Home > Druid Vices and a Vodka (The Guild Codex: Spellbound #6)(6)

Druid Vices and a Vodka (The Guild Codex: Spellbound #6)(6)
Author: Annette Marie

“Los Angeles.”

“Oh.” I cringed. “Well, that complicates things.”

I paced back and forth in front of the stairs that descended into my apartment. Bad, bad, bad. This was bad. And stupid. I should not even be considering a jaunt down south.

Zak was in California. Lallakai hadn’t been kidding when she said they’d wandered far. Twelve hundred miles, no big deal.

I rubbed my sweaty palms on my pants. I had less than a week to figure out the demon amulet before Eterran’s deadline, but Zak had a day or two before he disappeared into MPD lockup, and once that happened, they’d figure out his identity. Shane Davila was already putting the pieces together, and I wondered if Zak’s farm being “laid to ruin” had anything to do with Shane getting his psychic hands on my old shoes.

As for who had done the laying of the ruin, I had my suspicions. Varvara, the nasty old sorceress who’d kidnapped one of Zak’s teen wards, had struck me as the vengeful type—and she’d been furious with the druid for stealing Nadine back. Varvara was the reason he’d shut his farm down and gone into hiding.

A quiet knock sounded on the door at the top of the stairs, then it clacked open. A moment of rustling, then Kai descended with near-silent steps. I rushed to intercept him as he reached the fake hardwood floor.

“Tori.” His dark eyes slashed across me as he unzipped his leather biker jacket. “What—”

“Are you alone?” I asked urgently. “Do Aaron and Ezra know where you are?”

“No.” He touched my elbow, stilling my anxious fidgeting. “What’s going on, Tori?”

I gauged his level of calm. When it came to sneaky dealings, Kai was my go-to man, and this issue required maximum discretion. Also, he didn’t dislike Zak as much as Aaron did, which was a huge plus.

“Don’t freak, okay?” I took his wrist, then hesitated. “And, um, keep a clear head—if you can.”

His forehead wrinkled with confusion. Deciding to get it over with, I pulled him into the main room.

Lallakai, still in her womanly form, sat on a stool at my breakfast bar, her long legs crossed at the knee and hands resting demurely in her lap. Her not-so-modest outfit exposed miles of soft, porcelain skin, and her silky hair was draped around her.

Kai jerked to an abrupt stop, his mouth hanging open.

I coughed. “Kai, this is Zak’s familiar, Lallakai. She—”

“Consort,” she corrected, her sultry voice caressing the word.

“Er, right. This is Zak’s consort, Lalla—”

“No, child.” Her lips curved up. “He is my consort.”

I shivered at the layers of possessiveness in those two words. “This is Lallakai. She and Zak have a thing.”

Kai didn’t respond, and I looked over to find him staring at the fae, eyes glazed. I pinched his arm and he started.

“Zak needs help,” I told him, putting some bite in my voice. “According to Lallakai, I’m basically his only hope. That’s why I called you.”

He pulled himself together. “I see. What kind of help does he need?”

“A bounty hunting guild captured him—in California.”


“They haven’t figured out who he is, but once they dump him at a MagiPol precinct, someone will.”

“I see.” He scanned my face. “And you’re planning to go to California and break him free from this guild before he ends up in MPD custody?”

“Um, well, I’m thinking about it.”

He nodded—then, inexplicably, pushed up his jacket sleeves. “Is there any chance you’re going to come quietly?”

I blinked. “Come quietly where?”

“Back to the house.”

“But I just called you here—”

“And I’m glad you did, because going to California to pick a fight with a bounty hunting guild is suicide. If you aren’t outright killed, you’ll end up tagged, bagged, and dumped at the MPD right alongside Zak. Any guild that can capture him will flatten you.”

I folded my arms, glaring furiously. “I called you for help, not so you could veto the whole idea before you even hear the details.”

“The details won’t change anything.”

“But Zak is—”

“—a rogue who actively engages in criminal activity.” He squeezed my upper arms. “He wasn’t framed or set up. You’re thinking of him as a friend you need to rescue from danger, but what you’re planning is the equivalent of springing a convict from prison.”

“But …” I bit my lip. “If you went to prison, I’d try to spring you.”

He laughed softly. “I appreciate the thought, Tori, but I really hope you wouldn’t. If I ever go to prison, I’ll have earned it—just like Zak.”

