Wylie stalked into the portal so quickly, he forgot it led to the wrong building. The noise of machinery immediately overwhelmed him. Voices shouted and echoed in the large warehouse. There was a flurry of movement as sparks burst in the air from a welding torch. Wylie tried to catch his bearings. He crouched and looked at his surroundings. He had less than five minutes before it was midnight; there was no time to fuck around.

Decided, he let his scales cover his body. He surged forward and ran through the maze of car parts and activity, and refused to pause no matter how many people shouted. Most everyone he came across wore heavy goggles to protect their eyes. Hopefully, they wouldn’t get a good look at him. His speed was increased significantly now that his scales also covered his legs.

The night air was a shock to his senses. Wylie stopped short once he leaped outside and was away from the noise and scents of gasoline and oil. He could smell the ocean, rotting fish and salt. The entrance to Roth’s warehouse was guarded by one of the gangster regulars. Wylie retracted his scales only to sigh in annoyance when he realized his shirt was gone. He really needed to get one of the magic users to show him how to mend clothing.

“Joey,” Wylie greeted cautiously as he stepped up to the large man and the door he guarded. Joey had a scar over his eye. The eye was intact but it still made him look like a total badass even when just standing bored for hours on end. “Any way I can talk to Roth?”

“Guess that would depend on if you’re packing, kid.” Joey spat on the ground, his lips twisted in a permanent frown. “Arms up.” Wylie stood still for the pat down and did his best not to roll his eyes. Joey knew he was a shifter; everyone in Roth’s gang knew. It was a sore spot for half the men who were scared shitless of him on principle alone. Wylie didn’t need a gun to fuck anyone up but the guard still insisted on looking.

“Alright, you’re clear.” Joey opened the door and waved Wylie in. “He’s in the back with your boy.”


“Who the fuck else would I be talking about?” With a snarl, Joey slammed the door shut. Wylie felt a breeze from the force of it.

“Always a pleasure, Joey.”

Wylie took a moment to let his eyes adjust to the warm, dim light that was contrast to the night outside. He made his way to the back of the warehouse. The place reeked of mold and mildew. More rain got into the old building than sea outside during storms. Roth liked to keep things neat but there was the inevitability of shit piling up, especially when it came to stolen goods. Jobs fell through, buyers lost funding, things suddenly appeared; the place was a mess. Sure, the piles of crates and boxes were filled with expensive shit, but that didn’t mean anything while they rotted in the warehouse unpaid for.

Wylie saw Diego first. The junkyard dog of a man looked worse for wear. He was covered in scabs and pinks scars, and hissed in pain when he sat down on the top of a crate. Wylie smiled to himself. He hoped his scales had hurt the fucker more than he looked. Adam was next to Diego. The slender kid half trembled as he clutched at a digital tablet. Maybe if Wylie didn’t show, it wouldn’t just be Beck taking the heat. Maybe the little boy genius was being sent to the firing squad too. Fucking Diego, the cowardly fuck.

He took a deep breath. Wylie stepped out of the shadows with his head held high and shoulders squared. Roth came into view and he headed his way. The gang leader caught sight of him and called a few of his guys over in response.

Roth was not what one would call a typical gangster. At least, that was how Wylie viewed him. It’s not like he knew many people in the crime business outside of Roth, so he didn’t really have a lot to go on. Short, chunky, and dressed in a bright green tracksuit, Wylie was still pretty sure there weren’t a lot of crime bosses like Roth.

“Freak,” Diego greeted. His face was twisted in a bitter scowl.

“Ass hat,” Wylie retorted. “Or should I just call you a lying bitch? Where’s Beck?” He turned to Roth and ignored the way Diego jumped up.

“Wasn’t sure you’d show, kid.” If Roth sounded surprised to see him, he couldn’t tell. “Heard you were in some institution upstate. For paranormal types.”

Wylie wasn’t there for a conversation about the Academy. “Something like that. Where’s Beck? He had nothing to do with that job going bad. He saved that idiot’s life.” He pointed to Diego. “The fucker pulled a gun and fucked it all up. Leave B out of it.”

Roth pulled out a cigar. His pasty face was momentarily painted in orange when he flicked on his lighter. “Beck’s fine. We were just looking for some incentive to get you to show tonight.”

Wylie stiffened and took in his surroundings for the first time since catching sight of Roth. It looked like the entire gang was there. Most of the men were hanging behind a stack of crates near the loading area. There was a buzz of energy to the group. Emotions were high and the guys were armed to the teeth. He could scent gun oil and sweat. Something was going down, and soon.

“I want to see B. Whatever the fuck this is all about, I want to see he’s okay,” Wylie snapped as he met Roth’s dark gaze.

