The serps were in the process of slithering away as quickly as possible.

Malcolm attacked with hands gloved in spiked metal. The Nefas warrior he fought had leaking holes all over his body. The male staggered backward, and Malcolm eagerly chased. But Magnus beat his brother to the prize and used a whip to decapitate the creature before he could flash away.

The two nodded at each other in a job well done.

Jamila was obviously weaker than Sirena, and was tripping more than she was swinging. Koldo pulled a dagger from an air pocket and flashed behind his sister—his sister!—and grabbed her just as she had grabbed him.

He lifted the weapon, determined to plunge it deep. He wouldn’t waste time with threats. Growling with frustration and rage, Sirena performed her final flash before he could strike. The only other remaining Nefas disappeared a second later.

The crowd looked around, their smiles giving way to frowns. The clapping tapered off as the onlookers realized the authorities wouldn’t have come for a performance.

Acting quickly, Koldo and the other Sent Ones picked up the pieces of the deceased and tossed them into air pockets, then stepped into the spiritual realm. As policemen rushed into the area, the crowd bolted with confusion, and the Sent Ones faced each other.

“How did you know where I was and what I needed?” Koldo asked.

“Axel told us,” Malcolm said, rubbing the spikes in his hands together.

And what else had Axel mentioned? He waited, but no one informed him of anything more.

“Thank you,” he said. He wouldn’t tell them he’d had no need of them, that he would have pulled through on his own, because he still couldn’t bring himself to lie. And they would have tasted it, anyway.

To Jamila, he stiffly said, “Why weren’t you at Estellä?”

Her chin lifted. “That little witch Sirena flashed me to a cage in a cave and locked me inside. I can’t flash and couldn’t leave. I had to summon help.”

“I needed you with Nicola,” he said, even though he knew he couldn’t fault her for how things had gone down. They’d both been taken by surprise. But he wasn’t exactly rational at the moment.

“Well, too bad,” she snapped. “Nicola Lane is your responsibility, not mine.”

She was, wasn’t she? “She will never again set foot in Estellä Industries.” He would make sure of it. And if she protested, she protested. He would deal with the fallout, as he should have done before this happened. “I’ll take things from here.”

Koldo flashed to the house in Panama—or rather, tried to. He remained in place. He frowned, and once again tried to flash. But once again he remained where he was.

What was wrong? He’d been bitten by the serps. He’d been stabbed, shot and scratched by the Nefas. But he’d endured all of that before—and worse—with no such consequences. Only difference was...Sirena, he realized with sickening dread. She had leaked something into his veins.

If he’d forever lost his ability to flash—

He couldn’t finish that thought without howling. No. Her poison would fade. He would recover.

He had to recover.

But he’d wanted to be punished, and this certainly fit.

At least now he knew Nox’s game plan. He knew Sirena’s purpose. He knew the Nefas and demons were working together. And he knew Lefty and Righty were back in the picture, more determined than ever to reclaim Nicola.

“Fly me to Panama,” he told Malcolm, his cheeks heating with embarrassment. He hated that he had to rely on another being for his transportation.

“Wow. Aren’t you a big bag of polite,” Malcolm muttered, but still the warrior strode over to him and wrapped him in his arms. “You’ll owe me for this.”

“I know.” That was the way of the world. He only wondered if Nicola found him as aggravating as he now found Malcolm.

White wings laced with gold flared, and a twinge of envy lit a fire in Koldo’s chest. Then they were airborne, the wind whipping against his skin, and he found himself closing his eyes and pretending he was soaring on his own. That he was healthy and whole.

That he had an untainted future.

KOLDO ARRIVED AT the ranch cradled in the arms of another man. A beautiful Asian man with a green fauxhawk, weird silvery eyes and tattoos of bones on his neck. Just...wow, he was beautiful, but he was also seriously scary.

Desperate to figure out a way to return to the park and help Koldo, Nicola had been pacing in front of the couch, where Axel and Laila sat. If anyone could win with ten-against-one odds, it was Koldo.

Koldo, who had promised to marry Sirena. His horrible troll of a sister.

