“She slaughtered Mick!”
“You don’t know that.”
“Everyone’s saying it.”
“And since everyone’s saying it, it must be true,” Jayne mocked. “Without concrete proof we don’t move against anyone. And never without my explicit orders.”
“They say she’s possessed by the Book—”
Who says? I wondered.
“The Book was destroyed,” Jayne snapped.
“They say there’s another one!”
“They say,” Jayne echoed. “Are you so easily persuaded? If there was a second copy of the Sinsar Dubh and she was possessed by it and actually here, do you really think you wouldn’t be dead right now? It kills. Brutally. Without hesitation. You’ve seen what it does. We all have. It wouldn’t cower and hide while you destroyed its home.”
Faulty logic but I wasn’t about to argue. Too busy cowering and hiding.
“You wanted an excuse to raise hell and you dragged good men into it with you. Brody O’Roark, I said fall the fuck in!” Jayne roared.
This time, ten men moved toward the good inspector, forming up.
Brody stood unmoving, legs wide, hands fisted. “She has the spear. We should have the spear and you bloody well know it.”
“We don’t kill humans to steal their weapons.”
“You took the sword from the kid.”
“At an opportune moment, without hurting her.”
I wasn’t sure Dani saw it that way.
“We don’t cry sentence on any human until we’ve examined the evidence,” Jayne continued. “And we sure as fuck don’t slaughter people—any people—on the unproven word of an unvetted source.”
Two more men moved toward their barrel-chested commander.
I like Jayne. He’s a good man. Flawed like the rest of us but his heart is in the right place.
I’d give my bullet-pierced right arm to know who their unvetted source was.
“They were right about her being invisible,” Brody growled.
“That doesn’t mean they’re right about everything. And until we’ve investigated, we take no action,” Jayne said. “Besides, do you know whose store this is? Who she belongs to? Are you bloody daft? You want to bring his vengeance crashing down on us? Who the fuck do you think you are to make that decision and jeopardize every man on our force?”
“It’s war, Jayne. He’s not on our side. He’s on no one’s side but his own.”
“In war, a wise man makes alliances.”
“Ballocks. You blow up bridges so the enemy can’t come across.”
“You didn’t blow up a bridge. You invaded his home. Wrecked it. Hunted his woman. Now he’ll hunt us for it.”
Eight more men joined the inspector’s ranks.
“Clean this place up,” Jayne ordered.
Everyone just stared at him, including me.
“It’s oil-based, Inspector,” one of the younger Guardians protested. “There’s no cleaning it up unless we slosh the place with—”
“Petrol,” Brody said with a savage smile. “We’ll burn it down. Then he’ll never know.”
“The fuck you will,” Jayne exploded. “You’ll haul your bloody arses out of here now and hope to hell she’s not here to tell him who the fools were that did this. Move it, men! Fall in!”
I didn’t breathe properly until the last man had marched out the front door, with hostile, battle-ready, pyrodickhead Brody at the rear, glaring back at the room over his shoulder as he left.
I lay there another ten minutes, shaking off the trauma. I’d read in one of my books that most of the time animals didn’t get the human equivalent of PTSD. They shook violently after a horrifying incident, their body’s way of processing and eliminating the tension and terror. I embraced the involuntary trembling until at last my body was still.
If not for Jayne, they’d have found me. They’d wanted to burn my cherished bookstore. Gut it. Leave it a smoking ruin.
Screw patrons. There hadn’t been more than a paltry handful for a long time anyway. I wanted this place warded against humans. I wanted steel shutters on the windows so no one could throw a flaming projectile through. I wanted the entrances changed to bank vault doors. BB&B was more than my store, it was my home.
I dragged myself off the bookcase, dropped over the edge and hit the floor hard, wincing with pain. I smeared wet red paint everywhere as I slipped and slid across the floor to the bathroom.
A half hour later I was sitting naked on a towel in the bathroom, a bottle of rubbing alcohol in one hand, switchblade in the other.
I might have healed, but two bullets were still inside me in highly inconvenient places. One would think, I mused sourly, that regeneration might include a tidy little ejection-of-foreign-objects-in-the-process caveat. Really, if you’re going to get some kind of magic fix-it, it should be comprehensive.
The bullet lodged in my arm was either on or partly in a tendon and excruciatingly painful each time I flexed my arm. The one in my leg was in the middle of my quadriceps and burned with each step. Muscles weren’t meant to host foreign metallic objects. Especially not hollow points that expanded on impact. Besides, if they weren’t iron, they were lead, and lead was toxic. I could end up walking around with a mild case of heavy metal poisoning for the rest of my Fae-extended life. This rapid healing/immortality thing with which I was afflicted with came with a whole new set of challenges. I guess if someone stabbed me and I couldn’t pull the knife out for some reason—like I was tied up or something—I’d just grow back together around it.
Cripes. Really sick things could be done to me. The more invulnerable I got, the more vulnerable I felt.
Ergo the switchblade and alcohol. I was naked because my clothes were covered with wet paint that was getting on everything I touched, and I refused to go upstairs for clean ones until I had these bullets out. They hadn’t gotten that far with their spray paint and I wasn’t about to mess up any more of my home.
The problem was, I couldn’t see my leg. I splayed my hand over my thigh trying to feel the precise location of the bullet. It was no use. The muscle was too dense. But from the pain deep in my quad, I had a fair idea where to make the incision.
I’d have to be quick.