The Wicked Within

Free The Wicked Within by Kelly Keaton

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Authors: Kelly Keaton
Tags: Speculative Fiction
every possible outcome, every variable. We’re infants compared to her, to what she knows, her experience. . . . In other words, we’re fucked, my friend. Dangling a jewel like that in front of the council . . . ”
    The low murmur of the other heirs filing down the steps made Sebastian turn toward the landing. “They won’t all keep silent.”
    “Probably not. The Hands should go back.”
    “Not everyone is going to feel that way. My grandmother for one.”
    “Baptiste for another. Katherine Sinclair, too, from what I know about her. Mandeville, maybe . . . ” Hunter looked at him. “What about you?”
    Sebastian laughed at the idea that he’d want that kind of power. Hell, he didn’t even want the power he had now.
    Hunter smiled. “Yeah, me too.” He went quiet for a moment. “This is going to get out. Having the heirs at the meeting tonight . . . goddamn bad luck. Look out for your girl. Not everyone is going to believe thatshe can’t get inside the library on her own. She’ll be a target for those wanting to find the Hands.”
    Hunter was sincere, Sebastian knew that. He also knew that in order to remove the target on Ari’s back, he needed to find the Hands before anyone else. And that meant figuring out whether they were still in the library.
    “The council will make a decision about protecting the library tonight. If you’re going to get in, you need to do it now.”
    Was he that obvious? Or was Hunter just extremely insightful? He’d have to raid the library tonight while they were still up there debating. It had to be now.
    Hunter slapped him on the shoulder. “Take care, Lamarliere.”
    Sebastian nodded and watched the shifter jog down the stairs before returning to the window.
    He had a power very few beings had. He could trace, disappear from one location and appear at another. But he’d never tried going through walls or into warded rooms. He was only learning to master the ability.
    Now or never.

    M Y PULSE THUMPED WITH ANXIETY as I hurried down the stairs and across the old, polished hardwoods. My father waited just inside the arched double door of Presby. Soft light filtered through the glass panes, highlighting him. When I imagined an ancient Greek warrior, it was my father’s image that came to mind. He was handsome. Golden. Strong. Lethal. An old warrior in the body of a thirtysomething man who didn’t look old on the outside, but old in the eyes.
    We were taking it slow. No pressure. No rush to form an instant bond.
    I liked that about him. He was patient. Guess he had to be after a couple hundred years in Athena’s service. My father had done some terrible things in the goddess’s name, things I neverwanted to know about. He’d also been through hell and paid his dues. And he had the horrendous scars to prove it.
    My palms were clammy. I rubbed them together as I caught his gaze. His expression remained neutral, but the slight, assessing survey, the quick study . . . The hunter in him couldn’t help but take note. Designed to sense his prey, he could tell every tiny thing going on with me. Of course, I wasn’t prey, but I was in his sights, and there was no doubt, even though he broke into a smile, that he’d detected my nervousness with ease.
    Consoling myself with the idea that he was just as nervous as me, I stopped in front of him. My father had a good five inches on me. I wondered if I got my height solely from him or if my mother had been tall too. “Hey.”
    “Ari.” His sharp blue gaze zeroed in on my bruise. A blond eyebrow rose. “I hope you gave the Celt a few of his own.”
    “Bran will be nursing a couple aches and pains tonight.”
    His lips quirked as he gestured for the door. “Shall we?”
    We left Presby, keeping the conversation casual—the weather, school, training—as we headed through the square. The tall streetlamps had come on as dusk turned to night. Jazz musicians played. A group of tourists posed for pictures in

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