Sin & Lightning Page 1



Bria wiped her mouth and leaned toward me over the small, round café table. “Quit stalling. Finish your wine and let’s go. If we leave now, we can get to that psycho rock wielder’s lair and back by dark.”

“What? No!” Jack pointed at Bria, though she didn’t notice because he was dead, a spirit, and unlike me, she couldn’t see or hear him. “No way. Nuh-uh. Kieran will go apeshit if you go without him.”

I swallowed the last of my tart wine and wiped my mouth with a napkin before leaving it on my finished lunch plate. Bria was right—we needed to get moving. We were in this small town in Montana for one purpose only: to meet the level-five, rock-wielding giant who plagued the nearby mountains. A giant who had killed a Demigod a handful of years ago and then sectioned himself off from society. A giant who wouldn’t be swayed by Kieran’s considerable charm.

Or so Bria kept telling me. She was convinced I was the one for the job, and Red, Kieran’s former assistant and my current bodyguard, agreed with her. In fact, they’d convinced me to participate in their plan to recruit him behind Kieran’s back.

“Even if Kieran was the best one to go, he won’t be able to get away,” I said to Jack, standing. “The leader of this place is on Kieran like stink on a pig. He’s only a level five of…” I squinted, trying to remember.

“It doesn’t even matter,” Bria said, standing with me. “His territory is tiny, he’s not a Demigod, he’s got no money, and he has to know Kieran’s only here to try his hand at that giant. The guy’s getting all the face time in while he can. He probably hopes Kieran will lift him out of the slums like a professional Cinderella. It’s great for us, because it takes Kieran out of the equation. Come on, walk and talk. Let’s go.”

I’d told Kieran the advice Harding had given me six months back—bulk up the collection of magical people around you. Fill your new, larger team with the best and brightest you can find, equipped with all different types of magic.

Since Kieran had to stand up to my biological father, Magnus, a powerful and well-connected Demigod who had a history of killing his children, he had taken the advice to heart. He needed the best, and he needed them soon, because the next Magical Summit, the government leadership conference for magical people, was drawing ever nearer. Which was why he’d been traveling around the country under the guise of meeting other leaders in order to woo select magical workers from their territories. Poaching magical workers was fair game, apparently, so long as they hadn’t taken a blood oath. It was like recruiting employees from a business: offer the person more perks than they had, and they might just take you up on it. Many of the people he’d pursued were diamonds in the rough—people who had attitude problems, lacked social skills, or just didn’t have the gloss and je ne sais quoi that Demigods typically sought out for their inner circle of employees.

In every single case so far, the strongly powered misfits had taken him up on his offer, in part because he was giving them something more—a place in his inner circle and a blood oath. In exchange for the increased strength, speed, and healing ability bestowed by the blood oath, the recipient would be magically compelled to protect him. They’d decided it was a fair trade.

The new members of the team had made the trek to San Francisco and were in the process of setting up a new life. I hadn’t interacted much with any of them. They didn’t hang around our house like Kieran’s Six, the original oath-holding crew, did. The Six were family; the new people were part of the job.

This situation wasn’t like the others. This guy had literally barricaded himself inside a mountain after claiming vengeance on the Demigod who’d killed his fiancée. Anyone who’d had a mind to punish him had died trying to reach him. Many trespassers had gone the same way. But because magical folk weren’t very good at taking a hint, more than a few Demigods had sent their people up that mountain to gain the giant’s favor. Fewer had come back down, and yet people still tried.

That was the magical world for you—brutal to a fault, and if you were powerful enough to get away with it, good for you. Well done.

Kieran was determined to recruit him before the Magical Summit.

“Kieran should be heading up to that nutter in the mountains, not you gals,” Jack said, still talking to Bria as though she could hear him. “You’re going to get yourselves killed.”

As we left the café, I repeated what Jack said to Bria, because it was a fair point.

“How many times do I have to say it? He has a soft spot for women,” Bria said, climbing into the passenger seat of the black SUV parked by the curb. Red was waiting in the driver’s seat.

“Did you get it?” Bria asked as she settled in.

Red nodded.

“Get what?” I shoved Jack back from the door before closing it. I didn’t need him crawling over me. It was gross. A moment later, he drifted in through the other side with a disgruntled expression.

“He doesn’t have a soft spot for women,” Jack said, reaching for the seatbelt to strap himself in. “The nutter has been known to rape and murder women.”

His hand passed through the belt, and his face fell. He faced forward with a hardened expression, and my heart broke a little more for him. I’d always had a soft spot for Jack, and it was hard watching him adjust to his new life. It was hard not to dwell on what I could have done differently if I’d known my magic better. It was a stark reminder of how much work I had left to do. I wouldn’t lose anyone else. Which made the current situation all the dicier.

“I’ve never heard of any raping,” Red said after I’d repeated Jack’s warning. “There have been a couple escapees, so something like that would’ve gotten out. He’s murdered plenty of people, though. Women, men, shifters in animal form—he eats them, too.”

She said this with a straight face, steering the car through town as calmly as if we were discussing the weather.

“He…” I scrunched up my nose. “Okay, let’s take a moment here. I wasn’t told that.”

“A good hunter eats what he kills,” Bria said. “Who cares? Dead is dead, no matter what happens after. Which won’t matter for us, because he won’t kill us. Lexi will rip his soul out before he can.”

“You guys told me he only killed some of the people that went up on the mountain,” I said, leaning forward to try to see their faces. The angle made it impossible.

“Some, all, it doesn’t matter. We’ve got you,” Bria replied.

“It matters. Honestly, even if he doesn’t kill us, which I’m suddenly not so sure about, because I’m not as awesome as you seem to think, do we really want someone like that around? He’s not interested in job offers, clearly. I doubt he’s going to be real keen on a blood oath.”

“Look, like I said before…” Bria turned in her seat so she could see me. “The reason he went nuts is because Demigod Sarges killed his fiancée. That’s understandable, right? You’d rip the soul out of the world if someone killed Kieran—don’t say you wouldn’t. Then, because he killed a Demigod, he had to go off-grid to a place he could defend with his magic. That’s all logic. The rest is just grief. It has to be. Grief makes us do strange things. But he’s had enough time to wade through his feelings, and he’s sequestered himself long enough that he has to be lonely by now. Or at least incredibly bored. He got his revenge, he’s had time to grieve, and now he’ll be ready for action, just you watch. Level-five magical people—sorry, normal level-five magical people—have trained their whole lives to use their magic. We aren’t built for solitude. He’ll be ready; all he needs is a pretty girl who’s a little nuts herself to sweet-talk him. Voilá, out he comes.”