Excerpt – The Alchemist’s Flame

Warning!  The stories in my Final Formula Series are intended to be read in order.  Reading them out of order will spoil the fun of an earlier tale.  For blurbs, excerpts, and retailer links on the previous books in the series, just click on my BOOKS tab above.


The-Alchemists-Flame-800 Cover reveal and PromotionalChapter 1

A practicing alchemist doesn’t spend all her time indoors. The profession offers many opportunities to escape the confines of the lab. There are ingredients to be gathered, potions to be delivered, and as was the case today, necromancers to spy on. Purists may not lump the last into an alchemist’s job description, but I found myself in this position so frequently that I had begun to think of it as part of the job.

The low rumble of male voices carried through the trees and seemed to be moving closer. I ducked behind a large oak and leaned against its rough bark. My breath plumed in the cold air and I shivered, wishing I had worn a heavier coat. I hadn’t expected to get stuck outside on this cold February morning. I had intended to use the woods behind the Deacon’s house as a way to get onto the property and into the mansion unseen. I figured we would be creeping through his basement. Necromancers were fond of basements.

Ian stepped up beside me and crouched down before peeking around the tree.

I lowered my voice to a whisper. “Is it Xander?” I wouldn’t expect him to be out in the cold.

“I’m not sure.” Ian’s breath didn’t fog the air when he spoke because the air he expelled wasn’t warm. Ian Mallory was lich—a dead man with his consciousness still intact. He was also an alchemist and my business partner.

After weeks of chasing dead ends, I had decided to chance a visit to Xander’s home. It was risky to bring Ian with me. Xander Nelson, aka the Deacon, was a powerful necromancer. If Ian got too close, Xander would feel him. But I needed Ian’s help. I was trying to find Megan Fields, a reporter who had given the magical community—including Xander—all kinds of trouble. I knew that he had killed her, but I had no evidence. I intended to remedy that today.

Ian rose from his crouch and took a step toward the voices.

I caught his arm. “If those are necromancers, they might sense you.”

“I failed to mention,” Ian whispered, “there is a small cemetery ahead. No one will notice me.”

“Xander has a cemetery in his back yard?”

“Most necromancers do. I did.”

I let him go, following in his footsteps. Like the man we sought, Ian was a powerful necromancer. Far more powerful than Xander, but being dead put Ian at a disadvantage: other necromancers could control him.

Ian was right about the cemetery. We came across the perimeter of headstones while still under the cover of the trees. Most of the headstones were worn, the information carved on them almost illegible, but I made out a few dates. These were from the late 1700s and early 1800s.

I glanced over at Ian and wondered if he knew anyone buried here. After all, he had been born in 1791.

Ian gestured for me to follow, then crept into the cemetery.

Keeping low, I trailed after him, careful of my foot placement. Surrounded by mature forest, there were plenty of roots to trip me up and scattered sticks to step on.

When I caught up to him, he put his finger to his lips urging quiet, then pointed. We were crouched behind the remains of a monument, its base covered by a dense thicket. A perfect spot to identify the men and listen to the their conversation. I gently parted the branches and peeked out.

Huh. It was Xander. He stood on the far side of the cemetery, his face visible in profile as he spoke to—

I pressed my hand to my mouth to contain my gasp. Xander’s companion was Neil Dunstan, my colleague from my days studying at the Alchemica. Former colleague and current nemesis. Though he is quickly climbing from nemesis to enemy status, given his repeated efforts to kill or defame me. What was he doing here? It was my understanding that Xander had disowned him.

“But you named me heir,” Neil said.

“Yes, and you know why I took it from you. You’re stunted. How can you be heir, and eventually Deacon, when you can’t touch your magic?”

I didn’t like Neil, but I still flinched at the cruelness of Xander’s tone.

“I won’t be stunted for much longer,” Neil said.

Xander frowned. “I’m growing concerned about your sanity, my nephew.”

Neil returned the frown. “I know the Final Formula.” He patted his left biceps, where beneath his sleeve, he lacked only one tattooed band. The tattoos were a symbol of rank at the Alchemica. One band for each discipline mastered. Neil was a master alchemist—like me.

“The what?” Xander asked.

“The Elixir of Life.”

Xander stood straighter, and I had the impression that Neil now had his undivided attention. “You’re talking about immortality.” Xander’s tone grew reverent.

“And youth. You’ve seen Amelia, Addie Daulton.”

“The Flame Lord’s alchemist?”

I glared at Xander. Why couldn’t my name stand on its own? Why did it have to be linked with Rowan’s before anyone gave me credit? I found the Final Formula. An accomplishment that no other alchemist had ever achieved.

“She’s in her forties,” Neil said to Xander.

“Are you serious?” Xander considered this a moment, then snorted. “I guess I can’t accuse him of robbing the cradle—that much.”

“Ha ha,” I whispered. I wondered if he had teased Rowan about our romantic relationship. Rowan was in his fifties—though his magic made him appear decades younger—and I appeared to be in my twenties.

“I took the formula from her,” Neil said.

“Commendable.” Xander gave him an approving smile that made me want to punch him. “Though I’m disappointed that you didn’t design it yourself.”

“Designing potions is not my strength. Adapting them with necromancy is. Let me show you.” Neil spread his arms, allowing the split sleeves of his black alchemist’s robes to part and reveal the tattooed bands on his biceps: four on the left, five on the right—like mine. “Heel!”

Ian gave a soft snort of disgust, then whispered, “Showman, just like his uncle.”

I pulled in a breath as a portal opened beside Neil. Red eyes glinted in the darkness, then a form leapt out.

Xander took a hasty step back, his wide eyes on the naked man crouching at Neil’s side.

My eyes were just as wide. It was Brian Huntsman, one of James’s three brothers. All of who were supposed to be locked up by the PIA. The Paranormal Investigation Agency took care of magical problems, and James’s brothers certainly qualified.

“Let me introduce you to the grim,” Neil said.

“What?” Xander took another step back as Brian rose to his feet.

I tried to puzzle out what Neil had done. Had he given Brian a new skill or was this all just for show? But who had opened the portal? Ian had once told me that Neil was strong enough, but being stunted prevented it.

“Uncle, this is Gavin Huntsman.”

“Say what?” I whispered.

“Nice to meet you,” Brian answered, his voice oddly deeper and accented. He turned his head and his eyes locked with mine—glowing red eyes.

I gripped Ian’s sleeve.

“He’s dead,” Ian whispered.

Brian—Gavin grinned, exposing a mouth full of canine-like teeth before he turned back to the necromancers.

“You found the grim,” Xander said.

“And bound him to me. He only answers to my commands.”

“You did this with alchemy?”

“Alchemy and necromancy. The power in my blood has only grown stronger.”

Xander studied Gavin for a long moment. “Leave us.”

Gavin lifted a dark brow but said nothing.

“Only me,” Neil repeated.

Xander’s faded blue gaze shifted from Gavin to Neil. “Impressive.”

“Impressive enough to give me a shot at Deacon? I won’t be stunted for much longer. Once I take the Final Formula, I will be whole.”

“Why haven’t you taken it?”

“One ingredient is time dependent. I cannot brew it until spring.”

Xander studied the two men in silence for one long moment. “There is something you can do. A way to prove yourself worthy to meet him.”

The Deacon? You’ll introduce me to Alexander Nelson?”

The air stilled in my lungs. Ian hadn’t lied. Not that I thought he had, but having it confirmed that his old nemesis still walked the earth made me feel better about the risk I was taking.

“Yes,” Xander answered Neil.

“What of my cousin?” Neil asked.

“I’ll leave it to Alexander to decide which of you will one day take my place. Douglas is a highly skilled necromancer, even if you do have more power. It won’t be the cake walk you seem to think it will be.”

“I don’t think that, Uncle.” Amusement shaded Neil’s voice. He was up to something.

