Page 117

Not just someone, she reminded herself. Anslam. One of their own, and not only because he was a vampire, but because he was a high-bred member of the aristocracy.

Had been, at any rate.

And now they were both dead.

Elise took her time going around and around, pacing through the limited floor plan, even though she didn’t know exactly what she was trying to make sense of. It was, she supposed, yet another example of how having all the education in the world about emotions didn’t necessarily help when your own were raw and damaged.

Heading back into the bedroom, she went for the closet. She had to. It was almost like closing the loop, her stepping into the walk-in and looking at … emptiness.

There was nothing but a couple of jackets hanging off the rods and a formal gown pooling on the floor.

Allishon must have come here after one of the glymera’s grand events. Stripped her mask of civilization off. And proceeded to …

“So sad,” Elise murmured as she went over and picked up the red swath of satin.

It wasn’t a fancy dress, though. It turned out to be a cloak, one that had beautiful trim and buttons of mother-of-pearl—

As she went to hang it up on a hanger, something knocked her in the leg.

“Ow.” She looked through the folds, wondering what was hanging off the cloak—or perhaps in a hidden pocket. “Okay, that hurt—”

Elise frowned as she took out a large piece of black metal from the lining. It was oddly shaped and heavy … kind of like a key, but not really.

“Did you find something?” Axe asked from behind her.

“I don’t know.” She held the thing out. “What do you think this is?”

When he didn’t answer, she glanced at him and then rolled the object over in her palm. “Is it some kind of self-defense weapon? It isn’t like there’s a blade in here or … maybe it’s a key, except not to any door I’ve ever seen.”

“I don’t know. But I think we should go.”

“Yes.”

She was tempted to take whatever it was with her. But she didn’t want to have to explain, if she was found with the object, why she had gone to Allishon’s and nosed around.

Putting the weight back in the pocket of that cloak, she stepped out of the closet and shut the walk-in’s door.

Going over to a stuffed chair, she sat down and stared at the bed. “Thank you for coming with me.”

She was acutely aware of Axe standing by the sliding glass door they’d come in through, his big body taking up nearly all of the slider’s expanse.

“I really appreciate it.” She shook her head as she imagined what had happened in the room. “I guess … you know, I had to come here.”

“Yeah.”

“I think I can let her go now. I’ve taken this as far as I can—this is the dead end that means stop for me. I just have to mourn her in my own way. Maybe I’ll even do some version of a Fade ceremony for her.” She took a deep breath. “It’s funny, I feel closer to her now than I did when she was alive—and all mourning is private, isn’t it. We all do it in our own ways for our dead. And she was mine. Close or not, she was my blood and nothing will change that.”

Axe stayed quiet, but that was probably because he didn’t know the right thing to say—and she could understand that. Except then he gave her something more important than words.

He came over to her, kneeling down and reaching out his arms.

As she went into him, up against him, she sighed with gratitude.

Sometimes, you didn’t need the right syllables.

You just needed the right person.

FORTY-SEVEN

“So you don’t mind if I go to your house?” Elise asked a little while later.

She and Axe were back down on the street, the apartment shut up again, the memories of having walked through those rooms stained on Elise’s brain forever—even as a fragile peace began taking root in her heart.

“Axe?” she prompted into the bitterly cold wind.

Her male shook his head like he was trying to clear his own thoughts of where they’d been. “I’m sorry. What?”

“Are you sure you’re okay with my going back to your place? I promise I’m just going to sit in front of the fire and probably fall asleep.”

“I want you there,” he said, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “I like the idea of you in front of my fire. And my meeting shouldn’t last too long.”

“I’m so glad Peyton’s okay and resting at home.”

“Me, too.”

“Thanks again for coming with me.”

“Anything for you.”

Axe kissed her, and took his time about it. Then he stepped back. “Let me get you to the cottage safe, and then I’ll take off. I’ve got to be at the meeting point in five minutes.”

She hurried away, and so did he, and then he was escorting her into the house—and insisting that he get the fire going for her even though it meant he was going to be late.

“It’s going to get down to zero tonight,” he said as he started stacking hardwood on the lit kindling. “All that Canada air coming south and turning us into Popsicles.”

She put her hands up to her wind-burned cheeks. “It was really windy downtown, too. Hey, listen, I can do that.”

“I know.”

Soon enough, the flames were snap-crackle-and-popping and he was disappearing into the rear of the cottage.

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