Nicola cut him off. “Put him in my bed.” She rushed forward to show the new guy the way, surprised her heart wasn’t pounding more forcefully and that she wasn’t light-headed.

“Don’t leave me here, Co Co!” Laila shouted.

She glanced back to watch Laila shrink to the edge of the couch in an effort to get as far away from Axel as she could.

“And don’t you dare touch me!” Laila yelled at him. “I don’t want anything else to do with any of your kind!”

Axel shrugged and strolled to the kitchen. “You want something to do with a muffin? I’m starved.”

Nicola was torn between rushing back to her sister to offer comfort and staying with Koldo. In the end, she shouted, “No one’s going to hurt you, La La, I promise,” and raced to the bed to jerk the comforter and sheets out of the way. Then she moved so that the newcomer could easily place Koldo in the center.

“What was done to him?” she asked, heading into the bathroom to gather a washrag drenched in hot water and all the creams and cleansers Koldo had brought from her house.

Well, duh. She would ask Koldo, then. When he awoke. And he would. She wouldn’t believe otherwise. “Give me a knife,” she said when she next stood beside the bed.

“So I can cut away his robe and doctor him. Why else?”

“So you can kill him,” he stated simply.

“I would never hurt him!” She placed all of the supplies on the mattress. “We’re dating.” Or rather, they had been, BS. Before Sirena.

“Good for you, but that doesn’t help your case. Just so you know, I’ll hurt you worse than you’ve ever been hurt if you injure him further.” That said, he handed her a blade. Rather than leave the room, he rocked back on his heels and crossed his arms over his massive chest, as though waiting for her to mess up.

Nicola worked the tip down the center of the fabric, careful not to nick Koldo’s skin. By the time she got to the hem of the robe, the top part had already woven itself back together.

The warrior pursed his lips, as if he wasn’t fond of being told what to do. “Your male will owe me another favor, I think.”

Another? “I’ll pay for your favor. How’s that?”

“You have nothing I desire.” He bent down and ripped the robe in two, then yanked the material out from under Koldo.

“So why did you just help me?” She dropped the blade and grabbed the robe before the man could discard it, then draped the fabric over Koldo’s naked waist. He was littered with bite marks, cuts, bruises and scratches. At his neck, four tiny wounds in the shape of half-moons had turned black and now festered.

“I told you. Your male will owe me another favor.”

He was a great listener, wasn’t he? “So what’s your name, anyway?”

Nicola cleaned each of the injuries, taking extra care with the ones on his neck. Even still, the skin broke open and pus oozed out. Couldn’t be an infection, she thought. Not enough time had passed. Had to be...poison?

She reached for the blade.

Malcolm latched on to her wrist, stopping her. “I knew you would make a play.”

Then why hadn’t he stashed the weapon away from her? To test her motives? “Look, I’m going to slice the wounds open the rest of the way and—”

Footsteps pounded, and then Axel was there, ripping Malcolm away from her.

“What do you think you’re doing, my man?” the warrior demanded.

“She wants to cut into his neck!”

“For a good cause,” Nicola said with a sigh. “I want to drain the wounds, and to do that, I need to widen them. I’ll be careful with him.” More careful than she’d ever been. This man had come to mean a lot to her. More than he probably realized.

“You haven’t seen him panting after the female,” Axel told Malcolm, pushing him toward the door. “If you had, you’d know he wants her hands all over him—whatever she wants to do.”

Panting after her? I wish. “Will you guys just get out of here? You’re distracting me, and I need to concentrate. I may not be a doctor, but I’ve watched every episode of House. I’m pretty sure I know what I’m doing.”

Whether they obeyed or not, she wasn’t sure. She settled beside Koldo’s waist, leaned forward and raised the knife.

KOLDO TUGGED HIMSELF from the darkness and into the light. Though he was paralyzed, his mind blank, he wasn’t unaware. He felt gentle hands stroking over him, easing the stings that plagued him. The moment the stroking stopped, a wave of anger stormed through him, giving him the strength he needed to jolt into mobility.

He opened his eyes, but his vision was hazed. Blink, blink. Bit by bit, things began to clear. Blink, blink. He saw the glint of a knife. Saw a female stretch that knife toward him, aiming for his neck.