“I beat you. Twice. No magic, and I still beat you. And that was when I didn’t know what I was doing.”
I smiled, cold as the winter sky outside. “Imagine what I’m capable of now.”
Mo Fitzgerald has made her choice: A life in Chicago. A future with Colin. To leave behind the enigmatic Luc and the world of the Arcs. But every decision she’s made, from avenging her best friend’s death to protecting the people she loves, has come at a terrible price.
As her father returns from prison and the Seraphim regroup, war breaks out in both her worlds. And Mo isn’t the only one with secrets to hide and choices to make. The more she struggles to keep her magic and mortal lives separate, the deadlier the consequences. In the end, Mo must risk everything – her life, her heart, her future—or lose it all.
Praise for Erica O’Rourke’s Torn
O’Rourke’s heroine is refreshing: determined, spunky, and unpredictable.” –Library Journal
“Fast-paced action, a mysterious underworld and a dark, exciting quest for vengeance. O'Rourke had me hanging on every word.” –RT Book Reviews
“A beautifully written dramatic story of loss, destiny, sacrifice, and love.”
The problem with terrible ideas is that the people who
have them don’t recognize how truly awful they are until
it’s too late. After all, nobody deliberately chooses the worst
possible course of action. They have great plans and good intentions.
They’re caught up in the thrill of the moment, seeing
the world as they wish it to be, blind to any hint of
trouble. You can warn someone that they’re running headlong
into disaster, beg them to stop, plant yourself in their
path. But in the end, people have to make their own choice.
Even if it’s a terrible one.
My father’s coming home party was a perfect example of
good intentions gone awry.
“This is ridiculous,” I said to Colin. “Who throws a huge
party for someone fresh out of prison?”
My mom, that’s who. I’d tried to talk her out of it—I felt
less than celebratory at the prospect of my dad’s return—but
she’d insisted. Then I’d argued that a small family gathering
at the house might be more appropriate. But for once, my
mother wasn’t concerned with propriety.
So I was stuck at my uncle’s bar with everyone we’d ever
known, waiting for my dad to walk in the door for the first
time in twelve years.
Around me, the crowd was growing impatient, their small
talk taking on an irritable note. I should have been setting
out bowls of peanuts and pretzels, but instead I slumped
against the back wall and watched a game of darts. “You
know she’s hoping for one of those big reunion scenes. Like
we’re all going to hug and cry and be a happy family again.”
Colin’s hand found mine and squeezed, but his eyes swept
across the sea of people, searching even in the dim light of the
bar. “Just hang in there a little bit longer.”
“I don’t know why I even agreed to come,” I said.
“Because it’s important to your mother,” my uncle said,
appearing beside us. Irritation flickered across his face at the
sight of my fingers linked with Colin’s. “Be grateful I told her
you had to work, or you’d have been off to Indiana along
with her. They’ll be arriving any moment, so start practicing
I bared my teeth. “How’s this?”
“I’ll not have you spoil her day, Mo. She’s waited a long
time for this.”
“Longer than she needed to, right?”
Billy’s eyes narrowed, and beside me, Colin made a low
noise of warning. “Don’t bait the bear,” he was telling me,
and any other day I would have listened. But tonight, my
nerves were stretched to breaking.
Ignoring the ripple of tension along Colin’s arm, I lifted
my chin and stared at my uncle. A moment passed, and finally
Billy made a show of looking around the room. “Make
sure everyone has something to toast with, and then you’re
free for the night. I’ll need you back on Monday.”
With that, he was off to mingle. I leaned my head against
Colin’s shoulder and he murmured, “The sooner we get The
Slice up and running, the better. I don’t like you working for
I wasn’t a fan of the arrangement, either, but I had no
choice. As long as I worked for my uncle, Colin was safe. He
didn’t know about the deal we’d struck, and he definitely
wasn’t aware my job was more than wiping down tables and
carting empties to the recycling bins out back. He assumed,
like almost everyone else in my life, that I was working at the
bar until my mom’s restaurant was rebuilt, at which point life
would go back to normal.
I had learned the hard way that normal was not an option
I went up on tiptoe, brushed a kiss over his lips. His hand
tightened on my waist for an instant before he edged away.
“What? Everyone knows we’re together.” I sank back
down, trying not to feel hurt.
“I’m not crazy about having an audience.”
I glanced around. There were a few people eyeing us—not
many, but enough to make Colin uncomfortable. “Fine. But
we’re not staying here all night.”
He grinned and ducked his head, his breath warm against
my ear. “Wasn’t planning on it.”
I made the rounds of the bar, my back aching from carrying
a full tray back and forth. The whole time, I could feel
Colin watching me, an anchor in a stormy sea, and I clung to
the sensation. But gradually, I became aware of another one,
a prickling awareness that made me rub my arms to ward off
a chill, despite the overheated room.
Around me, voices faded to a murmur. I spun, looking for
Colin, but the crowd hid him from view. The magic stirred—
anticipation and stress and dread waking up the force inside
me. Something was happening.
Luc? He had a knack for showing up at the worst possible
moment, and I couldn’t imagine a worse one than tonight.
