“Now zat,” someone said approvingly, “is a Pythia.”

And then blackness.


I woke up in bed to find a vampire in my room.

He was sitting in the chair in the corner, flipping through a newspaper. The front page was turned to me, and the headline was a little hard to miss. One word, in huge black letters: GODDESS.

I stared at it for a long minute, feeling empty, feeling nothing. The vampire turned over another page. “You’re not supposed to be here,” I told Marco roughly.

A pair of bushy eyebrows appeared over the paper. “You kicking me out?”

“No,” I said. And then I burst into tears.

He came over and gathered me up. He was big and warm and smart enough not to say anything. I cried his shirt wet. I was hard on his shirts.

“I got more,” he told me, and gave me a handkerchief. It was big, like everything about him. I just held it.

I didn’t give a shit what I looked like.

“What happened?” I asked, after a while.

Marco’s big chest rose and lowered in a sigh. “Well, as I understand it, you showed up to your coronation naked, rolled around in some mud, dusted a dragon and then made out with the mage. Nobody really knows what happened, but it impressed the shit out of the senates. They signed the alliance early this morning.”


“Also, they caught that thing that attacked you. You know, the Morrigan?”


“She claims she was forced into it because the Green Fey invaded and kidnapped her husband. Guess they’re working for the bad guys now, only nobody seems to really know. Anyway, she said she’s willing to let bygones be bygones if we help her get him back.”

“How generous.”

“Yeah. That’s what I said. But that Marsden guy is considering taking her up on the offer.”

I tilted my head to stare up at him. “Why?”

“He was here all morning, reading your dad’s letters. It turns out that that spell everybody’s been worried about—the one that keeps the so-called gods out of here?”

“The ouroboros?”

“Yeah, that’s the one. Looks like it wasn’t linked to you at all. Even if that Spartoi had killed you, it wouldn’t have done any good.”

“But something is keeping it active. And if my mother isn’t here—”

“I didn’t understand everything the old man said,” Marco told me. “But it seems she did something to merge her soul with your dad’s before she passed on—as insurance, you know?”

I sat up and turned to look at him. “But he died with her.”

“Yeah, but his soul stayed here.”

It took me a moment to get it. “Because Tony trapped it in his damned paperweight.”

“Yeah. And it’s still here. Or in Faerie, somewhere on this side of the spell. Anyway, Marsden figures we got to find the fat little weasel before he figures out what he’s got, and if he’s in Faerie, we’re gonna need help.”

I nodded slowly, but I wasn’t thinking about Tony. I just sat there for a moment, a couple of dozen emotions washing through me. But the one I finally settled on was pride—fierce and glowing.

She must have known they would never stop coming for her, had to realize they would find her, sooner or later. She was weak, possibly dying, because I couldn’t see her going to the Pythian Court in less than dire need, not knowing what stalked her. She’d had almost no one she could trust, for even at court there were those like Myra who would have sold her out. But still, she’d found a way. She’d found a way and beaten them all.

I wiped my eyes, got up and started going through my dresser.

“So Marsden said he needs to know if you got any ideas where to start looking for the paperweight,” Marco told me. “And there’s a lot more stuff in your dad’s letters he wants to talk over with you. Plus, Pritkin hasn’t checked in and he keeps asking if I’ve seen him. I told him what I could, but it wasn’t—”

I looked up. “What did you tell him?”

“That he came through here last night, covered in blood and ranting like a madman. He demanded to see you, and when I told him we thought you’d gone to the coronation, he cursed at me, ran for the balcony and threw himself into a ley line. That’s the last any of us saw of him.”

I thought I could fill in the rest. Niall had left Pritkin for dead, but he hadn’t counted on his demon blood—or his sheer stubbornness. Pritkin’s body had healed enough for him to swim back to consciousness, to realize that the necklace was gone and to understand what that meant. He’d come here looking for me, probably to warn me not to shift, but I was already gone. So he’d gone after me.

He’d gone after me and he’d saved me. He’d said he’d rather die than go back there, into slavery, into his father’s tender care. But he’d saved me anyway.

Like Mom, he’d found a way.

I grabbed a tank top and a pair of shorts and went to the bathroom.

“That was a couple of minutes before the master popped back in,” Marco said. “Only without you. Things got a little crazy after that, because nobody knew where you’d ended up. And we couldn’t reach the house by phone and we couldn’t even contact anybody mentally ’cause they were all in that portal thing. But nobody’d seen you here, so we finally went out there, only to find we’d missed all the excitement.”

I ran a comb through my hair and didn’t comment.

“The master wanted to keep you at the estate, but Marsden threw a fit, so they compromised and we brought you back here,” Marco continued. “The master’ll be back as soon as he can shake the senators, and Marsden said he’ll be checking in tonight. But he wanted to know if you have any idea where Pritkin is.”

“Yes.” I scrubbed my face and started to get dressed. Pritkin’s little talisman bumped my skin as I pulled off the pajama top. I put a hand on it, squeezing hard, and something greasy leaked through the material and onto my palm. I didn’t wash it off.

There was no question where he was, but Jonas couldn’t help him. As soon as he’d exchanged energy with me, the thing that called itself his father had jerked him back, “revoking his parole,” as Pritkin had put it. And I didn’t think it was going to be easy to pry him loose. I wasn’t sure it would even be possible. I didn’t understand much about the demon realms, didn’t know what, if anything, could be done.

But I knew who to ask.

“By the way, your dress arrived,” Marco told me.

“What dress?”

“For the coronation.”

I stuck my head out the door. “We already had that.”

“No, you had a mud bath. Seems they want to do it over, do it right, this coming Saturday—”


“It’s gonna be here, instead of at the estate—”


“It’s a nice dress.”

I pulled on the shorts and came out. Marco was standing by something that was a little better than “a nice dress.” It was a delicate, shimmering piece of art. A few crystalline lines sketched out the form here and there, like the ones connecting stars in a constellation. They delineated the soft drape of the skirt, the low-cut back, the plunging neckline. And between those was . . . nothing. Or, at least, what was there wasn’t cloth.

It was completely transparent, with a faint tinge of teal, like a dress made out of ice or glass—or the light that glimmered along fiber-optic filaments one minute and was gone the next. It was suspended a few feet off the floor and was slowly rotating, shedding softly glowing particles as it went. They lingered for a moment after the

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