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Korin followed the knife’s directions through Loukanos’s gruesome house, taking the stairs up two at a time. He slammed the study open and immediately spotted Ádan on the floor. Ignoring the horrifying detritus that filled the room, Korin rushed to his side and dropped to his knees beside Ádan.

Ádan wasn’t moving, but his body was twisted and curled in on itself in clear agony. A hand on Ádan’s chest reassured Korin that he was still breathing—albeit shallowly. A blink into his other sight told Korin the rest.

Ribbons and veins of magic ran all through Ádan, constricting and twisting and tearing. Destroying him from the inside out. What Loukanos had created—this was more than just a simple attack. Along with the magical energies with which Korin was familiar, he’d laced the power of the blight—of the knife—to make it feed and grow, and…something else. An element Korin couldn’t identify.

Not that he was going to waste time trying to figure it out. Ádan remaining life would be measured in heartbeats if Korin didn’t do anything. Korin lay a hand on Ádan’s forehead, the other on Ádan’s chest, and reached inside.

The blight was the easy part. Korin shattered that power with a single focused effort. Loukanos’s magic was clever, but by tying the blight into his own energy, he’d stopped it from getting its usual firm hold. Korin banished it with an ease undiminished by the weeks since he’d fought it.

Ádan’s heart stuttered, threatened to stop. Korin sent a thread of power to squeeze and release, forcing it to keep going, grateful now for the work he’d done with Sheluna. He was going to have to split his focus between keeping Ádan alive, banishing Loukanos’s power, and putting Ádan back together. A few months ago, he wouldn’t have been able to do that. Today…

They would see.

Korin reached his awareness through Ádan’s body. The last time he’d done this—but no, he couldn’t afford the distraction of memory. Just the thankfulness that Ádan was so familiar to him, that he knew the rhythms and flows, how Ádan should feel, which made it easier to identify the tendrils and laces of energy that didn’t belong.

Loukanos was powerful and skilled. The magic flowed all through Ádan, invasive and deep, with little barbs of power everywhere to keep it attached. Unthreading it was going to take care and time that Korin wasn’t sure he had.

Korin wove his own power against Loukanos’s, wrapped it in bonds of his own making. He couldn’t remove it yet, or even stop it, but he could blunt its fangs, slow it down while he brought Ádan back.

Except even there, Loukanos was a step ahead of him.

Healing Ádan should have been the easiest part. The destructiveness of this magic meant that it moved fast, that the change had been quick and intense—exactly the sort of thing that made healing easy. Ádan’s body should still clearly remember being healthy.

The extra power that Korin hadn’t been able to identify—now he knew. Somehow Loukanos had broken Ádan’s body’s connection to its own past. He’d made it forget, erased everything that came before. Korin didn’t even know how that was possible. It was a change, not just to Ádan, but to reality itself.

This was Loukanos’s power, and it made Korin despair. How could anyone fight this? Loukanos had made healing impossible. Had gone out of his way to make sure Ádan would die in a way Korin couldn’t stop.

And why? What had Korin done? What had Ádan done? Except try to exist. Try to help people. And Loukanos came along and…what gave him the right?

Loukanos’s power pulsed against Korin’s restraints, trying to finish its job. Korin drove all other thoughts, all the panic and hopelessness, from his mind and focused. He refused to just give up. He refused to let go.

“You can’t leave me,” he whispered fiercely. The words he should have said before. “I refuse to let him take you from me.”

But what could Korin do? He could hold Ádan in this state of dying, keep him from falling any further. He could pull away the strands of Loukanos’s magic bit by bit. But he couldn’t heal Ádan. He couldn’t bring him back.

Could he?

Korin had been under Ádan’s skin. He’d touched every part of Ádan with his magic. He’d healed Ádan. He’d pleasured Ádan. If he could remember—if he could dig deep in his own mind, his own power, could that be enough?

Korin flooded Ádan with power. He had to work fast. He couldn’t afford to second guess himself—not with this. Instinct and memory wove together with the skills Korin had spent years perfecting. And all the while, another part of his mind working inch by inch through Ádan to clean out every trace of Loukanos’s power.

He lost track of time, of everything that wasn’t Ádan. Nothing was left but magic and the struggle to fix what Loukanos had broken.

Until…

Korin pulled back, realizing several things at once. First, that he couldn’t feel any remaining trace of Loukanos’s dark magic. Second, that Ádan’s heart was beating on its own. Third…

Ádan’s eyes were open, looking up at Korin. His lips moved, but no sound came out. He took a deep breath, tried again. “Korin? What are you…? How…?”

Korin put his hand against Ádan’s cheek, feeling equal parts exhausted and triumphant. “He doesn’t get to take you from me.”

Ádan reached up and grabbed Korin’s arms to drag him down into a crushing embrace.

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