“It’s not an either/or, you know. You can be strong and rely on your friends and family.”
“I’m not so sure about that. And even more to the point, I’m done with ruining other people’s lives. Isobel watched over me for decades, and you know what? I’ve been thinking a lot today, and I’ve been wondering what else she could have accomplished in her too-short life if she’d freed up all those hours. Would she have moved in with her lover? Mated him and had young of her own? Would she have not even met him because ten years ago, instead of buying a truck with me, she’d bought a house with another male, a different one, and forged a future with him? There were a lot of paths she could have taken, but instead, she wasted years on me, years that, as it turned out, she did not have to spare.”
“You can’t blame yourself for what happened to her,” Boone said. “And you have no idea what the future would have held one way or the other.”
“It was my fault. Those wasted years were my fault.”
Boone frowned. “No offense, but what does this have to do with you and me?”
“If I’m with young, you’re going to want to get mated.”
“Of course I will. How could I not?”
Helania shook her head. “But I don’t want that. I don’t want you falling on another sword of duty.”
“It’s not like that.”
“Really? You think? How is my being pregnant any different from an arranged mating?” As he gritted his teeth, she could tell by the set of his chin that he knew she was right. “You always do the proper thing. I get it. But here’s the issue. If I ever get mated, I’d like to think . . .” Pain lanced through her chest. “I’d like to be chosen out of love, not obligation—and please do not say ‘I love you’ right now. Those three words are sacred, not a panacea because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or ignore the reality that you and I find ourselves in. We are essentially strangers, and you know this. And yet we’re facing something that could change both of our lives forever.”
He shook his head and cursed. “You make it sound like a car accident.”
“It is one.”
Abruptly, he rubbed his face. “Well, then, let’s go to the fucking clinic. Because isn’t that what one does when one is in a goddamn car accident?”
Helania looked away sharply. And then the words she’d been holding in broke out of her. “I don’t want to be pregnant.”
“Yes,” Boone muttered, “I believe you’ve made it very clear that you do not want my young. But be that as it may, Doc Jane is going to check you out and we are going to do whatever else she says because we’re adults in an adult situation of our own creation.”
“You didn’t know I was going to go through my needing. So this is on me.”
“Like you could control when it came? And besides, you did go through it, and I was with you right beforehand. And I’m not arguing about that or anything else about going to the clinic anymore.”
The bitterness in his voice brought her eyes back to him. Boone’s face was taut, his brows down, his unfocused stare trained somewhere in front of him.
The sight of him looking so unhappy made her feel even worse, and she knew, if she kept this attitude up, she was just going to destroy them both. Maybe right here and now.
Besides . . . perhaps it was all over nothing.
“Fine,” she said, “gimme a minute and we’ll go.”
Boone just nodded without looking at her. “I’ll meet you in the car.
It’s out front.”
* * *
Boone went out the back way of the apartment building so he could get some fresh air. As he walked around to where Fritz was waiting in the Brotherhood’s black Mercedes, his chest hurt so badly, he wondered whether emotional pain could cause a heart attack—and then didn’t particularly care about the answer.
Because hey, if he dropped dead in a snowbank, at least he wouldn’t feel this shitty anymore.
As he rounded the corner and saw the car, he was tempted to tell Fritz to drive away and then text Helania that he wasn’t going to make her do anything she didn’t want. After which he would go jump off a bridge and take a nice long swim in the Hudson.
And following that, maybe he’d find some alcohol.
What he was not going to do was take out his frustrations by mutilating a slayer or a human. While he’d been tossing and turning all day, determined not to call or text Helania because it was clear she wanted space, he’d been haunted by his own actions in that alley. The fact that that particular man, that assailant, had more than deserved what had come his way was beside the point—and the terrifying thing was the question that Boone had refused to voice to himself.
But God, what if the man had not deserved it? What if Boone had crossed paths with an innocent human who just happened to be out walking the streets?
He liked to believe he wouldn’t have done anything. He wanted to believe he would have kept going until he found a lesser or a shadow.
