Juno Books

An Excerpt From Shadow Chase by Seressia Glass

[ Information on Shadow Chase ]

Chapter One

Coming back from the dead was exhausting work.

Not that Kira Solomon had done much more since her resurrection than survive a celebratory feast with a demigod, an immortal warrior, a bureaucrat, an ageless woman, and two friends she'd accidentally tried to kill.

Then again, that was more than enough. As glad as she was to be on the right side of the grass, she'd had just about all the celebrating she could handle.

She leaned against the whitewashed column supporting the porch overhang, waiting for Khefar to show up with his car. The bungalow was situated in a beautiful old neighborhood in Ansley Park in Midtown Atlanta, tree-lined and gentrified, not far from the High Museum and Piedmont Park. Where else would Balm live other than some century-old neighborhood on the National Register of Historic Places?

Kira wondered if the other residents of Ansley Park knew their sometime neighbor was a woman of unfathomable age who headed an international clandestine organization. An organization dedicated to fighting the evil of the Fallen: their human hosts, Shadow Avatars, and all those who consorted with or were descended from the original Fallen--demons, halflings, hybrids, and other beings of Shadow.

Somehow Kira didn't think that was something that could be shared over tea and cookies with the neighborhood welcoming committee.

Right now, she could do with a soothing cup of tea herself. Anything to fight the chill that still clung to her bones despite her ever-present gloves and the black faux leather jacket she wore over charcoal wool trousers and a gray turtleneck sweater. All Kira wanted to do was go home, settle down on the couch or in her altar room, and relax with a mug of chamomile.

It was hard to be thrilled to be alive when so many weren't--like the innocents who'd been on the receiving end of her bad Shadow-induced flipout. Feeling the weight of those deaths while playing happy with her friends and coworkers had been a burden almost impossible to bear. She was looking forward to having some time to herself, in her own space, surrounded by her own belongings.

The front door to the bungalow opened. Kira stiffened as Wynne stepped out. She should have been happy that her friends still wanted her around, but she couldn't get past the guilt of what she'd done to them, especially Zoo. Even though Wynne's husband seemed to be fully recovered, Kira knew he bore a jagged dark scar in his olive skin, thanks to her.

Wynne leaned over the porch rail, her pink hair a shocking contrast against the orange and bronze fall leaves of the neighborhood trees. Dressed in a pair of desert-print army combat uniform trousers from her former military life and a black sweater that looked as if it had been on the losing end of a catfight, Wynne Marlowe was every bit the contrast she presented: a disciplined soldier with an unpredictable nature, a petite woman with a sweetheart face and an expertise in tae kwon do, a big-hearted woman who took as much pride in the spells her husband wove as the weapons she forged.

"You know, now that this is over, the four of us should go somewhere guaranteed to be uneventful," Wynne announced. "Maybe Antarctica. It can be like a couples' vacation."

"A couples' vaca-- Did Zoo add a little extra herb to your tea?"

"I'm being serious, Kira." Wynne turned to face her.

Kira backed up a step, maintaining the space between them. "You're being crazy. I'm not part of a couple."

"Now who's dipping into the herbs? I'm not blind. I was there when Khefar saved you and brought you back from--wherever y'all went. Something tells me he wouldn't do that for just anybody."

Kira shoved her gloved hands deep into her trouser pockets. Her dying memories swirled along the edges of her mind, much like the leaves scattering around the bungalow. Khefar had saved her. He certainly hadn't had to, not the way he had. She'd tried and failed to come up with a good reason why he'd endangered himself to save her. She did know, however, that it wasn't because they were a "couple."

"Wynne, there's no couple stuff going on between Khefar and me."

"Why not? Don't you want it to?"

Wynne might look like a pink punk pixie, but she was as tenacious as a terrier. Where the hell was Khefar and his car? "It's not a question of want. The reality is that he lives--and has lived for thousands of years--to complete his redemption so he can die and be reunited with his family in the afterlife. I've got the most dangerous job on the planet with the possible exception of those people who take lava samples from active volcanoes. One day, sooner or later, I won't be able to pull off a miracle. I'll fail even more spectacularly than I have in the last couple of weeks, and that will be it. There won't be any coming back. Khefar and I, we're both short timers. Our clocks are winding down."

The terrier made a puppy-dog expression. "But--"

"Wynne." Kira closed her eyes for a brief moment, dreading what would come next. This wasn't going to be easy, and she would rather have waited. But what she had to say needed to be said, and sooner was better than later.

