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Axe went through his own “wardrobe” of muscle shirts, black jeans, and the occasional leather jacket or cloak, although not because he expected a turtleneck to have miraculously appeared courtesy of the Look-More-Normal Fairy Godmother dropping by. It was more because he had to brace himself to go through his father’s stuff.

Ten minutes and no turtle-for-his-neck later, he was down the hall and opening the door. With no lights on anywhere in the house, the shallow space was nothing but shadows and shades of gray … kind of like his self-hatred had sucked the color out of everything.

He couldn’t even look at the bed, which was still messy from the last time his father had slept it in two years ago, and he certainly didn’t spare all the pictures of his fucking mother a glance, and no, he didn’t dwell on the layer of dust that covered everything or the fact that one of the windows had sprung from its sash and let in fallen leaves and even some of the snow.

It seemed colder in the room, his breath condensing in puffs of white.

Maybe his father was haunting the place.

As a shiver went down his spine, Axe marched his ass over to the bureau and went through the things in it with rough, agitated hands. He found what he was looking for in the bottom drawer.

It seemed so fucking weird to think the thing had been worn and used by the male. And as he shoved the drawer shut, and beat feet out of the room like he was being stalked, he vowed never to go in there again.

Back in his own space, he stripped off his muscle shirt and pulled on his father’s turtleneck. Heading over to the mirror above his cheap dresser, he leaned in and made sure everything on his throat was covered up.

Just before he turned away, he reached up and removed, one by one, the black piercings that ran from his lobe up to his cartilage on the same side as his tattoos. Also took out the one on his brow.

Next move was to arm himself. Slipping on a shoulder holster, he tucked the pair of forties he’d been given the week before into both sides. The way the Brothers saw it, they were investing time and money into the trainees and the last thing they needed was for anyone in the program to wake up dead because they had shit equipment: Once the class had all been vetted properly at the gun range, the Glocks had been handed out—and although you were not permitted to bring the weapons into the training center, you sure as shit were expected to have ’em with you outside of it.

And use them properly if necessary. Unlike what they’d done the night before.

Out of the house, didn’t bother to lock the door—after all, there was no electricity to power the alarm, and besides, he didn’t really care about anything under the roof.

Hell, it’d be a relief if somebody broke in and lit the place on fire. Not that that was likely. He lived in the sticks; his nearest neighbor was a quarter of a mile away and probably took a donkey in to work.

Axe knew before he even dematerialized to the interview location that the house—or mansion or castle or whatever—was going to be huge. Even poor kids raised outside of the human world knew where the big estates were, and the zip code the place was in?

Yeah … okay, he thought as he re-formed.

Wow.

Axe shook his head at the stone structure in front of him. The thing had to be at least three stories high, and the front face of the slate roof alone seemed big as a football field. With about seven hundred black shutters and a front door that was more like the entrance to a parliament or a maybe a municipal library, he couldn’t actually believe a family lived there.

Then again, it wasn’t just a momma bear, a papa bear, and a baby bear. There were probably dozens of doggen.

It was exactly the kind of place his father would have been called on to work in.

Precisely like the sort of fancy home where the male had been killed during the raids.

Before he blew the job interview before it even started, Axe swallowed his bitterness and hiked it up the snow-covered lawn until he stepped over a low hedge that skirted a circular ring-around and proceeded to a series of steps to the front door.

There was a huge brass door knocker that was big as his arm, and also a discreet intercom off to one side.

He was reaching for the button when the heavy weight was opened by—oh, snap—a uniformed butler who looked alarmingly like Sir John Gielgud.

In his Arthur years.

“Are you Axwelle, son of Theirsh?” the male said with perfect diction.

For some completely unhelpful reason, Axe’s brain coughed out Dudley Moore doing his best drunk impression: You’re a hooker? Jesus … I forgot! I just thought I was doing great with you!

“Sire?” the butler prompted. “Are you Axwelle?”

Shaking himself, he almost answered with a Yeah. “Yes, I am.”

“Please, do come in.” The butler backed up and indicated with his hand. “I shall let my master know that you have arrived in a timely fashion.”

“Thanks. Thank you.”

Something about the guy made him want to be less of a schmo. Fuck that, everything about this whole damn thing made him—

Axe stopped where he was. Flaring his nostrils, he breathed in as the butler in the penguin suit said a few things and then turned away to walk over to a closed door.

Wait a minute, Axe thought.

Pivoting slowly in a circle, he continued to test the scents in the air. The big open reception hall, foyer, whatever the hell it was called, could easily fit three of the houses he lived in and still have room for a bowling alley, a swimming pool, and maybe an ice-skating rink. And the stuff that was placed around the open, cathedral-like space looked really old and really expensive: The floor was white and gray marble and there was, like, crystal shit hanging everywhere and oil paintings mounted on the walls. Oh, and there was a fireplace, but not like the one that kept him warm during the day. Theirs had, like, black marble and gold carvings around it, and the hearth was so big they didn’t have logs so much as tree trunks in there.

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