Last Chance (A SkinWalker Novel #3)(4)

By: T.G. Ayer

The walls exuded a deep cold that did nothing to counter the icy fingers of grief. Although I was not mired deeply within the grip of mourning for Greer, I could understand the need to have someone make you feel better. And this cold, underground mausoleum certainly did nothing to help me feel better. If anything it made me feel a little too closer to death than I would have liked. I moved toward Grams, happy to feel the warmth of her arm as she drew me closer.

In that moment, I missed Mom so badly that I felt the stab of longing deep in my gut. It hurt, and hot tears filmed my eyes. I blinked them away just in time as Iain and my father joined Grams and me. The rest of the townspeople who'd accompanied us to the burial grounds moved to position themselves behind us. Etina walked silently to the head of the coffin, a sensor swinging from her hand, her skirts rustling. Ribbons of white smoke streaming from the gleaming brass container, curling and spiraling upward until they dissipated above our heads.

The scent of incense softened the icy air, and I felt the tight fist in my gut release its hold on me.

Etina spoke about the eternal quality of the soul and how the ones we lose are never truly gone. I almost believed her.

I recalled the way Greer had retreated into the light, how it had felt so right, as if she was returning home. Or was it perhaps the expression on my sister's face. One I'd never seen before.



WE WERE GATHERED IN MY father's lounge, the fire crackling merrily away despite the warm sun outside. Once we'd returned, the Odel family had been banished to the lounge to visit with their friends and wind down. Friends of the family took over the kitchen and food duties, and trays of sandwiches and pastries were brought around by people I barely recognized. Their faces revealed no judgment, maybe a little sympathy, but not even a hint of curiosity about the specifics of Greer's death. Dad and Ian as well as Logan and Omega had actively ensured the details would be kept under wraps. That didn't mean the people of Tukats were ignorant of my sister's relationship with Niko and his Pariahs, or that they would be ignorant of Greer's relationship with Brand. People talked and Walkers were just like humans when it came to gossip.

But not one of them would ever ask me directly. I still stood apart from the Walkers I'd been raised among, and even knowing the reason didn't ease the niggle of unhappiness inside my heart. Half-breed. That's what they were all thinking. But if that mattered to me, then I'd have to question my loyalty to Mom, something I simply wasn't capable of.

I shifted in my seat and studied my friends. A Fae, a Djinn, a Fire Mage, and a lynx Walker. What an interesting circle of friends I'd joined to my heart. It wasn't often that Corin Odel's house contained this many non-Walkers, and I knew this time tomorrow, the Tukats' gossip mill would be having a field day.

I felt the heat of the fire on my right, my cheek now uncomfortably hot. My fingers fiddled with crumbs and the oily tissue that remained on the empty plate on my lap. Lily and Tara were talking in low voices beside me, and I caught snatches of their conversation. Something about a jamming safety lock and poison bullets that got repeatedly stuck in the chamber. Salem and Logan sat on the couch opposite me, seemingly in deep conversation. But even while he interacted with the Djinn, Logan never stopped watching me with those deliciously dark eyes. He caught my gaze and gave me a small smile, and I understood his reluctance to come too close to me. The Tukats community wasn't without their own prejudices, and I knew despite the well-meaning words and polite social behavior, my friends would have been given the whole outsider treatment. And Logan wouldn't do anything to make it worse for me. I was gripped by the urge to grab him and kiss him senseless right in front of all the prying eyes and judgmental gazes.

But I maintained control of my urges and got to my feet. "You guys want some fresh air?"

They rose in unison, and I hid a smile. They were as eager as I was to get out of the room, now suffocating with heat and curiosity. Heads turned, drawn to our sudden movement. Dad looked up from a conversation with Iain. They both stood beside the fire, the golden light dancing on their fair hair. Our little family was now balanced between the dark-haired and the light. I blinked, pulling myself up short. What a horrible thing to think about right now. All the stress of Greer's death and the funeral must be turning my brain to mush.

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