Nightfall Epilogue

Warning: This epilogue finishes with an open ending. While the main stories in the Devil’s Night series have been wrapped up, be aware that the epilogue ends on an intrigue—or two—to ensure readers that the fun and mystery continue in Thunder Bay, even if just in our imaginations.
There will not be any stories for the kids.
If you like your books wrapped up tidily, please feel free to skip this. If you’re excited to see what everyone is up to and how it’s going with their families, then read on and enjoy!

Ten Years Later

“I want to drive,” Em teased.
I locked the chain dogs from the underside of the car, securing us to the track, but kept the brakes on as the kids buckled themselves in.
I pushed the green button, turning on the headlights. “Should your mother drive, children?” I asked.
I laughed to myself, grabbing my helmet as Emmy sat her butt down in the seat next to me in the railcar.
“Because of you, we have to wear helmets now,” Finn said to her.
“We caught air one time,” Em retorted. “Once!”
“Dad, please?” Indie begged from the seat behind me.
I snorted. Of course, I wasn’t letting their mother drive. She had as much of a lead foot as I did, but the kids felt safer with me in control.
“I’m going to remember this, Indie,” Em chided our eldest. “When you’re old enough to drive, I might not be so indulgent.”
I glanced over my shoulder at our daughter, her brown eyes looking guilty as our shared secret went unspoken.
But Emmy noticed, glancing between us and guessing. “You did not,” she griped. “You let her drive this?”
I shrugged, turning back around and hearing our other girl, Finn, giggling. “She could reach the pedals.”
“She’s nine!”
“You let her dye her hair,” I pointed out as if that was worse. “Without consulting me, I might add. Whyyyy am I still married to you?”
“Revenge.” She twisted forward again, facing the track ahead and muttering, “Making me miserable brings you pleasure.”
I burst out into a laugh, leaned over, and hooked her pretty little neck, pulling her in. I pressed my lips to hers, unable to stop my mouth from moving to her cheekbone, nose, and over her glasses to her forehead. She loved to be kissed, and her eyelids fluttered closed as she turned to mush in my hand.
God, she was fun. Happy, unhappy, sad, and hot—I never stopped loving that she was in my life. Her strengths made me feel lucky to be a part of her, and her weaknesses brought out the best in me. I rose to every occasion with her like I never had with anyone else.
And after ten years, and two daughters and a son—and the immense joy we had making them—I knew without a doubt that it was all worth it.
I rubbed my thumb across her soft cheek, breathing in her hair. “Love you.”
“Waiting…” Indie Jones Grayson groaned, answering before her mother could.
I chuckled and pulled away. “Everyone buckled in?”
“Check,” they chimed in.
“Check,” William II screamed over his sisters from the seat behind Em.
He was actually William IV, but I was Will, we didn’t like Willy, Bill, or Billy, so everyone just called him II.
“Hold onto your phones!” I called out, reaching for the button.
Pushing it, the hydraulics started working underneath us, propelling us forward, and in moments we were coasting through the tunnel passing thirty miles an hour and then forty.
“Faster!” Finn cried.
The car rocked under us, bobbing along the track as the cool wind breezed across our faces, and Em gripped the handles at her side, unable to keep the smile off her face.
Over the years, we’d cleared all the track between Thunder Bay and Meridian City, taking an hour commute by automobile down to fourteen minutes. Normally, we’d use a subway car, but when we were just going from house to house inside town, I added more railcars and a secondary track for two-way travel. We took the underground tunnel to my parents’ house for dinner earlier, and now have to head back across town, underneath the river, and up to St. Killian’s for tonight.
We raced through the dim passageway, up a few inclines and quickly back down again, our stomachs dropping and the kids’ laughter and screams behind us deafening. I gripped Em’s jean-clad thigh, feeling it, too. Nothing beat a freefall.
Except maybe one thing.
I looked over at her, her glasses clasped in one hand as she squeezed her eyes shut and smiled. Her other hand was behind her and wrapped around II’s sneaker as she held onto him.
He was still only five, and on the rare occasion she let him travel like this, it made her nervous. We’d been on this thing a hundred times, and I wouldn’t put my kids on something dangerous. She knew that.
I loved watching her mother our kids, though. It was hot.
We dipped down, the air turning cold, and I knew we were under the river, but it only lasted a few seconds before we coasted up again, and I brought the lever down, slowing the car.
“Aw,” the kids said behind us.
