“The energy around us is…not right. So I’m not sure if the spell will stick in my head. Whatever I put together might have a completely different impact.”
His gaze hit mine. “I’m sorry—this is a bad way to train. Balance us out, and I’ll do it again.”
“It is a way to train, and at the moment, that’s good news.”
A grin tweaked his lips. “You’re so positive. Is there any badness in you?”
All the stories I’d told him of my exploits thus far, and he had to ask? His memory wasn’t the best.
I focused on the world around me, getting in tune with it—feeling the energy and nature, the chill of the air and smell of the sea. The vibe mellowed out and he went through the spell again, muttering about how much easier it was this time around. By the time he’d gone through it twice, a little too quickly for my taste, we were at the doors.
He dropped my hand and strutted into the hotel like he owned the place, his shoulders back and his head held high. I slouched in next to him, not great at making entrances. I found it better not to be noticed at all.
Hard plastic antlers reached from the walls all around the lobby, held in place by bold metal brackets. Two ladies stood behind a smallish check-in counter to the left, and a few guests converged toward the large sitting area at the back of the room. The lobby was tastefully furnished with a few groupings of chairs and couches. A large stone fireplace adorned the wall to the right, and floor-to-ceiling windows showed the blackness beyond. In the day, that window would be filled with the crystal-blue waters of Elliot Bay.
Vampires clearly liked luxury.
Emery stood straight and tall at the check-in desk, holding his frame with power and confidence. Despite his stained shirt and messy hair, he looked like he belonged—like he was born to the right of finery.
“I’d like to speak with Mr. Regent, please.” Emery’s hard words of command seemed to fill the room.
Eyes drifted our way. The check-in ladies both looked startled.
“Tone it down, there, chief,” I muttered, resting a hand on his arm.
“Do you have an appointment?” the blonde check-in lady asked, her smile frozen, uncertain. The other woman motioned to the couple standing behind us and started to check them in.
Emery lowered his voice. “I have a standing appointment. Tell him the natural has resurfaced. That’s all he need know.”
My phone buzzed in my pocket. I fished it out, not catching the check-in lady’s words but understanding their tone just fine. She intended to brush him off.
I flipped the phone open and clicked the button to read the text message. The letters came up on the antiquated screen. You need the boss of the boss. He’ll connect you to the highest level of power in the underworld.
I stared at my mom’s message, tremors racking my body. This was evidence that my mother had seen something. I could scarcely believe in my own ability to work magic, let alone hers. But there was no way she could fabricate this message.
I tugged on Emery’s sleeve and put the phone in front of him. He cut off whatever he was saying and glanced down, his brow furrowing as he read the message.
“Are you looking for the boss of this establishment?” I asked quietly.
His gaze hit mine, and I could see the affirmation in it…and the wheels that had started turning.
I pushed him to the side, purpose sizzling inside of me. It was time to own a little of my mother’s side, God help me.
The check-in woman’s stubborn blue gaze slid from Emery to me, and her chin lifted a fraction. I could tell by the set of her jaw and the height of her shoulders that she didn’t intend to budge.
“Hello.” I gave her a pleasant smile. “We seem to have some confusion here.”
“Mr. Regent does not take unsolicited—”
“Yes, that is the confusion.” I leaned over the counter, my smile turning fierce. This was happening, and it was going to happen now. “He is waiting for us, not the other way around. He is hoping for our call. Now, you will let him know we are here so that you don’t get fired. Not only that, but you will tell him we need a meeting with his boss.” Fire licked at my insides, and I felt the familiar yank I now recognized as magic. “Get him on the phone as soon as possible. We’ll be sitting by the fireplace. You can see in my eyes that, should you ignore me, I will do something you will regret. Is that reading clearly?”
Her widened eyes were glued to mine. She nodded mutely. No one around us seemed to notice the exchange.
This was why skulking worked so incredibly well for me.
I straightened up, releasing the fire I’d been holding inside of me. Sparkles danced before my eyes for just a moment before settling and winking out. She blinked twice, and immediately reached for the phone.
“This way.” I grabbed Emery’s forearm and steered him around the couple still checking in. Near the fireplace, I chose a seat in which I was facing one direction, and gestured to the seat opposite me so he was facing the other. If someone came at us, we’d see them coming.
Then it occurred to me. I’d forgotten to look for a single closet on the way over.
I mouthed a swear, which didn’t really count as swearing, and glanced behind me in case one was hidden in the wall. Nothing. There was the luggage holding area that bellboys used, and the hallway disappearing behind me led to rooms, it looked like, so there were bound to be closets that way. Should the world fall down around me, I had options.
Satisfied, I turned back to Emery, only then noticing his steady, blank-faced stare.
“What? Is he coming?” I glanced around, looking at people this time. Well-dressed hotel guests roamed around the lobby, or headed to the bar and disappeared down one of the hallways. No one seemed unnaturally pretty or alluring, and no one noticed us, except for a teenage girl who wouldn’t stop staring at Emery.
“I have no idea what spell you did back there.” His tone was flat, giving nothing away.
“Oh.” I frowned as I thought back. A part of me had realized I was using magic, but it hadn’t occurred to me that I was doing anything constructive with it. “Did you see the weave?”
“Yes. It was extremely intricate, which comes with experience.” His eyes glittered and a smile broke through his stoic expression. “You are very tricky, Turdswallop. I am rather impressed. Have you ever used that with your mother?”
I waved the comment away, trying to ignore the horrible pet name he insisted on using. “I’ve tried to sweet-talk her. It never goes well.”
“Your mother isn’t strong in spell-casting magic, but she has hidden depths. Her strength of will is incredible. It has to be, to get out from under the kind of spell you just blindsided that poor woman with. No wonder your mother was able to match with someone like your father. And keep you in line. Fate has plans for you, Penny Bristol. I wish I could watch them unfold.”
“I have news for you—you’re going to get a front-row seat. Just as soon as danger comes our way, we’ll experience my reactions together, equally as clueless as to what I’ll do next.”
His smile slid away, slowly replaced by sadness. He averted his gaze.
That was when I noticed the handsome man gliding through the room in black slacks and a white button-down shirt, the top two buttons opened.
I didn’t need anyone to tell me. The vampire was on the scene.
“Emery, hello,” the insanely handsome man said as he stopped near our seats. His expressive, deep brown eyes shone as he stuck out his hand. His smile curved perfectly shaped lips into a mouth-watering smile. “So good of you to visit.”
Emery stood, his face stoic but not any more so than usual. He almost seemed bored, which went against the warnings he’d given me earlier.
Then it occurred to me about his power and strife in what I assumed was the wilds—he strove to be the top of the food chain. In this room, he clearly thought he was.
“Hi, Clyde,” Emery said, shaking hands.
Clyde? What kind of a vampire name was Clyde?
“And who is your beautiful friend?” Clyde turned to me, his gorgeous features made even more attractive by a wide smile. But his eyes weren’t shining with delight. That sheen was something else. Something lurking. Predatory. Watchful.
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