I returned to the cluster of my own men, licking my lips, wondering how much I might have to beg. "Hunter," I started, prepared for resistance.
Hunter huffed and leaned forward, kissing my brow. "I already told the others I would go myself and search for Con. But you made a very good speech, little warrior," he said, smiling.
I blew out a breath, echoes of volunteers now rising readily around us. I wasn't sure if it was due to the basilisk and his news, or Amon, or that a minority had turned into a majority, or simply if no monster wanted to be called a coward, but now everyone in the theater seemed plenty eager to go chase down Birsha.
Asterion cleared his throat and raised his hands. "The young lady has made her point. And for what it's worth, I agree with her too. But Birsha is practically a ghost, and while we know he can be injured, physically weakened, we don't know for certain yet how to kill him. But I have an idea for how to hurt him in another way, one that would give me great satisfaction.
"We should attack the Seven Veils," Asterion said. "Take away Birsha's foothold in London. Destroy his house as he's been trying to do here at the theater and Star Manor."
I frowned, head tipping. "But surely all the humans there—"
Asterion shook his head before I could finish. "You mistake me, Miss Nix. I don't want to harm the innocents. I want to free them and then tear that building apart, one brick at a time."
I glanced at Antin, whose breathing was slightly ragged, and reached out for his hand. The pleasure was weaker than before, just a little soft warmth, and I was afraid of what that might mean for Con or their connection.
Asterion continued, "The house is surrounded by a park. It's enchanted, of course, but it doesn't require an invitation. Just the right intention. And—"
"Did you say a park?" I asked, blinking.
Asterion's nostrils flared in irritation at the interruption, but he nodded.
"What kind of park?" I asked.
"Hazel," Jude whispered. "It's not safe."
"Large. Wooded," Asterion said with a shrug. "Fairly dense, very private."
"How close are the trees to the house?" I asked.
Asterion frowned. "It… Not far. Why do you ask?"
I bit my lip, an idea forming in my head, but one that made me feel as though I was standing on a stage with a spotlight glaring so brightly down at me, I was blind to the edge and might go toppling off without warning. Mr. Reddy shifted behind Asterion, catching my eye, and he nodded once at me.
"I'm coming too," I said.
Hunter's brow furrowed at that.
"Sweet creature, no," Antin said immediately.
"Nut—" Ronan started.
"I'm coming. I know how we can bring the house down, and you'll need me to do it," I said.
"Miss Nix, it will take more than a human girl to bait Birsha into vulnerability," Amon said.
"Not much more," Esther whispered, and her sphinx growled softly back.
"You misunderstand. I don't intend on playing bait. Because I'm not human," I said, my voice trembling.
A few gasps rose up from the audience, where the company members who knew me watched from the seats. Asterion had already heard this news, and he stepped eagerly forward.
"You have a plan?" he asked, large dark eyes narrowing to slits.
I licked my lips and offered the truth. "I have an idea."
Asterion opened his mouth, probably to object, but Dr. Underwood spoke first. "I find ideas are usually the best beginnings to plans. And I believe we should be mindful of the urgency," he added, nodding his head at Antin, who was leaning heavily into Hunter and me.
Asterion snorted with irritation, reaching up and tugging on one of his broad horns. "Fine. Let's hear it."
* * *
Jude heldmy hand in his, fingers locked together, as Asterion's carriage rolled to a stop near the end of the long drive. We'd been holding our breath, focusing on Asterion's coaching intentions, the urge to fulfill harsh desires and violent cravings. I found it somewhat easy, as I had distinctly violent cravings when it came to destroying this house.
Outside the frosted window, the lights of the building ahead of us glowed red, winking and pulsing like fragile heartbeats. Asterion stepped down from the carriage with one of the new arrivals, an intimidating and heavily scarred werewolf named Byron, at his side. I moved to exit out the door after them, blocked from view of the house by the mass of the carriage, but Jude held my hand fast in his.
"Hazel, love, are you sure about this?" Jude whispered.
The others were already in the woods, waiting for the sounds of chaos that would rise from the house as I did my work.
"Mostly," I said, twisting to face Jude and offering him a feeble smile. "I think I can do it. I will do it."