Looking back, I realized I began to feel it while I was upstairs washing my hair in the bathroom that adjoined my room. A wave of sudden nausea washed over me, but I thought it was an emotional reaction to changing my appearance so drastically. I’d already begun to wonder who I was and what was wrong with me; now I was going to look wrong, too.
The feeling intensified as I descended the stairs, and grew stronger as I made my way back to the bookstore. I should have paid more attention to it, but I was feeling sorry for myself to the point of obliviousness.
By the time I stepped through the second of the doors that separated Barrons’ personal and professional domains, I was shivering and sweating at the same time, my hands were clammy, and my stomach was a churning mess. I’d never gone from feeling fine to feeling awful so quickly in my life.
Barrons was seated on the sofa I’d vacated, his arms stretched across the back of it, his legs spread, looking relaxed as a lion lazing after the kill. His gaze, however, was sharp as a hawk’s. He studied me with voracious interest as I stepped through the door. There were some papers on the sofa next to him that I had yet to understand the significance of.
I closed the door and promptly doubled over and vomited what was left of my lunch. Most of the damage to his precious rug was water I’d drunk. I’m big on drinking lots of water. Hydrating one’s skin from the inside out is even more important than using a good moisturizer on the surface. I heaved until there was nothing left, then I retched a few times more. I was on my hands and knees again, for the second time in as many days, and I didn’t like it a bit. I dragged my sleeve across my mouth and glared up at him. I hated my hair and I hated my life and I could feel it blazing in my eyes.
He, on the other hand, looked pleased as punch.
“What just happened, Barrons? What did you do to me?” I accused. Improbable though it seemed, I was certain that somehow he’d had everything to do with my sudden malaise.
He laughed and stood up, looking down at me. “You, Ms. Lane, can sense the Sinsar Dubh. And you just became very, very useful to me.”
I don’t want it,” I repeated, backing away. “Get it away from me!”
“It won’t harm you, Ms. Lane. At least not in this form,” Barrons said again.
I didn’t believe what he was saying the fifth time any more than I had the first. I flung an arm behind me, at the rug still damp from my cleaning efforts. “What do you call that? If I had anything left in my stomach at all, I’d still be on my hands and knees. I don’t know about you, but I call impromptu vomiting harm.” Not to mention the deep sense of dread I still couldn’t shake. The fine hair on my body was standing on end as if I’d been hit with a high-voltage charge. I wanted to put as much distance between “it” and me as was possible.
“You’ll get used to it—”
“So you keep saying,” I muttered.
“—and your reactions will lessen in time.”
“I have no intention of spending that much time around it.” “It” was photocopies of two pages allegedly ripped from the Sinsar Dubh. Photocopies—not even the real thing—he was thrusting at me. Mere facsimiles had me plastered up against the wall in my frantic efforts to avoid it. I could feel a Spidey-moment coming on. If he didn’t back off, I was going to scale the walls using only my Gentlemen-Prefer-Blondes-Blush nails as rappelling spikes, and I seriously doubted it was going to work.
“Take slow, deep breaths,” Barrons said. “You can overcome it. Concentrate, Ms. Lane.”
I gulped air. It didn’t help.
“I said breathe. Not do a fish-out-of-water imitation.”
I looked at him coldly, inhaled, and held it. After a long moment, Barrons nodded, and I exhaled slowly.
“Better,” he said.
“Why is this happening to me?” I asked.
“It’s part of being what you are, Ms. Lane. Thousands of years ago, when the Fae still ran the Wild Hunt, destroying anything in their path, this was what a sidhe-seer felt when the Tuatha Dé riders approached en masse. This was her warning to lead her people to safety.”
“I didn’t feel it when I saw any of the Unseelie,” I pointed out. But as I reflected on those first two times, I realized I had gotten queasy, and both times a general, inexplicable sense of dread had preceded my “visions.” I’d just not recognized it for what it was because I’d not been able to pin it on anything. With the last monster, I’d been so obsessed with getting to Alina’s, and I’d crashed into it so fast, that I couldn’t decide whether I’d felt anything in advance or not.