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Book 5: The Nix Series

CHAPTER 1

Killian was alive. The heart beating under my hand was steady and strong, even if the man it belonged to seemed to be in some sort of coma. The world around me slid away for a few minutes as I stared down at him. As I let my fingers thread through his hair and trace the lines of his face.


I touched one of his hands—there were burns that traced like lightning up from his fingertips to his elbow and even further, the lines reached up to his shoulder. If I stared long enough, they looked like they were moving, as if the marks were alive and trying to swallow him whole. 


The threat of Gardreel and the fallen, the threat of the handlers and the institutions, the threat of being tracked or even the threat of the people around me, abnormals I barely knew—all of it was gone in those few moments.


Easter slid a chair over to me and I sat, without a word, and without taking my hand off Killian’s chest. Because a very small part of me feared that if I stopped touching him, he’d disappear. Like before.


Like my entire world before. For the moment, keeping my hands on him meant we would be okay. That he would live. Though I could see that death was stalking him closely.


“I’ll get us some food.” Easter didn’t touch me, but I could feel her energy, like she wanted to. “We both need to eat.”


I nodded, not trusting myself to speak for fear of what might come out. Screams? Maybe. Sobs? No, none of those. But I might start yelling at Killian. I might start killing those around me out of sheer frustration.


“You better not die on me,” I said quietly to him. I wanted to see his lips turn upward, wanted to see him open his eyes and tell me he’d just been waiting for me to show. He did neither.


All I could do was just sit there and breathe him in. It had been over a year that we’d been apart, over a year since I knew for sure if he was alive, if I knew that he was with my children, protecting them. Children, not child. 


We’d had a daughter, a girl who’d survived when I’d been told she’d not. A pain I did not like, because I’d lived it before, cut through me. When I’d thought Bear had been dead, there had been nothing left in me. Nothing but the need to kill those who’d taken my child from me.


A shuddering breath caught me off guard and I finally found my voice. “Did you name her, Killian?”


Not that I expected him to answer, not really. 


He was calm under my hand, but there was a stillness to him that I didn’t like, that I didn’t understand. As an abnormal he healed faster than a human, and as a powerful abnormal he should have been awake by now. Even I could see the injuries he’d taken were mostly gone. I brushed my fingers over the angry red lines that ran across his chest, neck and arms. Almost like the electricity he had control over had come back to bite him.


Or had he been lashed? I let my fingers do the work and closed my eyes. No, these wounds were something else; they weren’t from a leather lash, and they weren’t from knives. They pulsed under my fingertips.


“The wings did it.”


I opened my eyes and turned to see Mario standing ten feet back and leaning against the wall. 


“The wings,” I said.


“That’s what he was ranting when we brought him in. Whatever it was he’d been fighting had cut him up with their wings. We assumed it was some kind of abnormal that was working with the labs. Maybe some sort of shifter.”


I pressed harder against the scars, and they . . . pushed back. Yes, something was in there. “How long did it take to heal over the wounds?”


“Not long, a few hours.” Mario shrugged but didn’t come closer. His eyes were like mine, blue and wary. He had every reason to fear me. And I had every reason not to trust him.


I frowned as I felt the edges of the scars. It was more like his skin had been torn open than properly cut. Maybe like a rough-edged stone knife. Keeping my hand against the one scar, I let my fingers walk the length of it.
“

He’s been talking in his sleep—if you’d call this sleep—and muttering names. Someone named Bear?” Mario offered those words, and I did not react. Couldn’t. 


“Anything else?”


“Angel. That’s the only other name that he’s given. The rest is just the usual, what you’d expect of someone who has been fighting his whole life, telling us to fuck off, telling us he’ll kill us.” Mario pushed off the wall and slowly made his way over to the other side of Killian. “He won’t last long under this spell, curse, or whatever it is. Days at best. We can get fluid into him, but not much. Not enough, and we don’t have even an IV bag to our name here.”


Mario was not wrong. Even in the short time that I’d been sitting with him, Killian’s heartrate had slowed—fractionally, but I’d felt it. His skin had cooled too—the same as his heart, it was fractional but with time it would slide into icy cold. He’d be dead soon if I did nothing.


“What are you suggesting?”


“That you put him out of his misery,” Mario said. “When the time comes.”


I had Dinah out and pointed at my brother before he could so much as blink. “I think you should keep your mercy killing ideas to yourself, Mario.”