"You're a good friend, a true friend, and I appreciate you and Zoo having my back in combat and in normal life more than I can ever say."

Wynne narrowed her eyes. "Why does it feel like there's a humongous 'but' coming? Like you're breaking up with me?" Her pale face paled further as surprise widened her eyes. "Wait. Are you breaking up with us?"

"Not the friendship," Kira said quickly. "But I can't have you guys helping me with Chases anymore."


"Because I'm the Shadowchaser. I've got the training and magic to take on the Fallen, and I barely survived the encounter. You guys aren't even part of Gilead's support staff. You're not protected!"

Wynne folded her arms across her chest, looking like a petulant teen. A petulant teen who just happened to be an excellent marksman and weapons master. "We're protected. We've got skills, weapons, and my man's a witch. There's no reason why we can't still have your back."

For a moment Kira couldn't even form words. "Have you forgotten what happened a couple of days ago? I almost killed you and Zoo!"

Wynne's hand cut through the air between them. "That was a one-time thing and not your fault! You were doped up on Shadow and out of your mind. We don't blame you for what happened in the cemetery!"

"I know." Kira kept herself as still as possible. She didn't want to accidentally touch Wynne, even with thick jackets and her gloves between them. Magically downloading every bit of her friend's thoughts, emotions, and memories, and possibly draining her life-force just wasn't high on the list of things she wanted to do, ever. "I know you don't blame me, and I'm grateful. So very grateful. But ... it was hard seeing Zoo like that, seeing you seeing your husband like that. It was hard finding out I had done that to him without even hesitating."

"Kira." Tears shimmered in Wynne's lashes. "You were defending yourself. You thought we were trying to hurt you. You even warned us to stay back!"

"It doesn't matter." Kira didn't know how she could make her friend understand, but she had to try. "I need you to try to understand where I'm coming from on this. It's too dangerous now. I don't think it's going to get any less dangerous. The Fallen know they can hurt me and other Chasers, make me do things that go against everything I stand for."


"They pushed me into Shadow, Wynne!" She pulled her gloved hands out of her pockets, wrapped them around the porch railing. Somehow she forced her voice back to normal. "They changed me, and they won't stop until they drag me kicking and screaming to the other side. I'm not taking anyone else with me."

"We won't let them!" Wynne scrubbed at her eyes, leaving a smear of black eyeliner across her cheek and knuckles. "We can help like we always do!"

"No, Wynne. You've done your time on the front lines. You and Zoo deserve a little peace and quiet."

"Since when have we done peace and quiet?"

Kira dragged out a smile. "Okay, your version of peace and quiet. Either way, you guys need to tend to your business, to the family you want to have. Helping me makes you both targets, and I can't do what I need to do when I'm worrying about you."

Wynne set her jaw. "That's what this is really about, isn't it? You think we're a liability."

"I didn't say that!"

"You didn't have to." Wynne stepped back toward the front door. "I guess now that you have an immortal warrior and a demigod on your side, you don't need two humans getting in the way."

Kira winced. That was true and not true at the same time. Because Wynne and Zoo were human and fragile and her friends, she wanted them safely out of harm's way. If they stayed away from her they'd be safe--safe from the things Kira Chased, and from Kira herself. How could it be wrong of her to feel that way?

"Well." Wynne sniffed, then brushed her arm across her face again. "I guess I'd better tell my husband that us lowly humans aren't wanted around here."

"Wynne, please try to understand."

"Oh, I understand, all right. It's a tactical thing. You don't bring BB guns when the enemy is packing howitzers. We slow you down. Better for everyone if we're off the field."

Wynne went inside without another word. Kira lowered her head, trying to deal with the anguish. Her friendship with the Marlowes had just suffered a mortal blow. Probably neither would forgive her, but at least they'd be alive to hate her.

"You did the right thing."

She looked up. Khefar stood on the walkway, keys in his hand. With his dark braids, ebony skin, black jeans, and leather jacket, he stood out in sharp relief against the bright autumn day.

"Yeah." She pushed upright, throwing her own black and blue braids back over her shoulders. "I know it was the right thing to do. It still hurts like a bitch."

He nodded. "It will for a while, but at least they'll be safe."

She made her way down the stairs, joining him on the walkway. "Will they? Be safe?"

"As safe as anyone can be in this battle. Going after the enemy's loved ones is an age-old tactic." Which Khefar knew all too well; that was how he'd lost his family four millennia ago.

