He put the top down and drove much too fast, but with the expert aggressiveness any high-performance vehicle capable of running zero to sixty in three-point-six seconds demanded. One neighborhood melted into the next as he worked the engine, shifting up and down through the stop-and-go traffic of the city. Once past the outskirts of Dublin, he opened it up. Beneath a nearly full moon, we raced the wind. The air was warm, the sky brilliant with stars, and under other circumstances I would have tremendously enjoyed the ride.
I glanced over at him. Whatever else he might be—obviously a sidhe-seer himself and a royal pain in the petu—ass most of the time—Barrons was now just a man, lost in the pleasure of the moment, of the finely crafted machine in his hands, of the wide-open road and the seemingly limitless night.
“Where are we going?” I had to shout to make myself heard over the dual roar of the wind and engine.
Without taking his eyes off the road, for which I was eminently grateful at a hundred and four miles an hour, he said, “There are three main players in the city that have also been searching for the book. I want to know if they’ve found anything. You, Ms. Lane, are my bloodhound,” he shouted back.
I glanced at the clock on the dash. “It’s two in the morning, Barrons. What are we going to do, break and enter and creep around in their houses while they’re sleeping?” It was a measure of how surrealistic my life had become that, if he replied in the affirmative, I suspected the first thing out of my mouth wouldn’t be a protest but a complaint that he’d made me get overdressed for burgling. High heels and a short skirt would certainly make running from the police or angry, armed property owners very difficult.
He slowed a little so I could hear him better. “No, they’re night people, Ms. Lane. They’ll be up and just as willing to see me, as I am to see them. We like to keep tabs on one another. They, however, don’t have you.” A slow smile curved his lips. He was hugely pleased with the new secret weapon he had in me. I had a sudden dismal view of my future, of being led around and asked incessantly, like one of those Verizon commercials, Do you feel sick now?
He sped up and we drove another ten minutes or so in silence, then turned off the main road into the entrance of a walled estate. After being cleared by a pair of coldly efficient white-uniformed security guards who, after a quiet phone call, retracted an enormous steel gate, we purred down a long, winding drive, framed on both sides by huge, ancient trees.
The house at the end of the drive was anachronistic to its setting, which seemed to suggest a stately manor house had once stood there but had been razed to be replaced with this sprawling, chilly, brilliantly spotlighted Meet-the-Jetsons’ affair of steel and glass. See-through skywalks connected five levels that slanted at slight upward angles, and metal-framed terraces sported New Age furniture that looked positively miserable to sit in. I admit it; I’m old-fashioned. Give me a wraparound porch with white wicker furniture, swings on each end, slow-paddling ceiling fans, ivy-covered trellises, and hanging baskets of ferns, all beneath the shade of waxy-blossomed magnolia trees. This place was way too artsy and not nearly homey enough for me.
As we got out of the car, Barrons said, “Keep your wits about you and try not to touch anything that doesn’t look human, Ms. Lane.”
I nearly choked on a nervous laugh. Whatever had happened to good, old, wholesome advice like, “Stick together, hold hands, and look both ways before you cross the street?” I glanced up at him. “Not that I would want to, but why shouldn’t I?”
“I suspect Fiona is right,” he said, “and you are a Null, which means you’ll give us away if you touch any of the Fae with your hands.”
I looked at my hands, at the pretty pink nails that didn’t complement my new look so well. My darker ’do would be better accented by slightly bolder tones. I would need to implement some wardrobe and accessorizing changes. “A Null?” I had to work to keep up with him in my heels as we hurried across the shimmering, white crushed-quartz drive.
“Old legends speak of sidhe-seers with the ability to freeze a Fae by touching it with their hands, immobilizing it for several minutes, preventing it from moving or even sifting place.”
“Later. Do you remember what to do, Ms. Lane?”
I eyed the house. It looked like there was a party going on. People milled on the terraces; laughter, music, and the clink of ice in glasses floated down to where we stood. “Yes. If I start to feel sick I should ask to use the bathroom. You’ll escort me to it.”