The wind whipped my hair in my face, obscuring the myriad of figures moving through the mouth of the alley, headed straight for Caleb and me. Blood pounded in my ears while magic flooded my veins.
Once nightworlders had made Chicago our home, humans had never once gathered to confront us.
And more than a dozen of them were armed with weapons that could kill Caleb and maybe me.
“I know this goes without saying, Rose Thorn,” the fae prince squeezed my hand as his glowing gaze swiveled in my direction, “but you’re not allowed to die tonight.”
“Same goes for you, Tinkerbell.”
Tiny bits of gravel lifted into the air as Caleb’s elemental powers intensified, and for the first time, I could differentiate between wind and earth. Several more hooded humans jumped from the rooftop on the right to merge with the approaching wave. The flash of metal-tipped arrows caught in the streetlights.
Purple sparks crawled over my hand as an energy ball formed in my palm. I wasn’t going to let any of them hurt my consort.
A tall male surged forward, his bow and arrow drawn. “Die, evil beasts!”
Blurs zoomed through the backstreet, and screams pierced the night as vampires descended on the alley to attack the group of human vigilantes. A bloodsucker caught the guy who’d charged us and ripped his head aside, sinking his fangs into his neck
As chaos erupted, I turned to Caleb, who crossed his arms and watched the violent scene. “Are we just going to let them kill all of these humans?”
He snickered. “They were going to murder us—try anyway. Now you want to save them?”
I hurled a blast of energy at a vampire before she could snap a hooded figure’s neck. “This is going to turn into a massacre.”
With a huff, Caleb used his elemental air magic to drag a female human toward him. She screeched and fought his hold in vain. His eyes glowed as he tapped into more power to glamour her. “Run out of this alley as fast as you can and don’t look back. Forget what you saw.”
“Go to hell, fae.” She kicked his shin and reached for a dagger on her belt.
He snatched the knife and then yanked the rest of her weapons away. “Well, that’s not good.”
My pulse shot through the stratosphere as the unsettling realization hit me. “They can’t be glamoured?”
“Your magic doesn’t work on us anymore.” The girl—she couldn’t have been more than eighteen—seized another knife hidden in a pocket of her black cargo pants, a barely noticeable raven emblem stitched on the sturdy material. “We will end your control of this city.”
Caleb’s deep laugh bounced through the melee. “What do you think this is, a comic book?” His smile would freeze even an apex predator’s blood to ice. “Does this look like fiction you can put away when it gets too scary?”
The color washed from her face as her attention landed on her fallen friends, their necks torn open or broken.
My stomach soured as the coppery tang of blood choked the night, mixing with screams and battle cries. Surprisingly, the humans had managed to take out a couple of vampires, but it wouldn’t be enough. The immortals were too strong.
Enough of this.
Violet magic cords crackled down my arms, and I fired off a wave of power at a vampire with his fangs bared, about to plunge them into another human. My hit slammed into him, and he stumbled back, releasing his victim.
“What is your problem?” he snarled. “They’re trying to kill us.”
“Doesn’t mean we have to slaughter them.” I blasted a quiver of arrows on the ground, demolishing the deadly projectiles into a million pieces.
The vampire charged me until an arrow pierced his chest and stopped him in his tracks. As he exploded into a ball of bloody goo, Scott—the guy who had been with Josh the other night—appeared, his bow lifted and a satisfied smirk emerging.
My lips thinned. This jerk enjoyed killing way too much.
A wail of sirens rang out, and flashing blue lights bounced on the brick and cement surroundings. A black car spun into the alley, skidding to a stop before the doors flew open, and two humans jumped out with guns drawn.
“Everyone freeze, or we will shoot!”
Air caught sharply in my lungs. How the hell did cops just get involved in this?
Vampires leaped onto the neighboring building’s roof and bolted from the scene with supernatural speed while a piercing whistle captured the human vigilantes’ attention.
“Move out, ravens!” As soon as one of them gave the command, the individuals dressed in black made a run for it, flying around the corner in an orderly fashion as if they’d practiced exit strategies like I practiced orb conjuring.
Ravens? Was that what they called themselves?
The two cops tried to contain the situation, but fear slowly gained a foothold on them after watching the immortals zip away, and the carnage left behind didn’t help their confidence either.
“Thorn!” Caleb’s fingers wrapped around my arm as he drew me toward him. “We need to get out of here before—”
The shrill cry of screeching tires tore through the atmosphere, and more uniformed police officers sprinted into the backstreet, their black boots crunching on the gravel and slipping on blood. These cops hadn’t witnessed the supernatural actions of the vampires, so they didn’t even blink as they charged forward.
Caleb toyed with the hoop piercing his bottom lip as if a group of cops with guns wasn’t converging on us. “Would you be pissed if I killed them?”
I scoffed. “Would you be pissed if I killed them—with my death powers?”
The fae prince groaned and released my arm. “Fine.”
“Hands on your head, both of you!” The closest cop had a stern glower and wasn’t the kind of officer who chowed down on donuts all day. His hair was clipped close to his scalp, and he moved like he was used to approaching armed enemies. This guy was probably retired military.
“What seems to be the problem?” Caleb’s cocksure smile was tighter than usual as he scrutinized the space between the cop and me. He studied the name stitched on the left side of the officer’s uniform. “Officer Linderman.”
A sneer pulled at the cop’s lips, revealing a line of perfectly straight teeth, probably too afraid to shift out of line. “You two are standing around at least six dead bodies and a whole lot of blood. That’s the problem. And if you don’t cooperate in the next five seconds, I will shoot you.”
“Just do it, Caleb,” I muttered and planted my hands on my head. The human police had never been much of a problem for nightworlders. Then again, most nightworlders weren’t dumb enough to be caught in the vicinity of a bunch of dead humans.
