|Home > Kelley Armstrong > Women of the Otherworld Series > Thirteen (Page 33)|
|Thirteen(Women of the Otherworld #13) by Kelley Armstrong|
“Get the damned doctor,” Jeremy said in a rare snarl.
Troy and I were already running for him—and found him stepping off the elevator. He had the sedative in his bag. By the time we got back to the room, Hope was hyperventilating and her skin was turning blue, and Benicio had stopped arguing that we should let the message play out.
It kept coming even after the needle went in. Her voice dropped as the sedative took effect, then slowed to a mumble, then finally stopped, and she drifted off into silent sleep.
I left as soon as Hope was okay. The room was crowded enough—Paige had arrived, and was helping Jeremy and Karl cool Hope with damp cloths. I was just in the way. So I gave Benicio my phone and told him that I’d managed to record Hope’s outburst. He said he’d get a linguist to analyze the recording.
The job of a bodyguard, apparently, is to look after his charge’s body in every way. Well, most ways. Keeping me fed was a priority, it seemed. After the harrowing experience with Hope, Troy decided I needed a proper breakfast. So as we walked, he gave me options. I picked something. Couldn’t remember what it was a minute after agreeing. He must have stopped to flag down someone to go get it and I must have kept walking. The next thing I knew, I didn’t have a hulking bodyguard at my side.
Hands caught me around the waist. My fists flew up.
Adam caught them. “Please don’t hit me. I’ve barely recovered from the last beating. Though I am glad to see you leading with your fists instead of your spells.”
“If you don’t want to get hit, don’t sneak up behind me,” I said as he bustled me into an empty office. “And you’d better be careful. Troy is going to come looking for me at any second.”
“No, he won’t.” Adam kicked the door shut. “I just texted him and asked for a minute alone.”
He caught me up in a kiss. I barely had time to start enjoying it before I remembered that he’d said we needed to talk and little alarm bells started going off. The moment I started worrying, I stopped reciprocating. He pulled back.
As I wriggled from his grasp, he looked alarmed. “What’s wrong? Did you talk to Paige? Did she say something?” He exhaled. “I know she’s not going to be happy about this. The age gap is—”
“I didn’t tell Paige. But when we talked about telling them …” I rolled my shoulders. Eased onto the desktop and tried to get comfortable. “Damn it. I’m no good at this. I’d rather just stick to the kissing part.”
A chuckle. “We could do that.”
“I wish,” I muttered. “Okay, I’m going to sound like a total nervous girlfriend here but … you said we needed to talk. It sounded ominous.”
“Well, no, I guess not, but …” I looked at him. “I’ve been worrying.”
“Shit.” He moved in between my knees as I perched on the desk. He put his hands on my hips and met my eyes. “It wasn’t supposed to worry you. It’s just … something we need to discuss.”
“Okay, so let’s discuss.”
He glanced at the closed door.
“Yes, we’re wasting valuable private time,” I said. I hesitated. How honest was I ready to be? There was part of me that wanted to play it cool. Casual. But it wasn’t casual.
So I continued. “Truth is, normally I wouldn’t have thought anything about it. Guy wants to talk? Sure. Whatever. But … I’m a little anxious here. A lot anxious.”
“All right then. But I’ll warn you this is the kind of conversation I’ve never initiated. And when a girl does? My cell miraculously starts vibrating, with an emergency call from the agency.”
I smiled. “I’ve pulled that a few times myself.”
“Which is why we get along so well. But this isn’t … It’s not the usual thing. Meet a girl. Hey you wanna grab a drink sometime? Hook up, break up, delete her number. Fun while it lasted. You’re …” He exhaled again. Shifted his weight. “I’ve known you forever. We work together. We hang out together. We share friends. We are friends. You know me better than anyone.”
“So you don’t want to start something and risk that.”
He gave me a look. “Obviously I’m trying to start something. We’ve already started something. The big question is: What? Yeah, I know, you say you’ve been wanting this for a long time but … this might not be what you expected.”
