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“I suspect that’s not what he is.”

“What do you mean?”

“In the past, the Book possessed whoever touched it. That’s not what happened with him. He knew the First Language and was able to read it. The spells traveled up his arms, into his body. Did you ever see that happen before when someone handled it?”

I shook my head. It had always seized control of the person, taken them over completely. Never had the Book itself been destroyed.

Yet only a thin pile of gold dust and a handful of red, winking gemstones had remained of the Sinsar Dubh on the slab.

“The sentient Book crumbled once he was finished. Legend holds there are two parts to the Sinsar Dubh. A Book of words, spells on a page. And a second facet, the thing that evolved into a living, intelligent, hate-obsessed being with far more power than the words it contained. It appeared the sentient Sinsar Dubh was destroyed that night, and Cruce merely absorbed the knowledge.”

“Oh, God,” I breathed. “You could be right.” That prick. Had he gotten all the power without any of the price? That would make him pretty much…well, nearly the Unseelie king. I narrowed my eyes. “We don’t know that for certain.”

“But if it’s true, we wonder if you could do the same.”

“Can you tell us anything, Ms. Lane?” Barrons said.

I swiveled my head to look at him. I’d been “Mac” mere minutes ago. “Why do you do that?”

His eyes said, Do you really want to call me Jericho?

I thought about it a minute and was rather startled to realize I didn’t. Jericho was…intimate. Jericho and Mac were a completely different entity than Ms. Lane and Barrons. They existed in a different place. A freer environ, a sacred one. And I liked that difference. I nodded, smiling faintly. His dark eyes gleamed with something appreciative, and I practically preened.

You continue to evolve, his eyes said. Keep fucking me instead of worrying.

“Tell me about the Book,” Ryodan said. “I want to understand how it’s in you.”

I sighed and tried to figure out how to explain it. “I’ve got this place inside me. I don’t know how to say quite where, I think it must be in my head. It’s a deep, glassy black lake but it’s more than that, too. There are caverns and pebbled shores. Who knows, maybe I’ve got a whole bloody country inside me. I think the lake is my sidhe-seer place. But it was altered by something else inside me and now it’s…different. If there were boundaries, I can’t tell where they are anymore.”

“The Book,” Ryodan said.

I looked at Barrons. I don’t know why. Maybe just to make sure he was there, as he’d been there the single time I dived to the bottom of my dark glassy lake and beheld the Sinsar Dubh in all its shining, tempting glory. Just in case talking about it made it do something evil, I wanted to know he was nearby.

“It’s there,” I said peevishly. “At the bottom of the lake. But I have to swim all the way down to get to it. It’s in a black cavern, on a pedestal. Closed.” I glared at him. “For good reason.” I’d closed it that afternoon, months ago with Barrons. Whumped it firmly shut.

“Have you gone inside your head and looked at it recently,” said Ryodan.

“Nope.” Not about to either. Knowing my luck, it would be open to an extremely useful spell that I’d begin to think I might want, or need, or possibly not be able to live without.

“I want you to,” Ryodan said.

“Are you on board with this?” I fired at Barrons.

His dark eyes flashed. We all have our inner beasts.

And you think you can manage mine? I shot back.

I think I do a damn fine job. Images of what we’d just done surfaced in his eyes.

That’s different.

We control ours. It took time.

How much time?

We made mistakes, was all he said.

You want me to look.

I want this world. I want you. It may be the only way. I see no other alternatives at present. If there’s a way inside you to stop the black holes from destroying Earth, we need it.

I want you. Those three simple words. They undo me. Melt me. Forge me into steel stronger than I am. Barrons’s belief in me is pure titanium.

Over millennia, searching for the spell to free my son, I never once caught wind of anything reputed to contain part of the Song of Making aside from the Book I hunted.

Millennia, he’d said. Barrons had lived for thousands of years. It was one thing to suspect it, another to hear him admit it. My lover was thousands of years old. I was twenty-three. No wonder we had issues.

I frowned, recalling something else I knew about that might be of use to us now. A thing I’d seen in the White Mansion when I was hunting with Darroc for the Silver back to Dublin.

But I’d been stoically refusing to think about it ever since I realized what I had inside me, unwilling to let my inner beast catch wind of it, if it hadn’t already.

I sighed. “I’ll take a look. But if I go batshit crazy down there, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“Go?” Ryodan said, his inflection clearly implying he thought I was already there.

I wrinkled my nose at him. “If I’m going to do this, I need a drink first.”

“I’ll have one sent up,” Ryodan said. “Name your poison.”

“I want to get it myself,” I said coolly, aware I was only trying to stave off the inevitable. But I wanted to walk somewhere of my own volition, feel alive and free for a few more minutes before I risked body and soul.

“We’ll all get one,” he said, pushing up from behind his desk.

When I walked down the chrome and glass stairs with Barrons on my left, Ryodan on my right, I could have been slain by the daggers of envy shot my way, from every subclub below.

If only they knew.

I would have opted for the Sinatra club but Ryodan saw Christian looming darkly at the bar and steered us away.

To the kiddie subclub where Jo worked, wearing a short, kicky plaid skirt, white blouse, and baby doll heels, looking pretty, her short dark hair highlighted with gold and blond. She came to wait on us with a wary look when Ryodan gestured, but he only ordered three glasses of Macallan, Rare Cask, with the blandest of expressions. As she hurried away to fill the order, I sensed a stir in the crowd on the dance floor.

I looked around, trying to decide what was causing it, and realized the crowd was parting for some reason, allowing someone or something’s passage.