Roth nodded to Adam, who seemed relieved to escape for any amount of time. Diego took it as his cue to make an ass of himself. He came over to spit at Wylie’s feet. “I owe you, freak. You fucked-up my arm. Ruined my tats, ruined my—”

“Get the fuck out of my face,” Wylie warned. He stepped forward and bumped his chest against Diego’s. He refused to back down. “I fucked your arm up by accident. It’s nothing compared to what I’ll do to you on purpose, you stupid fuck. I almost ended up in Daiker because of your fuck up.”

“My fuck up? If you had minded your own fucking business—”

“Diego.” Roth’s voice was low. Diego growled. He glared in parting and stomped back to his crate. It didn’t take much; no one fucked with Roth. Wylie assumed it was the man’s connections because, besides being doughy and a terrible dresser, he’d yet to do anything impressive since their introduction. But men followed him, the type more likely to turn on their own, so Roth must have something to back up his threats.

“Wylie? Holy fuck, what are you doing here!” Beck suddenly ran up. He threw himself into Wylie’s arms and nearly knocked him over. Wylie grunted. He straightened and grabbed Beck by his shoulders to make sure he was okay. It hadn’t been that long but staring down into Beck’s warm eyes felt surreal. He hadn’t expected to see him again.

“I heard they sent you to Daiker.” Beck bit his lower lip anxiously. “Where’s your shirt? Did you… Did you escape? How did you…?”

“I dodged Daiker,” Wylie answered. He didn’t want to go into it. “You’re okay?”

“Okay? I’m fine. I was worried sick, Wylie! I seriously thought you were trapped with those psycho shifters. I should have known you’d find a way out.”

“B…” Wylie sighed when Beck gave him another abrupt hug. He glared over his head at Roth. “B, I got to talk to these guys for a second. We can catch up later, alright?”

Beck pulled away and blinked up at Wylie in confusion. He glanced behind him and found Roth and Diego waiting. “What’s going on? Are you joining us tonight?”

“Doe’s getting us in.” Roth held his arm out and Beck approached him hesitantly.

“You are?” Beck looked back at him expectantly. Wylie wasn’t sure what to say so he just nodded and stepped closer. He didn’t want Roth anywhere near Beck. Wylie’s gaze fell on Adam, who was hunched next to the group just at the edge. There was something off about him, something he was only able to identify from his time at the Academy. He had no way to prove it but he was certain Adam was a sorcerer.

Roth exhaled vanilla flavored smoke and tilted his head at Wylie. “I called you here for a reason. A job. It’s good money.”

Wylie hadn’t come for a job but to stop Beck from being killed. For some reason, Beck was fucking oblivious to that little nugget of information. “No disrespect, Roth, but I’m in a good place. A place that I’d lose really quick if I got into trouble with the law.”

“None of us want trouble with the law. We’re not looking to get caught. Your skill set will guarantee we get through easy as can be. You can get through steel, kid, and we need that tonight.”

Wylie looked to where Diego was staring him down like a rabid animal, and shook his head. “I’m done with that shit. Sorry, you wasted your time calling me here.”

“Don’t be that way, Wy.” Beck held his hand and grinned up at him. “Do you even get how much we’ll be making on this one job? One night and we’re all set for life. You’ll have enough money to move to some tropical island and live out the rest of your days in bliss. No one will care you’re a shifter when you have shit tons of money.”

Wylie was starting to remember just how fucking idealistic Beck could be at times and the wakeup call sucked. “B, it took only one person to fuck up our last job and I nearly ended up in Daiker because of it. Whatever they’re looking to do, there are now—” he turned, and pointed to behind the crates where the rest of the gang was stationed, “At least two dozen guys to fuck it all up. I’m done throwing my life away over shit that isn’t even important.”

There was a distinct click. Wylie whirled and stared as Roth handed a pistol to Diego. A pistol that the gangster then pointed at Beck. He stiffened as the gun was raised and aimed at his head. Wylie dragged Beck behind his back and held his arm tight to make sure he didn’t move. “Roth, you don’t have to—”

“The thing is, Doe, you were motivated enough to come out here when you thought we were going to kill sweet Beck.” Roth smirked meanly. His teeth were yellowed and stained from his constant cigar smoking. “Let’s see if that can’t work in my favor again, hmm?”

Diego stalked up and pointed the gun up to the side of Wylie’s head. The metal was startlingly cold. Wylie’s growl stuck in his throat. Even if he could get his scales up, he had very little confidence his skin was thick enough to stop a fucking bullet at point blank range.