“Besides,” Xander continued, “I haven’t agreed to take you to him…yet.”

“What is this task you have for me?”

“It’s a bit of short notice. Only five days from now. But with your new acquaintance,” Xander waved a hand at Gavin, “I’m sure it will be a simple matter.”

“I’m intrigued.”

“Join me for brunch? We can discuss the details where it’s warm.”

“That’s very generous, Uncle. Thank you.”

The two necromancers turned and headed toward the house. I longed to follow them, but there was a problem. Gavin. Neil had walked away, leaving him alone among the headstones. He was once again watching me.

“Hello, alchemist.” Gavin’s voice sounded as it had within the portal.

Goosebumps pebbled my arms beneath my sleeves. Xander and Neil were out of sight, so I rose to my feet. “How did this happen?”

Gavin gave me a smile with Brian’s face and took a step toward us.

“Stop,” Ian said.

Gavin’s red eyes shifted to him and his lip curled. “Necromancer.” He took another step toward us. “You have no power over me.”

I had accepted that Xander couldn’t control Gavin, but if Ian had failed, then Neil really had used alchemy to bind Gavin. Impressive. I wondered what formula—

A hot gust of air stirred my hair from behind. I didn’t need to look to know that Ian had opened a portal behind us.

Gavin grunted. “You’re as strong as the girl.”

Ian hesitated. “What girl?”

I stepped into the portal, pulling Ian with me. He seemed to get the hint when Gavin lifted a hand, displaying a wicked set of ebony claws.

The portal winked closed in my face, stranding us in the land of the dead. At least, that’s what the necromancers called this place. I rubbed my eyes, encouraging them to adjust. Not that there was anything to see. A dark, featureless plane rolled on forever beneath a black sky. A dim red glow provided some light, but I couldn’t decide where it came from. It simply was.

“He can follow us,” I said.

“I know.”

A bright doorway opened into our lab. Necromancers with Ian’s power could actually use the dead realm to travel between points on the mortal plane. It was handy—for escaping grims and saving on taxi fare.

I hopped through the opening and hurried to the shelf in the corner. The shelf that held my potions that weren’t for sale. What did I have that would prove effective against a grim? I had never prepared anything like that. The only grim I knew was my best friend, James.

“Addie?” As if my thoughts had summoned him, James stepped through the curtain from the front room.

“Oh God.” I ran across the space that separated us and wrapped him in a tight hug. He had been missing for five days. We all feared the worst: that a necromancer had found him. It turned out that was exactly what had happened, but James insisted that it was all a misunderstanding. At least, that’s what he had said when he called in the wee hours this morning.

I opened my mouth to speak, to tell him about Gavin—and Brian—when the curtain parted again and two blonde women followed him into the room. The taller of the pair I knew well. Era was Rowan’s sister Element. She had called this morning, as well, after she found James—sound asleep in his apartment, curled up in bed with his captor. Either James was telling the truth, or he had a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome going.

I glanced at the pretty girl who stood beside him. Elysia Mallory. James’s captor and Ian’s great-great—I wasn’t sure how many greats—granddaughter.

“You said he wouldn’t be here.” James glared at Ian.

Oops. James had asked me to send Ian away before he brought Elysia over. Her family history didn’t paint a pretty picture of him. I had planned to do as James asked, but time had gotten away from me.

She moved closer and I studied her face. Like Ian, she was good-looking and had his golden hair, but the sunglasses she wore kept me from seeing a stronger resemblance.

“Mattie?” Ian whispered his daughter’s name.

The hairs on my arms rose. Okay, maybe there was a resemblance.

He took a step toward her.

James moved at the same moment. “Back off.” He snarled the words, a glow kindling in his eyes.

“James?” Elysia gripped his arm.

I nudged Ian with my elbow. “It’s not Mattie,” I whispered. “Chill.” Forcing a smile, I walked over to greet her. James let me pass, but he stayed close. “You must be Elysia,” I said.

Her brow wrinkled. “And you must be the alchemist.”

“Most people call me Addie.” I offered her my hand, and after a short pause, she took it. “James told me you had a run-in with Neil.” And he would be giving me all those details shortly. It couldn’t be a coincidence that Neil now possessed Gavin. But first, I had to undo Neil’s handy work and earn Elysia’s trust. “He hit you with a potion.”

“Yes.” Elysia released my hand and reached up to pull off her sunglasses. Her white eyes met my own. “James said you could…fix me.”

Era gave us a frown, then pulled out her phone and walked into the front room. She had made it clear during her call that she didn’t trust Elysia.

“Addie, what’s going on?” Ian asked. He had been downstairs in the lab when James and Era had contacted me this morning.

I waved him to silence and retrieved a capped vial from my workspace. I had brewed it right after James called.

“The antidote.” I offered the vial to her, but it was James who took it.

“You’re sure this will work?” he asked.

I arched a brow. “You’re doubting me?” My tone was teasing, but I was also surprised. James never doubted me.

“You don’t know what formula he used,” James said.

“Neil is not the sort to design a formula from scratch. Most of the ones he uses are mine.” I gave James a frown. “Do you want to see my notes? If I had known you were going to be this distrustful, I would have waited and brewed it in front of you.”

“Hey.” Elysia gripped his forearm. “It’s okay. You said she’s your friend, that she wouldn’t deceive us. I trust your judgment.”

I watched the exchange, noting the way she slid her hand down his arm to take his hand. With her power out, I didn’t think she could influence him, but I could be wrong.

James looked up, meeting my eyes. He handed her the vial.

Guilt wormed its way through my gut, and I considered telling him exactly what I had done. No, I didn’t know Elysia. She might not be the good person that James seemed to think she was. Perhaps things would have gone differently if Neil hadn’t stunted her. I had to look out for James’s safety, especially if he wasn’t.

Elysia removed the lid and brought the vial to her lips. She threw back her head, downing the potion like a shot of whiskey.

Ian stepped up beside me, his arm brushing my shoulder. “Who is she?”

Elysia doubled over with a gasp.

James laid a hand on her back. “Addie?”

“You know how these things work,” I told him.

His brow furrowed, and he wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “Talk to me, Elysia.”

“Oh God,” she whispered. She gripped her thighs and drew a couple of deep breaths. “I can feel you. I can—” She straightened and turned her wide, golden-brown eyes on Ian. Her hand settled on James’s arm. “He’s dead.”

“That he is,” I agreed. It looked like my antidote worked. Her power had returned.

“He’s a lich,” Elysia added.

“Lich king,” Ian told her, dipping his head in greeting.

Elysia paled. Ian had told her that he was also a necromancer. A powerful necromancer with the ability to make a lich. A rare and frightening ability few possessed.

Ian glanced from me to James. “Is someone going to do the honor of an introduction, or do I have to put myself forward?”

Elysia’s brows climbed a little higher, and I wondered if she had picked up on his faint accent, or if her surprise was a product of his old-world manners.

“Elysia,” James whispered, his tone urgent. “There’s something I should have told you.”

“We might as well get it over with,” I said to James.

He answered me with a frown.

“Elysia Mallory,” I said. “This is Ian Mallory. I believe he’s your ancestor.”

“What?” She stared at James before turning back to Ian. “You bastard!”

I wasn’t sure which one she was yelling at, maybe both.

She took a step toward Ian, and her eyes went white.

“Stop!” I stepped between them. I had expected some heated words. I didn’t expect her to go after him. “Let him go.”

Her eyes instantly reverted to brown, then her glare turned on me. “What did you give me?”

“An antidote with a few extras.”

“You gave me Neil’s compulsion potion.”

“That would be my potion. He stole it from me.”

“Damn it, Addie,” James said.

I crossed my arms and met his angry stare. “You were soul bound against your will. Did you really think I would stand by and let that slide?”

“I told you it was an accident,” James said. “She tried to undo it.”

