Home > Druid Vices and a Vodka (The Guild Codex: Spellbound #6)(8)

Druid Vices and a Vodka (The Guild Codex: Spellbound #6)(8)
Author: Annette Marie

“And escape the city with him.”

The immensity of impossible we had to overcome to make this work dragged at my limbs. We didn’t even have Lallakai as backup. Maybe we could’ve smuggled her on board with us, but after sharing all the information she had about the bounty hunters, she’d taken off—literally soaring through my apartment ceiling like a ghost. She hadn’t admitted it, but I figured flying twelve hundred miles in two days had exhausted her.

“Were Ezra and Aaron suspicious?” I asked. “When you told them we were going on a sudden trip and needed an alibi?”

“Aaron complained that he was being left out of the fun, then complained some more that I wouldn’t tell him what kind of fun we were planning without him. He isn’t sure whether this is personal to me or personal to you, so I don’t think he’s guessed who we’re off to rescue.”

“And Ezra?”

“He didn’t say much. He’s been quiet lately … since Christmas.”

“Oh.” My gaze dropped to my lap. “He’s seemed mostly like himself to me.”

“He’s been trying to keep things normal for you.” Kai stared at the blank screen of his phone. “He never wanted you to know. Now that you do … it’s hard on him.”

My hands tightened. “You all hid it from me.”

“Ezra’s choice.” Dark eyes flicked to mine, shadowed with pain. “I would’ve chosen the same. You’ll grieve for him either way, but losing him suddenly is far preferable to months of dread and helplessness.”

The jittery urgency I’d been battling since Christmas collapsed my lungs. He was right that this was more difficult, but if I hadn’t learned the truth ahead of time, I wouldn’t have had the chance to alter the trajectory of Ezra’s fate.

Watching Kai’s profile, the tension in his jaw and the wrinkle of misery between his eyebrows, I reached across the aisle and gripped his wrist. “We’re going to save him.”

“It isn’t possible.”

“We’ll make it possible.”

He slouched in his seat, avoiding my fierce stare, unwilling to crush my hope. Soon, he would be able to hope too. If I could combine the demon amulet with Zak’s knowledge of dark magic, we would find a way.

I peered out my window, unable to see much besides a big, boring hangar. Kai navigated an app on his phone, and for a second, I wondered if he was texting Izzah, but that would have defeated the purpose of leaving our regular phones behind. Hopefully, we didn’t get any emergency calls while we were—

I jerked upright. “Oh shit! I totally forgot!”

“Forgot what?” he asked, alarmed.

“You got a message or something at the pub.” Guilt hoarsened my voice. “You were upset and I never asked what was wrong. I’m so sorry.”

“Oh.” He relaxed again. “You had other things to worry about.”

“That’s no excuse. What happened? Do you want to talk about it?”


My eyes narrowed. “That sounds like an ‘I totally need to talk about something but only if you pry it out of me’ sort of no.”

“That was a normal no. The ‘don’t pester me’ kind.”

“Hmm. I’m pretty sure not.”

“Then you’re pretty wrong.”

I rolled my eyes. “Okay, fine, but you do realize you’re stuck in this chair, right beside mine, for the next five hours.”

His lips thinned. “Is that a threat?”

“Nooooo. But I have a sudden urge to recite my favorite song lyrics while describing my personal interpretation of every verse—”

He heaved a sigh.

“Okay, fine,” I grumbled. “I won’t torture you, but I wish you’d tell me things. You know I’ll keep your secrets, right?”

His startled gaze darted to me; he recognized those words as ones he’d said to me months ago. He slowly lowered his phone.

“It was a text message. It said, ‘This game is over.’”

A shivery chill ran through me. “What the hell does that mean? Who’d send you something like that?”

“It was a warning from my family. They’ve noticed I’m spending too much time with Izzah.”

Oh boy. Not good. “How could they know? You’ve only been seeing her at the guild.”

He shook his head tiredly, as though his family knowing intimate details of his life was no surprise.

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“Stop talking to Izzah.”


“I have no choice.” Anger roughened his tone. “I shouldn’t have been talking to her in the first place. My family doesn’t bluff, and if I ignore their warning, they’ll take action. I won’t get her killed, Tori.”