“Let him go, freak.” Diego’s breath was no better since the last time they were face to face. Reluctantly, Wylie released Beck’s arm. Beck gasped when Diego pulled him forward roughly.

Diego turned him by the collar of his jacket, and forced Beck down to the ground in front of Wylie with the gun resting on the back of his bowed head. “Just wait a fucking second!” Wylie roared. He stalked forward only to stop with a growl when the gun was again pointed his way. He met Beck’s frightened eyes; he was near tears and still oblivious to the fact he was a pawn in the whole setup. Fuck.

“Well? Have you made a decision?” Roth stepped up beside Diego. He showed no sign he gave a fuck if Beck ended up dead or not.

Rage was a hand clutching his throat. Wylie’s body was tight with restrained force. He never let his anger get the best of him. He never let his beast do what he wouldn’t. Anger would get Beck killed and that was the one thing he was there to avoid.

His teeth gritted tight, Wylie forced himself to answer. “What do you want me to do?”

It was his first time leaving the Academy grounds since his arrival over two years ago. Dorian realized his mistake the moment he stepped through the portal. He didn’t have a null-collar. He found enough sense to change out of his pajamas and grab a hoodie, but his preparation had ended there. Magic gave Dorian everything he could ever desire. He was fearless as he stepped through the portal into a den of car thieves and their chop shop. But once on the other side, he realized he was vulnerable. Not from being harmed by a thug, but from losing control and killing everyone.

There was no Michael to come running if he lost his cool. No null-collar. No help. It left him alert and tense. He was hyper aware of his magic and what it was trying to do as he fought to stay calm and focused. He was there for Wylie, nothing else. Just a quick portal service back to the Academy once his business was finished. That Wylie hadn’t asked didn’t matter.

The first person to see him was steps away when Dorian moved through the mirror. It was an older man covered in sweat with a dark tan that spoke of grease more than sun. Dorian ignored him even as he gaped wide-eyed. He continued to ignore him when fingers bounced off his magical barrier when the stranger tried to grab him. Dorian looked around and spotted the likeliest way out of the building. A jungle of car parts and large equipment threatened to get in his way.

“Fucking little bitch—”

Dorian ducked reflexively. His magic shielded him and made the move more annoyance than anything else. The man, now sprawled on the floor from the momentum of his failed punch, fumbled for a cell phone. Tsking, Dorian quirked his finger and the phone skittered across the concrete floor and shattered. “Seriously, stop distracting me.” He finally spelled the guy still when he tried to get up again.

The warehouse was huge, poorly lit, and outrageously noisy. He considered a floating spell; it would be nothing to fly across the area instead of trying to walk through the mess. He had a feeling he’d be spotted quick though. He wasn’t interested in a room full of professional punks looking to beat him. Not that they could do much. They weren’t sorcerers and they didn’t possess unimaginable strength or speed like a shifter. He had little to fear except the annoyance of being slowed down.

Decided, Dorian cast a spell to camouflage himself. His fingers gave a rebellious spark once he was done. Using his magic did not expel it. No, casting only made the power inside bubble higher, and each spell was a step closer to losing his control. The other reason he didn’t want to fuck around if he didn’t have to. Without a null-collar, if he lost his shit, there would be no way to keep him from going nuclear on the building and everyone in it.

Dorian walked unseen through the maze and observed the many illegal activities going on around him. He was never one for stealing or drugging or whatever people did to make big money while taking from others. Before the Academy he was dealing with his own problems with his family and their many expectations. But he knew a few sorcerers who fell into questionable magics for money or attention.

It was twisted shit like revenge magic where you’d be hired to fuck someone up with a spell. Usually angry lovers whose guy or girl hadn’t cared enough about them, or just fucktards who never had a shot in the first place. There were potions you could brew to get a person high much better than drugs, and probably even more addictive. There were plenty of ways he could have been a total monster if he didn’t have to worry his Grandfather would hunt him down and make him pay in a similar fashion. Not to mention, fucking people up hadn’t really appealed.

The night air was cool and smelled of the ocean when he finally stepped out of the warm glow of the auto shop. Dorian paused and let his senses expand as he sought out Wylie’s magical signature. If one was adept enough, he could find pretty much any magic source in the area. Dorian knew what Wylie felt like. He’d secreted the knowledge away a month ago when he first saw Wylie fall to the ground from the police cruiser nullifier.

Dorian found him after only a few moments. Wylie hadn’t gone far, but he wasn’t in the building next door like he expected. No, Wylie was somewhere on the wharf and he wasn’t alone. There was something else interfering with his abilities and Dorian opened his eyes and glared. A powerful something.

Turning in the direction of the pier, he started to walk toward Wylie and the magic burning like a white-hot flame to his senses.

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