She followed him to the car. Going back into the house to say goodbye would have been suicidal. "We sent the Fallen back to Shadow. Most of the hybrids helping him are out of commission one way or another."

Khefar nodded. "And yet it doesn't feel finished, does it?"

"No." The thought depressed and excited her at the same time. She mulled it over as they made their way out of Ansley Park and back to East Atlanta. They'd defeated Enig, the Fallen who'd infected her with Shadow as part of his plan for world domination. They were alive. Every sense she had, Normal and not, told her there'd be no rest anytime soon.

Separating the Fallen from his Avatar and sending him back to Shadow was a victory. She knew that. The costs, though, the costs were just too much.

"Are you all right?" Khefar's voice was even, unemotional.

She glanced over at Khefar. The Nubian was the epitome of calm collectedness as he eased the Charger to the curb in front of her converted warehouse home. Of course, being a semi-immortal who'd survived four thousand years would probably make anyone confident. Obviously coming back from the dead after coming face-to-face with ancient gods in the Hall of Judgment was all in a day's work for him.

She sighed. "I guess I'm still tired. Resurrection takes a lot out of a person."

"It does at that," he replied with the air of someone who knew what he was talking about. Since he'd died more than a few times, she figured him to be an expert by now.

She automatically scanned her neighborhood, searching for signs of anything untoward before getting out of the car. Sunshine gleamed off the spires of downtown Atlanta proper, less than a mile away. Buildings and variegated trees stood out in sharp relief against the perfect robin's-egg-blue sky. It was a normal mid-afternoon, with normal people going about their normal business, completely and blissfully unaware of how close to not-normal their lives had come. The fact that they didn't know, wouldn't ever know, meant that she'd done her job right. For the most part.

She realized with a start that she had no idea what day of the week it was, or even whether it was October or November. The crispness of the air could indicate either month, though the lack of Christmas banners hanging from the streetlights suggested it was still October. Not a weekend day given the light traffic. Not that it mattered. Shadowchasers punched hybrid Shadowlings, not clocks.

For a moment, she thought about hopping on her bike and zipping up I-75 to catch the fall foliage in the North Georgia mountains, perhaps including a stopover in the faux-Alpine village of Helen, only to remember that she hadn't taken the time to get her motorcycle fixed after the altercation with the seeker demon. She wanted her bike back. Hell, she wanted her life back.

Two weeks. In just over ten days her life had irrevocably changed. Her mentor, Bernie Comstock, had been killed by a seeker demon because of a sentient dagger--the dagger Khefar now wore strapped to his hip. Khefar just happened to be a four-thousand-year-old Nubian warrior and the only person she'd been able to touch without devastating and often deadly effects since reaching puberty. Together she and the Nubian had managed to destroy the Fallen who'd controlled the seeker. They'd all but died in the process, faced judgment in the Hall of Gods, and been called out by their respective patron goddesses--Isis for Khefar, Ma'at for Kira. That was all after Kira had been drugged by Shadow and, while out of her mind, killed more than half a dozen innocent people and almost taken out her best friends as well.

Kira was a Shadowchaser and, now, the Hand of Ma'at. She was also tainted by Shadow. Somehow the first two hadn't cancelled out the third. Above all, though, she was indebted to this Nubian who'd risked his afterlife to save her, especially since he hadn't had to.

"Have you gone to the Hall of Judgment every time you've died?" she asked Khefar as he got out of the car.

He paused to engage the alarm. "No, not since the first time."

She could hear the reluctance in his voice loud and clear as he joined her at the front door. The man had four thousand years' worth of information and parsed it out like a miser.

"I guess that makes sense," she said, wanting to know more. Needing to know more. He had to have some idea. "I mean, it would be torture in a way, having your soul weighed with your charge from Isis unfinished. What do you think it means that you went there this time?"

"Even after four millennia I cannot profess to understand the minds of the gods." He used the palm scanner to deactivate her security system, then unlocked the front door, which surprised her until she remembered she'd reset everything for him assuming her confrontation with the Fallen would be her last. Had returning from the dead affected her memory?

"Maybe you went there because I did, because it was my first time ... well, dying," she said, following him into the house. "Because you tried to save me."

He'd sliced his wrists open to treat her wounds, hoping his near-immortal blood would counteract the effects of the Shadow-infused dagger. He wasn't supposed to do that. He had promised to use the Dagger of Kheferatum to unmake her, to guarantee that Shadow wouldn't be able to trap her soul and make her an Avatar for one of the Fallen.