My eyes stung and I blinked quickly. I couldn’t just abandon Zak, but …

“You are so eager to surrender your freedom, mage?”

Kai and I jumped. Lallakai stood at his shoulder, but I hadn’t seen her leave her stool. She leaned close to him, smiling a sweet little smile that raised my hackles. My nose filled with the alluring scent of a wildflower glade on a cool night. She and the electramage were the same height, their eyes locked.

“Forsake my druid,” she purred, “and you will join him in the iron confines of the MPD.”

“Why is that?” he asked cautiously.

“Secrets, mage.” She brushed a fingertip down the side of his temple. “So many secrets kept safe in my druid’s mind. So many secrets for the MPD to pry from him once they realize his identity.”

Kai stiffened.

“Is it not a crime to shield a rogue from justice? Is it not a crime to pretend a human is a witch?” Her emerald gaze drifted to me. “Is it not a crime to give a lost child into a rogue’s care?”

Oh … right. I had sort of done that, hadn’t I? After we’d rescued Nadine from Varvara, all she’d wanted was to go back to Zak’s farm with him. At least now she was reunited with relatives in England.

“Should they tear these truths from my druid, what will become of you, mage, and your beloved Victoria? What of your guild, entangled in your law-breaking as well?”

A faint crackle ran across Kai’s skin. “Back up.”

Her coy smile widening, Lallakai stepped away from the electramage.

He scrutinized her coldly. “Would I be wrong to suspect that, if we fail to save Zak, you’ll make certain the MPD hears all about our involvement with him?”

“I seek only to shield us from such a disaster.”

“Sure you do,” he muttered. “How was Zak captured?”

“We were approaching a crossroads. My druid planned to call for a fae to carry him north, but these guild hunters had set an ambush intended for another rogue. By unlucky chance, we sprang their trap instead.”

“Even walking into a trap, I’m surprised he couldn’t escape.”

“Their expected quarry was also a user of fae power. The hunters possessed magic that drove me away.” She blinked slowly, but the motion couldn’t hide the feral, dangerous fury building in her breathtaking eyes. “They took him, and I could not stop them.”

“Then what?”

“I attempted to reach him, and I heard the hunters as they conversed. They planned to wait three days for their true target to appear, then they would return to their home city and hand over their prisoners. That was nearly two days past.”

Leaving us around twenty-four hours to find and extricate Zak—assuming Kai didn’t truss me up, throw me over the back of his bike, and drive me straight to Aaron’s house instead.

Kai arched a disbelieving eyebrow at Lallakai. “And there wasn’t a single person between here and California who could help him?”

She stroked her fingertips down my face instead of his. “None who would not learn of my druid’s quandary and see naught but an opportunity to profit.”

I stepped closer to Kai. “Hands to yourself, bird lady.”

“There are fae who would help him without question,” she added as though there was nothing at all weird about the touchy-feely petting thing she kept doing, “but none who could pierce their accursed magic barrier.”

“Abjuration sorcery,” Kai murmured. “It’s the only thing that can reliably interrupt fae magic.”

“The dragon lord could annihilate them,” she added, “but he will not answer my call.”

My fingers drifted to my wrist, where Echo had once placed his mark, but I’d used up my favor from the dragon months ago. Did I mention his “help” had nearly gotten me killed in about ten different ways?

“Depending on what guild has him and how good they are, freeing Zak could be impossible,” Kai said. “That’s not even taking the timeline into consideration. Plus, Shane Davila is on the Ghost’s case, and I don’t want to know how much he’s already figured out.”

I winced. “Yeah, speaking of that … he knows Zak kidnapped me for two weeks. He tried interrogating me after you left the bar.”

Swearing under his breath, Kai stared moodily at the floor, then refocused on me. “Rescuing Zak is a huge risk. The MPD already tried to connect you to him, and now Shane is doing the same. If you’re caught freeing him from a guild, you’re looking at jail time or worse, depending on how violently this guild protects their catch.”

I swallowed hard.

“However, if we leave him to MagiPol and he talks, you’ll end up in an MPD cell for sure. Aaron, Ezra, and I will get fined at best or arrested at worst. And …” His jaw tightened. “And I really don’t want anyone taking a close look at our past activities. Ezra’s records can pass muster at a glance, but it wouldn’t take much to reveal they’re all forgeries.”

All forgeries? I’d suspected Ezra’s records, which didn’t extend beyond the past six years, weren’t completely legit, but I hadn’t realized everything was fake.

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