“What a shame,” he said. “If you saw nothing, I have no use for you. If you saw something, I do. If you saw nothing, your life means nothing. If you saw something, your life—”
“I get the point,” I gritted. “You’re being redundant.”
“So? What did you see?”
“Let go of my throat.” I needed to win something.
He released me and I staggered. I hadn’t realized he was holding me on my tiptoes by my neck until my heels weren’t touching the floor and suddenly needed to be. I rubbed my throat and said irritably, “Shadows, Barrons. That’s all I saw.”
“Describe these shadows for me.”
I did, and he listened intently until I’d finished, his dark gaze boring into my face. “Have you ever seen anything like this before?” he demanded.
I shrugged. “Not really.” I paused, then added, “I did have a kind of weird moment in a pub the other night.”
“Tell me,” he commanded.
I was still standing between him and the wall and I needed more space. Physical proximity to Barrons was disturbing, like standing next to a highly charged magnetic field. I slipped past him, taking great pains not to touch him—a fact that seemed to amuse him greatly—and moved toward the sofa. I began recounting the strange dual vision I’d had, the hostile old woman, what she’d said. He asked me many questions, pressing for minute details. I wasn’t nearly as observant as Barrons, and I couldn’t answer half of what he asked. He made no attempt to hide his disgust with my failure to be more investigative with either the odd vision or the old woman. When at last he finished his interrogation, he gave a sharp laugh of disbelief. “I never thought there might be one like you out there. Unaware, untrained. Unbelievable. You have no idea what you are, do you?”
“Crazy?” I tried to make a joke of it.
He shook his head and began walking toward me. When I instinctively backed up, he stopped, a faint smile playing at his lips. “Do I frighten you, Ms. Lane?”
“Hardly. I just don’t like being bruised.”
“Bruises heal. There are worse things in the night than I.”
I opened my mouth to make a smart-aleck comment, but he silenced me with a wave of his hand. “Spare me your bluster, Ms. Lane. I see through it. No, you’re not crazy. You are, however, a walking impossibility. I have no notion how you survived. I suspect you must have lived in a borough so provincial and uninteresting that you never encountered one of them. A cloistered town so utterly lacking distinction that it was never visited and never will be.”
I had no idea who his “them” were that had or hadn’t visited, but I couldn’t argue with the rest of it. I was pretty sure Ashford was registered with the State of Georgia under P for provincial, and I seriously doubted our annual fried chicken cook-off or Christmas walk featuring the same half-dozen stately antebellums each year distinguished my town from any other scattered throughout the Deep South. “Yeah, well,” I said defensively. I loved my hometown. “Point?”
“You, Ms. Lane, are a sidhe-seer.”
“Huh?” What was a she-seer?
“A sidhe-seer. You see the Fae.”
I burst out laughing.
“This is no laughing matter,” he said roughly. “This is about life and death, you imbecile.”
I laughed harder. “What, some pesky little fairy’s going to get me?”
His eyes narrowed. “Just what do you think those shadows were, Ms. Lane?”
“Shadows,” I retorted, my amusement fading. I was getting angry myself. I would not be made a fool of. There was no way those dark shapes had been anything more substantive. Fairies didn’t exist, people didn’t see them, and there were no books about magic that had been written a million years ago.
“The Shades would have sucked you dry and left a husk of skin scuttling down the sidewalk on the night breeze,” he said coldly. “No body for your parents to claim. They would never know what happened to you. One more tourist gone missing abroad.”
“Yeah, right,” I snapped. “And how many other lines of bull are you going to try to feed me? That the shi-sadu really is a book of dark magic? That it really was written a million years ago by some Dark King? How stupid do you think I am? I just wanted to know what the word meant so I could maybe help the police find who killed my sister—”
“How did she die, Ms. Lane?” Barrons asked the question soft as silk, but it slammed into me like a sledgehammer.