But their fun was only just beginning. Actually, all of our fun. Em and I were going to play tonight, too.
We slowed to a stop, everyone removing their helmets and seatbelts. We climbed off the car and up to the platform. I gave the girls a hand, while Emory grabbed II. Straightening my jacket and tie, I took the girls’ hands and led them into the catacombs, up the stairs, and into the great hall of the cathedral.
Finn and Indie immediately yanked free and bolted toward the front door, whipping it open and racing outside.
“When the bells chime, report to the front of the house,” I yelled after them. “Immediately!”
“Yep!” they shouted.
William II walked past me, his face buried in his tablet.
“Talk to me, Goose!” I said.
“I heard you,” he sing-songed without looking around.
I shook my head as I drifted out the door to the front yard, watching my kids join Kai’s daughter, Jett, and a few of her friends. II’s eyes hadn’t left his screen.
“Kids today…” I mumbled.
Em touched my shoulder, soothing me again that my son wasn’t going to play basketball. “Going to make some calls before this thing starts,” she told me, a laugh caught in her throat. “Save your energy for me. It’s going to be a hell of a night.”
“Promise?” I looked over my shoulder as she headed back into the house.
She winked at me and spun around.
Stepping down the stairs, I watched the kids play, Damon’s five-year-old daughter Octavia in her standard pirate knickers, black tights, and peasant blouse with a fake sword strapped to her back. No one would break it to the kid that modern-day pirates were far different than Jack Sparrow. She wanted to be what she wanted to be.
I looked around, not seeing the boys, so Damon and Winter must not have arrived yet. Octavia probably came with Kai and Banks, since she and Jett were about the same age and friends.
Something to my right caught my eye, and I looked over, seeing Madden sitting up in the tree. Black suit, cold black hair, and porcelain skin—the whole package making him look like a knife.
He held an open book in his lap, but his eyes were on the kids playing.
Or one kid.
I climbed up the wooden planks, reaching him about fifteen-feet high and hanging there as his gaze shot back down to his text.
“Hey,” I said.
I bit back my smile at his sternness. I didn’t think anyone could be more rigid than Kai, but his son took the prize. How many twelve-year-olds dressed in crisp, pressed trousers and suit jackets and never had a hair out of place. Parted a little left of center, it shone in the sunlight, his trim perfect and stark against his pale skin.
“Where’s your dad?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Inside somewhere.”
I watched him stare at the book, but his eyes weren’t moving. I glanced at the kids again.
He never joined in. He only played alone.
Or with his cousin, Octavia. She was the only one he smiled around.
“What are you thinking about?” I asked him.
He shrugged.
“Everything okay at school?”
He nodded but still wouldn’t look at me.
“You got plans for trick or treating with your friends tomorrow night?” I prodded.
Slowly, he shook his head. “I don’t really like candy.”
“Come to Coldfield, then,” I told him. “I can find a place for you with the actors.”
He sat there, and I saw the muscles in his jaw flex.
“Or… maybe working the animatronics in the tombs?” I taunted. “Something behind the scenes?”
He looked over at me out of the corner of his eye, but didn’t meet my stare.
But he didn’t shake his head, and I decided to let him save his pride.
“I’ll pick you up at three tomorrow,” I said.
He nodded.
Good. He might not like to be around people, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t still find his place in the world. Teachers were concerned years ago he might be on the spectrum, possibly Asperger’s. Not that it affected his education. He did well in school.
Socially, he just wasn’t where other kids were.
But he was able to socialize in situations where he cared to, like training with his grandfather or spending time with Octavia. He refused to see a specialist, and Kai had no interest in forcing him to be everyone else’s version of normal. I mean, look at us, for example. If we were the measure of what was normal back in the day, Mads was better off not changing.
I started to climb down, but then I heard his voice.
“What’s L’appel du vide?” he asked.
I stopped and stared up at him, his dark eyes like black pools.
“Where did you hear that?”
“Kids at school,” he murmured.
I cleared my throat and looked around for his parents, knowing this day was coming, but never expecting I’d have to explain this to anyone’s kids but my own. Had he asked Kai?
I came back up a step and looked at him, eye to eye. “L’appel du vide is what binds our family,” I told him. “It’s an idea that connects us, because we all believe in it.”
“Like a religion?”
I hesitated for a moment, not sure if that was how I’d describe it.
But I nodded. “Kind of,” I replied. “Michael, Rika, Winter, Damon, Emory, me, your mom and dad… It’s how we realized we weren’t alone in the world.”
