“That’s it, enough blubbering.” I start toward the parking lot, one sister under each arm. “Let’s go celebrate.”

CHAPTER 36

GRACE

Around us, the coffee shop bustles with late afternoon activity. I’m amazed to watch these ordinary humans go about their daily lives, unaware of just how close they came to a monster apocalypse earlier today.

It’s better this way, I suppose. Better my sisters and I keep them from ever finding out.

Milo and Thane return to the table, each with an armful of drinks.

“One strawberries-and-cream frappe,” Milo says, handing me my drink as he takes the seat next to me, “and a double espresso for you, man.”

Nick accepts the drink with a nod of thanks. He looks pretty comfortable, sitting there with his arm around Gretchen’s chair—around her. And she looks pretty comfortable too.

Thane hands her a red eye—more caffeine than a person should be legally allowed to consume in a single cup—and she relaxes back against Nick’s arm. Then Thane takes a sip of Greer’s nonfat, half-caff vanilla latte before setting it down at her empty spot.

“Not bad,” he says with a shrug, but then he goes back to his hot apple cider.

When Greer gets back from the restroom, I raise my cup.

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“A toast,” I say. “To a battle hard won.”

“And more to come,” Gretchen adds.

That’s a fair toast. We might have succeeded today, but there will be more challenges to come. Not as big, I hope, and not as terrifying. We all cheer and are about to take sips of our drinks when we are interrupted.

“Isn’t this sweet,” a sickly female voice says. “Three pretty huntresses and three pretty boys.”

I turn, appalled to find Nyx standing at our table, all dark and cloudy looking, though now she’s more of a charcoal gray than the inky black that surrounded her earlier.

I knew we hadn’t gotten rid of her permanently, but I thought we might at least have a little break before she returned. Clearly not.

My hands start to shake, so I shove them into my lap.

“Oh, worry not,” she says when Gretchen starts to her feet, “my powers are weakened. I am not here to rekindle the fight.”

“Then why are you here?” Gretchen spits.

“To give warning,” Nyx says. “You might have won today’s clash, but this war is far from over. My forces might have suffered losses today, but we will rise again.”

To my utter shock, Gretchen laughs. “You can try.”

Greer sits up a little straighter. “Rise again,” she says, “and we will defeat you again.”

My sisters are right. We have nothing to be afraid of. We beat them today, we will beat them tomorrow. It’s our destiny. Our legacy.

Nyx glares at each of us for a moment. Then there’s a swirl of gray smoke, and she’s gone.

“Nice exit,” Greer says with a shaky laugh.

Gretchen lifts her cup again. “To battles, past and future.”

“Past and future,” I say.

Everyone echoes the toast, and we drink. I’m happy to have this battle behind us, and I’m ready for whatever battles are coming. Everything is so very different now. And different is definitely good.

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