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“Remember there is no “I” in “team”.”

My smile was tensile tight as I nodded, wondering if they had a t-shirt with that logo on it. Then she added,  “This is your last chance.”

Somehow, though she hadn’t mentioned my freaky ability, I knew she knew. Which meant she was no longer threatening me with prison as an alternative to being an IR agent. She was threatening me with the Council.





As if a jet had slammed into him, Jeb scrambled to understand what Pádraig was saying
. Alex never mentioned she was coming to Paris. Last he’d spoken to her she was in a work release program in Maryland.

He speared Philippe with a look. “I don’t understand.”

Philippe nodded at his protégé who leaned so far forward Jeb was sure the young man was about to topple from chair to grass.

“I have stumbled across conflicting reports but it appears your daughter is wanted by certain people.”


Pádraig shrugged. “I haven’t been able to determine this. As soon as I uncovered what I had I brought the intel to Philippe.”

“Who wants her?”

A head shake as Pádraig added, “I don’t know that either.”

“Then tell me exactly what you do know,” Jeb demanded, aware his voice had risen.

Pádraig sat back as if slapped. But his voice was calm as he said, “Your daughter is in Paris. She’s a target with a sizable bounty on her head, but only if alive.”

“How much?”

“A million euros.”

Jeb glanced at Philippe. “Roughly a million two hundred and eighty thousand US dollars.”

“For Alex?” This time the words escaped as air from a deflated balloon. “This doesn’t make sense.”

“I was concerned,” Philippe kept his tone even, “that this attempt on her might be tied into your son’s disappearance.”

Jeb shook his head. Not because his friend’s words didn’t hold a possible explanation, but because he was still grappling with the ramifications. He eyed Philippe. “But why Van and Alex? What’s to gain? I’m not a wealthy man.”

Philippe released a long slow breath. “You are an influential man, Jebediah. That may be the key.”

“You mean the Council?”

Philippe nodded before glancing at Pádraig. “It is the only thing that makes sense to us.”

Jeb stood, no longer able to sit. Not with a father’s fear roaring through him
. “Do you know where Alex is? Right now? She should be under protection.”

Pádraig crooked his neck as if to relieve strain even though it was Jeb who was avalanched by the weight that had just come down on him.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Noziak.” Pádraig rose to his feet too as if in commiseration. “I had a lead on her earlier today but then I lost her.”


“She was visiting a notable dress designer who has offices here in Paris. At the

“Alex?” His daughter wore jeans and t-shirts. What in the world was she doing with a dress designer?”

But before he could ask more questions Philippe gestured to the seat Jeb had just vacated. ”I’m afraid there’s more, my old friend. It involves Council business.”

Jeb sank back upon the weathered surface of the chair, wondering how much more he could handle.

“Pádraig, would you check with Zeid about some refreshments? I know I am famished.”

The young man cast a quick look between Jeb and Philippe before offering a curt nod and leaving.

“Zeid?” Jeb asked, latching on to the mundane while he grappled with the explosion.

“Tunisian butler,” Philippe mentioned, leaning forward, more serious than Jeb had ever seen the druid. “There’s more going on here than I can tell you in a few moments, but I will share this. The Council is under attack.”

No words came to Jeb so he listened.

“The threat against your children must be part of this larger threat. You’re the only Council member with offspring, which makes you vulnerable.”

He could see the logic behind Philippe’s words. “But who is attacking? And why?”

“I’m attempting to get to the bottom of that.” He glanced toward the house. “Pádraig has been invaluable as my eyes and ears. You can trust him if you need to do so.”

That had Jeb more alert. “Do you fear for your life?”

“There have already been two near-death occurrences. I don’t know if I shall survive another.”

“But . . . you didn’t tell me. And why isn’t the Council up in arms?”

“They—or I should say some on the Council—may be behind the agitation.”

This was more than serious, this was catastrophic. The Council was the only law between non-humans and humans and had been for centuries. If the Council fell the mostly peaceful co-existence also fell. There had always been beings within the preternatural community who resented keeping their identities hidden. The Weres were always agitating for more recognition as they held no Council seat. Could they be behind these new disturbances? But what would they hope to get out of Jeb?