Even the ravens managed to sneak out while we stood here like idiots.
The fae prince finally relented, and the cop pounced, roughly throwing Caleb into the brick wall and wrenching his arms back to cuff him. “You have the right to remain silent.”
I choked on a snort. I wasn’t sure Tinkerbell knew the meaning of silent.
“Grab this one, Bartlett,” the officer ordered.
A female cop, who looked like she could have been a star volleyball player, strode toward me, and my cheek became besties with the brick wall as she cuffed me.
Caleb’s glare hardened while she continued to rough me around. “Keep that up, Officer Bartlett, and you’re going to find out why the two cops first on the scene are still shaking with fear.”
Linderman jerked Caleb around by his bound hands. “Are you threatening an officer of the law?”
The prince bared his teeth in a menacing smile that even had chills snaking down my spine. “I don’t like the way she’s handling my consort.”
“What is going on here?” The stern yet familiar voice had the cops splitting to allow Detective Marx through. His dark eyes widened as he took in the dead bodies—including Zeta with the arrow still jammed in her back—and the puddles of gore that used to be vampires. An ashen pallor converged over his complexion.
Linderman turned toward the detective, keeping one hand on Caleb’s shoulder. “I think it’s gang related. We caught these two in the midst of it.”
When Marx’s gaze finally landed on me, he blinked hard. “Thea?”
“Oh, hello,” I said, my face still pressed against the jagged bricks. “I think there’s been a bit of a misunderstanding.”
A metallic bang erupted, and Miles led a group of fae sentries out of Shade and into the alley. As the other six uniformed cops raised their guns, a strong gust of wind from one of the fae yanked their weapons away.
“Don’t be alarmed,” Skyla, a high-ranking female sentry, announced in a calm, soothing tenor like a doctor trying to keep a patient from flipping out at the sight of a straitjacket. “We’ll have this all sorted out in just a moment.”
Power filled the alley as the fae began a mass glamour to erase the humans’ memories. Bartlett’s grip on my arms disappeared, and a breath of relief tumbled out of my mouth, but Detective Marx’s expression hardened as he fought the magic permeating the atmosphere.
Battling emotions erupted, and my mind whirled a hundred miles a minute as my window of opportunity began to slip. As a skillful detective, Marx could make a valuable ally. And if anything went awry, a memory glamour would always be an option.
“Not him.” I threw a protective bubble around the detective to stop the fae magic from enwrapping him.
Caleb shoved the army cop and popped his handcuffs off like they were made of brittle plastic instead of steel. “I hope you know what you’re doing, Rose Thorn.”
So did I.
Marx stumbled back and shook his head. “W-What the hell was that?” He surveyed the scene again, his memories falling back into place while the other cops remained frozen. “Someone better give me some answers. Now.”
“You’ll get some answers in a minute, Detective Marx.” And then some. I lifted my palms. “Be patient, please.”
Miles strode in our direction, crossing his arms and staring down his hook nose at me. His glossy black hair was such a contrast to his pale cheeks that he could have been a black and white photo brought to life. “You cannot allow this human to leave with knowledge of tonight’s events.” He twirled his finger around at the massacre.
“No shit. I just need to talk to him.” I gave a casual shrug and shoved my hands in my pockets to stop my fidgeting. “I’ll make sure he’s good and glamoured before sending him on his way.”
Caleb kneeled by Zeta and tugged the arrow out of her back. “Tell my father to personally call her family.”
Miles shook his head and turned away from us, flicking his dark locks. “Whatever you say, prince.”
I scrutinized the human bodies and recognized a few from the cots in Mercy Hospital, but Josh wasn’t among them. Some of the knots loosened in my chest. The sweet kid I’d met with Aiden had to still be inside of the angry, vengeful guy who appeared tonight.
How did he turn all vigilante? How did these humans become skilled hunters—ravens—and who taught them about nightworlder weaknesses? Was their leader some mastermind genius who’d slipped under our radar and discovered the secrets of our world?
“Uh, did he say prince?” Marx planted his hands on his hips, pushing back his jacket and showing the Chicago PD badge on his belt. “Prince of what?”
Caleb stood as a slow smile—without a lick of humor—built across his face. “Prince of the Unseelie Court of fae.”
Marx arched a skeptical eyebrow and jerked his chin at the dead bodies and gore. “Did you do all of this?”
“This is what happens when humans know our secret.” The fae prince drew his shoulders back, and his body seemed to grow even larger as he delivered a terrifying glare at the detective that would have most people pissing their pants. “Back in medieval times, it was angry mobs with pitchforks and torches. Now, it’s pseudo soldiers armed with weapons that can harm us. But it all ends the same—with a ton of dead bodies.”
The detective swiveled around while his officers headed out as if they couldn’t see the corpses or blood staining the scene. “Am I going to end up like that?” He turned back to us and pointed to the closest human casualty.
“No.” Caleb cracked his knuckles, the pops echoing like gunshots in the quiet alley. “My consort thinks you might be useful, and I’m going to at least entertain this idea for tonight. You should be safe for a few hours.”
I elbowed him. “Don’t be a dick.”
He bit back a smile. “I’ll try. For you.”
A shiver rippled down my spine at the sultry look he gave me. Damn it. His beauty was too distracting. And dangerous. Tons of wicked thoughts already filled my mind—
Marx cleared his throat. “So, what do you want?”
I shook my head to disperse the smut. “Answers, just like you.”
Caleb pivoted and motioned toward the private entrance of Shade. “This way.” When he realized I wasn’t following, he glanced over his shoulder. “You want him to be an ally, right? Then he needs to see what our world is like.”