If Kitty Ambrose had to guess, the fact that the New York IIC’s Commander was only just getting back to headquarters didn’t bode well for anyone. Arriving at two in the morning was normal for her; she’d just taken a minute to relax in the warmth of her car after a successful hunt. But Kenric Kasama should have been fast asleep, not walking through the International Immortal Confederacy’s parking lot in uniform while folding his large feathered wings—one black, one white—back into his shoulders.
Bracing herself, Kitty stepped out of her little black Porsche and pulled her dark jacket closer around her. In the enormous cavern of Heaven’s earth-side government facility, not even the bright lights illuminating the compound could stave off the chill of being so far underground.
“Kenric?” Kitty called from across the parking lot.
The dark-haired man looked up, meeting her curious green gaze. He had a stack of paperwork shoved under one arm. “Kitty,” he greeted her as she approached. “You’re back early.”
“Yeah, it was pretty quiet tonight,” she replied. “I got two vampires, but that’s all.”
“You need a Healer?” he asked.
She shook her head. “No. What are you doing here?” she asked, falling into step with him. They made their way toward the largest of a sweeping collection of white buildings, which was distinguished by a huge golden gryphon crest and the words “INTERNATIONAL IMMORTAL CONFEDERACY” emblazoned upon it.
“Meeting ran late,” he said as they walked inside. Kitty’s black combat boots squeaked on the white marble floor.
The lobby was busy even at two in the morning. Many IIC immortals like Kitty kept overnight hours. As Heaven’s government branch on earth and the first line of defense against Hell’s immortals, which were mostly nocturnal, odd hours were not, actually, odd at all. Except for officials like Kenric.
Kitty’s brow furrowed. “Meeting with who?” she asked as he accompanied her to a small wall screen on the far side of the foyer.
Kenric eyed her warily with heterochromatic eyes. “High Council.”
A note of alarm sounded in Kitty’s mind. The High Council was the authoritative body over the IIC, serving as a kind of go-between for the earthbound facilities and the higher realms of Heaven. “What for?” she asked suspiciously as she placed her palm against the screen in the wall.
“I was summoned,” Kenric replied shortly. “Don’t worry about it for now.”
“Yeah?” Kitty asked as the wall console loaded her IIC profile. “Every time they ‘summon’ you, I always end up ordered to ‘do a favor’ for them. And the last time they were here, they almost executed me. I think I have reason to be a little worried.” Her profile appeared, complete with the label UNSANCTIONED glaring in ostentatious letters across the top.
“And right now, you don’t have to worry about it—” Kenric broke off when another Slayer coming back from their hunt fell in line behind them.
Kitty instinctively shifted to keep the UNSANCTIONED title from being too obvious to the other Slayer. The moniker annoyed her on a good day, but tonight it seemed especially emphatic considering the High Council’s ominous presence. The beam that read her palm updated her kill tally to an impressive three hundred and twenty-eight.
“I’ve had a long night,” Kenric muttered as she checked the Slayer rankings to confirm she was still first save for the leader of her profession.“We’ll talk about it tomorrow.”
This did nothing to ease Kitty’s mind. As the only immortal ever spared from Heaven’s strictest law by the High Council, its members had a history of taking advantage of that debt—in more ways than one.
No one else was even close to Kitty’s stats. Satisfied, she terminated the console session and she and Kenric crossed to the other side of the lobby. Based on the look in his green and blue eyes, she wasn’t going to get anything out of him tonight. Arguing with the half-angel was generally fruitless because he could be just as stubborn as she was. The dark angel half of him made him particularly mulish when he wanted to be.
“All right,” she said with reluctance, “but you’d tell me if...if there was anything—”
"Yes, Kitty, if you needed to be worried, I would tell you,” he said, but there wasn’t any real rancor behind his exasperation. He’d been like an older brother to her for years, IIC Commander notwithstanding. He might have been responsible for the entire New York compound, but he always made a point to make time for her. Or, try to, at least. If he said “tomorrow,” Kitty knew he meant it.
“Okay,” she relented. “Tomorrow, then.”
“Great,” he said with a tired smile. “Take it easy.” He turned and headed down a side corridor toward the IIC officials’ quarters.