He hesitated, as if that wasn’t the answer he expected. Or wanted.
I said, “I think, if I’m reading this right, you’re not sure about rushing to tell Lucas and Paige because you’re thinking maybe, after a few days, I’m going to say ‘Huh, not really what I hoped for’ and break it off. I can’t imagine I would. But I’m thinking the same thing—about you. Maybe you’re going to decide this isn’t what you want. We already have something good, right?”
“And we risk mucking it up entirely if we try to make it something better. There’s no satisfaction guaranteed or your old relationship refunded. But if you’re asking if I’m serious enough to give this a shot, I am. Are you?”
He held my eyes for a long second before saying, “Absolutely.”
“Good. Now can we get back to the kissing part?”
As good as our earlier kisses had been, he’d been holding something back. Now I got the full deal, the deep, god-I-can’t-breathe, god-I-don’t-care version. Arms around him. Legs around him, too, heat scorching my thighs and everywhere in between and thinking it was just me until heat shot down my throat, like a sudden lick of flame, and I gasped.
“Shit,” he muttered. “That’s new. Sorry. Give me a sec.”
He closed his eyes, concentrating on squelching the fire, but I pulled him back into the kiss whispering, “Don’t.”
Licks of fire shot through me, from the heat of his hands, the heat of his skin—delicious pulses of flame. It wasn’t long before I was tugging his shirt up, hands seeking bare skin, scorching hot skin and—
A throat cleared behind us. I broke away and caught my breath.
“Er, Troy,” I said. “Sorry. Could we … get a few more minutes?”
Adam glanced over his shoulder. “Please. I promise, her body is well guarded.”
“So I see,” Troy said drily.
Which wasn’t Troy’s style at all. My gaze shot to his eyes. Bright green eyes.
“Bal—” I started as I disentangled from Adam.
Then I stopped. The tone hadn’t sounded like Balaam’s. And the expression fixed on me—annoyance mingled with displeasure—wasn’t Balaam’s either.
“I’m not your grandsire, girl,” he said as Adam moved between us. “And you don’t need to protect her from me, Adam. I have no love for Balaam, but I have no issue with the girl.” A hard look at me. “Though I would prefer not to find her in your embrace. May I have a moment with my son?”
Silence as we figured out what he meant … and who he was.
“Asmondai,” Adam said, in a tone more suited to the inconvenient appearance of a drunken uncle than the father he’d never met.
“I’m sorry.” The lord demon’s voice dripped sarcasm. “Is this a bad time?”
“Any time would be a bad time, actually. Whatever you’re selling, I’m not buying.”
“I am not selling—”
“So you popped by to say hi? Make my acquaintance? I’ve got a dad, thanks. You’re just the jerk who knocked up my mom and left her to figure out what to do with a son who likes setting things on fire.”
When a demon lord deigns to visit his offspring, this is probably not the reception he usually gets. Asmondai was speechless for a second, then said, slowly, “I understand that you’re angry.”
“No, I’m not. Hint?” Adam lifted his hands. “Not even warm.” He was right. When he rested his hand on my leg, it was cool.
“What if I’ve come to help you?” Asmondai asked.
“Oh, I’m sure you have. Just like Balaam came to help Savannah. Offer her power, glory, queen of the universe, if she helps him in return. She refused. Now she’s under lock and key in this place, with a Nast bounty on her head. Because Balaam tried to ‘help’ her. So how about we skip that stage and go straight to no. Not interested. Piss off.”
“Piss off?” Asmondai lifted one brow. “You may have inherited my talent for politics, but you’ve not yet mastered the art of rhetoric, have you?”
“I’m sure I’m a huge disappointment, so why don’t you just write me off and go.”
“I have no intention of writing you off, Adam. Of all my children, I’ve chosen you because you’re different. You’re—”
“Special?” Adam said. Now I felt heat flare through his hand.
“Does that sound familiar, Savannah?”
