Coming Home

Now, remember, son, it’s a sanctuary. It’s a safe haven. It’s a home. It’s not just your homeor those boys you hunt with. It’s a home for all hunters. You can’t just hide, you know. You have to come out, you know. You have to help them. That’s your job. They do the hunting, and we take care of them. It’s their home, too. However long they’re here, it’s their home.

His dad’s words played over and over in Riley’s head. He fiddled with the house keys as he stood on the front lawn and surveyed the entirety of the Marx Hunters House.

One hundred and ten rooms. 

A living room, a kitchen, a dining room, and a main bathroom. 

A basement in desperate need of updating. 

Triage rooms—he’d have to update the medical supplies and equipment in those, too. 

Fifty bedrooms with fifty private bathrooms. 

Riley made a face, anxiety nestling in his chest. That was a hell of a lot of space for him to be watching over. What if it filled up? What if hunters suddenly flocked to Chicago?

Lord and Raguel help him, that was a lot of people in one space. 

Magic or not, that was too many people. 

He couldn’t handle that many people. 

“One step at a time,” Riley muttered and rubbed the heel of his hand over his racing heart. To no one in particular, he said, “It’ll be just me, Sam, and Nate. That’s not so bad. That’s not so bad at all.”

He charged up the stairs and straight into the dark house. It’d been well over ten years since anyone occupied the house. His parents didn’t live in the house—they hadn’t for years. They kept a second house, and Riley had spent most of his time in that one during his teenage years. It was closer to the resources his mother craved for homeschooling. 

Even as Riley tried to turn everything on, the lights flickered reluctantly. Magic charged the air. It danced along his skin as the ancient magic protecting the house powered up once more.

In a cascade of warm light, every room in the house lit up in succession, and Riley smiled. Tarps were thrown over the furniture in the house, and there was dust everywhere. Thankfully, he didn’t have to worry about cleaning all of it up. At some point, the magic would catch up, and the house would return to its regular maintenance status. 

Just inside the foyer, a set of double doors was closed. Riley stopped outside it, hand poised and ready to open them. Heavy emotions washed over him, making his heart race and his stomach turn uncomfortably. It was the last room in the house he was struggling to acknowledge. 

It was his father’s office. 

Riley sighed and his head tipped forward, resting against the wood. Richard Marx died when Riley was eight. While his mother’s husband, Christian, had been phenomenal to him, he did nothing to fill the painful gap left in Riley’s chest as a result. He never quite recovered. 

He didn’t know how. 

He knew that was part of why his mother had moved him out of the hunter’s house. 

But Riley was destined to return to the house and run it just like his father had before him—and every generation of Marx before him. It was their job. It was their honor. 

Riley wasn’t quite sure if he was ready for it, but he had six months to get everything in order. Sam was busy interviewing with several law firms while making his top choice work for his bid. Nate was working on his resume while meticulously packing up their small townhouse. It gave Riley just enough time to work through the flood of emotions the house situation brought him before he’d be waist-deep in demon hunting and keeping them out of trouble.

The latter made him smile. Sometimes, it was a full-time job doing just that. 

Not delaying any further, Riley opened the doors and turned the lights on in the room. Plastic tarps were thrown over a desk. The bookshelves were coated in dust as were the old books lining nearly every shelf. A fireplace in one corner was in desperate need of updating while the rug under the desk needed a good scrubbing. It’d all fix itself, but he still couldn’t help but notice it. 

Tearing off the tarp, Riley cringed at the ancient computer sitting on it. There was no way in hell that was staying. He’d donate it or something. Old pictures were scattered across the desk—of him and his father playing catch, of his mom dancing in the kitchen, of him as a baby. There were even pictures of his dad’s friends. He recognized maybe two of them—Alexander Vaughn and some guy named Charles. He couldn’t remember the man’s first name. 

His phone rang in his pocket, slicing through thick silence. Riley jumped, completely startled out of his trance. He fumbled to pull it out and answer, catching a glimpse of Sam’s name.

Hey!” Sam greeted too loudly as Riley put the phone on speaker. He sank into the old chair, coughing at the dust cloud that sprayed across his face. “How you doing, kid? How’s the house looking? What do you need from us? Anything?

