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Sweet Reckoning (The Sweet Trilogy #3)(2)
Author: Wendy Higgins


 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

ON FIRE

 

The moment I left L.A., a fire began kindling inside me—a satisfying burn of purpose and drive unlike anything I’d ever experienced. Never again would I sit back in silence and watch the Dukes take a life. We’d lost our ally Flynn, the son of Greed, killed by his own father when he was discovered as a traitor against the demons. I would never forget the helpless feeling of being submersed in the water under the dock at that island while the Dukes worked their evil. Never again.

We, the Nephilim, were going to rid the earth of demons, and I was slated to lead the way.

This knowledge sparked, caught fire, and spread through my veins. Despite all of the unknowns, I’d never felt stronger or more focused. And love was to blame . . . that very essence of life believed to be a weakness by the Dukes of hell. They had no idea of its fortifying power.

I loved Kaidan Rowe, and he loved me.

I loved Patti and my father, and I knew they were willing to die for me.

I loved the Nephilim, and wanted to see them free from the terror of their fathers.

I loved the inherent goodness in humanity and the potential for a better future on earth without demon interference.

For the first time ever, I didn’t doubt myself. When Patti met me at the curb at the Atlanta airport, I held her close, feeling different from the girl who’d left her a week before. She pulled away and searched my face, brushing hair away from my shoulder and giving me a single nod as if she understood. It was time to take my place in the world. Time to fulfill my task. Patti’s eyes watered, but her shoulders squared with motherly pride.

Yes. It was time, and her support meant everything.

On the drive home my cell rang. Seeing Dad’s number made my heart race.

“Hello?

“Another meeting’s been called in Vegas tonight,” came his gruff reply. “This might be the last safe time you have to talk to the others. I’m emailing you information. Be careful.”

He hung up before I had a chance to say a word.

Another meeting. The Dukes weren’t wasting any time. That knowledge made my earlier confidence waver ever so slightly. I just hoped the other Neph and I could survive what was to come.

I texted Kaidan, who was listed in my contacts under James, for James Bond. He’d chosen it. He had me listed as Hot Chick From Gig.

Video chat in 30.

His immediate response made me shake my head and blush.

Clothing optional?

It was nice to know he could keep a sense of humor in the face of calamity. Or maybe he wasn’t joking. . . .

“Are you two flirting?” Patti asked, her eyes darting to me from the road.

I hurried to delete his message.

“It’s so weird,” I said.

I’d waited two years for Kaidan to return my affections. Now he was my boyfriend. My boyfriend! Unbelievable.

Patti reached over and squeezed my hand. “Enjoy it, honey. Every second.”

I definitely was.

The first thing I did at home was open my email to see Dad’s message:


You’ve been granted late acceptance to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia four hours from where I’ll be in D.C. You will be in a single dorm room. Patti will have a fully furnished house in the next town. Pack only the essentials. You leave in less than three weeks.

“Patti! Come read this!”

She ran in and read the message over my shoulder, then she hugged me from behind.

“The Virginia mountains,” she whispered. “That sounds nice, college girl.”

The whole thing sounded nice, especially the fact that Patti would still be nearby and in her own house, far away from Duke Pharzuph here in Atlanta. I wondered how long Dad had been working on this plan, and how many strings he’d had to pull.

Now I just needed to break the news to Jay and Veronica, the people I’d miss most in Georgia.

Patti left to make dinner, and I leaned against my pillows, pulling the laptop closer on my lap. I logged on to the video chat server. Butterflies danced inside me as I dialed Kaidan. His image popped up, and I sucked in a breath.

“Ah, there’s my bird.” He sat at the desk in his bedroom with no shirt on, wavy wet strands of brown hair around his angled face, five o’clock shadow lining his jaw, blue eyes heating me through the screen.

Wow. Just . . . wow. I kind of wished I’d taken time to reapply my lip gloss or something.

“Hey,” I said in a small voice, because even through the screen he reduced me to gooey girliness. I eyed his chest and the top of his firm abs. “You’re not really naked, are you?”

He waggled his dark eyebrows. “Shall I stand?”

My eyes widened. “Seriously? You’re not naked.”

“I just got out of the shower, luv.” He wore an unapologetic grin.

No way. He was just messing with me.

“You should try it,” he said. “It’s safe fun.” When he winked, my chest, neck, and face heated. I glanced toward my closed door, and Kaidan laughed. “You’re considering it, aren’t you?”

“No,” I said, trying not to smile. “I just don’t want Patti to overhear your naughty mouth. Now hush, and listen.”

I told him my college news and he nodded, running a hand through his damp hair to move it back from his face.

“Good. Glad you’ll be away from there. I wish you could leave sooner.”

“Yeah.” I chewed the inside of my lip. “When do you think they’ll come after me?”

His entire face darkened. “I don’t know. Maybe you should leave sooner than three weeks. Stay in a hotel or something.”

“I’ll see what Dad says after their meeting tonight.”

We stared at each other.

“You’re so bloody cute,” he whispered, his voice all low and yummy.

Blood whooshed through my body. A Kai buzz. Oh, he was totally using the bedroom eyes . . . all heavy lidded and seductive. I don’t even think he was trying. I suddenly felt shy. Even from the other side of the country, this boy was dangerous.

“Behave, Kai.” My voice sounded more sultry than I intended.

“I didn’t say a word.” He wet his lips, and I thought of that mouth on my body several days ago. We’d only been apart one day, and already it felt way longer.

“Okay, stop,” I said.

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