Darkfever, p.26
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       Darkfever, p.26

         Part #1 of Fever series by Karen Marie Moning
 
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  “Don’t celebrate yet, Ms. Lane. Don’t believe anything dead until you’ve burned it, poked around in its ashes, and then waited a day or two to see if anything rises from them. ”

  “You’re kidding. Some things are that hard to kill?”

  “Some things, Ms. Lane,” he said, beginning the second coat of my manicure, “are impossible to kill. However, I’m not certain Mallucé was one of them. It remains to be seen. ”

  I fired my next question at him. “Why do the Shades let you walk in the Dark Zone, Barrons?”

  He painted my entire index finger pink. Then had the nerve to glare up at me, as if I’d done it.

  “Darn it, Barrons, they were looking good until you did that!” I yanked my hand away. “Dampen one of those cotton balls with this. ” I thrust a bottle of polish remover at him.

  He took it, with a hard look. “You spy on me, Ms. Lane?”

  “Serendipity, Barrons. I just happened to be glancing out the window when you happened to be doing something nefarious, which only makes me wonder how many nefarious things you’re doing when I’m not glancing out the window. Where’s the Maybach?”

  An instant smile curved his lips; the quick, possessive smile of a man with a new toy. “O’Bannion didn’t need it anymore. The police don’t even see the—what did you call it—Dark Zone? It would have sat there forever. What a waste. ”

  “Oh, you are just cold,” I breathed. “That man wasn’t even dead a day. ”

  “Spoils of war, Ms. Lane. ”

  “Couldn’t you have at least moved those piles while you were at it?”

  He shrugged. “You quit seeing them after a while. ”

  I hoped not. It would mean a part of me was as dead as him. “What kind of deal do you have with the Shades, Barrons?”

  I expected evasion, even a counterquestion, but I wasn’t prepared for the one he lashed back at me with. “Why didn’t you tell me you’d encountered V’lane, Ms. Lane?” he said silkily.

  I jerked. “How did you know?”

  “V’lane told me. ”

  “How do you know V’lane?” I demanded indignantly.

  “I know everything, Ms. Lane,” he said.

  “Oh really?” I said, saccharine-sweet. “Then who and what is the Lord Master? Answer me that. ” Not Fae, for sure. But he hadn’t seemed . . . altogether human, either.

  “Your sister’s boyfriend,” he said flatly, “and knowing that, just what should I make of you?” When I stared at him blankly, he said, “I found the photos in your jacket. ”

  I nearly smacked myself in the forehead. The pictures! I’d forgotten all about the things I’d looted from the Lord Master’s residence. “Where did you put the other things that were in my jacket?” I asked. I couldn’t recall having seen either the two albums or the Franklin Planner in my bedroom. I needed to go over her calendar with a fine-tooth comb. There could be all kinds of valuable information in there: names, addresses, dates.

  “There wasn’t anything else in your jacket. ”

  “There was too,” I protested.

  He shook his head.

  “Are you sure?”

  “Positive. ”

  I searched his face. Was he telling me the truth? Had they fallen out while I’d been fighting? Or had he taken them for some reason? With a sinking feeling, I realized I might just have to go back to 1247 LaRuhe again to be certain. “I didn’t know he was my sister’s boyfriend, Barrons,” I defended. “She didn’t, either. Remember her message? She said he’d been lying to her all along. That he was one of them and she never knew it until then. He tricked and betrayed her,” I said bitterly. “There, I answered your question. Now you answer mine. Why do the Shades let you walk in the Dark Zone?”

  He didn’t say anything for a long time, just glossed my nails a topcoat and touched up my cuticles in silence. He was better than most nail technicians; the man was a perfectionist. I’d just about given up hope of him answering when he said, “We all have our . . . gifts, Ms. Lane. You are a Null. I am . . . other things. What I am not—is your enemy. Nor am I in league with the Shades. You’re just going to have to trust me on that. ”

  Page 98

 

  “It’d be a whole lot easier to trust you if you’d just answer my question. ”

  “I don’t know why you ask, anyway. I could lie to you a million ways to Sunday. Look at my actions. Who saved your life?”

  “Yeah, well, OOP-detectors don’t work so hot dead, do they?” I pointed out.

