Page 62

Syn shrugged. “No reason to duplicate efforts. And he did such a good job—”

As something rushed forward, Butch caught the movement out of the corner of his eye—and had to quickly hell-no that shit. Vishous, apparently coming to the conclusion that his status as resident smart-ass was being challenged by Syn’s show of attitude, had decided to bumrush the hospital bed.

Butch lunged forward and caught his best friend before shit went total chaos.

“Not helpful,” Butch hissed in V’s ear as he dragged his roomie back. “You’ve got to chill.”

“Listen to your bestie, V,” Wrath muttered. “And stay out of this.”

There was a long period of quiet, during which Syn refused to meet his King’s blind eyes—and Butch passed the time making sure his tight hold around V’s chest didn’t lose tension. Knowing V, the brother was in danger of trying to beat a confession out of the Bastard.

And not only was that coercive, Butch had the sense it was what Syn wanted.

“I’m going to be perfectly clear here,” Wrath said in a sharp voice. “We are not going to play suicide-by-cop with you. If you want off this planet on a technicality, that’s fine, but I am not going to let my males help you do it. You’re either going to have to kill yourself or wait for the Grim Reaper to serve you your walking papers. But what you are not going to do is use us and that situation down at Pyre to help you get into the Fade.”

Syn crossed his arms over his naked chest and clenched his jaw.

“So,” Wrath continued, “I’m going to ask you again. Did you kill those two females at Pyre?”

The silence that followed was so dense and so long-lasting that Butch nearly screamed. Except then Syn opened his mouth.

“Yes, I killed them. Both of them.”

The King’s nostrils flared, and nobody in the room moved. In fact, Butch was pretty sure everything in Caldwell stopped dead.

“Why are you lying to me,” the King said grimly.

* * *

Given the blizzard-like conditions, Boone made better time getting back to the house than he thought he would, although even the Bentley’s all-wheel drive struggled to get them up the hill to his former neighborhood. When they pulled into the drive, he went right to the front door so that bringing his things out would be easier.

As he shut off the engine, he looked over at Helania. “We’ll go out again. Tomorrow night.”

She nodded. “Yes, please.”

They both got out of the car, and she waited for him to come around, the heavy falling snow making a picture out of her as it collected in her beautiful hair. Stepping up to her, he captured her face in his hands and stared down into her eyes. There were things he wanted to say, but he kept them to himself, mindful of the news they were waiting to hear. Whether or not she was pregnant didn’t change anything for him, and to prove that, he felt as though he had to wait until they knew one way or the other before he could tell her he loved her.

If she wasn’t with his young, he would be disappointed, but it would be his best shot at reassuring her his feelings and commitment were real. And if she was?

Well, as Doc Jane had said, they’d just have to cross that bridge if they got to it.

Boone brushed his thumb over her cheek. “I want you to know that the fact you’re here makes it easier for me to be here.”

Helania linked her hands over his forearms. “I’m really glad.” Dropping his head, he kissed a snowflake off her lower lip. “Come on, it’s cold.”

Approaching the front door, a gust pushed at their backs and he had to catch her and help her up the steps. Entering the foyer, it was a relief to get out of the storm, but when the lights dimmed and then flickered, he shook his head.

“I think it’s getting worse,” he said as he muscled the heavy door closed against the wind. “If that’s possible.”

Helania looked down at her boots. “I’m covered in snow.”

“This carpet can take it.” He stomped his feet to make her feel better. “Not to worry.”

She insisted on taking her footwear off, and then she was careful with her parka. “Do you have a ladies’ room? And maybe a cup of tea—”

“Welcome home, my Lord.” Thomat came out from the back. “Would you all care for some coffee? Hot chocolate?”

“Oh, hot cocoa, please.” Helania smiled at the chef. “And I’ll help you get it ready.”

As the chef recoiled, she cursed. “Oh, no. I did it again. I’m not supposed to help, am I?”

Thomat smiled slowly at her. Then he glanced at Boone. “If my Lord would permit his gracious guest to aid us in preparing hot cocoa and perhaps a small plate of sandwiches for tea, we would be most welcoming of her participation. With my Lord’s permission.”

Boone smiled back at the chef. Then he mouthed, You’re the best.