“Pretty much exactly what Balaam said to me,” I said. “He chose me—a mere granddaughter—because I’m special, and it has nothing to do with the fact that I’m connected to the inter-racial council, the Nast Cabal, the Cortez Cabal …”
“I can’t claim quite that many connections,” Adam said. “But I’m the only child of yours who’s actually on the front line of this battle.”
Asmondai said, “But how did you get on the front line, Adam? When you were her age”—he waved at me—“you were a college dropout. Living at home. Taking the easiest jobs you could find, just enough to pay for your toys. You were an inter-racial council delegate because of Robert Vasic, and the only reason you showed up at meetings was because occasionally they led to an adventure. Now you’re a key delegate on that council. You’re a renowned private investigator. You’re an expert on demons and supernatural lore. And you’re a valuable frontline warrior, an Exustio half-demon who has fully mastered his powers. You’ve earned your place.”
“You don’t care about my approval. I understand. But I’m here to help you because we’re on the same side.”
“No, we’re not. You have your own agenda. It may overlap with ours, but that doesn’t mean you’re on our side.”
“You are indeed growing into your birthright, my son. Agreed, then. But our agendas do overlap, and to that end, I’m bringing you information, no strings attached. You want to know what these people are doing with that virus, do you not?”
The lord demon smiled. “Good. Then I will tell you.”
Troy was not impressed when he finally got his body back. He took anti-possession brews—you can’t have a demon taking over a CEO’s bodyguard—but those didn’t help against a lord. He muttered about Adam’s relatives and mine, popping up all over the place, causing trouble. Trying to make light of what was, as we all knew, a very serious situation. No supernatural really worries about being possessed by a lord demon because the only time they take human form is to procreate. They don’t answer our summons, and they sure as hell don’t drop in to say hello.
Most supernaturals knew better than to try to contact a lord demon to ask for a favor. A friend of mine lost the use of her legs summoning Asmondai—and still never actually met the guy. But now they were taking human form to ask us for favors. That told us just how desperate the situation had become.
Benicio was meeting us in the boardroom. As we hurried there, we bumped into Elena and Clay, intently heading someplace of their own. They’d been recalled with Lucas and Adam, pending more news on Larsen Dahl.
I asked if they’d seen Hope.
“She’s awake and recuperating,” Elena said. “Karl wants to eat, so we’re hunting down breakfast. We’ll join you in the boardroom. Benicio’s still working on getting that message translated. Hope may have more information to add from her vision.”
“After she eats,” Clay said.
Elena smiled. “Always the top concern. Can we grab you guys something?”
I said we were fine and they continued on.
“I disagree,” Lucas was saying to a white-haired man as we walked into the boardroom. “If Lucifer is going to communicate through Hope, why would he speak in languages she doesn’t understand?”
“It is possible,” the man said. “We have accounts—”
“Minor demons,” Adam interjected. “None from lords, right?”
The old man scowled at him. “We have very few accounts of lord demons communicating with anyone at all.”
“Eight confirmed cases in the last fifty years,” Adam said.
“Aside from the times they hooked up with human women, when I’m sure they did plenty of talking, though not necessarily in Latin … unless they were trying to seduce a member of the debating team.”
The old man’s scowl deepened.
I said hi to Lucas as we sat. He looked tired, but managed a rare smile for me.
“Lucas and I have talked about Hope’s earlier visions,” Adam said. “I agree that it’s not Lucifer attempting contact. More on that later. For now, we need to bump up the number of confirmed lord demon visits. I called this meeting because I have new information, and it came directly from Asmondai, not twenty minutes ago.”
Adam waited for everyone to digest that, then said, “From Bryce, we had an idea what the plan was. Take this virus and turn key people into supernaturals. From the test results, we know they’re using vampire and werewolf DNA and likely zombie. Presumably, then, they’re hoping to not just make these guys regular supernaturals, but to give them the superhero treatment. Semi-immortality and invulnerability from vampires. Heightened senses and physical strength from werewolves. Prolonged youth from both. The best we’ve got to offer in one package. If it works, those who get it are going to be thinking this supernatural stuff ain’t so bad, meaning they aren’t going to argue to lock the rest of us up.”