Except he didn’t really trust himself on any of that, and it made him wonder if maybe Helania knew something about him that he didn’t. Maybe that was why she didn’t want his young.
Approaching the Mercedes, he shook his head as Fritz got out from behind the wheel. “No, I’ve got my door. Thank you.”
The butler’s face fell, sure as if Boone had called into question his mahmen’s worth.
“Oh . . .” Boone rubbed his aching head. “Oh, okay. Sure.”
“Right away, sire!”
For an older male, the butler could move quick—then again, he seemed to do a lot of things fast. On the way over here, he drove as if traffic laws and speed limits were so other people were less in his way.
“Where is your female?” the butler inquired politely as he held open the rear door.
I don’t know where she’s gone, Boone thought to himself. Even when she’s right in front of me.
A moment later, she did. Just as he settled in the far seat, Helania walked out the building’s front door. She hesitated when she saw the uniformed butler and the S 65, but then she squared her shoulders and walked over on the shoveled paths. She was in jeans and the parka she’d worn the night they went to Remi’s, and her boots were ankle-high and well-used. With her hair pulled back and no makeup on, she seemed fresh and natural.
As well as someone he needed to protect—and he knew that she didn’t want that from him.
“Greetings, mistress,” the butler said with a wide smile. Then he bowed lower. “It is my pleasure to be of service. I am Fritz Perlmutter.”
“Um . . . thank you?” she murmured.
“Please,” Fritz said cheerfully, “take a seat and we shall proceed with alacrity.”
As Helania got in, Boone looked away. “This won’t take long.”
Fritz jumped in behind the wheel and turned around to them. “I shall put the partition up now! Please attach your seat belts and let us go.”
While the black glass lifted, panels also came up on all the windows, blocking the views outside the car. Great. He couldn’t pretend to be looking at the snowy landscape. But this was part of the security around the Brotherhood’s training center. Someday, maybe he and the other trainees would get unfettered access. It hadn’t happened yet, however, and even if it had, Helania was not cleared to know where the facility was.
Trying to do something with his hands—other than compulsively crack his knuckles—
Boone pulled his belt around his chest, and as he clicked it into place, there was a lurch and the subtle roar of a very powerful engine.
So, how about those Mets, he thought to himself.
“By the way,” he said, “Butch has set up an evidence room at the training center. After you’re finished at the clinic, he’d like you to stop by and see him.”
As his phone vibrated in his leather jacket, he wanted to thank the Scribe Virgin for the valid distraction, but as he took it out, he frowned. Rochelle had texted him, but he’d have to look at the message later. He couldn’t focus on anything right now.
“Were you able to stay at your house during the day?” Helania said. Boone’s heart pounded at the unexpected sound of her voice, and he glanced at her reflection in the divider’s pane of smooth glass. “Yes. I slept there. The King gave me a total of fourteen nights before I can go elsewhere.”
“Where will you stay after that?”
“Craeg and Paradise offered me their spare bedroom. But I’ll find something on my own.”
There was a time, little more than twenty-four hours before, when he would have wondered if he could stay with her. That window of opportunity had closed, however. And as she herself had said, he didn’t know how to get back to that space.
“I’m really sorry about your sire—”
Boone jacked around and raised his voice. “Okay. We need to stop with the bullshit here. You and I have waaaay too much going on between us for you to be making any comments about my living situation or my goddamn dead father. I realize I am not handling this well, but to be honest with you, I don’t understand what’s wrong. I honestly don’t. I don’t get this mood you’re in, but frankly, that fact that I do not understand it is just a reminder that I really don’t know you. We had fantastic chemistry, and I was really looking forward to exploring that with you for like . . . well, for however long it lasted. But I don’t get this and I don’t get you, and it’s doing my fucking nut in. So excuse me if I can’t make small talk right now, especially about big things in my life.”
He expected her to yell back at him. Accuse him of being some kind of emotional thug. Rail against the fact that she could be pregnant—again.
Instead, she just nodded. “That’s fair. You’re right.”