“Hey.” Helania nudged him in the side. “I can read lips, remember.”

“Yes, you can.” Boone swooped in for a quick kiss. Against her mouth, he whispered, “Do you want to translate what’s on my mind all of a sudden?”

As she blushed, she said, “Not in mixed company, no, I don’t. But I am so ready for something warm.”

Thomat hid a laugh, and then he bowed and indicated the way to the kitchen. “Follow me, mistress, and I believe you inquired after a water closet. I shall be pleased to show you to our formal one for the females.”

“Wonderful. Oh, and I’ll make sure we have something for Rochelle, too.”

“Thank you,” Boone said as a warm feeling filled him that didn’t have a damn thing to do with the furnaces in the house.

Helania gave him a little wave, and then the chef in his formal white coat, and the female in her jeans and sweater, went off together through the elegant dining room.

The door knocker sounded.

Hurrying over, he opened things. “Oh, Rochelle, come in—this storm is rank.”

Rochelle entered and stamped her high-heeled boots on the carpet as he shut the storm out again.

“Horrible,” she said. “Just horrible—”

As the lights dimmed once more, they both looked up to the fixture overhead. Outside, the wind howled even louder.

“I think it’s getting worse?” she said as she unwrapped the cashmere scarf that covered her coiffed head.

“Here, let me take your coat.”

After he helped her out of a lemon yellow drape that was heavier than it looked, Rochelle removed her gloves and smoothed the chignon she had her blond hair in. Her cheeks were bright from the wind and the cold, her lipstick a perfect nude color, her makeup light and tasteful. The perfume she was wearing . . . Cristalle by Chanel, her signature scent.

Her eyes were curiously frantic.

Boone frowned as he put her coat aside and took his own off.

“Come in here, sit down by the fire.”

As he drew her into the parlor, she didn’t go toward the cheerful flames at the marble hearth. She went to the windows that faced out into the storm—and he was reminded of that night, a year ago, when he had come down to this room and found her looking out at the darkness in just the same way.

“What’s going on,” he said soberly. “Talk to me.”

Rochelle took a deep breath, her reflection in the glass one of almost unfathomable grief. “This is where it all started.”

“I’m sorry?”

She looked over her shoulder. She was wearing winter-white slacks with a matching jacket, a citrine version of Tiffany’s Bird on a Rock on the left lapel.

“Here in this room,” she said. “This is where you and I met for the first time alone . . . and everything changed.”

Boone inclined his head and sat on the sofa. “It is. I was just thinking that myself.”

“I need to be more honest with you than I’ve been.”

“Okay.” He patted the cushion beside him. “Come over and sit, you’re looking very pale.”

But Rochelle didn’t move toward him. She covered her face with her hands and took a deep breath. “I don’t know how to do this. I’ve practiced and practiced. But now that I’m here with you . . .”

“Rochelle. There is nothing you can tell me that will change my opinion of you. Do you understand that? Nothing.”

Dropping her hands, she approached the sofa and perched on the very edge of a cushion. After a long silence, her voice was low.

“When I came here and told you I couldn’t go through with the arrangement, I misled you.”

“How so?” Not that it mattered to him. “And whatever it is, it’s all right.”

“I told you . . . I told you I was in love with someone.”

Boone reached out and put a hand on her thin shoulder. “It’s all right, just tell me—”

“It wasn’t a male.”

“So he was a human?” Boone eased back and shrugged. “I mean, you told me he was a civilian, were you just worried about telling me he—”

“It wasn’t a ‘he.’”

“I don’t underst—” Boone’s brows popped. “Oh.”

Rochelle crossed her legs and linked her hands on her knee. “Yes . . . oh. It was a female. I was in love . . . with a female.”

As his surprise faded, the math that followed was quick. “No wonder you kept it a secret. The fucking glymera—”

“Does this change how you think of me?” Her eyes locked on the fire, as if she couldn’t bear to see any disapproval on his face. “You can be honest. Please.”

Boone recoiled. “Of course it doesn’t. Did the fact that I fell in love with a civilian change your opinion of me?”

“Are you serious?” Rochelle frowned. “Not at all. I was just glad you were happy. Are happy, that is.”

“Well, I only want you to be happy. As far as I’m concerned, that’s all that matters.”