“Soul bonds can’t be undone,” Ian said.

“No shit,” Elysia snapped at him before facing me. “You did this to protect James?”

“Yes.” I held her gaze. “Why did you bind him?”

“He showed up behind the bar where I worked. I thought he had been sent to draw me out or something.” She shrugged. “I thought he was a lich and I…over-reacted.”

“You didn’t know he was a grim when you bound him?”


“And after you learned what he was, you still wanted to free him?” I found that hard to believe. James possessed a power few necromancers could resist. That’s why I kept him away from Ian.

“He’s a sentient being with a will of his own,” Elysia said. “I screwed up.”

“He is a good person.”


I smiled and looked up at James. “I like her.”

“You believe me?” Elysia asked.

James sighed. “She also gave you some truth serum.”

“Addie.” Ian didn’t sound happy.

I glanced over and noticed his disapproving frown. “What? Please tell me you’re not going to lecture me on ethics.”

Ian gave me one of his flat stares, so I turned to Elysia. “The truth serum and the compulsion potion will wear off in about an hour.”

“And my magic?” Her brow wrinkled.

“That part’s permanent. Just stay away from Neil.”

Her shoulders slumped. “Thank you.”

I shrugged. “I do have another question, if you don’t mind.”

“I have nothing to hide.”

“Why the bad feelings toward Ian?” I gestured at the man standing beside me.

“He cursed us.”


“My female line. His daughters.”

“What do you mean, cursed?”

“Every one of them went insane before age thirty.”

“He cursed you with insanity?” That was possible? I glanced at Ian, but he was frowning at Elysia.

“No,” she answered. “With power, and he used alchemy to do it.”

“Is that true?” I asked Ian.

His gaze shifted to me. “Yes.”

I blinked.

Elysia turned toward the door, but James caught her hand.

“Neil claimed there was more to it.” James’s glowing gaze was on Ian. “Why did you do it?”

Ian didn’t look at them; he continued to watch me. “Vengeance.”

“Addie! James!” Era pushed through the curtain and ran into the room.

“Era? What’s wrong?” James asked.

She handed him her phone, and I leaned over to find a news feed on her screen. James tapped it, unfreezing the video. The camera panned along the side of a large building. Judging by the jet in the foreground, it appeared to be an airport terminal. The sound was turned down, so I couldn’t hear what the reporter was saying. I was about to ask James to turn it up when the camera stopped on the next jet parked along the concourse. This one had its nose buried in the side of the building and flames rolling along the opposite wing.

“Jesus,” James whispered. He found the volume and turned it up.

“…caused the explosion before the plane veered off the taxiway and slammed into the terminal.” The story continued, but my attention was on Era.

“Era?” I said, my voice falling to a whisper. “Why did you show us that?”

She looked up, her amber eyes damp. “That was Rowan’s plane.”


Chapter 2

James handed Era her phone and shrugged off his leather jacket. He tossed it aside, then reached for the hem of his shirt.

“Can you find him?” I asked. “You’ve been to the airport?” James could come and go on any point within the mortal plane, but it was helpful if he knew where he was going. Even better if he had been there before.

“I’ve been there.” James pulled off his shirt. “But I can soul track Rowan.”

Right. He had once tasted Rowan’s blood, and that gave him the ability to find him anywhere.

“I’m coming with you.” I began to gather my vials and stuff them into my shoulder bag. “Ian, box up the finished salve.”

A nod, and Ian wordlessly complied.

“Here, give me your clothes,” Elysia said to James. “I’ll bring them.”

“I’m coming, too,” Era spoke up, pocketing her phone.

James looked up from toeing off his boots. “You can’t.”

Era began to speak, but he cut her off.

“The living can’t travel through the land of the dead—unless you’re a necromancer, or Addie.” He dug out his keys and handed them to her. “You can take my car.”

Uncertainty creased her forehead, but she accepted the keys.

James gripped her shoulder before she could turn away. “I’ll find him. Drive safely, okay?”

“Yes, I—”

He cupped her cheek. “I’m serious, Er. Rowan will have my ass if something happens to you.”

She choked on a sob and threw her arms around his neck. A fierce hug, then she released him and hurried through the curtain to the front room.

James shoved down his jeans and stepped out of them. “Are we ready?”

I turned to Ian. He had loaded several jars of salve into a cardboard box. Picking it up, he walked over to join me.

“You’re coming?” I asked.

“There are hundreds of people on these planes, correct? You will need my assistance.”

“Thanks.” I made an effort to hide my surprise. Ian wasn’t the altruistic sort.

I lifted my bag and faced James, only to find a huge black dog in his place. Elysia stood beside him, his clothes gathered in her arms. Maybe she was the reason for Ian’s sudden interest in helping people.

A dark portal opened and James jumped through. His form changed the moment he crossed the threshold, morphing from the canine into the werewolf-like fusion of his human and hellhound forms. He landed on two feet and reached back to catch the edge of the portal with one clawed hand.

Elysia hurried after him, not hesitating in the slightest to step into hell with a creature from a nightmare.

Ian followed, just as unfazed, and I hurried after him.

James released the portal and stepped away from us. Give me a minute to find him.

“But he’s in the mortal world,” I said.

To soul track, I must be in this form. His glowing eyes met mine. And I can only be in this form here.

For that, I was grateful—though I kept my opinion to myself. James’s true form, as he called this particular mash up, was terrifying.

I glanced over at Ian and found him watching James. No fear showed on his handsome features, just curiosity. That bothered me. I didn’t want Ian to have anything to do with James.

“So, Ian,” I said, drawing his attention to me. “When I first met you, you could speak straight into my mind.” Like James did in this place. “What happened?”

Nothing. Ian’s voice answered in my head.

I gasped and heard Elysia do the same.

“It’s just easier with lips and a tongue,” Ian finished.

“How is it that he has lips and a tongue?” Elysia asked me.

“The Final Formula,” I answered.

“The Elixir of Life,” Ian clarified. “Addie brewed it for me in exchange for my lab.”

“So, alchemy,” Elysia said, her attention remaining on me. It was hard to tell in the dim light, but it seemed her eyes had lightened. Was she using her magic?

I’ve got him, James cut in.

A portal opened into the morning light. Shouts, screams, and sirens shattered the quiet of James’s hell dimension. Smoke plumed in the sky, rising from the burning plane that lay mere yards away. James had opened the portal right on the tarmac. The rear door of the plane was open and the slide deployed, but the front of the plane, the first-class section, was buried in the terminal.

Shit! James leapt through the opening, shifting into the hellhound as he crossed the threshold. I got a glimpse of him running toward the plane, then the portal closed.

“James!” I took a step forward, though there was nowhere to go. Nothing but endless black plane stretched in every direction. It should have frightened me, but Ian and I traveled through here so often that it no longer made me uneasy—even when James let the portal slam closed in my face. I was more worried about what had made James so anxious.

“Ian? Can you open another portal?” I asked. “Preferably inside the building.” Rowan would be in first class.

“Just a moment.” An instant later, the portal opened. A hazy room lit by a single flickering bulb lay before us.

I assumed we were somewhere in the terminal, but didn’t stick around to ask. In three strides, I was across the tiny room—a janitor’s closet by the look of things—and pulled open the door. The concourse stretched before me, eerily empty of people. A fire alarm wailed from our left, and I concluded that the wreck must be that way. I took off down the smoke-hazed corridor.

No one tried to stop me as I ran along the deserted concourse. If they had barricaded the area, I hadn’t reached it, or Ian had brought us out inside of it. I soon learned it was the latter when I arrived unhindered at the open area at the end of the concourse. I skidded to a stop, stunned by the scene before me. I could only stare at the smashed windows, missing wall, and the nose of what was at least a 747 buried in the scattered seats that had been the waiting area.

A couple of men in security vests were searching the gate area, looking under toppled chairs for any additional victims, while paramedics stabilized a few people already loaded onto stretchers.