“Am I a part of it?”
I narrowed my eyes. “Is that what the kids at school say?”
He looked away, back to Octavia out on the lawn. “They’re too scared of me to say anything.”
I groaned silently. We were afraid of this. Mads was certainly unnerving without any help from us, but our names also intimidated people well enough.
It was all well and good that we’d found each other and made our family together, but to outsiders it probably looked… Well, I had no idea how it looked. All I knew was the more powerful you were—the more successful you were—the more enemies you had, and people would always try to tear you down. Our kids would hear stories about us. Stories about our businesses and Devil’s Night and the catacombs were being made up right now, no doubt. They would have to deal with the pressure of our legacy.
Or not.
“You’re whoever you want to be, Mads,” I told him. “Don’t ever forget that. Don’t look at the world through anyone else’s eyes but your own. Not mine, not your dad’s…not anyone’s.”
We wanted to build something new—something that would last—but we always knew times would change, and our children would want a reality of their own. Mads might not want what we’ll leave him, but if he did want it someday, he’d look great in a mask.
No pressure.
He gave me a tight smile, as much as he could force himself to muster, and I smiled back, climbing down the planks.
Indie and Jett sat on a picnic blanket, gabbing away, while Finn and II laid on the grass, tapping away on their electronics.
I shot up one more glance at Mads, watching him watch Octavia battle a tree trunk with her sword, and tipped my head farther back, seeing the clouds almost black as they damn near touched the trees.
I headed back inside, searching the house for the adults. We were still expecting Alex, Aydin, Micah, Rory…
“Emergency services will be standing by should Tropical Storm Esme turn,” I heard Banks announce as I headed to the study.
I rounded the doorway, seeing her sitting behind a desk with bookshelves displayed behind her, and the brass lamp casting a soft glow around the room.
A camera sat in front of her, the man behind the lens peering through as he recorded.
“But I urge you, if able, to remain indoors as strong winds are expected,” Banks continued. “A curfew is in effect beginning at eight p.m. this evening, and that does include Devil’s Night festivities.”
I grinned, catching her eye and seeing her falter. She wore a deep blue blouse, her dark hair picture perfect, and her lips painted red.
“Please avoid low-lying and flood-prone areas, and keep flashlights and batteries easily accessible,” she told the citizens. “We are not recommending evacuation, but please keep abreast of the storm’s development per your emergency managers. Exercise caution and stay inside.” She peered into the camera. “Thank you.”
“And…we’re off,” her assistant announced.
Banks’s poised expression fell, and she exhaled, rising from the chair.
I dropped my gaze, seeing the blue jeans she hid under the desk. I chuckled. Some things never changed.
She rounded the desk, grabbing her phone.
“We talked about you not saying Devil’s Night,” her assistant said, jogging up next to her.
She didn’t slow down as she headed out of the room. “Yes, we talked about it.”
Apparently, the word devil made some voters nervous, so Banks’s campaign manager was trying to rename it.
But no fear, right? Banks did what she wanted.
I pulled up to her side, walking with her. “You know no one’s staying in tonight in Thunder Bay, right?”
It was Devil’s Night, after all.
“Of course, I know that.”
Yeah. As our district’s representative, she had to go on air and tell everyone to stay home tonight just to say she did.
“Where’s Kai?” I asked.
“Working out with his dad.” She looked at her phone. “He’ll be here soon.”
I swung around the banister to head upstairs. “You’re so hot on camera.”
She twisted around, walking toward the kitchen backward as she winked at me. “Whatever gets me elected senator in a week.”
I chuckled, jogging up the stairs. The campaign had been grueling, but with my grandfather’s support, I had high hopes.
I headed down the hallway, toward the library to wait for Damon, because I knew that was the first place he’d run to when he got here, but I passed Rika and Michael’s bedroom, stopping and gazing inside.
Michael stood at the end of the bed, his hair wet and a towel wrapped around his waist as Aaron, only six months old, rested against his chest.
When Rika got pregnant last year, Michael damn near fainted. They had been so happy with Athos and the resort and making St. Killian’s everything it was, they’d kind of stopped trying.
They immediately went out and bought everything, but the baby’s first bath was a complete nightmare, I guess. They set up the little tub and lotions and toys, and the kid screamed the entire time. Michael wasn’t doing that again. Against the doctor’s orders, he took the baby into the shower with him and the kid hasn’t cried once since. He just wants to be in his dad’s arms.
