“Sixteen Candles. The movie. He’s the love interest.”
“We need to watch that together someday.”
“Yes, someday,” she murmured as she bent forward to keep looking at the house.
Out on the road, he took them down to the little center of ritzy, locally owned shops where he imagined all the ladies of the houses on his street went to get their nails done, buy presents for each other, and see their decorators and hairstylists.
“Can you recall which neighborhood the house was in?” he asked. Seeming to shake herself into focus, Helania eased back in her seat.
“I wish I had paid more attention that night. But I distinctly remember us passing by Temple Beth Shalom. Do you know where that is?”
“You mean out toward the satellite municipal library? On Sheffield?”
“That’s the one.”
“I know exactly where that is,” he said as he hit his directional signal.
* * *
About an hour later, Helania looked out the car window beside her, and stopped measuring the streets, the houses, the neighborhoods, against an eight-month-old memory of hers. Instead, she assessed the snowflakes that were starting to fall.
“A storm’s here,” she said.
As the Bentley’s wipers started moving back and forth, Boone cursed. “Is this the blizzard they were talking about?”
“I don’t know.”
He sounded tired, but not as if he were ready to pack in the towel yet. She wasn’t sure she had much more of this endless circling in her, however. As important as it was to find the house, they were just driving around, following a series of her whims, wasting gas—and now with a storm coming?
God, she wished she could make her brain work better.
The Bentley slowed to a stop on the shoulder of the road, and Boone leaned forward, squinting at a street marker. “Manchester Avenue? Ring any bells?”
Helania glanced around and didn’t recognize a thing about the area they were in. “None. And these houses . . . all I recall is that it was a white house with a lot of bushes in front. Tall bushes, so you couldn’t see much. I don’t know. I think I’ve wasted our time.”
“It’s not a waste. Let’s keep going.”
Fifteen minutes later, the wipers were going back and forth much faster, and the snow falling in the headlights was slashing down.
“I think we should head back,” she said. “The storm’s getting worse.”
“Yeah. But there’s always tomorrow night.”
Boone turned them around, and as the tires of the powerful car gripped the accumulation that was already inching up, she was glad about the four-wheel-drive thing. “Thank you for this.”
“It was my pleasure to serve you.”
The words he spoke were offhand, but they made her think about the doggen, that house . . . the world he had grown up in.
“Are you sure you’re okay giving all of that up?” she asked. “The money, that mansion . . .”
“I’ve thought a lot about it in the last twenty-four hours, and I can say, hand on heart, that I am. I was never happy there anyway. It’s like what you said, you didn’t know any different and you’re content where you are? Well, I’ve been on the other side, and I hated it a lot of the time, so I feel lighter and freer.”
“I’m really sorry about your mahmen. You’ve had a lot of death in your life.”
“No more than anyone else over time—”
As a phone started to ring all around the car’s interior, she shot upright. “What the—”
“Sorry, Bluetooth.” He frowned. “You mind if I take this?”
“Oh, no, please do.”
Boone accepted the call and spoke into the air. “Hello, Rochelle?”
A disembodied voice flooded the cockpit. “Boone?”
“Hey,” he said as he braked at a stop sign and then kept going straight ahead. “I meant to call you back last night. Things have been . . . a little hectic on my end. You okay?”
“Are you in the car?” The voice went in and out. “The connection’s bad.”
“Must be the storm. And yes, I am.” His brows went low. “Is everything all right?”
Helania shifted in her seat. So . . . this was the female he’d almost mated. The one who had wanted to back out of the arrangement that he otherwise would have followed through on. The one who was supposedly in love with someone else.
It was hard to deny that she was preternaturally interested in hearing the voice properly. But really, being territorial made no damned sense given everything Boone had told her about the female and their relationship.
“—come see?” Rochelle was saying. “—to talk—to you.”
“You want to come see me? Sure, but—”
“Come to—your . . . -se?”
“Yes?” was the reedy reply. “Now?”
Boone looked at the dash. “I’m half an hour away from there. See you in thirty minutes?”
“Thirty,” he said loudly. “Thirty minutes.”