The immortals who loitered around at this hour either made a point to avoid her gaze or watched her with undisguised curiosity. It wasn’t that she was disliked, but by being a top Slayer in addition to her unusual status, her social life was mostly composed of opponents in the compound’s training facility or IIC officials, like Kenric. Angels and angel hybrids were most prevalent in the IIC along with gossamer-winged or fauna-crowned fae. Bloody Slayers passing through the IIC after a hunt was a common sight and wouldn’t draw attention normally. But Kitty was neither common nor normal, and her breed was most certainly not prevalent.
Throughout the multiple realms of Heaven, sex was illegal unless the High Council granted permission. Having kids was really illegal unless the High Council granted permission. If someone was discovered to have broken this law, judgment was swift and predetermined. Immortal adults were imprisoned. If there were any unsanctioned children, they were executed, no exceptions.
Except me, for some reason.
Being a child of a Fallen was rare enough. Fallen angels usually chose to become dark within weeks, so the Fallen population was very small and always getting smaller. But being the child of a Fallen and an ancient fae from a dark court? It was unheard of. The fae courts had been disbanded decades ago, but only the light courts were annexed into Heaven’s ranks. The dark courts were wiped out. Statistically, the probability of Kitty existing at all should have been zero.
For some reason, the High Council thought she was worth sparing. Consequently, it was implied in not so many words that she owed them her life and was often called upon to run errands or take on missions many others would have been just as capable of doing. It was like they just wanted to remind her on occasion that yes, she was still in their debt.
As if I could forget.
She headed out of the building again, making her way across the IIC campus to the dorm where the combat professions resided. She tossed her clothes down the laundry chute, pulled her blonde hair out of its waist-length braid, took a quick shower, and collapsed into bed.
Even though she was exhausted, naturally, Kitty didn’t sleep a wink. She tossed and turned until she finally gave up and opted instead to go get breakfast. Just as she returned, a message pinged on her computer and she went to open it.
𝙸’𝚖 𝚞𝚙. 𝙲𝚘𝚖𝚎 𝚘𝚗 𝚍𝚘𝚠𝚗 𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚢 𝚘𝚏𝚏𝚒𝚌𝚎.
Foreboding blossomed in Kitty’s chest. She tried to stifle it as she wove through a few halls toward the IIC officials’ wing. Kenric’s office door was ajar already, and she knocked before sticking her head through.
Kenric waved her in. He wasn’t in official uniform today, but he still wore an IIC dress shirt. “Good morning.”
She observed him with a wary gaze. “Morning,” she replied. “I hope you’re just hoping for a friendly chat.” She took a seat across from him.
“Sure, we can keep it friendly,” Kenric said, steepling his fingers on his desk. “That’s mostly up to you, though.” Kitty’s eyes narrowed and Kenric sighed. “You were right, last night. The Council needs a favor from you.”
She crossed her arms across her chest and sighed, unsurprised. “What is it this time?”
From his stack of paperwork, Kenric pulled out a navy folder embossed with the golden gryphon seal of the confederacy and extended it to her. Kitty took it from him like it was a venomous snake.
“They need someone above,” he explained, then hesitated. “Actually, they need someone above amongst humans.”
“What?” Kitty snapped.
“It’s a special case. High priority.”
“I am not an Emissary,” Kitty growled between her teeth, referencing the guardian angel profession. “I don’t trifle with humanity if I can help it.”
Kenric shook his head. “It’s not actually human business. Someone went above who shouldn’t have and has been...avoiding coming back.”
She shot him a long-suffering expression. “That’s what Trackers are for.”
Kenric sat back in his chair. “It needs a...special touch, and Trackers don’t tend to be combative. You have the skills of a Tracker but also combat training, so you fit the bill.”
Kitty shook her head stubbornly. “I’m best at slaying, not chasing down truant immortals.”
Kenric snorted. “No one is questioning your proficiency as a Slayer, Kitty. Around the time you decimated your first coven, it was pretty clear you were meant for the profession.”
She rolled her eyes. “One tiny coven in Russia. I still don’t know why everyone was so mad about it.”
“You were fourteen. You weren’t even initiated yet. We didn’t know if you would make it out alive, much less back to the IIC. We still haven’t been able to figure out how you snuck onto the plane.”
“Trade secret,” Kitty replied with a snort. “And maybe dumb luck.”
“Well, either way,” Kenric said, clearing his throat. “It’s more than just your skill set. They chose you because of your history and...circumstances.”
