With the next ebbing of the fog, a figure emerged from all the trunks and bare branches. And when he recognized the male, his heart skipped a beat.
You lost your people, your family.
Tohrment, son of Hharm, was as he had been centuries before, a tall, broad, uncompromising soldier with a level stare and calm presence. There was a white patch at the front of his dark hair now, and his leathers were modern. But the black daggers that were crossed, handles down, on his chest, were just as they had always been.
“How many are with you,” Sahvage said roughly as the Brother came forward.
“All of them.”
At that, more figures stepped forward . . . Vishous, who now had a goatee. Murhder, who was still red-and-black-haired. And then there were others whose faces he didn’t recognize.
And there were others who he expected to see and did not.
But it had been a very, very long time.
On that note, the wind shifted directions and carried their scents to him—and as he breathed in, his eyes watered. He told himself that it was because of the cold breeze in his face. Yup. That was it.
And motherfucker, he should have known this was going to be a setup. More than that, he should have known not to swing through Caldwell after hearing the King was based here and had finally decided to rule. Too close, given that where Wrath was, the Brotherhood would never be far behind.
He never should have fucking set foot in the zip code.
Sahvage cleared his throat. “So is this where you try to kill me for bringing disgrace on the Brotherhood?”
“What happened to you?” Tohr asked without rancor. Which was, after all, his way—and no doubt the reason that he had stepped forward first. Still the levelheaded one. “We thought you were dead.”
“So you found my coffin, huh?” Sahvage checked his phone even though it hadn’t rung. “Look, I don’t have time for a reunion and I’m not interested in catching up. We’ve been our separate ways”—What the fuck was he saying?—“for all this time, and we’re going to keep it that way—unless you want to fight it out. In which case, let’s get down to it. I’ve got somewhere I need to be.”
Where exactly that was, he didn’t know.
“What happened to you?” Tohr asked again.
“I got some tattoos. That’s pretty much it.”
For a split second, he went back to how it had been with the males: His training with them in the Bloodletter’s War Camp. The fighting. His induction. He had been a part of the Brotherhood for a little while, but then his uncle had been killed by lessers . . . and Rahvyn had been left with no one.
After which . . . came meadows and fireflies and arrows. Headless guards. And an aristocrat on a flagpole.
As all kinds of images played through his mind, he was aware of holding back his emotions inside his chest. Then again, mourning had never been his thing, had it.
He thought of Mae and her brother.
Then just thought of Mae.
“I was a bad pick from the jump,” he said roughly. “And I’m sorry I snowed you with my coffin shit. But that’s the only apology you’re going to get—”
“We’re not here to catch up, either.” Tohr’s eyes did an up-and-down. “And we don’t need an apology or an explanation. We need your help.”
Sahvage laughed in a short burst and stamped a boot. “You’re in a sorry fucking state if you’re looking for help from me.”
“Exactly,” Tohr said in a grim voice.
Still stuck in the brunette’s . . . lair, or whatever the hell it was . . . Mae walked another circle around the wardrobe area again—even though it wasn’t going to make any goddamn difference. And as she went past what she had come to think of as sparkle alley, she heard the rumble of the subway again.
“Think, think, thinkthinkthink . . .”
She’d already done as much as she could with the door—which was absolutely fucking nothing. That thing was solid like it had been soldered in place. And still no windows or viable vents. And time was passing.
Which increased the likelihood of the brunette returning.
In frustration, Mae closed her eyes and let her head fall back. If she didn’t figure this out, she wasn’t going to be able to help Rhoger. Tallah would be alone and scared. And Sahvage—
As her eyes opened, she almost kept walking . . . but just as she went to take a step forward, the fixture on the ceiling, which she had just happened to stop under, registered.
A sprinkler head.
Suddenly alert, she looked for others. There were six in total, mounted at equidistant intervals around the space. And not only were they bright and shiny, they had blinking red lights—so they were part of a working system.
Mae turned to the kitchen area. The Viking stove was an eight-burner, and sparkling clean as well. With her heart pounding, she went over and cranked one of the knobs. There was a clicking sound . . .
A blue flame popped up, all accommodating. All hot. All . . . ready to get busy with anything that came into its vicinity.
Blindly stumbling back to the clothes, she considered her options—and decided to go for the purses. For one, they could carry a flame and not just burn quickly like kindling. And two, she could use the handles to hold the heat close to the sprinkler head. But which one?
“You’re not pulling together a frickin’ outfit,” she muttered.
In the center of the display, there was a boxy bag of some kind of exotic leather, the pattern of scales shades of gray on the edges that faded to a creamy white center. As she grabbed it because it was the closest, the little lock in front sparkled with diamonds.
Over at the stove, she held one of the corners to the open flame. The smell was like BBQ—but the insta-burn she had imagined did not happen.
As seconds turned into a minute or more, she glanced back at the main door. Just as she was getting desperate, a burst of yellow and orange caught purchase on the leather. Mae waited until she was certain the transfer was complete . . . and then she started walking. Fortunately, the nearest sprinkler was not far.
“Come on . . .” she groaned as she stretched up onto her tiptoes and lifted the purse as high as she could.
No alarm went off. No water rained down. No anything.
The ceiling was nine or ten feet tall. Maybe she wasn’t close enough? But crap, her arms were getting tired because the purse was so heavy. With a curse, she lowered them . . . and then went over and pulled a chair away from the table. Under the sprinkler again, she stepped up and put the flames right on the steel fixture.
The smell of burning leather got stronger. Smoke began to waft in her face. She coughed and had to turn her head away.
Still nothing happened.
Glancing over her shoulder, she checked out the other sprinklers. “Damn it . . .”
She didn’t need to see a clock to know that she was seriously out of time. And had no other options.
• • •
In spite of Sahvage’s minor surge of emotion, he didn’t let Tohrment, son of Hharm, go any further with whatever problems the Brotherhood had.
“You guys need to deal with your own shit.” He waved a hand toward all the strong male bodies standing in the mist and then refocused on his phone. Which—goddamn it—had not rung. “You’ve got resources, and you’ve been dealing with the Omega and the Lessening Society for centuries. You don’t need me—”