“Yes . . . thirty.”
As the call ended, he looked over. “You mind if we go back to my place? I want to fill the car up with clothes and some of my books, anyway.”
“Yes, sure.” She found herself putting her hand on her belly. “I’d like to meet Rochelle.”
“You’re really going to like her. She’s a female of worth.”
Helania forced a smile and then went back to measuring the swirling pixelation of the flakes in the bright headlights.
Given everything that was going on, she did not have the energy or composure necessary to get through meeting Boone’s aristocratic almost-shellan. But she would do it just to prove to herself that she could stand on her own two feet.
She was all about independence, she reminded herself.
Time to put her money where her mouth was.
“And listen,” Boone said, “I just want you to know. I don’t have to go to your apartment, you know, after these fourteen nights are up. I figure I’ll get some of my stuff now and keep it with me. Marquist is not going to lock me out again, not after the smackdown Wrath put on him. But you never know how things are going to go, and I might as well start the migration earlier rather than later.”
Helania pictured him moving in with her, his male clothes in her closet, his big boots taken off just inside the door on her mat, two coffee cups in the sink after First Meal instead of only one.
“You’re welcome to stay with me.”
As Butch got a load of Wrath stalking down the training center’s corridor, he had to admit the King was still the kind of thing that could make a grown male’s ass pucker. Especially given the pissed-off cloud of aggression that floated around him like an evil aura. Vishous was on one side of him, Tohr on the other, Xcor riding the six—and oh, shit.
Wrath had left the golden retriever behind.
So he was getting ready to yell a lot.
Butch straightened from his lean against the concrete wall. “What’s doin’.”
“Where is he?” Wrath demanded.
Butch led the procession of doom to the patient room they’d been keeping Syn in, like the Bastard was a wild animal with a communicable disease. Knocking on the door, Vishous popped things wide open before there was an answer.
As Wrath crashed through the bodies between him and the room, it was clear that blindness wasn’t completely dispositive when it came to his spatial orientation. But there were limits.
“Someone point me in the Bastard’s direction,” he barked.
Tohr stepped up and pivoted the King without saying a word. And then he backed the fuck off like he didn’t want to be knocked out by shrapnel.
Syn, who had been vacillating between not-giving-a-shit and fucking-everyone-and-his-mother-off, straightened on the bed and for once didn’t pull the smirk routine. Not that Wrath technically would have noticed—although, given the King’s ability to scent things, he might well have picked up on any disrespect. And in his current frame of mind, he was clearly inclined to bitch-slap the stoopid right out of anybody.
“Talk to me, Butch,” the King snapped as he glared down at the Bastard.
Butch had been preparing for this ever since he’d pulled the trigger on getting the King down here. The case was bizarrely stalled; there weren’t many more rocks to look under when it came to the Bastard, and they couldn’t keep the guy down here forever if there wasn’t a valid reason for the lock-and-key routine.
Syn deserved to be released or rifled in the skull. Or at least given some kind of idea as to when either of those two eventualities were going to fall on his head. It was only fair—and the kind of call only Wrath could make.
Clearing his throat, Butch kept shit efficient: Helania’s accusation and ID. Syn’s confession. The shit about the laundry. The count of the leathers. The fact that, contrary to what he’d assumed would be the case, the locker Syn used down here in the training center not holding anything relevant to the case. The failure to ejaculate.
The last thing that he spelled out was Balthazar’s report on the past, minus the Tiny Tim details about the family situation and the traumatic brain injury.
Now, technically, that last part, about the other killings in the Old Country, as well as the brutal one three nights ago of a human assailant, were prejudicial. Evidence of previous crimes was never admissible in human courts. But this was the vampire world, so the rules were different and Wrath was so much more levelheaded than human juries—
“So did you fucking do it or not,” the King snapped.
Okay. Fine. Maybe “levelheaded” wasn’t exactly the right word.
“You heard Butch,” Syn said.
Wrath leaned down to the Bastard, his long hair falling off his heavy shoulder and swinging loose like a shroud. “Well, I want to hear you say it.”