Ruby, the Cane Corso-pitbull cross that had chosen me as her person, let out a low growl at my side, pressing her body to my thigh as she picked up on my anger. That rumbling growl was wet and throaty and she took a step toward him. Mario gave her a long look, his eyes a little wider.


Dinah gave a low snort. “Lesson one. She doesn’t give up on people. Lesson two, piss her off and find out how short her fuse is. I dare you. I’d have no problem shooting you.”


From my back, Diego chuckled. “And if the ladies won’t, I’ll happily blow a hole in your middle.”


Mario shrugged, reached out and pushed Dinah to the side. 


Wrong move.


I was up and on him, driving him to the ground and jamming Dinah under his chin in one single move, my finger hovering over the trigger. “Never touch my gun without permission.”


Ruby was at my side and her teeth were bared, inches from his face. As if Dinah wasn’t enough of a threat. 


Diego whispered, “Please, please let me kill him.”


Dinah just laughed. “Oh, he fucked up already. Tell him to put his finger in me, I’d like that. Then I’ll blow his whole fucking hand off.”


Mario locked eyes with me. “You would kill me for touching your gun. Are you serious?”


“I would kill you for not understanding that I don’t have the bandwidth for other people’s bullshit right now.” I got off him and stepped back, and tucked Dinah into her holster. “But I won’t because our numbers are down. And we need every motherfucking abnormal we can get. Especially those who have some leadership qualities.”
I stepped back from him, keeping him in my sights. He stood and brushed his clothes off, keeping an eye on Ruby, but otherwise acting for all the world like nothing had just happened. “I always thought the rumors about you were . . . elaborated. I stand corrected.” He gave me a tight nod. “When you’re ready to discuss the next step—”


“Ten minutes,” I said. Because if I let myself stay and keep on touching Killian, I wouldn’t be able to leave him. And right then we had things that needed discussing. “Give me ten minutes and then I will talk to you about our next steps.”


Discussing things like how to stop the fallen.


Mario looked at Killian. “You don’t have much time with him.”


He wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know. Killian was dying, right in front of me, and there was very little I could do. I shook my head. “He won’t die today. Let’s get shit handled. Give me ten minutes.”


My brother’s eyes narrowed, thoughtful, and then he gave me that same nod as before. “I’ll wait for you.”


He left me there and I sat back down, letting my fingers once more trace across Killian’s body. 


Wings did this, like the wings of the leather-clad, multi-armed fallen that had attacked us at Carlos’s house. I pulled one of my knives out of my boot sheath, and laid the razor-sharp tip against one of the scars. Not like another scar would bother Killian any. And I needed to see what was underneath. What was pulsing against my fingers.

Pressing down, I slid it into the flesh, opening the wound. 


The smell was first putrid, like decomposing meat. The deep green pus, streaked through with black and red, was next, oozing out and down his side. “Fuck, Dinah, you see this?” Tiny chunks of what looked like leather burbled out too. Bits of wing?


“Jesus, that’s bad. You’re going to have to lance them all.”


Diego let out a hiss. “You need some antiseptic. And wash your hands before you touch me again. That’s gross.”


I went to work, cutting open every ridged scar across Killian’s chest, belly and upper arms. All of them were completely infected. Two I had to cut deeper and put pressure on in order to get the thick pus out, to literally pop them open and force the chunks to go.

Those two were darker than the others, the pus nearly solid black.
Those two had something else in them. Something sharp and hard. I touched the foreign object with the tip of my knife.


Killian let out a low groan as he lifted a hand as if he’d stop me. 


“Sorry, you have no choice in this.” I leaned over his chest, my fingers and knife working in tandem to pull the objects out of him. They were stuck hard and I ended up with a knee on his side and pulling with all my weight before they let go. 


Stumbling back, I held the shiny black piece of wing in my hand. The scales were the same as those on the ones I’d fought. I lay them in my hand and bounced them there.


Killian had damaged the fallen, broken off parts of them, and those parts had sunk into him. And even as I looked at them . . . they dissolved in my hands. Ruby snuffled at the dust, blowing it around the room. She gave a snort and then looked up at me with her one eye. 


As if she wasn’t sure. “Bad guys,” I said. “This is what the bad guys smell like.”


She woofed as if she understood.


I drew in a long slow breath as I considered the situation. The dust that was on my palms, and on the floor, was all that was left of the fallen. Something Killian had done had killed or injured them, and something in his blood had finished them off.


The only question was . . . what?

A Killing Curse releases on November 4th, 2021

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