The connection between us had lain dormant for nearly three
months, a welcome break while I got acclimated to my new
life and the constant presence of the magic inside me. I’d always
known he would come back. I’d just hoped to have
things under control before he turned my world inside out
My hands clutched the empty tray to my chest like a
shield. I squeezed my eyes shut, feeling along the lines for the
vibrating tension that would indicate an Arc was here. But
the lines were quiet, their power held in abeyance. There was
no sign of Luc or anyone else in the room working a spell—
even a concealment. I opened my eyes and searched for a familiar
green gaze and sharp cheekbones, but they weren’t
there. Better that way, I told myself.
People stood three deep in front of the oak counter running
along the side of the room. Behind them I could see the
backs of the regulars hunched over their drinks, and Charlie,
my favorite bartender. He was pulling beers and gauging
who’d hit their limit, working his way down the line in a
steady rhythm. He seemed to pop in and out of view as the
people milled in front of him.
It was a familiar sight, but something seemed off-kilter.
Like a puzzle in a kid’s magazine, where you compared two
pictures of the same scene and circled the differences. What
was the difference? The bar. Charlie. The customers. The
party. What was out of place?
A gap opened in the crowd, giving me a clear view of the
bar for only an instant. But it was enough.
The regulars all faced Charlie or the front door. From my
spot at the rear of the bar, only the backs of their heads were
visible. Except for one guy, facing the opposite direction.
For a split second, I could see him as clearly as if I’d taken
his picture—eyebrows raised mockingly, mouth twisted in a
caustic smile—and then the shutter closed as the crowd filled
the gap again.
Suddenly, I wished it was.
Anton Renard. Leader of the Seraphim. A renegade Arc
who wanted me dead.
The feeling was mutual.
I forced myself to walk toward him, but when I reached
the barstool, he was gone, and the lines were silent as the
“Problem?” Colin asked from behind me. He rested his
hands on my shoulders, the weight reassuring.
I drew in a shaking breath, turning to him. “I thought I
saw Anton. Here.”
His expression hardened. “You’re sure?”
“No.” If it was Anton, I would have felt the spell he’d used
to hide himself as it resonated along the lines. Either I was
mistaken, or he’d managed to blend convincingly into a Flat
bar on the South Side of Chicago. But the Anton I knew was
too arrogant for blending.
Something had triggered the magic’s fretfulness, but
maybe it was my own unhappiness. Three months ago, I’d
willingly given myself over to the magic—taken it inside of
me, bound myself to the source of the Arcs’ power—and discovered
that it wasn’t just a supernatural energy source, but a
sentient being. Alive. Since then, our connection had strengthened.
We couldn’t carry on a conversation, but I was getting
better at interpreting its moods, and it responded to mine: a
pleasant hum beneath my skin when I was content, a tremor
every time I crossed the threshold of Morgan’s. I didn’t know
which one of us was responsible for the disturbance I felt
From the front of Morgan’s, someone called, “They’re
here! Where’s Mo?”
Colin took my hand, tugging me toward the narrow front
doors as they opened. The crowd drew a collective breath as
my mom stepped inside, cheeks flushed with cold and excitement.
And I forgot all about half-seen faces, because immediately
behind her, blinking at the noise of the crowd’s shouts
of “surprise” and “welcome home,” was my father.
I hadn’t seen him in five years.
From behind a wall of people, I studied him carefully. He
was still my dad, sharp greenish-brown eyes framed with
heavy black glasses. His dark red hair, curling at the collar,
needed a trim, and his narrow face managed to look surprised,
even though the expression was a beat too slow to be
genuine. But there were lines at the corners of his eyes that
hadn’t been there before, and his hair was streaked with gray.
His posture was a little more stooped, as if he were trying to
withdraw into himself. He looped one arm around my mother,
drawing her close as people lined up to greet him.
Billy spotted me trying to fade into the crowd and grasped
my elbow. “Don’t you dare ruin this,” he muttered, and
towed me into the circle surrounding my parents. His voice
suddenly brimmed with good cheer. “Jack! Welcome home!
Look what I’ve brought you—a sight for sore eyes, don’t you
He stepped back, releasing me. The expectation of the
crowd, waiting for our tearful reunion, weighed on me like
the air before a storm.
After a moment, my father let go of my mom and took a
tentative step toward me, spreading his arms wide. “There’s
my girl,” he said, his voice cracking in the suddenly quiet
room. “There’s my Mo.”
I wanted to turn away, punish him for all the pain he’d
caused us. I wasn’t going to let him back in, and there was no
reason to pretend otherwise.
Until I saw my mom blinking back tears, a wobbly smile
on her lips. All her hopes for our family crystallized in a single
moment, and my reaction would either let them grow or
shatter them on the worn oak floorboards. I licked my lips
and swallowed the dust clogging my throat.
“Hi, Dad.” I wound the apron string around my fingers
until it cut off the circulation, untwisted it again. “It’s . . .
good to have you home.”
He was across the room in three strides, wrapping me in
the same bear hug he used to give me when I was five, and for
a second I let myself believe Mom was right. Tonight could
be a fresh start, a chance for us to be a family again. His return
might not be such a terrible thing after all.
And then, still squeezing me tightly, my father whispered
one word to me. “Liar.”