“Oh God.” Elysia stopped beside me.

I glanced over. “Any dead?” I whispered.

She studied the scene a moment, her brown eyes definitely lighter now. “No. I don’t—” She frowned.

A stretcher loaded with a bleeding man passed us.

“Can you sense as far as the plane?” I asked.

“Yes.” She frowned at the flames licking the roof. “At least, I should be able to.” She shook her head. “Something’s not right.”

My pulse pounded. “With the plane? Is—”

“No, with my magic.”

“Aside from what I assume is a feline in the lower section, there is no death on the plane,” Ian said from Elysia’s other side.

I sighed and shifted my attention to the group of men in fireman’s coats working on the forward cabin door. The nose of the plane had been shoved upward on impact, and the main cabin door was almost on level with the crumpled floor.

“Don’t touch me!” Elysia said.

I looked over in time to watch her step back, Ian’s fingers sliding from beneath her chin.

“I’m going to strangle that little weasel,” Ian whispered. “What has he done to you?”

I assumed he was talking about Neil.

Ian lifted his gaze to me. “Your remedy is wearing off.”

“Okay, I’ll fix it. But first this.” I gestured at the plane. The firefighters weren’t making much progress on the cabin door.

“Excuse me, folks.” A man in a security vest stopped beside us. “I’m not sure how you got in here, but we’ve evacuated the area.”

“Wait.” I opened my bag and began to dig through the contents. “I can help.”

“What are you—”

I pulled out a foam-insulted case and opened it. A pair of vials rested inside, the orange liquid in each glowed faintly. My Fire Hazard potions. They would burn through anything.

“You’re that alchemist,” the security guy said.

“Yes.” I reached for a vial, but Ian wrapped his cold fingers around my wrist.

“I think there’s enough fire.”

“But the cabin door—” I nodded toward the door that so far, the fire department’s crowbars and axes had failed to open.

Ian watched a moment, then offered me the cardboard box containing the jars of salve. “Please hold this.” When I did as asked, he shrugged off his red brocade smoking jacket, then laid it across the box I now held. Without further comment, he headed for the plane.

“What’s he doing?” Elysia asked.

“No idea.”

Ian joined the firefighters and engaged the nearest in conversation. At least, I assumed it was a conversation until Ian seized the guy by the front of his coat and jerked the crowbar from his hand. He cast the man aside, the motion casual, yet the guy flew about five feet before stumbling to a stop.

Ian ignored him and turned his attention to the door. He worked his way around the frame, prying at the metal with the crowbar. A few minutes later, the door popped open.

Elysia grunted, but didn’t comment.

Thick, black smoke billowed out of the open door, most escaping along the curved hull into the open air above what was left of the wall.

Ian handed the crowbar to the nearest fireman, then disappeared inside. The firefighters didn’t attempt to stop him; they hurried to don their respirators and followed.

“Hey!” A man in a fireman’s coat approached us. “Get these women back,” he said to the guy in the security vest.

“She’s that alchemist,” Security Vest said. “What if—”

“I don’t care if she’s the Flame Lord. This whole area could collapse.”

A firefighter stepped out of the open cabin door, his arm around a woman in a soot-streaked business suit. The floor groaned beneath they as they crossed the open section, weaving their way through the overturned chairs.

“We’ve set up a first-aid area up the concourse,” the man who’d tried to run us off said. He gestured at the man helping the woman, waving him toward the hall.

“Fire,” she said between coughs. “His eyes were on fire.”

I frowned after her. Had she seen Rowan use fire? Why would he?

“You two. Move.” The fireman had returned his attention to us.

Elysia touched my arm. “We can’t do anything here. Should we take your salve to this first-aid area?”

A whoosh of air and I spun to face the plane. The forward roof of the cabin had vanished in a flash of white-hot flame. Black smoke rolled upward now free of confinement.

“What the hell?” the man in the security vest whispered.

Knowing it was Rowan, I pushed the box I held into Elysia’s hands and ran for the cabin door. With the roof gone, smoke inhalation was no longer a concern, and I couldn’t just stand here. Security Vest shouted for me to stop, but he made no move to follow. The floor beneath my feet gave a loud pop, and I suddenly understood why he had stayed behind. He feared the floor wouldn’t hold beneath his greater weight.

I ducked through the cabin door, then took a hasty step to the side as several passengers and the two remaining firefighters hurried past.

“Move, move!” the firefighter in the back of the group shouted. He had pulled his respirator off, his eyes wide with fear.

A snarl echoed in the narrow space, and I turned to face the green-eyed hellhound standing in the aisle.

“James, what are you doing?” I walked toward him now that the way was clear.

“Addie,” a familiar voice said.

I looked up—right into Rowan’s glowing eyes. He stood near the rear of the first-class section, his silver-gray sweater streaked with soot and a bleeding gash over his left eye.

“Off the plane. Now.” He jabbed a finger toward the cabin door. Great. He was pissed.

I frowned, ready to reply when the curtain behind Rowan parted and Ian stepped through.

“The fire’s spreading. Can you—” Ian stopped when he saw me.

Another whoosh of flame and the decorative curtains lining the left side of the fuselage vaporized.

“Damn,” Ian said, stepping to the side and throwing up a hand toward the few smoldering curtains that remained. “Can’t you do anything with him?”

I frowned, not following that.

“Addie, go.” Rowan knelt beside the nearest seat, and I realized it was occupied. The person sat doubled over, the seat in front of him obscuring my view.

Rowan gripped his knee. “Come on, Colby. You can do this. Focus.”

The hairs on my arms stood up. Colby. The young Fire Element Rowan had been flying out to see. I didn’t realize the young man had flown back with Rowan.

I glanced around the damaged plane, suddenly understanding. Rowan had been working with Colby on his control. Apparently, his training wasn’t complete.

“Ian, get her off the plane,” Rowan said.

Ian squeezed past Rowan and walked toward me. James moved closer, blocking my forward progress down the aisle.

“Hang on.” I pulled open my bag and began to sort through my vials. Cora had taken the last of my Extinguishing Dust, and as a gesture of good faith, I hadn’t made any more. So I didn’t have anything that could knock out Colby’s power. Sometimes, being ethical sucked.

“Excuse me,” Ian said to James.

James complied, stepping through the chairs before returning to the aisle behind Ian. I had expected a snarl, but apparently, James wanted me off the plane enough to cooperate.

Ian lifted a brow, watching James’s maneuver before he turned back to me. “Let’s go.”

I pulled out two vials from my bag. “I got it.”

“Knockout Powder?” Ian asked, recognizing the white powder in one vial.

“And the antidote.” I popped the cap on the lime green liquid and downed it. This way, the powder wouldn’t knock me out. I moved to step around Ian, but he held up a hand, stopping me. “You’re too close as it is.”

“Rowan’s closer.” Rowan might be a Fire Element, but he could be incinerated as easily as anyone—or anything else. He was taking a huge risk staying so close to Colby. I met Ian’s eyes. “I’ve got this,” I repeated.

“Let James do it.” Ian didn’t step aside.

Rowan leaned closer to Colby and whispered something. I didn’t catch the words, but his tone was low, urgent. Suddenly, the seat behind Rowan went up in a fount of blue-white flame.

“What if it was your wife; what if Isabelle was in danger?” I whispered to Ian. “Would you step aside and save yourself?”

Ian frowned. “If you perish, who will help me find my daughter?”

Leave it to Ian to be selfish about this. “Ian.”

He turned his frown on Rowan and Colby. “I’m not sure how much I like this New Magic.” He moved out of my way.

I gave him what I hoped was a confident smile and hurried down the aisle. I tapped some of the Knockout Powder into my palm as I walked.

“I’ve got some Knockout Powder. Let me in there,” I said to Rowan.