If you’d give him more than two seconds to answer a question, he would,” Nate commented dryly. Riley chuckled at Sam’s penchant for rapid-fire questions. 

“It’s a mess, but it’ll do,” Riley said. “It’ll be ready when you guys move here.”

You doing okay?” Sam asked again. “I know it wasn’t something you expected to do so soon.

“Yeah,” he replied, his voice hitching in his throat. He coughed before continuing. “It’s dusty, but yeah… I’m okay. I’ll be okay.”

We can come up early,” Nate offered. 

Yeah, you just tell us when, buddy,” Sam agreed. “We’ll be there in a heartbeat and then some. I have a plane—”

You don’t need to remind him you have a plane,” Nate retorted.

But I like to remind everyone I have a plane.

“I’ll be fine,” Riley assured them, trying to speak over the banter. “I have a ton of work to do updating the house before it’s reasonably able to be lived in.”

Deal,” Sam said. “But seriously, kid, you don’t have to do it alone. That’s the whole thing here. We’re a team. That doesn’t just count for hunting, you know.

He’s got a point, Rye,” Nate agreed. “If it’d be easier to do with all of us there, all you have to do is call. We’ve got no problem tackling the house together.

Except Riley knew he had to do it alone. If he was ever going to be okay with living there, he had to tackle his demons head-on—and he should probably put a call into the local coven to double-check the barriers. No need to be fighting proverbial and physical demons at the same time. 

“No, I’ll be good. Six months will fly by with all the shit I need to do in the house,” Riley replied. Which wasn’t a lie, considering he had to unpack and re-situate one hundred and ten rooms, restock the house, put the announcement out, and update the hell out of the house’s technology. 

And that wasn’t including the training room he planned to build in the basement, but he wasn’t telling Sam and Nate about F.R.E.D. until it was ready.

All right, kid, you know best,” Sam said. “Listen, I’ll be up there next month for a meeting at Wakefield. They’re putting me up in the city, but you and me, we’ll spend some time togetherget you out of that house, okay?

Don’t you dare take him to a nightclub,” Nate interjected. “Or a strip club. Don’t even deny it. I can see the look on your face, dumbass!

“I’m going to let you two fight it out,” Riley cut in. “I have to get to work.”

Order dinner,” Sam said. “I guarantee you haven’t bought groceries.

Riley sighed. He hadn’t had the time.

And wherever you get food from, get food for tomorrow so you have stuff lying around,” Nate chimed in. Jesus Christ, these two knew him all too well. 

“You two sound like my parents,” he muttered. 

They sound like smart people.” Sam chuckled. “When do we get to meet them again?

Riley’s heart lurched into his throat. There was no way in hell he was ever letting Sam anywhere near his mom. Delilah Hanson was a sex therapist, and if Sam never learned that, Riley would be a happy camper. 

“They’re already on their way to Florida,” Riley told him. “So, probably never. They don’t like the cold weather. I have a tablet running for updates on hunts near you guys, so I’ll let you know if there’s anything that pops up.”

Thanks, kid,” Sam said. 

“And just… try not to burn the house down in the meantime, please.”

Did you bring the flamethrower with you?” Nate asked. “That’s the surefire way he’s going to burn the house down.

That’s not—”

“I have it,” Riley interrupted. “It’s going to be mounted with the rest of the weapons.”

Can it be mounted in my room instead?” Sam countered. 

“No,” he said. “It’s not going in your room, you’d burn down the damn house. It’s not going in the field, either. You’re dangerous.”

Damn straight I am,” he replied with a chuckle. “Don’t be a stranger, kid, or we’ll come to Chicago early.

That, Riley believed. 

“Be safe tonight.” 

We will,” Nate promised and ended the call. 

Riley swiped the picture of his dad with his two friends off the desk and stared at it. Three hunters taking on Chicago. There was a familiarity in that, making him smile. He’d never be like his dad, but with Sam and Nate at his side, Riley knew he could continue his dad’s legacy. 

The lights in the house flickered, making Riley glance up. Once he got the damn house fixed, then he could continue with the whole legacy thing.