He grunted instead of answering. She hadn't really expected more, but it still rankled. Fine. She'd get information even if she had to pummel it out of him.

She tossed her jacket onto the back of the couch, then moved to the center of her crowded living room, planted her fists on her hips. "Why did you do it?"

He paused before locking the door. "Do what?"

"Plead my case in the Hall of Judgment. You promised me that you'd keep my soul from Shadow, but we were among the gods of Egypt. Even being fed to Ammit would be better than being taken by Shadow."

"Neither sounds appealing to me."

"With Ammit there's no danger of becoming the very thing I hunt," she reminded him. "I would have been content with whatever fate my Lady Ma'at deemed fit to give me. You didn't have to ask for my soul."

Why did he do it? Those five words circled endlessly through her mind, still unanswered. Yes, he had a sworn mission to save lives, to redeem himself for all the lives he'd taken. Yes, she'd been one of his charges. But she clearly remembered--as she lay dying in the ruins of the destroyed nightclub after the defeat of the Fallen--a Messenger had told him there were other lives he could save, that failure to save her didn't mean damnation for him. Yet he'd slashed his wrist to pour his immortal blood onto her very mortal wound in an effort to save her life.

On top of that, he'd pled her case in the Hall of Gods before Isis and Osiris and Ma'at, with the other Egyptian gods bearing witness. He'd saved her life and, in doing so, ensured that he'd have to stick around as her fail-safe.


"Enough already." He moved past her, stripping off his jacket, tossing his keys on the kitchen counter. "I am content with the choice I made. Why aren't you?"

She bit her tongue. Truth was, she just wasn't used to anyone making sacrifices for her, not without wanting something in return. Even her handlers had wanted her performance as a Shadowchaser. They'd gotten what they wanted and they'd both lost their lives in the process. Kira had yet to determine what the Nubian wanted, but she'd find out soon enough. Khefar might have saved her life, but she still didn't trust him with it.

That didn't mean she couldn't be polite. He had saved her, after all. "Thank you, for everything."

He nodded. "What's next?"

She didn't have a clue. Ma'at and Isis had told them they still had work to do, but hadn't told them what that work was. Balm had given her time off from her Shadowchasing duties and, after the spectacular destruction of the Fallen at Demoz's club, she doubted if any Shadowling in Atlanta would try to cause trouble for a good long while.

If neither the goddesses nor Balm had plans for her right now, there was one thing, she realized, that needed to be done, perhaps the most important thing. "I need to go to London."


She nodded, trying to ignore the wrenching of her heart. When you could count on one hand the people you cared for and trusted, losing one of them was difficult. When that person was your mentor and surrogate father, the loss was devastating. "I promised that I'd take his ashes back to London and speak to his solicitor. It's been almost two weeks since he ... died."

"When do we leave?"

Khefar was like that, always so matter-of-fact. Assuming he'd accompany her to London without a protest from her. What else could she do? The last time she'd gone off by herself she'd killed half a dozen innocents. She was firmly a team player now.

"As soon as possible, I suppose. Balm offered to fly us there on her way back to Santa Costa."

Khefar lifted one of her books from a stack near the couch, a history of the Toltecs. She locked her muscles against the involuntary urge to grab the book from him. It was still difficult having someone in her space, touching her stuff. Harder still to resist yanking up his shirt and running her hands all over his hard body.

The image almost made her whimper. She really, really wanted to know what it would be like to stretch out beside him on her bed, to know the warmth of his skin beneath her hands. She wanted to know the touch of his hands moving over her skin, cupping her breasts, making her feel alive and human and wanted.

"You don't sound like you wish to accept the offer." He flipped through the pages slowly, like a bibliophile considering a beloved book. He had such long fingers.

"Balm has a top-of-the-line Gulfstream that's configured for four crew and fifteen passengers," she said, looking away. "She can get us there soon enough, but once we land she'll probably try to find some reason to stay in London while I ... while I take care of Bernie's wishes. It's going to be hard enough to do what needs to be done as it is. My experiences with Bernie and my experiences as a Shadowchaser are still separate in my mind. He is ... was my professor, my mentor. Not my handler. I never knew him in that role while he was alive. If Balm's there, Bernie's connection to the Gilead Commission is all I'll think about."

He perched on the couch's arm, balancing the open book on his knees. "Then decline her invitation. You can take time to settle things here and she can return to Santa Costa to inform the Commission of your replacement."

"My replacement?"

