Devils & Thieves (Devils & Thieves #1)

Devils & Thieves (Devils & Thieves #1)

Jennifer Rush

To Sarah Fine, who saved me and this book when we both needed saving


I HATED THE MALL. I HATED THE SMELL OF FAST, CHEAP food. I hated the windowless walls, the cavernous space that somehow made me feel trapped. Most of all, I hated the echoing cacophony of a thousand voices.

There was already enough noise in my own head.

“Jemmie?” Alex called. “What do you think?” She spun around in the tenth dress she’d tried on in the past hour.

“I like it,” I answered, pressing my fingers to my brow in an attempt to ward off a headache. Then I let my hands fall into my lap and smiled at her.

“You said the same thing about the last dress, and the one before that,” she said matter-of-factly, not at all put out by my fogginess. She was used to it. “But I think you’ll love this next one.”

She disappeared into the fitting room again, not bothering to ask if I was going to try anything on. She already knew the answer—and how to pick her battles.

I was more comfortable trailing along in her shadow anyway. As long as I was with Alex (which was just about always), eyes would never be on me. She was the only daughter of the Medici family, arguably the most powerful kindled family in the US. Her place was here in Hawthorne, New York, with the rest of the Medici clan. She knew where she stood, and what lay ahead for her.

I wasn’t envious of Alex’s beauty. I was, however, envious of her certainty.

Magic was the currency of our world, and Alex was rich. I… was not.

The dressing room door creaked open and she stepped out, this time in a low-cut black dress that barely covered her butt.

“Your brother would kill you if he saw you in that,” I said. “So would your mom. And if you weren’t dead when they were done, then the rest of the Devils’ League would finish you off.”

Alex rolled her eyes. “As if I’d wear it in front of Crowe.”

There was a reason Alex mentioned only her brother out of that long list of potential dress code enforcers: He was the only one who had even a scrap of influence on her.

Crowe Medici was just twenty years old, but he was already notorious in the kindled world. The Medici name carried a lot of weight as it was, but after Alex and Crowe’s father, Michael, was killed in a motorcycle accident down in New Orleans last year, Crowe had ascended to president of the Devils’ League, the one and only motorcycle gang in Hawthorne comprised entirely of kindled. Since then, he’d had a run-in or three with rival gangs in the tristate area, enough to cause whispers about how dangerous he was, how volatile. Not many people had the power to break bones and raise plagues with a simple arch of an eyebrow. Rumors had spread about how he was unstable, but those of us who had known him all our lives knew better. He wasn’t crazy.

He was grieving.

The first anniversary of Michael Medici’s death had just passed. It probably wasn’t such a good time to test him.

“Are we not shopping for an outfit for the Kindled Festival?” I asked Alex. “And will your brother not be in attendance there?”

Alex ran her hands down her hips. “I can wear a coat or something over it until I ditch my brother. He’s not going to be paying attention to me anyway, not with all the other available distractions. The Sixes rolled in last night, and the Curse Kings got here before noon. The Deathstalkers should be here by now, too, I think.” She frowned for a moment before shaking it off.

I had the opposite reaction to the mention of the Deathstalkers. A tiny, forbidden thrill raced up my spine.

“Anyway,” she continued breezily, “I saw Crowe stumble into an alley with one of the Six hangarounds last night. They were all over each other.”

Thrill forgotten, I scowled. “Figures.”

The Kindled Festival was an annual gathering. It was a chance for the families to swap curses and enchantments, celebrate who we are… and make new connections. This year, the Devils’ League was hosting the party in Hawthorne. The Deathstalkers had hosted it in New Orleans last year, and I remembered that time with a special kind of agony. Crowe never should have attended, not so soon after his father had died. He went on a three-day bender and pretty much turned into an asshole. But I recalled the festival with another, more private emotion: euphoria. It had marked the beginning of something promising, but also the end of something that had never had a chance to begin, the death of a wish I’d had for years.

It was complicated.

Alex patted my arm. “My brother’s a hound, Jem,” she said with a wink. “None of them mean anything to him.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better? Which Six girl was it?” I remembered a bunch of them from the previous year.

“I’m getting this dress,” Alex said, sliding her fingers along the hem at her thighs.

“You’re dodging.”

“Am not. I like this dress.”

“Which. One.” I shouldn’t care. I totally shouldn’t care. “Was it Katrina?”

Alex swiveled back toward the dressing room. “I’ll change real quick, and then we can leave!”

I grumbled, reading between the lines, and wandered to the front of the store. I was being an absolute hypocrite, and I had no claim on Crowe whatsoever. What the hell was wrong with me? After browsing the racks of sunglasses and taking a few deep breaths, I slipped on a pair of aviators and peered at myself in the mirror. The faint scent of leather and flowers drew my attention away from my appearance.

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