I sighed as I looked back down at her. “Yeah. I know what you mean.”

Kylee and an initiate named Elena arrived just then, pulling at Li’s arm, chattering excitedly about a maze that’d been turned into a haunted house for the night. They were both in costume, both superheroes, and they rushed away so quickly, she barely managed a backward wave. Seconds later, thrilled screams of terror rolled over the boneyard. I smiled grimly, knowing I had to help Li, and soon, but for tonight she was happy and safe.

“Happy Halloween, Archer.”

My brows winged up to find an Autobot Transformer. I tilted my head. “Carl? Is that you in there?”

Earth’s protector nodded.

“I thought you didn’t dress up for Halloween.”

He shrugged. “It’s not every day you get to turn into a semi.”

“This is true. Though I’m not sure how safe all this is.” I jerked my head toward the boneyard’s perimeter.

“Oh, the mortals…the other mortals, I mean…they can’t see us. Tekla put up a shield. Didn’t you notice? It isn’t storming inside the boneyard.”

I did now that he mentioned it. The serenity hovering over the boneyard wasn’t due solely to my surprising contentment. Only Tekla could shield such a large space from the fallout of battling tulpas. Yet one thing remained unsettling. “I don’t see Hunter.”

“Hot date,” Carl muttered, watching one of the initiates glow with more than a little envy. “You know how those working men are.”

I suppose I did, though of course the question remained: what was he working on?

Not your business, quipped a voice loitering inside me. Besides, it was probably best he wasn’t here. I needed time and space to figure out who I was now that Ben Traina wasn’t taking up so much real estate in my head. And my heart. Immediately filling that space with another man was a mistake…and wasn’t even possible. Maybe in time it would be, but only if that person fit well and wholly with the woman-the superwoman-I was today.

And that was my most pressing problem. Ambivalent in my self-awareness, I was no longer the person I used to be but still unsure of who I was to become. It was as if I was still composed of two halves: the mortal me, who’d used logic and determination to power through life, and the new one, who had to accept there was a place for magic alongside the practical. I was surrounded by people who could conjure plants and storms and walls using nothing more than thought; I could do the same. My birth father had been wrought into being by the same applied mental power, and my mother had just spent the last decade creating a being that could take him down.

Yet whenever I considered these things together, along with my future, my destiny as Kairos, I had trouble seeing from here to there. It was like the fourth sign. Delayed, yet to be revealed. And there was no path to follow, no book to read, no great teachers who’d come before me, leaving scripture like bread crumbs trailing behind them. My path to becoming me, I now knew, would have to spring wholly from myself.

But for now, in this exact moment, Li was safe, Ben had a chance at a normal life, Regan was defeated, the Tulpa was on his heels, my mother had succeeded…and for the first time since Olivia’s death I had people who knew me. It was with a surprised jolt that I realized I was relatively happy. I really had a place in the Zodiac now, in this world, and whether anyone liked it or not, no one could question it. I had an identity.

I had a home.

But what about Warren?

That voice again.

What about the way he ruthlessly played us all?

What about it? I mentally shrugged. I knew where he stood, and now knew the extent he’d go to protect his troop. Would he sacrifice me, and along with me, this life I’d carved for myself in the troop? Not any faster than he’d sacrifice himself. And not if he thought he needed me, the Kairos.

Besides, I’d discovered, when it came to protecting what was mine, I could be ruthless too.

“Yo, Archer! So what do we call you now?” Felix yelled from the top of the maze. He was sweaty from chasing changelings and initiates, and looked like a statue standing tall in the flashing, pulsing glow that chased darkness from all corners of the boneyard.

“Yes,” said Tekla, folding her palms before her, similarly lit. “What’ll it be? Joanna? Olivia still? Just the Archer?”

I thought of what I knew of the power of names, how they claimed a place for you in this world, how people could seek them out in order to use them against you…how powerful they were when you claimed them for yourself. A person cannot be divided against herself.

Then I looked into the sky where the stars snapped sharp and clean, and thought of my sister. My heart pinched so hard that I momentarily lost my breath. Almost a year gone now, and still the look on her face at the time of death haunted me. It always would.

And yet.

“Olivia is fine,” I finally answered, turning away from the desert sky and back to all the lights that burned so brightly for me.

And it was.

Acknowledgments

In the time elapsed since the release of my first book, the audience that once existed solely in my mind has solidified into an enthusiastic core of readers, utterly surpassing my ideal. Specific thanks go to Joy Maiorana and Shada Adrianna for reaching out to me on message boards and allowing me to steal character names, and to Kim Castillo, who single-handedly kept this from being poorly titled Book Three. Of course, the series wouldn’t exist at all if not for my exceptional agent, Miriam Kriss, and the enthusiasm, hard work, and dedication of my outstanding editor, Diana Gill. Emily Krump and Jack Womack have been on my side from day one, and Tom Egner’s vision continues to astound me. Thank you all. There are others in the Harper family who’ve made me feel right at home, but names must naturally be omitted to protect the guilty (Rhonda Rose, Mark Landau, Donna Waitkus). Thanks always to Suzanne Frank-my partner-in-crime and literary BFF-the KWC girls, and continued gratitude to my husband, Roger, who remains my reason in All Things Good.

About the Author

The USA Today bestselling author of The Scent of Shadows and The Taste of Night, VICKI PETTERSSON was born and raised in Vegas. She still lives in Sin City, where a backyard view of the Strip regularly inspires her to set down her martini and head back to the computer.

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