He rose to his feet, whirling to face me. “I told you to go.” He spoke the words in a low growl, his orange eyes on full glow.

“Since when do I listen?” I squatted beside Colby. My heart hammered a nervous beat, belying my glib words. I gently touched Colby’s knee with my free hand. “Hi, Colby. I’m Addie.”

He lifted his head, and for an instant, I was struck by how young he was. Orange eyes met mine, gold flickering though his irises like actual flame.

I brought my opposite hand to my mouth and blew the Knockout Powder in his face. The white dust glinted in the air, coating his cheeks and eye lashes. No sooner did it make contact, then his orange eyes rolled back in his head and he slumped to the side. Hopefully, he couldn’t ignite anything in his sleep.

No sooner had the thought crossed my mind than the world around me erupted in flames. I cried out and fell back, landing on my butt in the aisle.

Rowan’s dark slacks appeared beside me. “That was me.”

I frowned up at him. He had ashed the residual Knockout Powder from the air.

“Next time, share the antidote.” He offered me a hand.

I shoved myself off the floor and faced him. Before I could speak, he caught my face between his palms and leaned down until his orange eyes were on level with mine.

“Don’t ever do that again.”

“What’s that? Knock out one of your Element buddies?”

“Put yourself at risk.” He released me and straightened, his gaze focused beyond my shoulder. “I asked you to remove her from this plane.”

“She didn’t want to go.” Ian nudged me aside, then reached down to catch Colby’s arm and pulled him upright.

“What are you doing?” Rowan demanded.

“I assume you don’t want to leave him here.” Ian lifted Colby with ease and draped him over his shoulder. “And I’m better dressed for the task than your grim.”

James growled softly.

“I can get him.” Rowan took a step toward Ian. The muscle in his jaw tightened with the movement. Was he injured?

I started to ask and stopped myself. Pointing out a weakness was the wrong approach with Rowan. “Let him make himself useful.” I rolled my eyes. “Goodness knows when it’ll happen again.”

Ian gave me what was supposed to be a frown, but amusement glinted in his eyes. He was on to me.

“Fine. Go.” Rowan waved Ian on.

A thundering crash echoed through the plane, and the floor lurched to the right, throwing me against the nearest seat. A puff of smoke flowed through the open cabin door, hazing the air. What the hell?

When no flames followed, I hurried toward the door and stopped on the threshold. It wasn’t smoke; it was dust. Half the concourse floor had collapsed.

“Where is Elysia?” Ian demanded.

“She’s on the other side of the concourse.” James stepped up behind us. He had pulled on a pair of gray slacks. Something from Rowan’s carry-on luggage? I didn’t ask, my attention drawn to the flames licking the wall behind the seat Colby had ashed. Odd. Rowan never caught things on fire; he vaporized them.

“The fire’s spreading,” I said. “We can probably get across the concourse if we stay near the wall.”

“I’ll cross first,” James said. “If the floor holds me, it’ll—”

“Addie doesn’t need to cross,” Rowan said, then turned to Ian. “Take her through the portal.”

“If the floor holds James, it’ll hold me,” I said.

“Must you always argue with me?” Rowan demanded.

“Who’s arguing?”

James squeezed between us. “Save your argument. It may cave in on me, then no one’s getting across.” He stepped down to what remained of the carpeted floor that still ran up to the plane on one side.

I wrapped a hand around his biceps. “What if there’s…something sharp? Remember what happened when we were exploring the ruins of the Alchemica?”

“You needn’t speak in code,” Ian said. “I know the grim is weak to iron—which is undoubtedly what those bars poking out of the broken floor are made of.”

“Rebar.” I gave him the word. He was right—about all of it.

“How do you know about the iron?” Rowan took a step toward Ian, the fire still burning around his pupils.

Ian shrugged the shoulder Colby wasn’t draped over. “He’s part hellhound. Do you think my father would let me play in the land of the dead without teaching me how to defend myself?”

“This argument can also wait,” James said, and moved away from the plane.

“Stay close to the wall,” Rowan called after him.

I gripped the edge of the door, watching James’s progress. “Your dad let you play in the land of the dead?” I asked Ian, keeping my eyes on James.

“Not so much let; he caught us.”


“My brother and me.”

A loud pop was followed by a rain of debris below us. James moved faster, weaving his way through the overturned chairs scattered along his path. He reached the far side, then turned and waved us toward him.

“Give me Colby, and you take Addie through the portal,” Rowan said to Ian.

“No way,” I spoke up. “That will make you twice as heavy. Ian can bring him over last.”

“After you walk across?” Rowan shook his head. “No. You—”

Something clattered behind us. I looked over my shoulder in time to watch the flaming curtain divider between first class and coach fall to the ground. Through the open doorway, I could see flames dancing along one side of the cabin. But that wasn’t my main concern. The flames were spreading up along our side, as well.

“How about this,” Ian said. “His Grace can go now. I will follow with the boy, then use the portal to bring Addie across.”

We both frowned at him.

“It’s called compromise,” Ian said.

Rowan turned to face him. “I expect you to get her off this plane in the same condition you brought her on.”

“He didn’t—”

Ian nudged me, cutting me off. “It will be done as you say,” he said to Rowan.

Rowan gave him a final frown, then stepped off the plane.

“Why did you let him blame you?” I asked once Rowan was yards away.

“He would blame me, regardless, and this got him moving.”

Rowan made his way around an overturned chair, bracing his hand on it as he passed. He continued to limp. Considering how rapidly he healed, he must have been hurt pretty badly for it to still be bothering him.

Another loud pop, and this time, the floor gave way not ten feet from Rowan.

I fisted my hands, helpless to do anything but watch.

James ran to the edge, but couldn’t get closer as more chairs fell into the growing hole. Intermittent flickers of light from broken electrical wires illuminated the darkness below. I couldn’t see the bottom from where I stood, but it wasn’t only the height that concerned me. The rebar-spiked rubble and live power lines would not make it a safe place to land.

Rowan turned toward us, but the ground buckled and he dropped to a knee.

I took a step in Rowan’s direction, but Ian gripped my shoulder. “Stay here.” He lowered Colby to the floor of the plane, then jumped out the cabin door and ran toward Rowan.

I had never seen Ian get in a hurry about anything. Watching him run across the room, vaulting chairs that blocked his path, was a surreal experience.

Jumping a final chair, Ian slid to a stop and dropped to his stomach. He caught Rowan’s arm as the floor gave beneath him.

I screamed as the ground and Rowan fell away, but somehow, the section Ian lay on remained.

Ian grunted, and his shirt tightened across the back of his shoulders. He lay on his stomach, one arm over the edge of the hole. He must have hung on to Rowan.

A deafening crack and the section Ian lay on dropped several inches.

“James,” Ian called across the ten-yard gap that separated them. “Come closer.”

James imitated Ian, crawling out to lie on his stomach at the hole’s edge. He lowered his arm, holding out a hand toward Ian. Twisted pieces of rebar poked out of the floor to either side of his biceps.

“Ready!” James shouted.

I gripped my hands as I realized what they intended to do.

A pop, and the floor beneath Ian settled further. “Now!” His shoulders flexed and he slung Rowan across the gap. A flicker of light from below illuminated Rowan’s flight, but winked out before he was halfway across. Would the changing light cause them to miss?

I covered my mouth with both hands, not wanting to watch, but unable to look away.

Rowan’s hand smacked against James’s forearm.

James grunted as his chest slammed against the lip of the hole, his arm stretching back under the jagged edge with Rowan’s momentum. James’s grunt became a snarl of pain.

“Oh God,” I whispered.

“I’m cut!” James voiced my fear.

I was too far away to see how badly James was injured, but it took only a single drop of his impossibly toxic blood to kill—and Rowan hung directly below him.


Chapter 3

“Rowan!” I shouted, wishing I was over there to wrap something around James’s bleeding arm. For some reason, his blood wasn’t toxic to me.