  “I managed just fine before you came along, Ms. Lane, and would have continued swimmingly without you. Yes, you can find OOPs, but frankly, my life was a great deal less complicated before you barreled into my bookstore. ” He sighed. “Bloody hell, I miss those days. ”

  “Sorry I’ve been such an inconvenience,” I retorted, “but my life hasn’t exactly been a bowl of cherries since then, either. ” We were both quiet for a time, looking into the night, thinking our own thoughts. “Well, at least now I know who killed Alina,” I said finally.

  He looked at me sharply. “Did you hear something in that warehouse I missed, Ms. Lane?”

  “Well, duh, her boyfriend was the Lord Master and she didn’t know it. She must have followed him one day and found out who and what he was, just like I did. And he killed her for it. ” It was so obvious I couldn’t believe Barrons didn’t see it himself.

  But he didn’t. Skepticism was written all over his face.

  “What?” I said. “Am I missing something? Are you saying I shouldn’t go after him?”

  “Oh, we should definitely go after him,” Barrons said. “Note the ‘we’ in that sentence, Ms. Lane. Head off one more time by yourself after something big and bad, and I’ll hurt you worse than the monsters do. I want the Lord Master dead if only for one reason: I don’t want any more bloody damned Unseelie in my city. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life it’s this: assume makes an ass out of ‘u’ and ‘me. ’”

  “Cute,” I said, spelling ass-u-me out in my head.

  “I’m not trying to be cute. I’m saying don’t assume you know who your sister’s killer is until you’ve got solid evidence in your hand or a confession. Assumptions,” he said darkly, “can make even worse things than an ass out of the best of us. ”

  I was about to ask him “like what?” when I was suddenly so nauseous that I couldn’t speak. Bile splashed the back of my throat without warning and somebody suddenly poked a knife through my skull—a twelve-inch-long blade I just knew had to be sticking out both temples.

  I lurched to my feet, crashed into the table, and ruined every last one of my nails trying to catch myself. I would have hit the ground and probably rebroken my arm if Barrons hadn’t grabbed me. I think I vomited.

  Right before I passed out.

  When I regained consciousness, I was lying in the chaise and Barrons was bending over me, his expression stark. “What?” he demanded. “What just happened to you, Ms. Lane?”

  “Oh G-God,” I said faintly. I’d never felt anything like that before and never wanted to again. That was it. I was going home. Abandoning it all. Quest for vengeance—over. I quit. I was turning in my formal sidhe-seer notice.

  “What?” he demanded again.

  “I c-c-can’t st-stop sh-sh-sh . . . ” I trailed off. “Shivering” was what I was trying to say, but my teeth were chattering too hard for me to get it out. My blood was ice in my veins. I was cold, so cold. I didn’t think I’d ever be warm again.

  Barrons shrugged off his jacket and draped it over me. “Better?” He waited all of two seconds. “So? What?” he asked impatiently.

  “It w-was here,” I finally managed, gesturing with my good arm toward the edge of the roof. “Somewhere d-down there. I think it was in a c-car. It was moving fast. It’s g-gone now. ”

  “What was here? What’s gone?”

  With a last violent shiver, I got my chatt
ering under control. “What do you think, Barrons?” I said. “The Sinsar Dubh. ” I took a deep breath and released it slowly. I knew something about that elusive book I’d not known before: It was so evil it corrupted anyone who touched it—no exceptions. “Oh God, we’re in a world of trouble, aren’t we?” I breathed.

  Though neither of us had brought it up, I knew we’d both been thinking about all those Unseelie who’d come through the dolmen that day and were even now being introduced into our world, trained to cast glamours so they could interact with us, and prey on us.

  When everything is in place, the Lord Master had said, I will open the portal and unleash the entire Unseelie prison on this world.

  Page 99

 

  I had no idea how big the Unseelie prison was and never wanted to know. But I had an awful feeling we were going to find out.

  “Are there more sidhe-seers out there, Barrons?” I asked. “Besides us?”

  He nodded.

  “Good. Because we’re going to need them. ” A war was coming. I could feel it in my bones. A war to end all wars.

  And Mankind didn’t even know it.

 
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