I wasn’t going to do those. No magical training for me, just like no physical training. I was supposed to watch the Littles while Imogen went through it. Back in those days she took care of them part-time. They wouldn’t let Imogen train to be a full Watcher, because her mother, Gwendolyn Post, had betrayed the Watchers and tricked the Slayers into giving her a weapon of unimaginable power. It had always nagged at me that Imogen was held accountable for something she hadn’t even done. We were here because of our parents, sure, but that didn’t mean we were them—or even who they wanted us to be. I knew that better than anyone.

But Ruth bent the rules for Imogen because she wanted everyone who could to have basic spell training, and the best place for it was our seat of ancient power. So our heritage saved our lives. The castle protected us from being blown up along with the rest of our people.

“We should be out there with them.” I place my hand against the shelf sealing us in. I don’t say what I really mean, which is that Rhys should be out there with them. He’s the one who got picked to train as a future Council member. But we both know why Artemis is running the defense and Rhys is hiding here with us.

First, Artemis is more skilled than he is. She always has been.

And second, Artemis put Rhys in here to protect me. Bradford Smythe had called me Artemis out there. He assumed that I was her. Because I couldn’t do something like I did. It’s impossible. I’ve never trained, never fought.

Never been allowed to and never wanted to.

Rhys stares at me as if I were a stranger. “The way you moved out there. What you did. You looked like a . . .”

Cillian interrupts us. “Again, what the hell? Would someone please explain this to me? What was that thing out there?”

I lean against the shelves, grateful to have to explain things to Cillian so I don’t have to think too hard about what I did. What Rhys might have been about to say. “It was a demon.”

“A what now?” Cillian rubs his hair, buzzed close to the scalp. His mother is British-Nigerian, and his father grew up in Shancoom. Cillian is the first person since Leo Silvera I’ve had a crush on, and it lasted all of three minutes before I realized he was not and could never be into me. Lucky Rhys.

But still better than my last crush, which ended in such a humiliating disaster that I haven’t managed to work up another viable candidate in the last three years. Maybe in another three years I’ll finally get over my Leo Silvera mortification.

But I doubt it. Of all the trauma in my life—and I’ve had plenty—hearing my lovesick poetry read aloud to my crush remains among the worst. Gods, the least Honora Wyndam-Pryce could have done was also kill me on the spot. But she has zero capacity for mercy.

No one knows if Leo Silvera and his mother are still alive, as they haven’t been heard from in years. In Watcher society, that means they’re more than likely dead. The Giles line is gone now, along with most of the Zabuto, Crowley, Travers, Sirk, and Post. Causes of death, respectively: neck broken by former ally, demon, demon, exploded, exploded, and arm-cut-off-while-being-struck-by-lightning. That last one was Imogen’s mom. Poor Imogen. I’m glad she’s here to give me perspective. My mom actually could be worse.

Regardless, there are so few of us left. I hope that, somewhere out there, the Silveras are still alive.

Just as fervently as I hope I never have to see them again.

I don’t know why all this terror has made me think of Leo. Wait. No. It makes perfect sense that heightened, terrible emotions trigger my memories of him.

“A demon,” I repeat, trying to refocus. “There are a lot of different types. Some of them are transplants from hell dimensions. Some of them are part demon, part human. True demons don’t usually exist on this plane, but sometimes they can infect people. Like vampires.”

“Vampires?” Cillian squeaks as he turns to Rhys. “Those are real. Vampires are real. I thought—I knew about magic, obviously, but I thought you were just some divvy cult. You never mentioned vampires. That seems like pretty critical information you could have given me sometime in the year we’ve been dating. ‘Hey, Cillian, you’ve got nice lips and also did you know there are demons and vampires in the world?’?”

Rhys barricades the bookshelf door with a table. He looks mildly abashed. “I didn’t want to talk business with you. I like that you aren’t part of this. And I kind of assumed you knew, what with your mother being a witch and all.”

“That was crystals and chanting and shite! Some light levitation! None of this. Exactly how many demons are there in the world?”

“Too many to count? Thousands. Maybe tens of thousands. And it depends on how you classify them.”

Cillian leans back so abruptly in his chair he tips over, landing roughly on the ground. “Tens of thousands? Why isn’t the government doing anything about it?”

“Which government?”

“Ours! Nina’s! Anyone’s! Surely someone is taking initiative.”

“Sometimes they do. But demons are good at being secret.” I move to tug on my hair but freeze. I grabbed a hellhound’s jaws with these hands, snapped its life away. Shuddering, I tuck them into my pockets and let Rhys fill in the rest. Demons have been around forever. Portals, hellmouths, and magic allow them to hop in for visits from their dimensions. Hard to track. Hard to fight.

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