Home > Reckoning (Strange Angels #5)(12)

Reckoning (Strange Angels #5)(12)
Author: Lili St. Crow, Lilith Saintcrow

Oh, Jesus. I tasted burnt metal, swallowed hard. My fingers tightened on the blue Bic. “Graves—”

“I told him that you deserved better than a creepy little fuck like him, too. That was about it. I went for a run to cool off and the vampires nabbed me.” He pulled the plug on the sink; on either side, framing the window, were shelves holding the sum total of Gran’s china. There was a gleam on the windowsill, a random reflection of sunlight.

We’d have to keep washing like mad to make sure we had clean plates. All the pots and pans were hung around the stove, and Graves straightened. He started hanging things up, each in the correct place. Which meant he’d been watching me.

Soapy water slipped down the mouth of the drain. The gurgling was loud in the silence between us.

“You shouldn’t trust me,” he said finally, grabbing the edge of the sink again and holding on for dear life. Muscle stood out under his T-shirt. “He broke Ash. He could’ve broken me. I could be even more dangerous than that Anna chick. You shouldn’t have come to rescue me.”

He meant Sergej, and I could see Graves’s point. But still. All the breath rushed out of me; I had a hard time finding enough to talk with. “I couldn’t leave you there.” If I let my head hang any further I’d snap my own neck. My mother’s locket was a cool weight against my breastbone. “You wouldn’t break, either.”

Why did that make his shoulders hunch even further? He balled up the towel and slung it in the sink. “Doesn’t matter. Christophe’s a bastard, but he’s right. I’m no good for you, not like this. And now you’re going to have to worry about whether or not I’m a traitor. Smart, isolating us all up here like this.”

Could this go any worse? “We’re safe, not isolated. And what the hell? Are you smoking crack? One minute you say you . . . I mean, one minute you’re fine, the next you’re telling me you’re a liability and not to trust you. Will you just pick hating me or being my boy-friend and get it over with? One or the other, jeez.” I couldn’t put all my aggravation into the last syllable, but I tried. My throat was dry and my palms were damp, and the Bic made a little screeching sound as my fist tightened and the plastic flexed.

He shrugged. Let go of the sink and turned on one heel, but didn’t look at me. His profile was sharp, the bones standing out under the skin, and for a moment he looked too exotic to be real. “Who’s on crack now? I don’t hate you, Dru. Jesus. That’s the problem.”

“Wait, we’ve gone from using the L word to me being a problem?” I’ll admit it. It was pretty much an undignified screech at the end. “Well, I’m sorrrrrr-ry!”

Yeah. When all else fails, take refuge in sarcasm. I could’ve slapped myself.

He just gave me a bright green glance and stamped away, out through the front door and into the sunlight. At least this time he was wearing shoes.

I sat there, breathing like I’d just run a four-minute mile, the pen making weird little sounds as I tried to get my fist to loosen up.

Serves me right for asking him, really. First he kissed me, then it was weeks with nothing but a peck on the cheek every evening, and then he loves me, then I should suspect him. I closed my eyes. Just when I thought everything had gotten just about as complex as it could, something new came along. I never knew where I was with Graves, in the friend zone or . . . somewhere else, somewhere I’d like better if he didn’t keep shoving me away.

At least with Christophe, I was only uncertain in the sparring room.

The dream rose up in front of me, Technicolor vivid. I could almost taste the night wind and smell the decaying vampire blood on them both. Bruce, the head of the Council, always trying to smooth everything over. And Christophe, certain I was still breathing.

My heart is still beating, therefore, she is still alive.

Funny, but I never even considered that he might’ve been talking about someone else.

Why was I even thinking about that? All the time Christophe had been hanging around, I’d felt like I was betraying Graves by even considering him as . . . well, as a serious prospect.

He’s old. He knew my mom, for Chrissake. And he’s . . . he’s . . .

I couldn’t find a word for what he was. A hot flush raced up from my throat, and my mother’s locket warmed. Something brushed my cheek when I lifted my head, and I found out I’d reached up, my fingertips following the familiar curves of Graves’s skull-and-crossbones earring.

I popped the back off, pulled the post out, and laid the earring on the table. I still had a diamond stud in my other ear, one of the ones Christophe had given me before I went into that rave and played bait for suckers. My first vampire kill that night, and Ash had been there too.

It felt like a million years ago, like another lifetime. How many times would I get that feeling, like I’d started out on a whole new life? How many times would I get comfortable just to have everything I depended on whacked away underneath me?

This sucks. It was weaksauce, sure. But I couldn’t come up with a better term.

I popped the back off the diamond too, laid it down. There. The two of them, side by side. Both gleaming in different ways.

To hell with them both. I should get a pair of earrings that said boys are stupid. Nat would’ve approved.

I angrily wiped at my face and stood up. I had to move, the itching in my bones demanded I move. I paced over to the sink and stood where he’d been, grabbed right where he’d grabbed. There were little indents in the utility sink’s sheet metal where his fingers had dug in.

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