I watched Michael sway back and forth, rocking the baby and just staring at him like he still couldn’t believe he was there.
They named him after me. I’m their favorite.
Not wanting to interrupt, I backed away and continued down the hall. Opening the door, I stepped inside, seeing Rika standing at her desk and swiping her fingers over the monitors on the wall, organizing her data, or whatever she was doing.
“Hey,” I said.
She looked up, chirping, “Hey.”
I walked to the sofa and plopped down, feeling the energy drain. I was getting too old. Plain and simple.
“How’s your mom?” I asked.
She glanced up at me as she sifted through papers on her desk. “She’s good. She and Matthew are on an antiquing road trip through New England. She loves running that shop with him,” she mused. “She’s never had to work. I’m glad she realized how much she likes it.”
I was happy to see Christiane thriving. She’d been living in Misha’s old house with her husband—his dad—for almost ten years, and Emory and I bought the Fane place. All four of us—Michael, Damon, Kai, and I—lived on the cliffs now.
“Misha and Ryen are still in London with the kids,” she told me. “I think he really loves it there.”
“Yeah, I don’t expect him back anytime soon, that’s for sure.”
They had a boy and a girl now, and since he was a musician, and she was an interior designer, they could go anywhere.
“You miss him?” Rika teased, swiping her hand across the screen again.
“Always,” I said. “But he’s not wasting a moment living a life he doesn’t want. That’s what makes me happy. Even if I am perturbed that the life he wants isn’t this life.”
She snorted, bringing up the plans for the bridge reconstruction that Emory and Damon were doing.
“He’ll be here when it counts,” she assured me.
I knew that.
“Has everyone else arrived?” she asked.
“Still waiting on Kai, Alex, and…”
And then screaming and roars filled the air like zoo animals below us, and I sighed.
“And Damon and Winter are finally here,” I finished.
I watched the door and counted the seconds, only waiting five before Damon rushed into the room, Gunnar shouting behind him.
“I want a hug!” the kid bellowed.
Damon slammed the door, planting his body against it like there was a bear after him as he breathed hard.
“I got too many fucking kids,” he breathed out, looking flushed with his hair a mess.
I bit back my smile as his sons banged against the door.
He winced. “Where are they?”
I looked to Rika, and Damon shot off the door, charging right for her.
Yanking a few books off the shelf, he pulled out their stash of cigarettes and opened up the pack.
“Rika, what the hell?” He glared down at her. “This was supposed to last a month.”
“I was under a lot of stress,” she retorted. “Besides, you smoked almost the entire last pack.”
I shook my head, watching Damon quickly put one in his mouth. They limited themselves to one pack a month, and since everyone was here more than anywhere else, and Damon didn’t trust himself with the responsibility, Rika got to keep the pack.
The door to the office flew open, and Fane Torrance, Damon’s third eldest, raced in.
“I want a hug from the hug machine!” the seven-year-old demanded.
Damon faced away from him, flicking his lighter desperately. “The hug machine needs a recharge,” he mumbled over the cigarette.
Rika swept past him and scooped up Fane, throwing him over her shoulder. “Come on,” she told the boy. “Let’s go find Auntie Banks for some tickle torture. Daddy needs a moment.”
She left, taking the giggling boy with her, and closed the door. Damon blew out a stream of smoke, finally exhaling, and came to the sofa, plopping down next to me. He let his head fall back against the sofa and took another drag, blowing it out.
“I really do love them,” he breathed out. “But I never have a moment alone. If I want my wife, I have to ambush her in the fucking shower.”
“Maybe you should stay away from her,” I pointed out. “She gets pregnant every time you breathe on her.”
He chuckled, and I heard commotion outside as his boys played. His oldest, Ivarsen, was only slightly younger than Madden. Gunnar was born next in Damon’s quest for a daughter. When that failed, he just kept having kids, getting himself two more sons—Fane and Dag—before Octavia finally arrived. Winter had gotten five blessed years of breathing room since.
“You got her fixed, right?” I asked, plucking the cigarette out of his hand and drawing a puff.
I chuckled. He bitched about all the kids in his bed and all the time he didn’t get Winter to himself, but I think he might actually be up for a couple more tries to give Octavia a sister.
He took the cigarette back and stood up, walking to the window and peering into the front yard.
I studied him, taking in the disheveled suit and hair. The attempt to look like he had his shit together, but I knew life was a loud house every day.
But he looked just as young as he did in high school.
The happiness of the kids and wife, and the home and love, was written all over his face.
