Thalia sat on the wooden stairs that led up to her house's front porch, her eyes on the officer who'd escorted her over. She'd asked him if he'd leave her alone for a bit, and she guessed he was now safely out of earshot, having rejoined the group questioning Ruth. Still, with the way he kept glancing at her, she knew she had to be careful and quiet.
Colt's arm slid around her shoulders, giving her a brief, one-armed hug. "It appears to have worked."
She nodded slightly, pushing her hair behind her ear to hide the movement. "Yeah. I don't think it would have work nearly so well if Anna hadn't been able to keep them from hearing the cops coming. If I hadn't been listening for it, I wouldn't have even noticed when her spell went into effect."
"Anna said yesterday that they couldn't possibly ignore the trail she made. She had some friend of hers from the internet helping her, and between the two of them, I think they'll have made it irresistible. One of the Builders had to find the blog posts about feeling like they're being watched, moving shadows, and hearing a voice coming from thin air. I give it a week before those who haven't been arrested head to Australia. Especially once they talk to this lot. In their minds, if you were going to appear, you would have when I was attacked."
Colt snorted. "I would have, if we hadn't planned. I still didn't enjoy it. Having to stand by and watch them… But, between my and Ruth's phone calls, the report from their previous attempt, as well as several officers having seen them assaulting you, I don't think any of these men will be going anywhere."
Thalia smiled faintly. "No, I don't think they are. We also have the video evidence. Ruth's system was good, and I was careful to act like I didn't know them. That'll make it look even worse, especially since MacQueen kept using my name."
She could feel Colt tense when she said the name. "I'll be most glad once I know he's gone. He didn't hurt you anywhere, did he?"
"No, I'm fine."
"Still," he said, squeezing her shoulders again. "Let's not put you in that kind of danger again, okay? I don't think my heart can take watching such a scene a second time."
Thalia's smile widened. "Alright, but you have to promise to be careful too."
"I think I can do that."
"You don't understand! We're pioneers in paranormal research, and that girl is hiding a spirit from us!" MacQueen's voice rose above the low buzz of conversation among the police officers. Thalia turned to look, seeing the man being held by two cops, while a third had a notebook out.
Like he could feel her eyes on him, MacQueen turned to look at her. "I know you know the spirit! Summon him now, girl. You think mere imprisonment will stop us? We are many! We will have the secrets to gaining psychic powers."
Thalia shivered and looked away, hoping the police would shove him back inside one of the cruisers. His shouts got louder and more garbled. When Thalia glanced at him, she saw MacQueen struggling against the officer trying put him back into the car. Clearly she wasn't the only one who his shouting made uncomfortable. Or at least, the police didn't want their eardrums broken from how loud he was.
She waited until he'd been locked back into the cruiser before her gaze wandered back to the apparently empty space beside her that held Colt. "That's something I always meant to ask you about."
"Hmmm?" Colt said, as if his attention had been elsewhere. "What?"
"I always meant to ask you how you became Awakened. You said there was a process you had to go through and you couldn't be sworn to a god. What did you have to do?"
For a moment, there was nothing but quiet around them. Then Thalia felt hands cup themselves around her ear, and did her best not to jump. The last thing they needed was for MacQueen to get any kind of confirmation of Colt's existence after they'd worked so hard to make him believe otherwise. She could feel Colt's breath tickling the little hairs as he whispered to her.
When he pulled away, she looked in his direction, her nose wrinkling. "That's all?"
She could feel his arm move, and guessed he'd nodded. "I never said it was hard. Other than the fasting bit. That's not really fun."
"But seriously, a couple of herbs burned in what's basically a sauna after a week of fasting is all it takes? I mean…I could do that."
"You could. I could even help, if you wanted to."
Thalia smiled again. "I think I might. It would be a very interesting topic to study. I bet Ruth would love to help as well."
She could both hear and feel Colt's chuckled. "I bet she would. The only thing is, you won't know what you'll come out with."
"So it is. I certainly never expected to be here, way back when I still had a body." Thalia could feel his arm slide off her back as he moved around her. The hand he used to grab hers reassured her, but she still wondered what-
Thalia felt Colt's lips press against hers in a brief kiss. "Thalia Quinn," he said. "It was worth the centuries I spent sealed away just to meet you. I love you."
Feeling her cheeks heat up, Thalia dropped her gaze to her feet for a moment. Then she looked back up at him, smiling widely, without care for any observers. "Good, because I'm fairly certain I love you too."
She shrugged. "After everything that's happened, I don't think I can be fully certain of anything, but as sure as I can be, for never having experienced this emotion before, I can only call it love."
Colt chuckled quietly. "Well, if that's all I can get, then I can live with it," he said and leaned forward to kiss her again.