Page 17

With a sigh, I curl up closest to Kai’s side, since I haven’t had nearly as much close time with him, and let his arm drape around me. He doesn’t kiss my head, but his hand stays fixed to my ass.

We stay up late, watching cartoons, laughing at stupid jokes, and drinking more alcohol.

The entire time, I can’t even enjoy it as much as I should, and they all feel it too. After all, Jude’s a much bigger piece of their lives than mine.

One person is missing.

Chapter 10

A smear of red polish goes along the side of my toe, and I curse as I wiggle on top of the bar. Apparently, the skill to paint one’s toenails is not in my arsenal of hidden talents.

“Damn it, that girl made it look so easy on the tutorial. I’m tempted to find her address and go slap her across the face for misleading me,” I growl, streaking the side of my toe again.

“The kitchen bar is usually used for something other than painting one’s toes,” Kai says idly from beside me as he drinks his coffee and sharpens his sai.

It’s almost noon, and I’m supposed to be ready by the time Jude returns from soul collecting with the other three. Kai overslept.

Kai. Overslept.

It was a first for him. So he stayed in bed with me all morning and into noon. I was beat.

“Can you keep a secret?” I ask on a sigh.

He mimes the motion of zipping his lips, never glancing at me, and I go phantom, imagine my toenails painted the exact same shade of red, and all colored inside the lines. Then I turn whole and wiggle my toes in a pair of snazzy sandals that showcases them best.

Kai glances over at my feet and smirks.

“It was actually a very thoughtful gift, but I’m apparently terrible at such girly things when I have to actually do them physically.”

“You’re saying you’re spoiled,” he suggests.

“Just don’t tell Ezekiel,” I say on a sigh as I screw the lid back on the nail polish.

The guys appear in the kitchen, and Ezekiel flashes me a grin when he sees me holding the red polish, while showcasing my pretty new red toenails.

However, he looks a little unimpressed when he sees my toenails, and looks over his shoulder as Jude jogs up the stairs.

I expect Kai to sell me out and tell him I’m a cheater, but he just keeps sharpening his sai.

“How bad was it?” Kai asks absently.

Ezekiel shrugs as he props up beside me. Gage goes to pull out sandwich stuff.

“More than usual but not too many for us to handle, even the day after the third trials. It almost feels like today’s task was just to test us and see us after the trials—energy levels and all.”

Kai flicks his gaze over at me. “I bet Jude didn’t look as well rested as the two of you,” he quips, smirking when he hears Jude stomping back down the stairs much harder than necessary.

I’m too busy preening and trying to get Ezekiel to tell me how awesome I did at painting my toenails for my very first time. He doesn’t know I cheated, after all.

“You ready?” Jude asks me, his gaze not meeting mine as he pulls a black masquerade mask from behind his back.

“Are we going to a party?” I ask, edging my foot over the counter, pushing it closer to Ezekiel.

“I’d rather no one see my face, and a masquerade mask isn’t too uncommon in the royal part of hell,” he tells me without ever glancing my way.

Ezekiel is paying him more attention than my freaking feet.

“For fuck’s sake, so what if she cheated? She spent an hour trying to paint the damn things just because you bought her the fucking polish. Give her a compliment already,” Kai says, confusing me, until I realize he’s angrily directing that toward Ezekiel.

“It’s that obvious I cheated?” I ask dryly, as Ezekiel’s grin grows to take up his entire face.

“First timers make a mess,” Ezekiel says with a shrug. “But yours look perfect.”

I beam. “Thank you. That’s the closest to a compliment any of you have really paid me. I’ll take it,” I say as I slide off the bar and go phantom, fashioning myself a long, understated sexy dress.

Silver high heels offer the black gown a pretty contrast, along with a silvery mask that makes it look like we’re ready for the ball. Even if he is wearing tactical gear with his mask instead of a tux.

I’m actually sick of seeing them in tuxes since the trials. Bad memories are involved with tuxes.

