Sin & Surrender Page 1



Huge, bare industrial bulbs hung down from a high ceiling crisscrossed with pipes, exposed electrical wire, and other odds and ends most people would consider the guts of a building. Strategically placed space heaters blasted warm air into the hollow, mostly empty space but couldn’t quite banish the chill. Even in San Francisco, winter clung to February like a child does its safety blanket at bedtime.

“What do you think?” Aubri, my fashion consultant and stylist, swung her perfectly manicured hand through the air, indicating the row of carefully placed and accessorized dresses glittering in the harsh, barren bulbs overhead.

“I can’t believe you rented an entire warehouse just to show me the wardrobe for the Magical Summit,” I grumbled, seated in a plush white recliner. Thankfully it was leather, or I would’ve worried I’d dirty it. A small round table sat on my right, there for the sole purpose of supporting a glass of bubbling champagne. The silver stand holding the ice bucket and bottle waited on my left. Staff stood behind me, ready to leap should I need anything. Literally leap. They were the type who’d throat-punch an old woman standing in their way if they thought I needed a napkin.

Maybe it was the whole almost-losing-me thing, but Kieran had come back from Demigod Lydia’s mansion determined to pamper me. When I’d argued that I didn’t want any useful stalkers, he’d suggested that I needed to know how to act with service staff.

Which was true. The Magical Summit was only a month away, and I did need to know how to act with service staff. I needed to know how to politely tell them to get lost. I needed to hide how uncomfortable I was when they fawned all over me. Having them around all the time was like etiquette boot camp.

“Maybe your Demigod is finally branching out and spending what you’re worth,” Harding said, standing beside me, surveying the dresses. He waved a hand through the air. “Nah, that can’t be it. He’ll be cheap until the day he dies. He’s one of Poseidon’s line, after all. It’s in his blood.”

I rolled my eyes. “Real useful, thanks,” I muttered. Harding had been hanging around more often of late, training me and helping me prepare for the Summit. Given that when he’d been alive, his Spirit Walker magic had been used as a weapon for assassinations by someone not even magical, and he’d thus been hidden away, he didn’t have practical knowledge of what I was about to face. He also didn’t have great things to say about Zander, who’d ultimately been the one to kill him. His support was welcomed, though, and training invaluable.

Daisy started forward, dressed in plain black from top to bottom, ready for action. Zorn had been relentlessly training her, trying to ready her for the Magical Summit. She’d be the only non-magical person there, and while she’d be afforded some protection as my ward, Zorn was preparing for the worst, and preparing hard.

“It’s too flashy for Lexi,” Daisy said, looking over the outfits.

Bria and Red stood back by a long table loaded with enough food for a ball. The caterer had gone too far. So had Aubri, considering the least fancy dress in the bunch was still encrusted with jewels. So had the guy who’d stepped up to wipe my mouth when I’d accidentally dribbled champagne down my chin.

Daisy was right: this whole situation was so not me.

Donovan, Thane, and Jerry stood somewhat removed from the proceedings, standing in the open space with arms crossed over their chests, watching us with bored expressions. They’d come along in case something bad happened. We were close to the territory line separating magical and non-magical San Francisco. People from the two sides tolerated each other at best. Zorn had insisted we have protection against a possible attack, even though I had tried to explain it was a non-issue. We had magic…they did not. End of story.

Or it would usually have been end of story. Zorn wasn’t feeling reasonable. He didn’t show stress often, but it was clear this Summit had him anxious. Kieran needed to manipulate his way to a solid placement within the leadership hierarchy (a big ask, considering the other Demigods were all older, more experienced, and more manipulative than him), all while defending his right to rule magical San Francisco. It was a lot to ask, but the safety of our crew depended on it.

“No, no…” Aubri waved her finger at Red, who was loading shrimp onto her little white plate. “That’s not for the hired help. The hired help aren’t supposed to eat at the same table as the premier guests, of which Lexi is one by association. You need to act within your position so you can practice.” Aubri lowered her voice, as though suddenly unsure. “Demigod Kieran said so.”

“What? That’s all supposed to be for me?” I asked, even as Red took a bite of shrimp.

“Right, well.” Aubri dusted off her hands, as if wiping them clean of Red. “He won’t be happy, but I guess you don’t care.”

Bria grinned and grabbed a brownie. “Lexi is one by association,” she murmured. “This is going to go so badly. So, so badly. I can’t wait.”

Donovan snorted, and I tried not to sink into myself.

I had a feeling she might be right. Only two things could save me from being challenged at the Summit: an official sanctioning of Kieran’s mark or a certificate of marriage. Demigods were supposed to get approval before they marked someone. The other magical leaders didn’t like that Kieran hadn’t asked (which he couldn’t have, since the first time was accidental), and rumors abounded that he’d done it to claim me, not out of love. The mark would be authorized after the fact (or not) by a special judgment committee at the Summit. As for hurrying to the altar—call me a diva, but I would not rush a huge and important moment of my life because a bunch of age-old turds wanted paper proof that I loved Kieran. If I gave in, they’d probably just find another reason to make my life hell. I’d get married when and how I pleased.