Reaching up, Rowan grabbed James’s forearm and, using that little bit of momentum, sprang upward to catch the rebar above him.

I held my breath, terrified the slender piece of metal would give. Rowan let go of James, all his weight now supported by the bar as he hung by one arm. Light flickered below, the blue-white electric flash reminding me of the fire Rowan used.

Another surge of movement, and Rowan lunged upward, catching a nearby section of rebar with his free hand. A chunk of cement broke free, clattering on the debris below, and Rowan’s new handhold dropped several inches. He released it and caught the crumbling edge of the cement floor.

James settled on his haunches, watching Rowan’s progress with one hand wrapped around the opposite biceps.

“James?” Elysia set down the box of salve she still carried, and took a step toward him.

“Stay away from him!” Ian shoved himself to his feet. A crack and the ground gave beneath him. He vanished from sight.

“Ian!” Even as I reacted, I chided myself. He was dead. What could possibly hurt him?

I looked across the room to check the others’ expressions. They could see what had become of Ian more easily than I could, but none of them was watching the hole where he had disappeared. Rowan had his chest up to the edge of the hole, and James was getting to his feet. Suddenly, James twisted around, and a portal opened behind him. Ian stepped out, and I slumped against the doorframe in relief.

Ian leaned down to offer Rowan a hand, but Rowan ignored him, climbing up on his own.

“What’s going on?” a voice asked.

I turned with a gasp and found Colby staring up at me, a frown shadowing his orange eyes. So much for the Knockout Powder keeping him out of commission. That was the problem with the magical. Potions didn’t always work on them the way I expected.

“Hey.” I squatted beside him.

“You blew a powder in my face.” He didn’t look angry. “Was it Extinguishing Dust?”

“No, Knockout Powder. Apparently, it doesn’t work so well on an Element.”

“Oh.” His eyes left mine to take in our surroundings. “What happened?”

I didn’t want to tell him he happened. “A mishap on landing.”

“I hate flying,” he whispered. His eyes widened as he looked down the aisle. “The plane’s on fire!”

“Everyone’s been evacuated.”

“Where’s Rowan?”

I turned my head to look out into the terminal. Rowan was on his feet, and even from across the room, his eyes locked with mine.

“There.” I nodded toward him.

Colby turned his head. “Oh God.” He stared at the demolished concourse.

“Yes. We’re stuck for the moment.”

He looked back into the burning plane, and I followed his gaze. The wall between first class and the rest of the plane was on fire, as were the remnants of the curtains he hadn’t completely ashed earlier. Fortunately, the open roof let the smoke escape, but it had grown thicker where it lingered beneath what remained of the luggage compartments.

“You’re right. We’re trapped,” Colby whispered, his orange eyes wide. “How will we get out of here?” One of the seats in the front row went up in a flash of blue-orange flame.

The blast of heat hit me, and I threw myself away from the inferno. “Colby!”

“Oh God.” He laced his fingers through his shaggy, strawberry-blond hair and gripped two handfuls as if he intended to pull them. He squeezed his eyes closed and doubled over. The headrest on the next chair burst into flame.

I glanced over my shoulder at the open cabin door. I might have to take my chances with the unstable concourse. The section closest to the wall hadn’t fallen in yet.

“Enough!” a familiar voice said from right beside me.

I turned in time to watch Ian seize Colby by the front of his hoodie and bodily lift him from the floor, then turn and slam him against the fuselage. Colby’s head connected with a sickening thump.

“Ian!” I cried.

Colby’s orange eyes rolled back and he groaned. A smear of blood colored his upper lip. Our surroundings weren’t the only thing being torn up by his gift.

“What are you doing?” I asked Ian.

“The Knockout Powder wore off, so I’m using the more traditional method.” A portal opened behind Ian. “Step through, I’ll—”

Footsteps thumped on the carpeted section of floor outside the plane. An instant later, James sprang through the door. He took one look at Ian holding Colby against the wall and snarled, the sound menacing even when made with his human throat.

“Don’t,” Ian said, his blue eyes flickering white.

Alarmed, I stepped up beside James, but I had done little more than grip his arm when Rowan climbed into the plane.

“How—” My question was answered when Donovan, Rowan’s brother Element, stepped up to the open door. As an Earth Element, Donovan could manipulate any solid object—including an unstable floor.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Rowan asked Ian.

“Knockout Powder doesn’t work,” Ian said. “And apparently, whatever you’re doing isn’t working, either if he’s knocking planes out of the sky.”

“What?” Colby whispered. All the color had drained from his face.

“Release him,” Rowan said.

Ian did as told.

Colby slumped against the wall, but remained upright. Orange still colored his irises, but it was the pain in his eyes that I found the most distressing. The poor kid couldn’t be much older than James.

“Sugarcoating it isn’t going to help him learn control,” Ian said.

“Don’t give me a reason, Mallory.” Rowan moved over and took Colby’s arm. “Everyone, off the plane.”

The two chairs Colby had ignited were burning in earnest now. I didn’t need any more encouragement and hurried to the cabin door.

“Hey, little alchemist.” Donovan smiled—a flash of teeth through his beard. His expression always reminded me of a grinning bear.

“Hey, dirt boy.” I took the hand he offered me and let him help me step down from the plane. “You here to hold up the red carpet for us?”

He gave me a wink, then reached up to help Rowan with Colby. As soon as Colby was safely off the plane, something over his shoulder drew Donovan’s attention. I followed his gaze to where Elysia was weaving her way around the last of the overturned chairs.

“Elysia?” James exited the plane and stepped forward to meet her.

She laid a hand on his arm, but stepped past him without a word. She walked between the rest of us, intimidated by neither Donovan’s size nor the orange light still faintly glowing around Rowan’s pupils. Ian stepped off the plane and stopped.

“Did you think I wouldn’t feel that?” she demanded of him.

“You shouldn’t be out here.”

“Do not tell me what to do. And if you ever touch him again, I will put you back in your tomb.”

Ian’s brows ticked upward, but he didn’t speak.

“He’s mine, understand?” Elysia added.

I pulled in a breath, ready to deny that claim, but Ian looked up at that moment, his eyes meeting mine before returning to Elysia.

“Understood,” he said.

“Then go.” Elysia’s pale eyes went completely white.

Ian grunted and a portal whispered open behind him. I expected anger, but the corners of his mouth twisted upward, revealing those dimples. He stepped back into the darkness. “As strong as me.” The portal vanished and he was gone.

“No shit,” Elysia muttered. “You made me this way.” Hers eyes had only darkened a little when she released her magic.

I should be upset that my antidote had failed to cure her, but at the moment, I wasn’t terribly torn up over it. I glanced at James to see how he had taken her claim, but he was watching Rowan, a concerned wrinkle on his brow.

“I assume this is the necromancer who bound my grim,” Rowan said.

Elysia turned to face him. “His name is James.” She lifted her chin, boldly meeting Rowan’s faintly glowing eyes. “And he belongs to no one.”

“That wasn’t the impression you just gave Ian.”

“He’s a necromancer. Give someone like him an inch, and he will take everything.”

“You’re a necromancer,” Rowan pointed out.

Elysia crossed her arms and frowned at him.

“Addie used a truth serum on her,” James cut in. “She’s cool. Right, Ad?”

“She claimed, under truth serum, that she bound him by accident, then tried to release him after she learned what he is,” I said.

“Good.” Rowan’s gaze remained on her. “But she had me when she humanized him.” He gripped Colby’s elbow and turned him toward the narrow strip of floor that still remained along one wall. “Come. We can talk where Donovan doesn’t have to hold up the floor beneath us.”

I glanced up at the big guy. “Are you really?”

He grinned, but I picked out the metallic sheen in his hazel eyes. All the Elements had unique eyes, but it was more apparent when they were actively using their magic.