“Why did you want a daughter so badly?” I asked him.
I kind of always figured it was because he wanted a Daddy’s girl, but he doesn’t fight her battles any more than he does the boys’.
And it’s clear that, while he loves all his kids, he and Octavia are two sides of the same coin. She was the only one who got his black eyes and black hair, which was rumored to skip generations.
“I don’t know,” he said, staring out the window. “Every time I thought of myself having my own family someday, there was always a little girl in the picture.”
He paused, smiling at whatever was going on outside.
“I mean, look at them,” he told me. “Banks, Winter, Em, Rika… Women are only vulnerable, because they’re the last to be taught to fight. I want to put a woman like them into the world.”
I had no doubt she was going to be a handful, too. My kids were far more mellow, and I was thankful for it. Except Indie. She didn’t think before she leapt, and Em blamed me like I could control my genes.
A horn honked outside, and Damon took one last drag, the last of the cigarette burning orange.
“Micah and Rory…” he announced who’d just arrived and blew out the smoke.
I rose. “Just waiting on Alex, then.” I headed for the door. “I’m going to go find my wife.”
“The kitchen pantry has a nice little nook off to the right out of view,” he teased. “Pretty sure Dag was conceived there if you need some privacy.”
I left, smiling to myself.
Em liked the catacombs.

  • • •

Ten of the kids piled into the luxury bus with three nannies, while Athos stayed behind with us, and Michael’s mother took Aaron for the night. She still owned the Crist house, but she was rarely ever there anymore, opting to take the baby back to the city to her apartment at Delcour, instead.
All the other kids would be heading into the safety of Meridian City as well, away from the coast and the impending storm, to spend the night at Kai’s house for a massive sleepover with games, movies, and treats. Marina would be there with Lev and David, so I had no doubt our children would be safe and high on sugar in an hour.
The sun had set two hours ago, and I watched the taillights of the bus disappear down the driveway and onto the highway as the Bell Tower in the distance chimed the hour. I smiled, thinking about how I loved that sound.
After all the leaves fall in the next few weeks, we’ll be able to look through the trees and see the lantern Emmy installed when she renovated the tower years ago.
The ever-present flame for Reverie Cross hanging in the belfry.
The gate closed, the lamps hanging off the wrought iron beams flickering with firelight, and the leaves in the trees danced in the high winds. I straightened my tie, hearing the flames spit to my right and to my left.
Pulling the cigarette that I’d swiped from Damon and Rika’s stash out of my breast pocket, I walked over to one of the fire bowls revolving around a small fountain of water underneath it and leaned in, lighting the cigarette.
“You sure she’s ready?” Damon asked behind me.
“She’s sitting in for the meeting,” Michael told him. “Nothing more.”
Slowly, we all drifted back through the front door, closed and locked it behind us, and I took Emmy’s hand, feeling my old, high school necktie wrapped around her wrist like a bracelet as we all descended into the catacombs.
She wore my necktie lots of ways over the years. It always made my heart skip a beat, thinking about how she’d saved it. How she’d stored it under the gazebo to survive forever, because part of her wouldn’t let go of me.
I squeezed her hand. The rain hadn’t started yet, but the cathedral whined under the pressure of the wind, and I inhaled the earth and water the farther we descended under the ground, chills spreading up my arms.
Silence charged the air, the uncertainty and concerns over the past month all coming down to tonight. We would be celebrating later, but first…some business.
“If you’d rather sit this out…” Michael leaned into Micah as we veered into the great hall, everyone taking their seats, side by side, at the long table.
But I interjected. “He’s fine,” I assured Michael.
I gave Micah’s shoulder a squeeze, feeling his tight muscles underneath. He was nervous, and he shouldn’t be. Micah and Rory were a part of this family. He wasn’t alone, and he wouldn’t hide. He’d sit on this side of the table with pride.
Michael took his seat in the center, his suit, shirt, and tie entirely black like Damon’s, while Kai and I opted for a little color in our attire. Rika took her place next to Michael, a fancy, red strapless top paired with tight, black pants and sneakers on the bottom. Normally, the women dressed way up for conclave, but there might be running tonight.
Athos sat at her father’s other side, with Kai next to her and then Banks, followed by Aydin and Alex’s empty seats. They still weren’t here.
I took my seat next to Rika, with Emmy next to me, then Damon and Winter and Micah and Rory.
