Home > Reckoning (Strange Angels #5)(10)

Reckoning (Strange Angels #5)(10)
Author: Lili St. Crow, Lilith Saintcrow

Wait a second. Just hold on one goddamn second. Graves said he . . . did he actually say that? Did he say what I think he just said?

We looked at each other for a long time, the Broken and me. It occurred to me that he was waiting for something. For me to make the world settle down.

Except everything was still spinning around me, and if I didn’t hold on, I’d be flung off. I hate that feeling.

I’d been spinning since Dad died, in one way or another.

But Ash was counting on me. Examining me solemnly, his face like a child’s. Wide open, and scared, and utterly trusting all at the same time. You’re going to make the bad stop, right? That’s what was painted all over him, from the way he crouched to the wide eyes and his mouth just a little bit agape.

“It’s okay.” I tried to sound steady. “Everything’s all right.”

“Awwight.” His mouth worked loosely over the word. I’d shot him in the jaw with Dad’s silvergrain bullets, and some of the silver was probably still in there, buried in the bone and preventing everything from changing back and forth right. Or, even scarier, the silver had worked its way out and now I had the thought that he was free of Sergej’s hold but somehow still Broken, and I didn’t know enough about how to fix him.

Every single problem I’d forgotten about while sleeping came crowding back. First on the list was breakfast.

I felt like falling asleep on the loveseat had twisted the world off course again, just a fraction. I wasn’t complaining, but I wished Graves would’ve waited until I’d had some coffee and I could think before he laid that on me.

Did he just say what I think he just said?

Ash slid down a few more stairs, slinking bonelessly on his hands and feet like a cat. “Hongwee.” He nodded vigorously. “Hongwy.”

Great. He’ll have a three-year-old’s vocabulary by the end of the week. Stellar. “Yeah. I was just thinking about breakfast.”

It hit me sideways.

Graves. He’d really said that.

I love you. That was good, right? Good, hell. It was outright great.

Except every time things got better with him, I ended up even more hopelessly confused. I groaned, gingerly got up from the love seat in case I’d stiffened up overnight, and found out I hadn’t. “Outhouse first,” I amended. “Then breakfast.”

Ash actually let out a crow of delight. Then he was out the door too, quick as a flash. Which would leave me to make breakfast alone.

Did he really say he . . . loved me? Maybe it wasn’t hopeless. Maybe I could learn to say the right thing the next time he laid something like that on me. Maybe I had a chance.

Wouldn’t you know, I found out I was grinning. Ear to ear, despite every single problem crowding in around me.

Grinning. Like a total fool.

CHAPTER FIVE

I brought the ax down cleanly, with a terrific thwack. The log split. I didn’t even need a wedge; it was child’s play to get the freshly sharpened ax blade going fast enough. The wood was well seasoned, but it was the aspect flickering through me that did most of the work.

I was getting used to this new body. Hips a little bit wider, chest-works definitely a little bigger—the two sports bras I had were not going to cut it after a while; I had overflowing cleavage you could lose a quarter in. I’d managed to buy two pairs of jeans in a new size yesterday, T-shirts in medium instead of small, and every piece of clothing I’d ever owned before was so not going to fit me now.

But all that was kind of made up for by the fact that my hair was behaving, silky curls lying down—and the fact that I was now strong as any of the boy djamphir. Reliably strong, the aspect simply stepping in like clockwork instead of needing rage or bloodhunger to fuel it.

Hallelujah. I didn’t have to get mad or suck someone’s blood to use superstrength. It was a frigging miracle.

The only mirror in the house was a polished piece of metal hanging near the kitchen window, where Gran would check her hat before she went to town. It was enough to show me that I didn’t have anything huge stuck on my face, but the changes I’d seen in hotel bathrooms, thankfully, didn’t show up much.

Graves didn’t say anything else, but I caught him looking at me every once in a while. When he thought I didn’t notice.

Ash, of course, was oblivious. I don’t think how I looked mattered to him in the slightest. He darted in, scooped up one half of the log I’d just split, and balanced it on the ancient chopping block. Then he hightailed it back to the woodpile and watched.

I drew the ax up, smoothly, inhaling, and let out a sharp huff! as I brought it down. Got to do it with the breath, Dru. Ain’t no other way.

Gran’s voice was a thorny pleasure. Any moment I expected to see her striding into the meadow, clicking her tongue at the long grass she’d take a machete to every once in a while. She’d descend on all three of us and put everything to rights, toot-sweet, with not a second to spare or a long gray hair out of place.

Ash darted in again, put the unchopped half of the log up, and leapt back with an armful of stovewood. I brought the ax up and down again. Like riding a bike.

Bright mellow sunlight poured over the meadow, showing a sheen of sweat on Ash’s arms. He was bulking up a bit, the steady calories doing him a lot of good. Gran always said fresh air was good for anyone, too.

After we had enough wood to last a week, I set Ash to stacking it and stamped inside.

“You’re handy with an ax.” Graves was up to his elbows in soapsuds, scrubbing the dishes. I’ll clean, he’d said. You go out and get some sun.

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