Chapter 20: Moving Day

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Ephraim's excursion to meet Grant's fae magic contact bookended so tightly with his delivery of the prisoners to Indianapolis that there hadn't been any time for a proper debrief between trips. Several more days dragged by as we awaited his return and our imminent departure. Just when I'd started to worry something had gone catastrophically wrong again, a phone call came. My father had gotten caught up in some emergency logistics; apparently, our new home was being flooded with more sympathizers than anyone could have predicted, and it was creating a "situation." We'd need to be patient.

Another week passed and, when the time finally came, I surprised both Owen and my father by walking to the SUV unassisted, though I still needed Keel to carry my bags. The ache in my shoulder remained constant and nagging, so I was relieved that Owen hadn't insisted we hike back out the way we'd come; woodland obstacles and sloping terrain would have been murder, we wouldn't have made it two hundred feet.

As we rolled through the thick forest that surrounded the lodge, heading back toward civilization, Ephraim caught us up on the most recent developments. The raid on the League stronghold had been planned for one month from now, in order to allow us an opportunity to settle into our new home and give my body as much healing time as possible before I walked it right back into battle. There was also the matter of waiting for more fae magic, which Grant's contact had promised to deliver once he'd heard the extent of our budget. Maybe even enough of it to get in and out of the League's fortified skyscraper alive.

But first, moving day.

There hadn't been much luggage to load into the van, but there would have been a lot less if not for our needlessly gracious hosts. In the days leading up to our departure, a steady procession of weres had begun showing up at our door, all bearing gifts. Most were of a practical nature - crops from the fields, jams and pickled preserves, and all manner of handmade clothes, quilts, and linens for our new home, but others were more surprising. Books seemingly meant to teach about were history and culture; an odd assortment of weapons and armor disguised as durable, outdoorsy clothing; and several necklaces and pouches that the givers promised would bring us luck, fortune, and protection. The weres, it seemed, had a magic of their own; I hoped that someday our alliance would grow and I could ask them about it. In the end, I was somewhat sad to see the lodge disappear into the trees. Sure, most of my time there had been spent coalescing, but I'd never forget the kindness and generosity of the people.

With the briefing out of the way, Ephraim, Lucia, and Keel launched into a lively conversation - everyone was excited about getting to a place that was truly ours. I was too, but I didn't join in the banter. The weres had loaded me up on blood before the journey, leaving me feeling like I'd just devoured a five-course Thanksgiving dinner. If turkey coma was a thing, blood coma was definitely a thing. As the three of them talked, I closed my eyes and leaned into Keel, happy we didn't have to be anywhere but in this SUV for the next few hours.

At some point Ephraim pulled over and the engine cut out, rousing me. The first thing I noticed as the fog of sleep lifted was the talking had stopped. I straightened in my seat, but Keel's arm snaked around me, pulling me closer once more.

"Rest," he whispered. "Ephraim's just stopping for gas."

I curled tighter into his side, unable to contain a yawn.

The next time I woke, it was the smell of KFC that drew me out of my heavy dreamless sleep.

"Lucia had a craving," Ephraim said as he passed back a meal. "And we're not exactly going to be doing fast food runs from the church."

"It's a church?" I said, opening the box and ripping a piece of skin free from the chicken breast and bringing it to my lips.

"Not anymore. But it makes a good cover. And for the things glamours can't disguise... well, it's not exactly uncommon to see old churches repurposed for condos and other things."

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