Jude arches an eyebrow as he sweeps his gaze over me. “I can’t even right now,” he says, batting a hand in my direction before reaching through me and siphoning us before I can tell the others goodbye.

However, I don’t complain as we land in a parking lot outside of a condemned shopping mart.

“This is a creepy meeting place,” I tell him, twirling around in my phantom form. “And I think I’m entirely overdressed.”

“Remember this is a very important contact to all of us, and don’t do anything to ruin that relationship,” he says quietly, as though he’s worried someone may be listening.

“Why would I do anything to ruin it?” I ask suspiciously.

He gives me a look.

“Fine,” I grumble, rolling my eyes and deciding not to argue, since I’m supposed to be pretending I don’t care so much. “I promise.”

We stay quiet after that, for a very boringly long time.

No Lake shows up.

A sizzling sound has me zapping myself across the lot to a wall, and Jude is right behind me, both of us staring at the burning words as they appear.

It’s an address in New Orleans. Why is that—

A tingle passes through me when Jude’s hand touches my phantom hip, and suddenly we’re inside a hotel.

My breath catches, and I race behind him, still in phantom form as he walks to the front desk. The guy behind the counter looks up with a bored expression on his face, despite the numerous weapons strapped to Jude’s body like he’s going to war.

The guy never speaks to Jude, and Jude never says a word. A key card is passed over without any other exchange, and Jude walks over to press the elevator buttons.

As soon as the doors open, he boards, and I join him.

“What’s going on?” I ask him warily when we’re all alone on the elevator.

His eyes flick up to the tiny red dot on a panel, and the plaque under it informs us there is indeed a camera watching the elevator. Right. He can’t talk to me in here.

When the doors open, he steps off first, but I’m right behind him, scanning the hallway. I really don’t like this cloak-and-dagger stuff. It’s making me paranoid.

Honest people don’t have their friends sneak around like criminals to meet them, right? Clearly, Lake is not as awesome as I am.

“I don’t think bringing in new people at this point is the best idea. I know my opinion doesn’t matter, but we learned a lot about the Devil’s intentions through the trials,” I state, knowing he can’t argue with me in the hallway.

He holds the key card up to a door, and he pushes through it.

Pulling out a compass-looking contraption that looks oddly familiar, Jude moves to the desk in the room. He opens it, does something to it, and then leaves it open.

As he draws all the curtains completely shut, he pulls off his mask, and I lose mine as well.

“We can speak and not be heard, even if the room is bugged now,” he tells me.

“What if someone is pressed to the wall with a glass to their ear?” I point out.

I love it when he looks exasperated with me. It means I have at least some effect on him. The wrong effect, but I’ll take it.

“That device makes it so that only silence can be heard in this room, unless you’re physically in this room.”

“I’m not physically in this room, but—”

“Just stop talking,” he says, his hands up like he ‘just can’t with me’ right now.

“Why did she send you to this place?” I ask him as he pulls out his phone, but doesn’t do anything. “Shouldn’t you tell the guys where we are?”

He shakes his head. “We never text locations. Phones are too easily traced. My GPS is off, but anyone could be reading our messages. They know Lake is paranoid and would send me to another location to meet,” he tells me.

I poke my head through the outside wall, looking down and noting we’re on Bourbon Street. I know this because the guys come here on occasion when they’re taking a much-needed break from all the reaping.

Pulling back in, I face him as he pours himself a glass of the drink I got shit-faced on last night. I’ll pass today. I need to be level-headed.

“How do you know Lake?” I ask him, sitting down on the bed.

“Are you going to talk the entire time we have to wait?” he groans.

“Does she always keep you waiting so long?” I muse.

He rolls his eyes as he throws back some of the drink and starts removing his straps of weapons with his free hand.

“She’s paranoid. She’ll watch the outside of the hotel for a while. She’ll watch the lobby. Then she’ll gradually move up to her own room and watch the door. Then, when she’s certain I haven’t been followed, she’ll come in.”

“That’s a lot of paranoia,” I agree, as though that’s what he’s saying.

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