It was graduation day. Before it had become a war zone.

The sun was shining, and there was music blaring in the distance.

The sweet aroma of the buffet foods tickled my nose.

When my stomach growled, Ezra glanced at me.

I scrunched my nose. “The brownies were really good that day.”

His lips twitched. “Yes, they were.”

Tipkin waved in agitation. “Don’t even think about it.” He stared pointedly. “Now, where would Philip target the Elders, Kings, or Prodigies? He knows where to get weapons in this time, since he started the damn war. Was there a point during graduation that the Rulers were alone? Possibly defenseless?”

My brows puckered as I thought through that day.

But Ezra instantly nodded. “All of the Rulers here were defenseless at one point.”

My gaze snapped to his. “When?”

“When the bombs went off. We were inside Mrs Jonas’s office. All the Rulers were laid flat from the direct hit, their mates dying, and from the smoke.”

Tipkin jerked, and his head instantly dropped. His eyes glowed a brilliant gold, coloring the grass. He started swaying like he was hearing a song we couldn’t hear, the country music we could hear in the distance not the beat he was moving to.

He was a Mage right now, seeing whatever he saw inside his magic.

Ezra and I stayed quiet, but we moved on either side of him, just in case he tipped too far.

Tipkin was our ticket out of here.

There was no way we were going to let him be harmed — even from himself.

Two minutes later, Tipkin began a mournful tune deep in his chest, humming in sporadic sounds. My own brows puckered when I recognized the song. It was one that I had heard almost every night as a child. When Antonio wasn’t telling me stories before bed, it was a song my mother used to softly sing to me that lulled me to sleep.

My gaze was caught on Tipkin’s when he snapped out of his trance.

He rubbed his eyes for a moment before he stared at me. His entire flamboyant act was gone, his words gentle. “I’ll tell you. It is in the past that won’t be changed, so I’m not breaking any rules.” He gently smiled. “Elder Harcourt spoke with your mother. He knew she would die, and told her so. He helped to guide her thoughts on where you should be placed after her death. She was grateful, but she was confused because Elder Harcourt said your uncle’s home should be your destination. He assured her nothing bad would happen to you…in a beautiful twist of words that spoke truth. She thought you would be safe there. All he asked in payment for his ‘guidance’ was that she send a letter to you on your graduation day — one that your uncle must deliver.”

My brows snapped together, but he held up a quick hand.

Tipkin clarified, “Elder Harcourt did it for a purpose. He knows the future. He knew that if you didn’t have a way to breathe inside Mrs Jonas’s office — the one that he had spelled for protection — that you all would have died from smoke inhalation. It was to be. You were supposed to kill your uncle that day — this day — and send him through that window. It was a way for the smoke to escape.” His golden eyes were unusually soft, his words a whisper. “Even if your life with your uncle was far from ideal, Elder Harcourt does have his reasons. He saved all of your lives this day by sending you to that man’s home.”

My jaw was slack, but I muttered, “I still want to kill the bastard.”

Tipkin’s lips turned up. “Good luck finding him. He only appears when he wishes.”

“So we have heard,” Ezra growled. His jaw ground back and forth as he stared off into the forest toward King Hall. “I still think that would be the time Philip would attack. Elder Harcourt fixed one problem, but we were still incapacitated for a short time while the smoke left the room.” He shook his head, deep in thought. “He wouldn’t attack from the outside either. There were guards out there. He would transverse inside the building and attack from there.”

Ezra hummed quietly. “If I were him, with his knowledge of the past, I would wait for just the right moment to toss a bomb inside through the doorway. Before the ceiling collapsed in the hall.” He blinked, then he glanced at Tipkin. “Wait, you stated Elder Harcourt spelled her office?”

I grumbled to no one, “I knew that damn room was spelled.”

“Yes, he spelled it.” Tipkin tapped his temple. “I saw him do it. The only access points he allowed were the one window and the doorway. So your theory still works. He could toss some type of explosive weapon inside from the hallway.”

All three of us heard the music stop, the last song played.

It was time to go.

Ezra and I had procured working guns from two snoozing-on-the-job Mys guards.

They weren’t filled with silver bullets, but they would definitely stop Philip.

Ezra and I snuck into the building — pretending to be our selves of that time, the black cloaks almost identical to our black Awakening robes we had worn — and we secreted ourselves down the hallway from Mrs Jonas’s office, to another administrative room. Tipkin transversed directly after the five minutes allotted to find a suitable hiding place. Leaving the door to our room cracked open, we had a perfect angle to see down the hallway to Mrs Jonas’s office.

I silently prayed that by the time Philip showed up the scent of warfare would be too heavy in the air to smell us. There had been three explosions before the fourth had taken down the administration building. Hopefully that was enough chaos and blood to hide our scents.

Ezra twitched when the Rulers and parents began pouring into Mrs Jonas’s office.

His mother.

We could see Vivian plain as day from our hiding spot. She was smiling like the proud mother she was…with the Ezra of the past by her side, his arm over her shoulders and teasing her. Cahal walked behind them, smiling privately as he watched them…until his brows puckered and his head cocked. He glanced down the hallway in our direction.

Ezra and I froze.

Tipkin cleared his throat and asked gruffly, loudly, “Can’t you two get anything right? The ceremony is starting soon. You need to have your staff finish cleaning up the buffet tables.”

Cahal blinked, staring.

A small blessing occurred when Vivian called his name from inside the office.

He rubbed his chin and glanced in our direction.

But a moment later he disappeared inside Mrs Jonas’s office.

I swallowed heavily then whispered on the barest breath, “Maybe we should jump out the window for a few minutes until Elder Kincaid — King Kincaid, whatever — goes inside. He’ll scent us and wonder what the hell is going on. Tipkin can stay here. No one knows his scent.”