“Jada,” Dancer said happily behind me. “Welcome home!”
I felt like the biggest shit in the world. The one thing none of us had said, Dancer put right out there right away. Saying the normal thing, the nice thing, the thing she’d probably wanted to hear the most. Making the rest of us look like monsters.
Animation returned to Jada’s face—well, as much animation as it ever had—and she said, “Thank you. It’s good to be back.”
A nice normal reply. More than any of us had gotten from her.
“I can imagine,” Dancer said. “Actually, no I can’t. No clue what you went through, but you kicked its ass, didn’t you, Jada? You made it—just like you always do. Good thing, too. We’re in a world of shit.”
“The black holes,” she agreed.
“I’ve got a ton of stuff to go over with you, when you have a minute. Primarily speculation at this point, but between the two of us, we’ll sort it out. I also finished the Papa Roach spray whenever you have a minute to swing by.”
“No one’s swinging by anywhere.” Shooting Jada a pointed look, Ryodan said, “Someone published a rash of dailies that have everyone looking for us.”
“I told you, I don’t believe Jada published the one about me,” I defended again.
“And Jada certainly didn’t publish the one about herself,” said Barrons.
“She admitted she published the one about us,” Ryodan said flatly.
Barrons whipped his head toward Jada, eyes narrowed.
“Well, why wouldn’t she?” Dancer said. “More targets dilute the hunt.”
“Precisely,” Jada said. “I think Ryodan published the first two that betrayed me and Mac.”
“It sounds like something he would do,” Christian agreed. “Hunted women are easier to control.”
“Whoever is behind WeCare is the one who published those dailies,” Ryodan growled. “That’s who you need to be looking for.”
“And who the bloody hell is behind WeCare?” Christian said.
“Don’t look at me,” Ryodan said.
“Well, it’s not me,” I said. “Remember, I got targeted.”
“Enough!” Jada said, pushing herself up to her full height, which never failed to startle me. She was taller than me now. “We’re not devolving into our customary bickering. I didn’t fight so hard to get back here only to lose my world. If you are incapable of focus,” she gestured at the door, “leave. Now.”
I didn’t hear a word she said. The moment she’d stood, a glint of silver against the stark black of her outfit had caught my eye. While she’d been seated, I couldn’t see it. My tongue was useless for a few seconds, thickened by shock. I was able to focus on one thing only. “What are you doing with the sword?” I demanded.
“The same thing I always did with it. Killing Unseelie.”
“You said you lost it!”
“I said no such thing. You said I lost it. I said I knew precisely where it was.”
I narrowed my eyes. “You played me.”
“You assumed. I didn’t correct you. It’s not my job to correct you. The spear was useless in your hands. It’s useful where it is now.”
“You took Mac’s spear?” Barrons said. “When you already had the sword, leaving her defenseless?”
“You’re talking to Dani, Barrons,” Ryodan murmured. “Remember that.”
“Really?” I snapped at Ryodan. “Because I thought she was sounding a lot like you.”
“I’m Jada,” she said to Ryodan. “And don’t try to protect me. I stopped needing you a long time ago.”
“Stopped,” Ryodan echoed.
“Not that I ever did,” she corrected.
“I don’t care who she is,” Barrons growled. “I gave Mac the spear. It’s hers and no one else’s.”
I shot him a curious look. You didn’t like me carrying it. You said so yourself.
He shot back, Far more than someone else carrying a weapon that can harm you. While I believe Jada won’t use the sword against you, I have no such faith in the sidhe-seers. Untenable risk.
“I gave her the cuff of Cruce,” Jada said. “She can also make herself invisible when she so chooses. Clearly, however, she can’t color her hair. Still, she is hardly defenseless.”
My hand went to my hair. “It’s paint,” I said stiffly, “because someone printed a daily that set the Guardians on me, shooting at me. They invaded BB&B and sprayed everything with red paint, and no, I can’t make myself invisible when I want to. That was the Sinsar Dubh, not me.”
Jada said acerbically, “So it is controlling you.”
I snapped, “That’s not what I—”
My hair shot straight up as a small tornado blew past me. I was talking to thin air.
Jada was gone. So was Barrons.
I glanced at Ryodan. Then he was gone, too.
I heard a high whining sound as if they were all snarling or shouting much faster than my brain could process as they faded down the hall.
We were alone in Jada’s study.
I looked at Christian, who was looking at Dancer. Dancer was staring at the door, looking worried. The three of us stood in silence until Christian said, “I’ve a corpse to find while that bastard’s otherwise occupied,” and vanished.
Dancer shook his head and slowly turned his gaze to me. “How do you expect us to save the world if we can’t even stay in the same room together for five minutes?”
“We just need to work a few things out first,” I said irritably. “We’ll get there.”
“The black holes don’t give a rat’s arse about our ‘things.’ And she’s right about the spear. Word on the street is no one was killing Unseelie. Why weren’t you out there?”
“That’s none of your business.”
He smiled faintly but his eyes were sad. “You know one of the best things about Dani?”
The list was long.
“She feared nothing. Do you know what fear fears?”
I inclined my head, waiting.
“Laughter,” he said.
“Your point?” I said stiffly, in no mood for more of his cutting insights. We’d accomplished nothing tonight but pissing each other off. Again.