Home > Reckoning (Strange Angels #5)(7)

Reckoning (Strange Angels #5)(7)
Author: Lili St. Crow, Lilith Saintcrow

Plus, there were things to do to close the house up for the night. I finished by warding the walls again, watching the faint blue lines running through the wood take on fresh life. They didn’t need to be redone so much as refreshed, and it was amazingly easy. I just had to remember to think up high enough to get the second story involved. I could almost hear Gran muttering to herself while she followed me around the open room that was the entire first floor, checking my work.

I was hungry, but my stomach had closed up tighter than a fist. The effort of warding made my head swim, and every bone in my body ached down deep. I sat down on the loveseat to rest, just for a second. It was an old horsehair thing, meant for company—Gran always sat in her rocking chair and I used the old hassock, or I sat at her feet while she knitted. The bare bulb in the kitchen gave off a mellow glow, and if I shut my eyes and inhaled, I could almost smell her.

Tobacco juice, a faint astringent old-lady smell, baby powder, and the musky yeasty scent of cooking good things and working hard all day. Her spinning wheel sat under a drop cloth I’d told the boys not to touch, but I could almost hear its hissthumpwhirr and her occasional soft mutters as she spoke to God or told me things.

I loved to listen to Gran talk. She was always rambling, said it was a product of living alone. Dad was never the chatty type, but days with Gran were a constant stream of information, admonition, attention. Do it this way, hold that end up, good girl . . . I could tell him, now what’s the price of cotton, but he wouldn’t listen . . . Yes, you look like your daddy, that’s a look like a mule, fetch me my scissors and go check the coop for eggs. My, you’re good at findin’ eggs, it’s a true talent, Dru-baby. Come now, no use wastin’ sunshine.

She taught by example, but the talking was something else. A lifeline, maybe.

I folded over and pulled my feet up, lying on the dusty loveseat. It felt good, even if the thing was harder than the floor and slippery too. The fire glowed through the stove’s grate, and the good scent of seasoned wood burning—I’d banked it just before I warded everything—was like a warm blanket.

Blanket. I didn’t have one; I’d left them all upstairs. I was going to get cold if I settled here for long.

I didn’t care.

My eyes drifted shut. I was so, so tired. The wards in the walls hummed to themselves, and that was something new, too. I’d never heard wards before, singing in high crystal voices that turned into harmonies where the knots laid over doors and windows twisted.

Well, Dru. You got here, and you got both of them here. Tomorrow you start figuring out a longer-term plan. But you did what you set out to do, and there hasn’t been a vampire attack. Yet.

I told myself not to borrow trouble. Curled up even tighter on the love seat. It just felt so damn good to stop moving, to stop concentrating so fiercely on the next thing, and the next, and the next . . .

That was the first night I slept, really slept, since rescuing Graves. Every muscle in my body eased its useless tension, relaxing all at once. I went down into darkness, and there were no dreams.

Except one.

INTERMEZZO

He crouched, easily, on the edge of the rooftop, blue eyes burning and his sharply handsome face haggard. Lines etched themselves onto teenage flesh, and for a moment you could see just how old Christophe really was.

The city spread out below him, jewels of light and concrete canyons, the exhaust-laden wind ruffling his slicked-back, darkened hair. The aspect flickered through him, his fangs sliding free and retreating as dull hopeless rage flitted over his features.

He’d never looked like this before.

“We need you,” someone said behind him. Bruce moved in the shadow of an HVAC vent, restlessly. The crisp British accent made every word a precise little bullet. “Don’t throw your life away, Reynard. It’s no way to honor her memory.”

Christophe actually flinched. Something I’d never seen him do before, something that seemed utterly alien to the maddeningly calm djamphir I knew. “She’s alive.”

“How could she have survived that? We found traces—you saw the blood. She wasn’t even half-trained, despite our best efforts. Sergej”—The name sent a glass spike of pain through my dreaming head, and both of them tensed—“took her because Leon betrayed her, and Anna probably helped.”

“So now you’re willing to impute blame to Milady.” Christophe’s shoulders straightened. He lifted his right hand. Something gleamed slightly in his palm, and my dreaming self’s gaze was riveted to it. “Really, ibn Allas. You never used to be this quick to call Anna’s behavior what it is.”

“Anna is a spoiled child. She’s never grown up.” Amazingly, Bruce almost snarled, his lip lifting and white fangs flashing for just a moment, the aspect curling through his hair. “But speaking of that doesn’t help this situation. We didn’t find her body, or Anna’s, but we’re still looking. The whole place is a mess.” He took a deep breath, shoving the aspect down. “If he had both of them, we would know. He would be walking in daylight and we would be under siege.” Bruce’s dark eyes glittered. He looked like a wreck, too—his clothes were singed and torn, one half of his face deeply bruised, and he slumped wearily. “Please, Reynard. The Order needs you.”

“My little bird needs me more. I told you, keep her safe and you have my allegiance. This? This is not safe.” Christophe straightened, and now I could see his clothes were in rags too. Vampire blood smoked on him, the steam rising hard to see because of the fume of rage covering him.

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