With no counterargument in mind, all I could do was sit in silence as he glared at the empty seat in front of him. He’d broken ties with his family at seventeen, but he couldn’t escape his arranged marriage to a woman his family had chosen for him at birth. His family’s threats were the reason he’d dumped Izzah three years ago, and she had no clue.

Now he would ghost her again, and that would be it for them. She wouldn’t give him a third chance.

Exhaling forcefully, I curled my fingers around his inner elbow and held tight in silent comfort. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes. We didn’t speak as the plane rolled onto the taxiway. It aligned with the dark runway, sat for a moment, then accelerated with a roar. The runway lights flew past, and we lifted into the air. I watched out the window as the ground swept away, leaving the city behind.

Zak, captured by bounty hunters.

Ezra, doomed to lose his mind and soul to his demon.

Kai, trapped under the uncaring thumb of his powerful family.

And I wasn’t sure I could save any of them.

I enjoyed only the briefest glimpse of Los Angeles before Kai closed all the window covers. My meager impression: huge. Like … huge. Anonymous gray buildings sprawled from horizon to horizon, the structures made grayer by a hazy blanket of smog.

With the view hidden behind plastic covers, the plane’s descent was boring and uneventful. We disembarked inside a shadowy hangar, where Kai directed me to the driver’s seat of a gunmetal gray sedan. The keys sat in the ignition, waiting for us. He got in the passenger side, provided quick directions, and the next thing I knew, I was driving through a security gate and out onto a road.

We’d just been smuggled into the USA. So cool.

“That was crazy!” I gushed, squinting against the ridiculously bright sunlight. Los Angeles wasn’t particularly inspiring—not yet—but the sky was gorgeous. Huge and empty and breathtaking, the endless blue dotted with fluffy cotton-tip clouds. “And you never even spoke to the pilot!”

“I arranged everything in advance.” He slid his laptop out of his bag. “Keep following this road until you see the freeway overpass. You can’t miss it.”

Nodding, I changed into the center lane behind a fancy little Porsche. Strip malls slid past, not too different from Vancouver. Except more palm trees. Way more palm trees.

I flipped on the air conditioning. LA’s January sun wasn’t blazing hot, but I was already cooking. “What next?”

“Depending on where the bounty hunters are coming from, we either have a very long drive east, southeast, or north to intercept them.” His fingers flew across his laptop keyboard. “And that’s the first thing we need to find out.”

“I know you looked up a bunch of their guild members,” I said, not pointing out how his hard work during our flight had made me feel lazy. All I’d done was try to nap. “But they won’t just tell us where the bounty team is.”

Lallakai had helped us pinpoint the right guild, but she couldn’t describe the location of the “crossroads” well enough for us to pick it off a map.

An unpleasant face appeared on Kai’s screen—buzzed hair, sunken eyes, and a square jaw. He was an abjuration sorcerer from the bounty hunting guild, and according to his MPD stats and records, he’d claimed bounties for seven black witches and one druid in the last three years. He was one of the mythics Kai had zeroed in on during his research.

“Let’s see if this sorcerer is susceptible to a bit of social engineering.” He plugged his cell into his laptop, clicked around some more, then entered the sorcerer’s number. “And if not, this program will give me the location of his phone. Keep quiet, okay?”

“You got it.”

Kai hit the call button and the phone rang on speaker.

“Hartley,” an impatient male voice answered.

“Hey, yeah,” Kai drawled, deepening his voice. “Is this Leon Hartley?”


“Owner of a Mustang Shelby GT350, license plate 2FBT124?”

“Yeah, that’s me,” Leon replied warily. “What—”

“Where did you last park your vehicle?” Kai interrupted in that slow tone, his syllables heavier than usual and an unfamiliar roughness touching the first sounds of each word. He rubbed his sleeve across the cell’s mic to create distortion, then glanced at me and exclaimed to no one, “Yeah, yeah, I’m calling him!”

“Who is this?” Leon demanded. “My car is parked in my garage, so if you—”

“Look, dude, I’m just doing my job.” Kai peered at the program running on his laptop. “When we’re called in for a tow, we gotta tow it, so—”

“You can’t tow my car from my garage. Where are you? If that’s my car, someone stole it and I’m calling the cops.”

“We got the report on an abandoned vehicle three days ago,” Kai bluffed. “You didn’t notice your car was stolen in—”

“I was out of town!” Leon barked. “I just got back. Now tell me where my car is.”

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