Windenburg Woods, Dryad Territory
“So that’s the plan,” Alice’s father announced, pointing at the board. “Straightforward. Simple.”
“Yep, simple,” Alice rolled her eyes, “I’ll just win the baking contest so we can pretend to get The Owl, which we already have. Then we’ll help our enemy steal it from us in a very public way before somehow eliminating her and making a completely impossible escape before anyone notices.”
The logical part of her understood that they had to get the heat off her back. Gwendolyn’s status as The Owl had to remain secret, and Alice’s family couldn’t very well stay here—they would be targets. Just thinking about how they were uprooting their lives filled her with guilt, and yet, watching them swoop in to save the day made her feel decidedly ungodlike. She didn’t use to mind taking a back seat, but now?
It kind of pissed her off.
“Not impossible,” her mother said, “Grim and I are reviewing the tenets of inter-dimensional portals and the metaphysics of being in more than one place at a time.”
“Oh, sorry, excuse me. I mean an escape that works perfectly fine save for the fact that everyone except me, Vlad, Grim, and Deacon need to be dead to enter the Underworld!” Alice eyed everyone at the table angrily.
“Gwendolyn can probably go too,” Deacon suggested. “Because she’s like a bird.”
This time, even Grim shook his head. “Gwendolyn is not a bird, Deac. The Owl is a metaphor.”
“And the plan has phases,” Cyrus reminded everyone. “First step, help Miss Hell and her accomplice get back to Windenburg.”
“No, no, Corporal Maverick Martin,” Alice repeated, impatience creeping into her voice. She motioned for Gwendolyn to go outside with Deacon.
The tiny terror pouted, her gray and pink eyes shining in the light. She had gotten some control of her dark form with Vlad’s help, but it was by no means consistent, and apparently, the eyes and the fangs were permanent.
Alice smothered a sigh and pulled the dagger out of Deacon’s back. The last thing she needed was her parents catching sight of that. She already got a lecture about Gwendolyn’s sleep schedule and lack of schooling, as if it wasn’t glaringly apparent that this was not an ideal situation. The joke was on them. She hated school even before this fucking chaos. The kid was probably delighted to not have to sit in some elementary school classroom.
And where did her parents get off telling her how to be a par—what to do with her kid?
“Stop stabbing him!” she mouthed and then angrily pointed at the back door.
“You’re looking for Corporal Maverick Martin?” a different voice on the phone asked, “You want us to pull him from his shift?”
Alice groaned; StrangerVille base was insanely bureaucratic. This was the third person she’d been transferred to. “Yes!” she snapped. Then remembering that Miss Hell could be there already, “Don’t tell him it’s his sister calling.”
“Oh, it’s you,” the voice turned flat, almost mocking. “You need bail money or bar tab money?”
Shit. Alice finally recognized who was speaking: Dylan Sigworth, a friend of her brother’s. He’d been over for dinner a bunch of times and flirted with Alice. The night they were supposed to go out, she’d been administering rites to a group of sims Ben swore had the spirits of ancient warriors inside them. They all came back to the house, drunk and rowdy, and drank some more.
Which was how Maverick and Dylan found her, passed out on the couch, and, for some reason, missing her shirt.
Hot shame burned through her. Not so much about the date, though it was a pretty dick move on her part. It was more from the fact that she’d borrowed money so liberally from Maverick that she was notorious for it.
Well, no more! She didn’t need money. The perks of being a god with a supernatural warlord meant she had plenty of money. Most of it in gold bars, priceless treasure, and off-shore accounts only Caleb knew how to access, but still.
“Okay, asshat, listen. I don’t need—” Alice paused. If Miss Hell got even a hint that they were manipulating her, the whole plan would go to shit. She did have an important role to play, apparently the role she had always played: the fuck-up.
Ignoring the way it cut at her pride, she sighed and made her voice sound pleading. “Uh yeah, you know me! Bail money. I’m in another country, which is technically a parole violation, so I’m in deep trouble. If he knows it’s me, he’ll hang up right away.”
Alice heard a snort of disbelief on the other line and then a long beat of silence before Maverick picked up the phone.
“Okay, they didn’t say who it was, but I know it’s you, Al—”
“What is your damn problem?” he hissed.
“Listen very closely to me. I’m with mom, dad, and Mayra. I know all of this will sound crazy, but you’ll confirm it if you look at dad’s notes. The woman in your custody was with a group of vampires, yes they are real, and I’ll get to that in a minute. One of them, Miss Hell, is super dangerous and might show up trying to get her back.”
She gave Maverick a minute to argue, but he didn’t.
“Actually,” he said wryly, “I believe you.”