They stared at each other for a long moment. Then Rafe shook his head, the pencil-thin dreadlocks falling forward to curtain his face, and called to someone in the Weather Room in a language Mason couldn't understand. Before she could gather her thoughts, the wolves of Rafe's pack padded out onto the terrace, and Rafe disappeared back inside, stumbling with exhaustion. The pack surrounded Fenn, and two of the wolves shimmered and blurred, shifting. Suddenly, there was a pair of hard-muscled young men standing in their place. Without a word, they bent down and picked up Fennrys by his arms and legs. His head lolled back and he struggled weakly as they carried him in Rafe's wake.
The Fennrys Wolf was alive.
Mason almost wept with relief as the fog in her brain suddenly dissipated. She scrambled to her feet and started to follow, but another of the wolvesâthe she-wolf with the white blaze on her foreheadâsuddenly shifted into her human form and stepped in front of Mason and didn't move aside.
Honora, the investment banker who moonlights as a werewolf
, Mason thought, remembering what Rafe had told her. She wondered fleetingly if the “moonlighting” was a literal truth. She didn't, after all, know very much at all about these creatures and their existence.
Maybe you should have thought
about that before you consigned Fennrys to share their fate
I didn't have a chance. I didn't have a choice
Mason cleared her throat. “Honora, isn't it?” she asked.
The woman nodded. There wasn't a hair out of place in her sleek chignon coif, accented with a streak of silver that corresponded with the blaze on the forehead of her wolf-self, and her eyes, a shade of pale greenish-gold, flashed with sharp intelligence. She was slender but strong looking beneath a navy tailored suit and looked almost exactly the way Mason had pictured she would.
“Excuse me, Honora,” Mason said, trying to keep her voice from cracking with strain. “I need to go see himâ”
“No. You don't.” Honora didn't move. “Not now. Let the pack deal with him. He's one of us now and that's not going to be an easy thing for that boy to handle.”