“Sorry,” Elysia muttered, and hurried back the way she’d come.

“Seriously, she’s cool,” James whispered to Rowan, then hurried after her.

Rowan glanced at me.

“She did pass my test,” I admitted, “but that little display with Ian made me uncomfortable.”

“Perhaps, but as she pointed out, Ian follows his own agenda.” Rowan directed Colby away from the plane and nodded toward the far side of the concourse. The young man shuffled along beside him, his head hanging.

We fell in behind them, and I frowned at Rowan’s back. I wanted to talk to him and try to smooth over the problem that was Ian, but if I had learned anything these past few weeks, I knew that was pointless.

With Donovan’s help, we made it across the remaining section of floor without incident and walked into the wide corridor that led away from the demolished gate. The area was still empty of onlookers, leaving only the firefighters and a few men in airport security vests.

The fireman who had tried to run us off earlier stepped forward to greet Donovan. “You were able to get across.”

“Yes.” Donovan didn’t elaborate. I wondered what he had told the guy to get past the barricade.

“Did you see that demon dog?” the fireman asked.

I remembered James chasing everyone off the plane and glanced over at him. Elysia had retrieved the box of salve, and James was pulling on his T-shirt. Neither appeared to be paying much attention to the conversation.

“No dog,” Donovan said. “And no one left on the plane.” He started forward, gripping one of Colby’s elbows as Rowan held the other.

The man in the security vest moved closer. His brow wrinkled as he watched Colby shuffle along. “There’s first aid up the concourse, and those needing transport to the hospital are being gathered in—”

“Thank you,” Rowan said without looking up. “But we aren’t injured, just a little shook up.”

“What about the salve?” Elysia gestured with the box.

“Salve?” the man asked, perhaps thinking she had spoken to him.

“I brought some of my burn salve,” I explained.

“Oh.” He pulled a walkie-talkie from his belt. “I’ll radio ahead and let them know you’re here.”

Rowan glanced over, his eyes meeting mine.

“Shall we go help?” James asked me, taking the box from Elysia.

Rowan gave me a nod, then he and Donovan led Colby away.

“Addie?” James asked.

I pulled my attention from Rowan’s back. “Okay.”

“Let me show you,” the guy in the security vest offered.

He led us to another waiting area a short distance down the concourse, then took a set of stairs behind an Employees Only door to the lower level. He showed us to a large room that held a surprising number of people. I realized these were people who’d been evacuated from the plane and were currently awaited transport to the nearest hospital. My new security friend introduced us to the medical personnel who were determining who left on the next ambulance, and who waited. Soon, James, Elysia, and I were working right along side them.

I had never been this close to the actual healing. Usually, I delivered the salve to the hospital, and the nurses administered it. Now, for the first time, I realized how rewarding the experience was.

I knelt on the floor, gently dabbing salve on an older man’s blistered lower leg. He flinched when my gloved fingers touched the tender flesh, but within half a minute, he was slouched in his chair, sighing in relief.

“That is truly amazing, Miss Daulton,” a female voice said from behind me.

I looked over my shoulder and squinted in the bright light shining in my eyes. A camera was pointed at my face, and a woman in a fitted pink blazer and skirt gave me a big smile. It was Natalie Gomez, Megan Field’s replacement.

“So you make, um, house calls?” Natalie asked. Admiration lit her eyes. She had interviewed me on several occasions over the past few weeks. Unlike Megan, Natalie actually liked me.

“Not exactly. I was at the airport, dropping off a friend,” I lied.

“And you had some salve with you?”

“I had some brought over.”

“That’s nice.”

I turned to the man I had been treating. “Better?” I asked.

He had straightened in his seat when he noticed the camera crew. “Completely.” He turned his leg, displaying the healed flesh. “I had read about what you were doing at the hospital, but experiencing it…”

I rose to my feet. “Glad to help.” I stepped aside as Natalie moved in to ask the man a few questions. This was excellent. If the man allowed his story to be aired—and he seemed very pleased to be on camera—it could go a long way toward opening more minds to the positive things alchemy could do.

Glancing around, I searched for any others in need of healing. The medical staff still worked on the injured, but there had been relatively few burns. Most of the passengers had been evacuated before the plane had truly begun to burn. More prevalent were broken bones, contusions, and lacerations. I left those to the medical personnel. I couldn’t do anything to help, and I didn’t do well around blood.

Elysia didn’t suffer the same concerns. At the moment, she was holding a compress to a bleeding gash on a young woman’s shoulder. Earlier, I had seen her help a paramedic stabilize a middle-aged man’s lower arm. I had to look away when I noticed the bone poking through the taut skin. No, blood and gore didn’t faze Elysia at all, but then, she was probably a mortician. Most necromancers were. I suspected she had been pulling organs out of bodies for years.

James was just as blasé, and I couldn’t help but notice that he never strayed far from her side. At some point, I needed to get him alone for a talk. Did he know about Gavin?

My thoughts were interrupted as another burn victim was brought to my attention. This one a teenage girl with burns along her cheek and neck. Her injury responded as expected, and the girl threw her arms around my neck in a fierce hug. A few words of thanks from her parents, and she was loaded on a gurney bound for the last ambulance.

I stripped off my gloves and watched them wheel the girl away. That could have been Rowan on his way to the hospital. My throat tightened at the thought of how close he had come to dying today. I would have had to live with the fact that the last words I had with him had been exchanged in anger. Our argument before he left for California had been an impressive one.

“Miss Daulton?”

I turned to find Natalie and the camera crew still present.

“Do you mind if I do a follow-up interview? Just a few more questions?” she asked me.

I forced a smile. “Sure.” I would prefer not to, but I couldn’t waste this opportunity.

“Let me begin by expressing my own shock at how effective your salve is. When I heard that your salve accelerated healing, I still expected it to take a few days. But this was…instantaneous.”

“For minor burns, yes. When there is no skin to heal, it’s not so easy.” I had to brew each of those individually after requesting a blood sample from the patient.

“Easy.” Natalie shook her head. “I’ve heard that you’re going to start teaching alchemy.”

“The University of Cincinnati has approached me about developing a curriculum.” The prospect thrilled me. More alchemists meant more hands to brew salve, freeing me to develop other formulas.

“You don’t plan to reestablish the Alchemica?”

“I would prefer to work with an accredited university. Alchemy needs to be shared, not hoarded. That always bothered me about the Alchemica.”

Technically, that was a lie. I didn’t remember a thing about my time at the Alchemica. My Grand Master had wiped my memories when he stole the Final Formula. All he left me with was my knowledge of alchemy. I remembered nothing else about my life before that. And since my past was a dark one, that was fine by me.

“Addie?” James stood behind Natalie and the camera crew. He gestured with his phone, then mouthed one word. Rowan.

“I need to go, Natalie. Would you excuse me?”

“Yes, of course.” She gave me a bright smile. “Thanks for talking with me.”

“My pleasure.” A final smile, and I hurried over to where James stood. He wordlessly handed me his phone, then turned and led me away from the commotion and the camera crew. Elysia waited nearby and fell in beside us as we walked past.

“Rowan?” I said into the phone.

“What are you doing?” Rowan got right to the point. “James said the last of the injured had been taken away.”

“There was a reporter. You know how important it is that I—”

“Cora disposed of the Extinguishing Dust. I need you to make more.”

I sighed. “Her paranoia is a real pain in the ass.”

“Can you do it?”

“I think you mean will I. Of course I can.”

“Addie, don’t.” His tone made it clear that he wasn’t in the mood for word games. “What do you need?”

I gritted my teeth, but held back what I really wanted to say. “To work best, I need to key it to him.”

“His blood.”


“I’ll have him give you a sample. Have James bring you by the manor to get it.” The line went dead.

I handed James his phone. “I get that he’s under a huge strain at the moment, but he could try to be nicer.”

