Chapter Seventeen

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A collective gasp went around the room. Whirling about, Fi charged toward Oliver. In seconds, she had him by the throat. Elongated nails pinched his flesh as she lifted the taller man a couple of inches from the floor. He smiled evilly down at her.

"He's warned the others that we're onto them," Fi growled. She knew her eyes were red, felt the slight burn that told her they were. Whether it did Owen's case harm, she couldn't say. Nor could she care. The man in her grasp was a threat to her anima.

"Ophelia, we need to question him," Owen tried to reason.

"No time," Fi's evil half ground out through its elongated teeth. Bringing the man's phone up, she handed it to Owen.

"Shit," Owen swore after reading the text.

Søren turned off the lights in the room. "Good thing we're about to get our asses to Denver in minutes," he said.

"Wait," Garrett interrupted. "What about the wards?"

"What do we do with Paige?" Liu Xian asked on the heels of Fitzgerald's question.

"Can you pick at the wards, Garrett, Liu Xian?" Owen asked.

"Yes," Fitzgerald answered. "We can," he assured.

"I'll take them first," Søren offered. "You figure out what to do with this nut sack demon sympathizer." Without giving the council members a choice in the matter, the Finn grasped their biceps. At the last second, Sabra clutched his shoulder. Then, the quartet disappeared.

"But what do we do about Paige?" Bruce wondered aloud. "We're neophytes. We can't touch a chancellor."

"I can," Fi pointed out. Above, the man in her grasp choked out a laugh. He was still able to breathe. Barely. But he couldn't chant or speak his evil spells. It was odd that he remained still, wasn't fighting back.

"Ophelia," Owen warned.

"This is who I am. It's what I do," Fi reminded her anima. Before there could be any more time wasted on debate, she squeezed harder. A sick, squishy sound filled the silence. In seconds, her once parted fingers met. A warm, wet mass was clasped in her fist. With a swipe of the claws on her other hand, Oliver's head was freed from his neck. The light from the deceased man's phone lit the gruesome scene. With him dead, the amulet came free and rolled across the floor.

"Damn," Zhao Xiang swore, lending extra length to the single word. The apprentice's tone held equal parts horror and applause.

Owen bent and picked up the Níĝgina Uš. Wiping the blood onto his shirt, he then slipped it into his pocket.

Dropping the bloody flesh in her grip, Fi said, "Let's go." She didn't look at Owen. She couldn't bear to witness his disgust. But he needed to know who she really was; that she'd do what was necessary to protect him. Even if it twisted her stomach.

"If you'll hold onto me, I can take us to the others," Fi told the men.

Owen surprised Fi by threading his finger through hers. When her gaze turned to his face, she witnessed understanding and even love there in the deep shadows. "Gúb," he whispered and the blood on their hands washed away.

Giving Ophelia's fingers a slight squeeze, Owen murmured, "Thank you." His woman had taken a difficult decision from him. He'd known that Oliver needed killing, but technically, neither he nor the other neophytes could perform the execution. They'd have had to detain the councilor for questioning and trial. They wouldn't have been able to join Garrett and the others.

Although it was dark in the room, the fire and moon lent enough light for Owen to see the other neophyte's faces. It was clear they were wary of Ophelia. Reluctantly, Zhao Xiang and Bruce grasped one of Ophelia's shoulders. They barely had time to hold on before she took them through the grey mist of the shadow plane.

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