The cold scent of the rock walls and the glimmer of the chandelier on the long, wooden table always made me feel like we were those cool vampires in Underworld, but Emmy said it was more like we were the Volturi.
“Where are Alex and Aydin?” I whispered over to Michael.
He shook his head. “Call them.”
It was past seven. They were supposed to be here hours ago. They didn’t have any children, so it wasn’t that slowing them down.
I took out my phone, about to call Aydin, but just then Alex charged in, rain drops dotting her bare back in her black top, with strands of her hair sticking to her face. She wore the necklace around her neck that all the women wore, featuring the same crest that matched our rings, as the ghost of a smile played across her lips.
She sat down at the other end of the table, chin up and breathing shallow as Aydin strolled in behind her, a scratch on his cheek and an eyebrow cocked.
“Where were you?” Banks whispered to her.
She just shook her head as Aydin took his seat between her and Banks.
“I had to fucking haul her off the speed boat because she wanted to go spy without you all.”
“Alex,” Kai chided.
But I just laughed under my breath. Owning her own investment firm, sitting on the boards of the two banks Kai’s father retired from, being a partner in the resort, a partner in Damon and Em’s design firm, helping with Winter’s humanitarian organization to feed hungry kids, and running around to campaign for Banks and Rika when needed, hadn’t dulled Palmer’s childlike drive to get into mischief. She was still a lost boy, ready to kill pirates.
I was glad Aydin got to her, though. I didn’t want to have to chase her to that island tonight with the storm coming.
We sat, staring off down the hallway and waiting for our guests to arrive.
I leaned back in my chair, asking Micah on the other side of Emmy, “How long has it been since you’ve seen them?”
He glanced at me. “I have five brothers and you were my best man. Does that answer your question?”
Yeah. The Moreaus were loyal to their name, not to each other. Those weren’t his brothers. We were.
The echo of a door slamming down the pitch-black corridor made us all still, and I faced forward again as everyone rose from their seats.
“Don’t try to shake their hands, Michael,” Micah said in a low voice. “They have to earn our respect. Don’t make it easy.”
“I know.”
“And they’re not here to maintain the status quo,” Micah pointed out, giving Michael tips on dealing with his family. “There’s been a changing of the guard. They’ll try to establish an identity outside of my father. Be ready.”
“Already am.” Michael buttoned his suit jacket as what sounded like an army marching down the hall got closer and closer.
“I almost wish we’d sent you home for your father to groom,” I grumbled to Micah. “I guess he had to pass on the business to the oldest, though.”
We kept Micah and Rory, they happily moved between Emmy’s old house that they now owned, and Meridian City, but we knew his father was going to pass someday and we’d have to deal with his siblings.
“My father wouldn’t pass on his business to someone just because they were the oldest,” Micah pointed out. “He’d pass it on to the one who could keep it.”
A shiver suddenly ran down my spine, not liking the sound of that.
The steady taps against the hardwood floor grew closer and closer, and I steeled my spine, seeing Damon’s man, Crane, lead our guests in.
“Here they come,” Micah said.
Crane drifted off to stand behind our table as Micah’s six siblings—five brothers and one sister—stepped into the room, immediately spreading out into a V.
I shot a quick glance over at Athos, her breathing and posture steady for her eighteen years and for being in a room full of terrorists for the first time.
Emil Moreau led the pack, continuing forward to the single chair facing us, while the rest flanked him.
He wasn’t the oldest. I’d studied the dossier extensively and knew each one by heart. Kaiser was born first. He stood farthest to the right, his dark hair thick and rising a couple of inches off his skull, while Valentin and Victor came next, followed by Hadrien, the second youngest son next to Micah, and then Eslem, the only girl off to the far left. They were all in order by age behind Emil, their hands clasped behind them like drones.
Except for the daughter. Hers were in front of her.
“Welcome,” Michael said, gesturing to the chair. “Please.”
Emil took the seat, crossing one leg over the other, his russet hair parted on the right and slicked back, the hollows of his pale cheeks making him look elven. He cast his eyes to Micah, taking note of his youngest brother on the other side of the table. The tension in the air thickened.
“I’ve heard a great deal about you.” Michael took his seat, and so did the rest of us. “You sculled for Oxford before competing in the Olympics.”
“And finishing sixth,” Emil offered, his accent unplaceable.
Their father was French and Syrian, but they were from a variety of mothers. Only Micah and Eslem were from the same girl.
And I say girl, because she was sixteen when Micah was born.