James grunted and tucked the phone back in his pocket. “Back to the lab?”

“The manor. I’ve been commanded to make some more X Dust, keyed to Colby.”

“Ah.” James understood exactly what I needed. “Let me find a place to change.”


I stood in the sunroom at the Elemental manor and watched the sparks fly. For once, I wasn’t the target of Cora’s impassioned outrage.

“You had no right to bring her here,” Cora said to James, waving a hand at Elysia.

“She doesn’t know where we are.” James’s tone was surprisingly calm in the face of Cora’s rage. “Besides, she has no desire to harm you. Ask Addie. She gave her a truth serum.”

I snorted. “I hardly think my testimony will carry much weight with Cora.”

Cora turned her glare on me, eyes of multi-hued blue narrowing. I met that stare, doing my best not to fidget. As a Water Element, Cora had the ability to manipulate any liquid in her environment. That included the liquids inside me. I had once seen her use that ability on another human being, well a lich. It wasn’t pretty.

“I trust James’s judgment,” Donovan spoke up.

I smiled at the big guy, pleased that he had joined us. He was often the voice of reason among his more volatile brethren. At a burly six-eight, he was a gentle giant. His quiet strength had pulled me through many dark moments in my recent past.

Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to have much of an effect on Cora. “James’s judgment can’t be trusted if he belongs to her.”

Era crossed her arms. “Exactly. And she might have passed Addie’s truth serum test at that moment, but she can always change her mind.”

I sighed. This was going nowhere fast. “Where’s Rowan? Let me get what I need, and we’ll get out of your hair.”

“The den,” Era said, collecting a frown from Cora.

I didn’t wait around to see what that was all about. I gave James and Elysia a sympathetic glance and left the room.

It turned out that I didn’t need Era’s help finding Rowan. All I had to do was follow the raised voices. I stopped outside the doorway to the den, not so sure I wanted to step between a pair of angry Fire Elements.

“I get it,” Colby was saying. He tossed the TV remote onto the coffee table and rose to his feet. The image on the TV was paused, leaving the burning plane on the screen to bear witness.

“If you get it, then why don’t you show up for your workout sessions?” Rowan asked. “Your brother and sisters tell me that you haven’t even met with the meditation specialist I found you.”

“I’m not into all this spiritual mumbo jumbo.”

“A six-pack is not going to give you control over your Element.”

“Then maybe I should try a case—or find myself an alchemist.”

I had shifted my weight to take a step into the room, but hesitated.

“I’m still in control,” Rowan said.

“They say she makes potions for you, keeps you stable.”

“She’s improved the healing draft my apothecary always made for me.”

“So now you can vaporize rivers without consequence. Hell, Rowan, you’re in me right now. You realize that right?”

Within a certain range, Elements could see into the objects around them, and once inside an object, they could manipulate it. At least, that’s how it had been described to me. Rowan had once admitted that it wasn’t truly a visual image.

“We’re discussing you,” Rowan said. “Alcohol and alchemy are not solutions. It comes down to our control. It always has and it always will.”

“Next thing you know, you’ll be wanting me to emulate David, the ice man.” Colby turned away and pulled up short, seeing me in the doorway.

“We meet again.” I gave Colby a smile before turning to Rowan. “James brought Elysia. Cora isn’t happy.”

Rowan released a sigh. “And I guess you need me to stop Cora from killing the necromancer.”

“Since killing the necromancer exiles James from the mortal plane, yes, that would be nice. I would take care of it myself, but Cora always gets so touchy whenever I interfere.”

Rowan held my gaze. Maybe it was because he no longer made an effort to hide what he was from me, but his eyes did glow far more than they had when I first met him.

“I’ll take care of it.” He headed for the door. “Colby has agreed to give you a sample.”

“You’ll bleed for me?” I teased him.

“If you’ll brew me something to take away the Fire. I’ll gladly give you every drop.”

“It’s for emergencies only.” Rowan gave him a final frown and left the room.

Colby glared after him a moment, then dropped onto the couch. He braced his elbows on his knees and rubbed both hands over his face.

I sat down beside him. “Trouble in paradise?”

“I thought this was Cincinnati.”

I snorted. “Not the same thing?”

He looked up, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. “I’ve heard you can be a bit irreverent.”

“Among other things.” I laid a hand on his forearm. “You okay?”

“Not even remotely.” He turned his head to look at me. “Can you help?”

“I can try.”

“You can do more than try if it’s true that your potion can knock out my power.”


“How about permanently?”

“Do you want it to be permanent?”

“I would give anything. And I mean anything.” His eyes met mine, his expression earnest and intense. Yes, he meant every word.

I held Colby’s gaze, my heart aching at the pain I saw reflected there. How could I convince him that he was needed, that his sacrifice did serve a purpose?

“I’m not sure what it’s like in your part of the world, but around here, we need the Elements. We need Rowan.”

“Rowan, yes. Me…” He snorted. “Well, I think I’m the data point that proves that something divine isn’t picking the Elements.”


He shrugged. “At least I’m honest.” He pushed up his sleeve. “So, how much blood do you need?”

“A drop.”

“That’s all?”

“Element blood is potent stuff. I once blew up a car because I used too much of Rowan’s.”

“I blew up a plane.” Colby waved at the TV screen, his tone bitter.

“Let it go. Besides, you really don’t want to get into an explosion competition with me,” I teased. “No beaker—or flask—is safe. You can ask any of my lab partners.”

He chuckled. “You make me laugh, Addie.”

“It’s part of my charm—except with Cora.” I rose to my feet. “Come on. Let’s get that blood sample. There’s a first-aid kit in the bathroom down the hall—don’t ask me how I know.”

He laughed again and followed me from the room.


Neither my short absence nor Rowan’s presence had put an end to the argument in the sunroom.

“Doesn’t sound good,” Colby said as we approached.

“I’ll get James to take Elysia and me elsewhere. That should end the fireworks.”

“I still can’t believe Rowan hired the grim,” Colby muttered.

“He can soul track her,” James was saying as we entered the room. “I can’t—”

“That means he can soul track her here,” Cora said.

“I’m here.” A muscle ticked in James’s jaw. So much for calm and cool. But Cora could do that to a person.

“Who can soul track whom?” I asked.

“Gavin.” James’s green eyes met mine. “Gavin can soul track Elysia.”

“You were involved,” I whispered.

James frowned.

“It was Neil,” Elysia said. “He forced me to do it—with your potion.”

“To do what?”

“Command James to soul rip his brother.”

Oh God. “Brian.”

“Yes,” James answered for her.

I wanted to go to him, comfort him, but he spoke before I could move.

“You know about this,” James said.

“That Neil has a grim of his own, yes.”

How do you know?” Rowan asked. By the lack of astonishment from the others, I assumed James had already gotten this far in his story before I entered the room.

“I witnessed Neil showing off his prize to his uncle.”

“And what were you doing to witness this?” Rowan’s tone held the scary calm that always made me uneasy.

James stepped up beside me.

“You were spying on Xander,” Rowan said.

“He has the information I need.”

Rowan pinched the bridge of his nose.

James still stood beside me, and I reached over and took his hand. He might not be close to his brothers, but I knew he still cared. I squeezed his hand and he squeezed mine in turn.

“Xander didn’t know we were there,” I said to Rowan.

“We? You’re lucky then, he can sense the dead.”

“We were in a cemetery. Xander has one in his back yard. Charming, huh?”

“I’m not laughing.”

“Well maybe you should. Xander didn’t see me, and I learned something valuable about Neil. Or it would have been valuable if James didn’t already know. We need to act on this. Now.”

“I don’t have time for this. Did you forget about the summit?” Rowan waved a hand at Colby. The Elemental Summit. Every Element in the world was coming to Cincinnati. “It starts in five days.”

The air stilled in my lungs. Five days. Xander had told Neil that he had a task for him…in five days.


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