“Who on the Council are working against you?” Jeb asked, knowing their time was limited as Pádraig was already crossing from house to garden.

“We’ll talk later. There’s a gathering this evening that I’m afraid I must attend. Pádraig is going with me.” Philippe smiled as the young man set a tray of cheese and bread down on the table before them. “Why don’t you join us, Jebediah? As my guest. We can talk after.”

Jeb shook his head. Last thing he wanted to do was bide his time when his children were under attack. “Jet lag,” he murmured. “I’m afraid I’d be poor company.”

“I understand.” Philippe leaned back in his chair, once more the convivial host. “Then instead of talking to me, I think Pádraig should show you what we’ve gathered. In the library.”

Jeb rose to his feet before the older man finished speaking. “I’d like that. Regarding Van?”

“Regarding both your children,” came Pádraig’s response.

“Then let’s have a look.” Jeb started to walk away then stopped, turning to Philippe. “This dress designer. He have a name?”


“Only the one name?”

.” Philippe glanced at his protégé. “Pádraig has a thick file on him.”

Good. Finally something was going right.





I was chomping at the bit as I tapped my fingers on the metal top of an outdoor bistro table. It was late afternoon and my time frame was winging past; last thing I wanted to be doing was biding my time waiting for my new contact to appear.

“Where the hell is this guy?” I snarled at Jaylene loud enough to earn a few head turns from other bistro patrons. I was tempted to bare my teeth at them. That would show them that not everyone spent their days lounging around sipping
café au lait
and reading
Le Figaro
Le Monde
. Didn’t these people ever work?

“He’s coming,” Jaylene murmured, her attention on some hoity-toity French magazine
. Bran probably read it too.

“Why can’t we approach Bran without him? Meet this guy later?” My voice intentionally nudging my handlers into action.

“Ling Mai said meet him first. Approach Bran second,” Mandy replied around a sip of some chocolate drink with whipped cream on it.

“Never saw you as a bootlicker.” I raised my brows, waiting for the explosion.

Jaylene reached a hand out and stopped Mandy from lunging across the table without ever raising her gaze from her magazine. “She’s just pissed that she screwed up.”

“Again,” Mandy snipped.

This time I was the one standing, my fists curled, my temper on a short and getting shorter fuse.

“Dahling, you don’t have to rise on my account,” a familiar voice brushed against me.

Male. Cocky. British.

No way.

, it is
, François Dupris, at your service.”

I turned, my whole body stiff, except for my shaking head. “Tell me you’re a figment of my worst nightmare.”

The man before me, looking radically different than when I knew him on my last mission, was too familiar. Before he’d been effete, mincing and a royal PITA. The last part still applied but now he looked more like Gabriel Aubry, tousled blonde hair, stubbly chin, smoldering sexy golden-brown eyes. I felt like I’d tumbled down the rabbit hole.

“You like the look?
?” he prodded in the voice I associated with Franco, a majordomo in Bran’s fashion events. But this wasn’t Franco.

Obviously enjoying my discomfort he lifted first Jaylene’s and then Mandy’s hands for a kiss as he murmured in a sultry deep accent, “
Enchanté, Mademoiselles
. I have met the delectable Jaylene before but you,
I have not had the pleasure.”

“Did he just call you a bitch?” I asked, wondering why Mandy let him linger over her palm instead of scratching his eyes out.

“He called me his little doe.” Mandy didn’t even look at me but kept her focus on
or whatever he was calling himself now. And she was smiling. A sappy ooh-la-la smile.

I wanted to gag.

Jaylene whistled. “François,” she purred his name. “You’re looking good. Like what you’ve done with the hair, the clothes, the whole you.”

He flashed her a dazzling smile.

At this rate I really was really going to gag, or shoot myself.