He looked surprised. "Of course. The head of the Gilead Commission is no fool. She probably already has a shortlist of candidates along with a list of Chasers she can move at a moment's notice in an emergency."

"Spoken like a military man."

"The Balm of Gilead always thinks strategically," Khefar told her. "Don't think that she doesn't. It's part of why she and Sanchez get along so well."

Kira had noticed that, during their celebratory feast at Balm's safe house. The leader of Gilead and the Atlanta section chief had been too buddy-buddy for Kira's comfort. It made her think the two had strategized more than once where Kira was concerned. Sanchez--who seemed to be a toe-the-line, follow-the-rules, file-it-in-triplicate bureaucrat with no fondness for a hotheaded Chaser who preferred effective practicality to perfunctory protocol--had been itching to replace Kira for some time. Knowing the section chief, Kira was sure Sanchez would be happier if Atlanta was a Chaser-free zone altogether.

Balm always had plans within plans. Kira had learned that the hard way, growing up on Santa Costa in the Commission's castle-like stronghold. From the moment Balm had taught her how to eat without reliving every step of her food's production, preparation, and progress to the plate she ate it from, she'd been trained to be a weapon used at the Commission's discretion.

It hadn't been an unbearable life, just a hard one. Kira had accepted the hardships as punishment for nearly killing her adoptive sister. She'd endured the training because giving up or giving in had never been an option even when she couldn't eat food she hadn't picked herself. She'd had to survive, had to succeed, because becoming a Shadowchaser was the only way she knew how to atone.

Khefar's voice softly intruded on her thoughts. "What's got you thinking so hard?"

"The past and the future." Kira moved over to the couch, which meant moving closer to the Nubian. She tried not to think about all that touchable flesh within arm's reach. "I didn't think becoming the Hand of Ma'at meant I'd be giving up my Shadowchaser duties. I don't even know what being the Hand of Ma'at means. When your god calls you to service, you don't say, 'Gee, let me think about it.'"

"I certainly wouldn't." He touched the Isis knot etched into the skin at the base of his throat. "Being called means that you become her instrument. You answer when she calls and do her will as she sees fit."

Kira touched the mark at her own throat, the feather of Ma'at. The goddess had bestowed the Feather of Justice on Kira after claiming her in the Hall of Judgment, just as Isis had renewed her claim on Khefar. As far as Kira was concerned, she'd always belonged to Ma'at; the tattoo just made it official.

Still, she didn't know what it meant, what she'd have to do. What Khefar had told her was fine and dandy, but it wasn't anything concrete. She needed to know. The search for answers had ruled her entire life; this was no different. Unfortunately the goddess hadn't given her an instruction manual.

"I guess we'll find out soon enough what's expected of us. There's enough to process here as it is."

"Yes, which is why you shouldn't worry about it now. Let's take Comstock's ashes to London as he wished so that you can say goodbye to him properly. We can handle the rest later."

There was that word again. We. It was a challenge to think in terms of another person, having to account for another in everything she did or needed to do. Another change, and one that made her distinctly uncomfortable.

"So how long have you known Balm?" she asked, just to think about something else. The entire topic of the mysterious Balm of Gilead was a pretty big something else. Kira doubted that Balm was a subject she could ever completely learn. But every shred of information she could obtain might be of value, especially when the lack of knowledge could bite her in the ass.

He looked up from the book. If the stack by the coffee table was any indication, he'd gone through at least one a day since taking up residence on her couch. She couldn't decide if she wanted to run her fingers over the pages as he had or never touch them again. Both options bothered her.

"You make it seem as if the head of Gilead and I are friends."

"I heard that exchange between you two at Balm's house. You have to admit, it seemed like you were well acquainted. She evidently has tried to recruit you--more than once, from the sounds of it."

"She has." He didn't seem happy she'd remembered the conversation. The closed book hit the couch between them.

"When was the first time she tried to make you a Shadowchaser?" When he hesitated, she rushed on. "I know you're about four thousand years old, and Balm hasn't aged a day in the fourteen years I've known her. Can't you give me something here?"

"If Balm hasn't 'given you something,' as you say, I cannot see how it would be appropriate for me to reveal to you what she has not."

"Oh come on! We died together. We faced judgment together. You're sleeping on my couch and I've only known you for a week. We left 'appropriate' in the dust a long time ago!"

A muscle in his jaw twitched. "It's been almost two weeks. While the start of our association was unusual--beginning with you shooting me--I have been nothing but appropriate with you."