“But in the Olympics,” Michael pressed. “Your father must’ve been proud.”
“He was.” Emil nodded, leaning back in the chair. “My father approved of failure. It meant only our best was ahead of us.”
“I hope that still rings true,” Michael told him. “We’ve had pleasure doing business with him the past ten years.”
Emil smiled tightly, and my stomach sank, knowing already it wasn’t going to be that easy.
Micah owned part of the resort, but we all knew where the money came from. We justified it, because Stalinz Moreau didn’t run drugs and he didn’t run women. Over the years we got comfortable, because he had no interest in complicating the arrangement. He collected his twelve percent, his name was on nothing, and we got to keep Micah—and by extension, Rory—free and clear. Everyone won.
“You tolerated my father for Micah’s sake,” Emil said, “and because he invested in you.”
Michael inhaled, already breaking his poker face. “It’s…no secret we saw eye to eye on very little. But we were able to work together. Mutual cooperation was nothing but good for our businesses.”
“Good, but not great,” Emil retorted, his voice eerily calm “My father was getting old. He thought he had enough money, and he lost sight of what we were building.”
“Which was?”
“A legacy that survives,” Emil replied. “He should’ve stepped down ages ago.”
Micah shifted in his seat, and I trailed my eyes over the faces of his siblings, Kaiser looking stern, Valentin staring at the floor, Victor gazing at Winter, cocking his head like she was a meal, and Hadrien and Eslem with their eyes unfocused, listening.
“Your share has been fair,” Michael said. “Fair keeps us friends. Do you not like friends?”
“We’re not like our father.”
“Weak,” Emil fired back, not missing a beat. “Friends are unpredictable. Secrets, on the other hand, always have value, and your family is rich in those, aren’t they?”
“As is yours,” Michael answered.
Emil’s eyes flashed to Micah, disdain and a promise written in them.
“We’ll increase your percentage to twenty-four percent,” Michael stated. “That keeps us friends.”
“I think you’ve been mistaken.” Emil’s lips pursed in a smile. “We require half. Half keeps us polite.”
I lifted my chin, trying to appear unshaken, but my eyes darted to the girl again, seeing her gaze on the top of the wooden table unfazed.
I didn’t think she’d even blinked yet.
“I know what your family is capable of,” Emil said, meeting each of our eyes. “But with all due respect, you knew the risks of playing with mine. You may be your little town’s waking nightmare, because here you make the rules, but the tactics change when you’re playing with others who have their own game. You good people do not have the fortitude to do what is necessary to hang on to what you have. And it will take a lot. To win.” He thinned his eyes, zoning in on Michael. “How far are you willing to go?”
I shook my head, breaking into a chuckle.
All eyes turned to me.
“We’re not the only ones playing,” I told him. “We’re merely the faces of six families. Against one. What do you really want?”
He had hired hands. We had a dynasty in the making. Was he really here to make enemies of us? We may not take out hits on people, but we had the stomach for this.
But then his gaze turned, settling on the teenage blonde at Michael’s side.
I stopped breathing for a moment, a cool sweat covering my forehead. Victor, Kaiser, Valentin, and Hadrien followed suit, mischief in their eyes as they stared at the pretty girl with two different-colored eyes and her hair in a wild braid.
Eslem remained steady ahead, unchanging, though.
I studied her. The chestnut hair in her own intricate style of braids pulled away from her face. The fitted black coat falling all the way past her knees, and the boots rising up her calves.
She was the only one wearing gloves.
Michael’s hard voice startled me. “You better look away from my child in 3…2….”
Emil just laughed under his breath, dropping his gaze. “She could be the face of the seventh family,” he told Michael. “We like her.”
We like her.
He didn’t want half of the resort. He wanted something much more valuable. A stake for his family in ours forever.
I looked at Eslem again, still staring at the table in front of me with a gleam in her eyes.
Poised. Calm. And completely aware.
My lungs emptied, the pulse in my neck throbbing.
She was the heir.
She was the one in charge. Not Emil.
“Send her to Deadlow Island tonight to celebrate with us,” Emil told Michael. “We’ll bring her back.”
Michael rose, and we quickly jumped to our feet.
He buttoned his jacket. “We celebrate Devil’s Night in Thunder Bay.”
Deadlow Island wasn’t far off the coast, its lighthouse visible from here, but it was surrounded by a jagged coastline, and couldn’t be easily reached. Especially in the storm brewing.