Kitty scoffed. “They’re the only reason I’m alive, you mean. Because they made an exception to their sacred law. Thus dooming me to a life of catering to their every whim.”
Kenric sighed. “I’m just telling you what they told me.”
She eyed him warily as she opened the navy folder. She skimmed the contents and threw her head back with a groan. “College? Really?”
“New York University. You’re supposed to find the immortal and...discreetly encourage him to make an appearance here. Promptly.”
“Yes, because I’m so good at ’discreet,’” she muttered, flipping the page with vehemence. She skimmed another couple lines, then looked up at him in disbelief. “You’ve got to be joking.”
Kenric watched her with a wary expression but didn’t answer.
She smacked the folder shut and threw it at him. He caught it with a frown. “No. Hell no,” she snapped. “I want nothing to do with a silverblood. Is the Council out of their collective mind? They covered up my last encounter with one.”
Kenric’s gaze was steady. “This time will be different.”
“Like hell it will,” she snapped at him. “How can they possibly think I’ll agree to this?”
“They know you have no love for his kind,” Kenric muttered. “And won’t hesitate to use force. Most other immortals would hesitate.”
“No love for his kind—” she scoffed with an expression of disbelief. “Because of them! Because of whattheytried to do to me!”
“I think that’s what they’re counting on,” Kenric said, extending the file to her again. “Did you see his name?”
“I didn’t need to,” she muttered, glaring down at the golden seal.
After a beat, Kenric shook the folder at her.
With a noise of irritation, she snatched it from his hand and opened it again. Once she read the immortal’s moniker, she swore violently. “Why?”
“I went to retrieve him a few months ago, but he never showed,” Kenric explained. “He’s been avoiding us since, and effectively. He just...disappears when we approach. We’re hoping he’ll stick around if you’re alone, and that he’ll think you’re just another immortal learning how to blend in.”
“And what am I supposed to do when he realizes that’s not the case?” She raised an eyebrow at him. “Say ’Your High Councilor daddy sent me here so you’d better get your ass in gear’ and just...hope he goes along with it?”
Kenric snorted. “No, as I said, the High Council trusts you’ll use force if it’s necessary. They don’t want to risk sending someone who might be...starstruck.”
“I certainly won’t be that,” Kitty muttered.
“Consider it this way,” he said. “You’re doing a personal favor to his father. It never hurts to be in the good graces of High Councilor Leangicus.”
A memory of a dark-haired angel with a bright blue gaze appeared smiling in Kitty’s mind. When he’d told her he’d decided to let her live. “Doesn’t mean I want to suck up to his kid.”
“They don’t want you to. Just think, this time they’re encouraging you to beat him senseless if he gives you trouble.”
The thought elicited a grim smile from her. “Oh, well, that’s true.”
Kenric rolled his eyes. “Hang on to that thought and you’ll be fine.”
“When do I start?”
“Monday, if he’s still there,” Kenric replied.
“We’re hoping it won’t matter, but we’ll send you wherever he is,” Kenric told her. “You’ve got a couple days. Do your recon and look into him. Councilor Leangicus said he will personally meet with you if you think it’ll help.”
Kitty physically recoiled. “No, thank you.”
“Well, the invitation stands, regardless,” he said.
She grunted in response.
Kenric sighed. “While you’re above, it’s likely we’ll see High Council members hovering, so try to be on your best behavior.”
Kitty eyed him warily. “Meaning?”
“Meaning don’t sneak off to a foreign country, try not to destroy any gym equipment, be polite...”
“Better I don’t give them a reason to interact with me more,” Kitty replied, rolling her eyes.“Sure, happy to oblige. Can I tell Devika?”
Kenric frowned at the mention of her best friend. “I suppose so. But...just be aware of your surroundings when you do. We don’t want his arrival causing a scene.”
Kitty sighed. “Right. Okay.”
“For what it’s worth,” Kenric said gently, “I am sorry. Let me know if you have any questions, once you have time to look over everything.”
Kitty nodded, glancing with disgust at the folder in her hands. “Thanks, Kenric.”
He smiled at her. “I’ll make a point to come around for lunch, one of these days.”
“That would be good,” Kitty replied. “Seems you’ve been gone a lot lately.”
He sighed. “Yeah. Well, now you know your part,” he told her. “Like I said, let me know if you have questions.”
Kitty saluted him with the folder and a wry expression. “Sure. See you later.”