Great. She'd just insulted him. She'd never get information now. That he acted like he didn't even remember that they'd kissed more than once was just icing on a screwed-up cake. "The start of our association was me holding a gun on you. I didn't shoot you until you helped me with the seeker demon. And for the record, I never said you were anything other than appropriate. I just wanted--"

"How long are we staying in London?"

His change of subject was like running into a wall, more damaging to pride than body. She shoved herself up off the couch and to her feet, needing to put room between them. "Why? Got something else on your schedule?"

He stilled as if he'd just caught himself before doing or saying something they'd both regret. "At the moment, no. You are still my duty."

Ouch. Obviously the Nubian had more than the dagger in his arsenal. She folded her arms across her chest, holding back hurt and anger. "Speaking of duty, I hadn't thought about putting a time limit on my duty to Bernie, so I don't really know how long I need to be in London. I've got to talk to Bernie's solicitor and do whatever needs to be done legally since he left me his apartment and everything in it. Who knows how long that will take? On top of that, I haven't been to London since I graduated, so I'd like to visit the university while I'm there, especially the Petrie Museum."

"Then might I suggest taking Balm's offer? She's going to London anyway, so the trip will be far less expensive than booking last-minute trans-Atlantic flights on a commercial airline."

"You're worried about expenses?" She realized then she didn't know if Khefar had money or not. Either she'd paid or the Nubian's traveling companion, the demigod Anansi, had pulled whatever was needed into being. "I figured someone as old as you would have learned a thing or two about saving pennies."

"Over the course of my life I've seen financial systems rise and fall." He slipped to his feet and continued, his voice and posture stiff. "So yes, I've learned a few things about money. However, I'm more concerned with the logistics of taking a commercial flight. Neither of us are leaving our blades behind, and we both have other items we don't want to leave to the vagaries of airport security or international shipping."

She immediately looked at his hip, the Dagger of Kheferatum resting in its sheath. An ancient blade with the power to destroy and create, its presence in her life the last couple of weeks had caused more grief than she'd seen since losing Nico in Venice six years ago. So much grief, and yet she still craved the blade. Proof of just how messed up she'd become.

The taint of Shadow the Fallen had inflicted on her pulsed through Kira. Sending the Fallen back to Shadow--and nearly dying in the process--hadn't been enough to offset the stain. It reminded her that she still had work to do, still needed to balance her scales and bring her soul firmly back to Light. Becoming the Hand of Ma'at hadn't given her a free pass.

Kira's hand dropped to the handle of her Lightblade, and the hunger backed off. "All right. I'll call Balm, tell her we'll fly out with her. I guess I'd better put in a call to the solicitor too, let him know I'm coming."

"Good idea." He grabbed his car keys. "I'm going to go to the pharmacy, pick up a few toiletries," he announced. "Do you need anything while I'm out?"

"Nothing you're willing to give me."

Kira wondered if a basilisk could match the stare he gave her. "You have no idea what I'm willing to give you," he said.

"Well if it's not information, it doesn't really matter anyway," she retorted, her ears warming. How the hell was she supposed to work with someone who kept her flustered, guilty, and in the dark?

"I'm just going to that shop down the street," he said, heading for the door. She hadn't engaged the metaphysical protections when they came in, so he could escape easily. "I shouldn't be more than half an hour."

"Thanks for the warning," she muttered, then flopped back on the couch as he left. There were a ton of things to do before she could leave the country, but her mind refused to focus on any of them. All she could think of was the sacrifice Khefar had made on her behalf, a sacrifice that hadn't had to happen. Above all was the rapidly fading joy she'd felt in Ma'at's presence, and how very dull and uninteresting the world seemed in comparison.

Her thoughts drifted back to Khefar. Was it so wrong to want answers? She supposed that after wandering the world for four thousand years, one learned to accept things as they happened. Or grew to assume one was always right. It sure would explain his arrogance and his lack of communication.

Khefar. Kira just didn't know what to make of him. She knew him, but she really didn't know him. All that she knew about him she'd learned from touching his dagger. Unlike with other people, when she touched Khefar, she didn't get bombarded with his thoughts, memories, emotions. She didn't drain his energy. No, when she touched Khefar, she got smooth skin, hard muscle, warm body. All she felt was the man.

An overbearing, arrogant man who would happily take all her choices from her for the sake of his damned honor.

"So not going to happen," Kira whispered to herself. "I'm going to get answers, with or without your help."

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