Shields

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Chapter Seven

JP made his way down the street, completely aware of the fact that Jules was still watching him. She was a tricky person—not the typical female he was used to. She had a lot of baggage, and he was surprised to realize she had a lot more than he did. But deep down, she was still a person. She was still a girl. He’d seen that the moment she’d shouted about the monsters the Wilas were. He’d seen it in her pain and her regret. Which was exactly why he’d changed tactics. Force was getting him nowhere. But compassion just might.

He chuckled to himself as he rounded a corner, his mind wandering back to the shocked look on her face when he’d touched her chin. He wasn’t sure when he’d become devious, but after tonight, after the defeat and grief on Elena’s face, he knew he had to find some way to get her back on her feet. And some way to throw the Banshees back into the darkness. For some reason, Jules—Julie—seemed to be the answer to all his problems. And to all those of Blackwoods. The Wilas could send the Banshees back to hell. He knew he had to do whatever it took to get Julie on his side.

He wondered where Axel and the others were at this point. Was the girl home safe? Were her parents all right? Had his friends run into any more Banshees? Before a month ago, he wouldn’t have given the last one a second thought. Before a month ago, Banshee sightings had been rare; one or two a night—maybe. The Banshees had been the town’s biggest fear and its hidden enemy. And then the shields had started…

The smile faded from JP’s face. Those stupid shields. Causing him and his friends, and the other Witches and Warriors a hell of a lot of trouble, and frightening the town into darkness before the sun even fully set. Blackwoods had always been a wary place but lately things had gone to a whole new level of wary. He didn’t like it. In fact, it pissed him off. The Banshees weren’t just haunting the nights; they were taking them over. He’d be damned if he’d let someone like Julie Turner—someone with the power to eradicate the Banshees and reawaken his town—slip through his fingers.

He’d be damned if he let Blackwoods go up in flames because she was afraid.

“JP!”

He started at his name and spun around at the sound of her heels chasing after him. He lifted a brow as she came to a halt.

“What you said earlier,” Julie began, flipping her long brown hair out of her face. “About the Banshees and the shields. When did that start? Where?”

“Beg pardon?”

Julie took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “When and where, JP? I need to know.”

He shoved his hands back into his pockets and lifted his chin. “Tuesday, March 18.” He jerked his head. “Three and a half miles that way. At the base of the steps of the academy.”

She closed her eyes. “Blackwoods Academy?”

“The one and only.”

She looked up at him. “That’s what I was afraid of.”

JP’s brows knit together. “Okay, back up. What are you going on about, Jules?”

She swallowed hard and ran her fingers through her hair. “Look, JP, I’m sorry I’m hard on you, all right? I’m trying to do what I think is best. But you’re right about one thing: I’m here to protect this town and all the people in it. And I’m here to pass on what I know.” But licked her lips and took a step forward. “But to do that, I need to know what’s going on around here. You want answers, JP? They’ll come in time; I can promise you that. But before they can, I need you to help me.” She looked up at him. “Please.”

JP didn’t speak for a long moment. He wasn’t sure how, but he knew the tables had shifted somehow…without quite flipping over. Julie was asking for his help—for his expertise. She was putting him somewhere near her level. Why? What for? And what made her so sure an after-promise would be enough to win his favor?

He tore his gaze away when Elena’s face flashed through his mind. Her grief, her tears, her hurt feelings. He’d walked away from her because he knew they couldn’t work together anymore. Had that moment—had all the moments before—been leading to here? To this one? When a Wila—the Wila—would ask for his help on a mission of her own? Had this been where he’d been heading all along?

JP saw the battle earlier that night, the crack on the Banshee’s shield, right before he’d shouted at his partner. Right before he’d screwed things up for the final time. Was this his retribution?

He brought his head back up and found a pair of dark brown eyes gazing at him, waiting for his answer. He sighed inwardly. Had he ever been more selfish than he’d been so far tonight?

He held out his hand and nodded once. “Done.”

She squinted at him hesitantly. “Seriously?”

“Seriously. You want my help, Jules. You got it.”

“No questions asked?”

He couldn’t help it. He winked. “Not yet.”

She chuckled once, then grasped his hand. “Good enough.”

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