Pearl, Jack, and Ezra saw where we were heading and beat us there, waiting outside on the front lawn. They didn’t say anything, but quickly fell into step with me as I pushed past Aros and started working my own way swiftly through the milling crowd.

Once I hit the sidewalk, I started a fast jog, friends in tow, and Aros taking the rear. My Hummer was a block down the road, but when we arrived I didn’t see anyone in the dimly lit area. “Felix?”

“Right here,” he stated, coming out from hiding behind my Hummer.

“Where is he?”

“Tree line.” He pointed to the row of trees where the park started. “Behind the largest oak closest to us. I couldn’t put him in your Hummer because I didn’t have your keys.”

“Shit,” I murmured, having forgotten about that. “Alright, okay.” A swift rub of my forehead, trying to think. “Felix, you need to get out of here and burn those clothes.” I didn’t see or scent blood on him, but I didn’t want to take unnecessary chances.

He nodded, eyes turning to Aros as he tossed his keys to him. “I’ll run in case you need the car to haul him.” He turned, and started a fast sprint that was going to be, at least, ten miles if he was running all the way to where he lived.

A deep breath in and a slow release. “Well, it’s time for the real party to start.” I unlocked my door and stowed my purse on the front seat. “Let’s see if Philip Masterson is still alive.”

My friends had been standing quietly, waiting and watching, but froze hearing that name drop, and Jack asked in confusion, “Philip Masterson?”

“Yep.” I nodded, talking while walking toward the largest oak. Coming out of their shock quickly, they followed. “He ambushed me in the bathroom. He talked a little, then tried rape on for size. A little too much Shifter strength trying to defend myself, and he hit his head on the tub. He was unconscious and bleeding the last time I saw him.”

Ezra went to grab my arm, but fisted his hand — no touching — and quickly dropped it, stating quietly, “There’s no heartbeat coming from over there.”

I paused, listening. Mindful of Aros, I didn’t say I agreed when I didn’t hear anything, but I did say, “Shit!” Putting my hands on my head, I turned in a circle, scanning the area and listening to the sounds of the night. Nothing. “Oh, Jesus.” That could mean only one thing.

“He tried to rape you?” Pearl asked furiously.

I couldn’t even respond I was freaking out so badly, hyperventilating a definite likelihood, as a shovel and shallow grave became the future of this evening with the absence of a much-needed thumping beat.

I stopped moving. Stared. My jaw slightly parted, slack. “Oh, God. I’m not sure if that makes this better or worse.” He wasn’t dead.

My friends quickly snapped their attention in the direction I gawked, and silently we watched Philip Masterson drive by in a Mercedes, window rolled down, directly under the lone street light.

He was staring right at me. One eye closed, and then opened, winking plain as could be with blood covering half of his face. The next second, he stepped on the gas and his car shot off past the party, and farther, until the only indication he had been here were tiny, red dots of tail-lights in the dark distance.

Pearl repeated her question into the silence, “He tried to rape you?”

I nodded mechanically, my heart rate jumping a frantic rhythm.

Jack stated, “We need to tell the Kings about this.”

“And quickly, in case he goes directly to the Com police with a bogus story about Lily,” Ezra growled, already stalking toward my Hummer. “Maybe they’ll let us kill him.”

Pearl and Jack nodded, herding me — without touching — to the vehicle.

Ezra was already in the driver’s seat, which I was grateful for, and Jack jumped in the passenger’s seat while Pearl helped me into the back, following me in.

Absently, I saw Aros running to Felix’s car, and in the distance, the other elite Mysticals jogging to theirs. I hadn’t even known they were there, but they had been doing their jobs, and were going to continue to do so, following us.

As soon as we pulled away from the curb, Pearl grabbed my hand, holding tight.

Jack covertly reached back and rested his hand on my knee, squeezing it.

Ezra lifted his hand, and dangling from it was the damp toilet paper stained red with my blood. He must have found it digging through my purse for my keys. He growled deeply, “He made you bleed.”

It was a statement, so I didn’t answer. I didn’t think I could right now. Worried and anxious, I sat mute as the three of them got on their cells to call the Kings at two o’clock in the morning and wake them up to inform them we had snuck out and there was a situation.

We were to meet at King Kincaid’s.

The night, or morning, was only getting started.

Chapter Fifteen

The Kings beat us to King Kincaid’s. Their cars were in the driveway, and we were informed by Fi — wearing a nightgown, bathrobe, and a worried expression — that they were in the study waiting for us. When we silently entered, they were all there, most of them dressed as informally as I had ever seen, some still in their pajama bottoms with a light jacket over their bare chests, the others in jeans and t-shirts, and while their attire was casual, their eyes were intent and severe.

“What’s happened?” King Venclaire asked immediately, skimming our faces and stopping dead on mine. “Lily?”

Instantly, King Kincaid rushed to my side, guiding me to the couch.

Antonio slipped inside the study, locking the door behind him, also wearing his nightclothes. I got the same reaction from him. As soon as he got a good look at me, he immediately disappeared, reappearing directly in front of me to swiftly sit beside me on the couch, wrapping his arms around me in a familiar, protective embrace.

I tried to speak, and it took a full minute to get my voice to work. I started from the beginning, rambling at first about sneaking out, but as I went along my voice evened out until I was talking in monotone, reciting what had happened — exactly — with Philip Masterson.

In harmony, every single Mystical in the room started growling or glowing at hearing what he had done. Even the steadfast Antonio holding me. His arms glowed so bright at one point I had to close my eyes against it for fear it would burn my retinas. Whenever a Mystical was threatened by a Commoner, Mysticals banded together, without fail.

Once I was finished telling them how he drove away with a wink, they all started talking at once.

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