No one had ever thought to build on it, given its inaccessibility, but somehow they had. Amongst the wild coastline and forest of the island laid a grand house that the Moreaus enjoyed seasonally when they weren’t sleeping upside down by their feet.
Emil stood up, the six members of the Moreau family straightening. “I think you’ll be surprised where the tide takes you tonight, Mr. Fane,” he said.
Then he dipped his chin in a small bow at Michael’s daughter, Valentin and Victor behind him with excitement in their eyes. “Athos,” he said, bidding farewell.
Spinning around, one by one, they all left, the heels of their shoes descending the corridor toward the entrance from where they came.
But Eslem stayed rooted in her spot, remaining in the room.
I watched her watch Athos, the younger woman not shifting an inch under the scrutiny, and giving it back as good as she got.
Who wanted Athos? All of them?
Or just one of them?
Eslem’s dark brown eyes gazed at her, her presence suddenly more imposing than her five brothers.
“See you soon,” she whispered to Athos.
Then she met Athos’s parents’ eyes before twisting on her heel and walking out of the room.
No one breathed in the thirty seconds before we heard the door slam and bolt shut far at the end of the hallway and Crane returned to verify we were now alone.
Michael spun around, ordering Crane. “I want her at Delcour, all the entrances locked, and get David and Lev back in town immediately.”
“No!” Athos cried.
“The safest place for her is with us,” Rika argued.
“I agree with Michael,” Damon chimed in. “Get her out of town. Now.”
“You think they’re going to care if it’s Devil’s Night or not?” Banks pushed back her chair and walked around the table. “We can make her safe tonight, but there’s no stopping them coming back tomorrow or the next day.”
“I’m not going into hiding,” Athos told her father, a tendril of hair hanging in her face. “I’m not some prize to protect. I’m probably a distraction, so they can keep you occupied worrying about me instead of protecting something they really want here.”
“They wanted her at the island tonight,” Kai pointed out. “It’s her they want, and they’re going to tear apart this town coming after it. If we don’t go to Deadlow Island, they’ll bring the war to Thunder Bay.”
“I’m not going to that island,” Rika said.
“If they want us there, they’ll find a way to draw us there,” Alex told her.
“She needs to be under lock and key,” Aydin told Michael. “One of those little shits knocks her up, you’ll never escape that family.”
“Yo, fuck nut!” Damon barked, telling Aydin to shut up.
Aydin lifted his middle finger, rubbing his temple with it.
Athos rolled her eyes at her uncles, standing firm and glaring at her father. “I’m staying,” she said. “What do I learn by hiding? It’s your responsibility to teach me to survive without you someday.”
Michael stared at her, everyone around us falling silent as we watched Rika and her husband be the first ones to confront the day that we all feared, yet knew was coming.
Athos couldn’t be sheltered anymore. She was a beautiful young woman, and an heir to a powerful family that she would help lead one day after we were gone.
She was right. She had to learn.
The lump in Michael’s throat moved up and then down, and then…he reached down, underneath the table, and took out a box, hesitating for a moment before handing it to his Athos.
She opened it and peeled back the tissue paper, taking out a half-mask, red, just like her father’s.
Except it wasn’t a plastic paintball helmet. It was a lighter, form-fitting leather skull that covered the top half of her face, leaving her mouth free.
Her chin trembled, her eyes shooting up to Michael.
“The Red Death?” she whispered.
She loved Edgar Allan Poe.
He smiled down at her, all of us reaching under the table and pulling our masks out from our individual compartments.
The girls slipped on their jackets, Banks with a belt of knives around the thigh of her black jeans, Winter with her sheer red blindfold, Emmy with her gloves with the hooks, and Rika with a katana strapped to her back.
We had no idea what the Moreaus were going to pull tonight, but I took Em’s hand, looked over at Athos as she pulled on her mask, and gripped my own in my other fist, my stomach swimming with excitement.
We walked to the entrance of the hall they just left through, the door outside to the forest just thirty more yards away, all of us slipping on our masks as heat filled my veins.
“You either have my back,” Michael said.
“You’re at my side,” Kai continued.
“Or you’re in my way,” the rest of us finished.
“Be Lilith,” the girls said.
Athos pulled the Red Death over her eyes, all of us setting off as she whispered. “Never Eve.”


Thank you for reading! I hope the Devil’s Night Series has been a rewarding experience for you, and I want to thank all of the readers for their excitement, patience, and passion for this world over the five years it took me to write it.

Your support has helped validate all of us who truly hear it—the call of the void.