“Did you seal the second-story windows, too? With salt?”
“Evil can only enter a place on the ground floor or with an invitation.”
“And if a house isn’t protected?”
“She can walk in any way she pleases.” He rubbed his aching head. “Come down the chimney like Santa Claus if she wants. I don’t fucking know.”
“I’ll say it again, thank God you did what you did.” Mae went over and got her bag and purse out of her car. “And you’re sure this house is safe.”
“You saw for yourself. She couldn’t get in.”
“I can’t believe this is happening.”
Sahvage went across to a rear window. The daytime shutters were down, and he released the locking hooks to pop the seal—but made sure things stayed mostly in place.
“I’ll get you back to the cottage,” he said, “then I’m going to my place to pick up some more weapons.”
“I can help. I’ll go with you—”
“You need to stay with Tallah. You two should be safe together and I’m not going to be gone long—”
“Can I ask you something?”
He glanced over. Mae had her purse up on her shoulder, and a two-handled bag in her left grip. She looked frazzled, her hair fuzzing out of that ponytail, her eyes too bright, her cheeks too pale. But it was clear she wasn’t going to quit.
Fucking hell. He was going to miss her when he left.
“Depends on what you want to know,” he said softly.
“Where do you live? Who is . . . do you have anyone in your life?”
“Don’t worry. Nobody is going to wonder where I am or what I’m doing and get nosy. Your privacy, and Tallah’s, is locked tight.”
Mae cleared her throat. “I’m sorry.”
“That you’re alone.”
“It’s by design, I assure you—”
“So that’s why you’re telling me to leave you before we even start, huh. Even if you’re hurt. Even if you’re . . . dying.”
All Sahvage could do was shake his head at her. “Don’t play the hypothetical game.”
“I’m not changing my one demand just because you’re restating it to me, sweetheart. Now let’s head out, I need some fucking air—and yes, I did just sweetheart you again. You want to yell at me for it, hold your breath for when we get back to the cottage.”
Mae walked over to him. Tilted her chin up. And—
“Not now,” he all but groaned. “Please. Just go and I’ll meet you at that old female’s. She’s the one you care about, remember?”
“You don’t need to remind me where my priorities are.”
With that, Mae left—and for a split second, as he glanced around the garage, he entertained a brief, insane fantasy where he came home at the end of the night, and she was back from whatever work she did, and they sat across from each other at a dinner table and talked over the hours they’d been apart.
Never going to happen, he thought as he ghosted away. For so many reasons.
As he traveled out of suburbia in a scatter, he followed the echo of his blood in her out into farm country—and re-formed inside the bedroom at the front of the cottage. She was already there and going for the stairs, her purse clapping against her side, that bag swinging in her hand.
“Checking on Tallah?” he asked.
“What do you think,” she muttered.
Or at least he assumed that’s what she said.
As he listened to her descend the old, rickety staircase, he came to two conclusions, neither of which gave him any comfort: They were going to need weapons she could use, too. And shit, he wished he believed in the Scribe Virgin.
He could have used someone to pray to.
“I’ll be right back,” he called out.
No response. But he hadn’t expected one.
Listening to her move around down on the first level, he gave her a chance to walk off some stress. Then he heard her go into the cellar, the sound of her footfalls growing dim.
Closing his eyes, he sent his instincts out, just to make sure that there were no sounds, scents, or strange disturbances of any kind in the cottage. When nothing came back to him, he figured things were as safe as they were going to get.
Needless to say, the trip back to his place was going to be a real fucking quick one. And shit, he didn’t think he had enough firepower.
Then again, he could have had a missile launcher in the side yard and still felt like he was light-packing.
As Lassiter walked through the forest of the Brotherhood’s mountain, it was not with a swagger, like he owned the joint. Instead, he carefully picked the places in the leaves and craggy underbrush where he could safely put his booted feet. And he constantly brushed off his shoulders, convinced things were dropping on him from overhead. And that sweet, natural pine smell? Irritated the fuck out of his sinuses.
For all the dominion he had over earthly matters, and vampires in particular, he fucking hated nature. Something was always sneaking under your collar and fifteen-feeting it down your spine. Or pooping on your head. Or poking you in the eye. Or giving you rabies.
Plus rain. Snow. Sleet. Hail. Which led to the fun and games of faucet-running noses, frostbitten toes, and oh, yeah, black ice that sent your car face-first into a tree trunk.
And then, because June through August didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to harass people, you got the too-hot summer. So in addition to bees, wasps, and yellowjackets, you had armpit sweat. Chafing. Flip-flops.
He couldn’t fucking stand flip-flops. Nobody ever needed to see anybody else’s piggies-go-to-market.
And there was another part to it all. To make his climate intolerance and allergy to nature’s so-called wonders worse? He lived with Vishous. Who was only too happy to call a person out as a “pussy” if they happened to bring up the fact that maybe staying indoors was a great idea when the temperature was higher, or lower, than seventy degrees.
Whatever. Put that snarky SOB in a world full of Hallmark cards, MLM hun-bots, and “Save Britney” hashtags, and see how he did—
As the wind changed direction and half of the angel’s pec-length hair spidered into his face, he batted the stuff away and glared to the northeast.
“I swear to fucking God, I will put a muzzle on you.”
Aware that he had just told a force of nature to quit it or he’d give it something to cry about, he decided maybe he was just spoiled. His office was on the Other Side, up in the Sanctuary. Where it was always seventy degrees with no breeze—and no ticks, hornets, or mosquitos. Brown recluses. Asps.
Talk about muzzles. Technically, there were options for dealing with that brother. In the hierarchy of things, the real flowchart of authority? Lassiter was the apex asshole, above even Wrath. And no matter how annoyed that made V, it was what it was: Gravity. The rise and fall of the sun. The supremacy of Eddie Van Halen’s guitar licks, Bea Arthur’s sense of style, the New York Yankees’ batting average . . . and Lassiter’s buck-stops-here.
Actually, he didn’t really give a fuck about baseball. He just really enjoyed messing with V’s Red Sox obsession.