“I said, en masse,” he said. “Alone, or in pairs, their impact is not as great. It is possible only the Sinsar Dubh will ever make you this sick—or perhaps a thousand Unseelie bearing down on you. The Dark Book is the most powerful of all the Fae Hallows. As well as the deadliest.”
“Stay back,” I snapped. He’d closed to less than a yard from me, holding those terrible pages. He took another step forward and I tried to make myself into wallpaper. Very yellow, very spineless wallpaper.
“Master your fear, Ms. Lane. They are mere copies of the real pages. Only pages of the Dark Book itself could do you lasting harm.”
“They could?” That certainly put a problematic spin on things. “You mean even if we manage to find this book, I’m not going to be able to touch it?”
His lips curved but his eyes stayed cold. “You could. I’m not certain you would like yourself afterward.”
“Why wouldn’t I—” I broke off, shaking my head. “Forget it, I don’t want to know. Just keep those pages away from me.”
“Does this mean you’re giving up the quest to find your sister’s murderer, Ms. Lane? I thought she begged you to find the Sinsar Dubh. I thought she said everything depended on it.”
I closed my eyes and sagged back against the wall. For a few minutes there I’d completely forgotten about Alina. “Why?” I whispered as if she were still there to hear. “Why didn’t you tell me any of this? We could have helped each other. Maybe we could have kept each other alive.” And that was the bitterest part of it all—how things might have turned out, if only she’d confided in me.
“I doubt you would have believed, even if she had. You’ve been a tough sell, Ms. Lane. As much as you’ve seen and heard, you’re still trying to deny it.”
His voice was much too close. Barrons had moved. I opened my eyes. He was standing right in front of me, yet my sickness hadn’t intensified—because I hadn’t seen him coming. He was right; my reaction was as much mental as it was physical, which meant at least part of it was controllable. I could retreat, go home, and try to forget everything that had happened to me since I’d arrived in Dublin, or I could figure out how to go forward. I touched my short, dark locks. I hadn’t butchered my beautiful blonde hair for nothing. “You see the Fae, too, Barrons, yet you have no problem holding those pages.”
“Repetition dulls even the keenest senses, Ms. Lane. Are you ready to begin?”
Two hours later, Barrons decided I’d had enough practice. I couldn’t bring myself to touch the photocopied pages, but at least I was no longer retching in close proximity to them. I’d figured out a way to close my throat off against the involuntary heaves. Nearness still made me feel perfectly miserable, but I could muster and maintain a presentable mask.
“You’ll do,” he said. “Get dressed. We’re going somewhere.”
“I am dressed.”
He turned toward the front of the store and looked out the window at the night. “Go put on something more . . . grown-up . . . Ms. Lane.”
“Huh?” I had on white capris, dainty sandals, and a sleeveless pink blouse over a lace-trimmed tank. I thought I looked perfectly grown-up. I circled around in front of him. “What’s wrong with me?”
He gave me a brief glance. “Go put on something more . . . womanly.”
With my figure, nobody could ever accuse me of not being womanly. Understanding might come slowly to me sometimes—but it comes. Men. Take them into a classy lingerie store and I guarantee you they’ll find the only thing in there made of cheap black leather and chains. My eyes narrowed. “You mean sleazy,” I said.
“I mean the kind of woman others are accustomed to seeing me with. A grown one, if you think you can manage that, Ms. Lane. Black might make you look old enough to drive. The new hair is . . . better. But do something with it. Make it look like it did the night I woke you.”
“You want me to have bed-head on purpose?”
“If that’s what you call it. Will an hour be enough?”
An hour implied that I needed a lot of help. “I’ll see what I can do,” I said coolly.
I was ready in twenty minutes.
My suspicions about the building behind the bookstore were confirmed; it was a garage, and Jericho Barrons was a very rich man. I guessed the books and baubles trade was pretty darned lucrative.
From the eye-popping collection of cars in his garage, he chose a modest-by-comparison black Porsche 911 Turbo that roared deep in its masterfully engineered five-hundred-and-fifteen-horsepower throat when he slid the key into the ignition on the wrong side of the steering wheel and turned it. Yes, I know cars. I love fast, pretty ones and the subtle class of the pricey Porsche appealed to every shallow bone in my twenty-two-year-old body.