Instead I resumed my seat and leaned forward, knowing that whatever his name, or look, or accent he was still an undercover agent for a new branch of MI-6, an elite group tasked to keep an eye on preternatural activity just like the IR Agency. He was also a shifter. I couldn’t out him in public for being a fake, but I could remind my fellow teammates not to fall for his acting abilities. Or one teammate in particular.

And Ling Mai didn’t think I could be a team player.

“Look,” I snarled, but quietly, “Enough of the reunion. What are you doing here?”

Mais, ma minette,”
he said, earning a snort from Mandy. “I have been called in to be of assistance.”

I didn’t know what he just called me, but I’d find out. Right after I wrung Ling Mai’s elegant neck for foisting another handler on me
. One not of my choosing and one I didn’t quite trust. Heck, I didn’t even know if I could remember to call him François so I didn’t blow his current cover.

Yes, he turned out to be one of the good guys on the last mission but Frank here . . . François, call him François . . . always had his own agenda.

“What are you getting out of this?” I asked, almost nose-to-nose with him, which given the way he looked now was disconcerting.

He gave a Gallic shrug, released Mandy’s hand but not after one more come-hither glance from his eyes that I didn’t remember were an amber color. Almost wolf-like
. He pulled a chair to the table, giving me a few seconds to catch my breath and adjust to the new Franco or
. Which I wasn’t doing so well
. “I’m here because Bran is my friend and he needs me. So do you.”

“Your friend?”

, didn’t I tell you we were at Balliol College Oxford together?” He arched an elegant brow and for a second I could see him with Bran in their school days—arrogant, at ease, killer looks—even though I had to wonder if either had ever attended Oxford. Bran was too secretive about his past and  François here made lying as easy as breathing.

But I didn’t care about the past. I cared about the now that was slipping away from me. “You can get Bran to see me?” I asked, all business. I didn’t share that I’d tried to text Bran several times while waiting for
to arrive. Not in front of Mandy or Jaylene but under the table and he hadn’t responded.

Each non-answer making me more afraid for him. But that was neither here nor there.

“I’m meeting with Bran in about twenty minutes,” came
’ blasé response.

At last, something breaking open. “Then let’s get going.” I rose from my seat.

“Not looking like that,” came
’ quick and almost horrified retort. A little more tone in his voice and I would have sworn he’d switched back to Franco.

I eased down, bracing myself to pulling out word by word what
meant. But it was Mandy who beat me to the punch. “We need to change?”

.” He flashed a dazzling smile. “I have arranged to have us all present at an very exclusive soiree.” He raised his hands, palms out. “You may thank me later.”

Yeah, like right after I took him out. Or cast a rash-inducing spell. Not that I would, magic had too much backlash. Just like my now having to work with Franco/
here, probably as a direct result of the amplifying stunt I’d pulled this morning.

I ignored the voice deep inside me that whispered,
you wish
. I hadn’t been able to forget that twitching lace curtain, or who had been behind it.

“Alex?” I glanced over at
who actually looked worried. “Are you alright?” And he sounded concerned
. Damn he should have gone onto the stage.

“She’s prepping herself to do battle over dressing for this soiree,” Mandy sniped. “How formal is it?”

“More than jeans and your wind-cheater,”

“He means hoodie.” I glanced at
, waiting for what he wasn’t saying.

“Cocktail dresses. Evening theater. Casual, by Parisian standards, not . . .” He eyed me and I stuck my tongue out at him.

Oh yeah, working together again was going to be loads of fun.

“Bran’s going to be at this event though?” my words sounded even as my gaze drilled
. The you-screw-with-me-and-you’ll-pay look both of us understood.

He nodded.

We were on the same page. Not for the same reasons and finding out what
wanted was on my to-do list. Right after getting Bran to help me, before he was arrested, and right after freeing my brother. If he was still alive.

“Where are you going?” Mandy asked.

“To get dressed. We don’t have that much time.”

Mandy’s stunned expression was worth having to try a dress on. But only one.

No shoes though. I didn’t do the frou-frou shoes.

“I have just the shoes for you,”
murmured, looking straight at me as if he’d read my thoughts.

Oh, yeah. One big happy team.



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