“Very good. And Ms. Lane?”
I glanced at him questioningly.
“Try to act like you like me.”
When he put his arm around me and pulled me close, the shiver went clear down to my toes.
The house was decorated in unrelieved white and black. The people were, too. If it were up to me, I would carry a great big paintbrush around with me all the time, splashing color everywhere, decorating the world with peach and mauve, pink and lavender, orange and aquamarine. These folks seemed to think leeching the world of all color was cool. I decided they all must be deeply depressed.
“Jericho,” a stunning raven-haired woman in a low-cut white evening gown and diamonds purred throatily. But her smile was teeth and viciousness, and for me, not him. “I almost didn’t recognize you. I’m not sure we’ve ever seen each other with our clothes on.”
“Marilyn.” He acknowledged her with a brief nod that seemed to piss her off royally as we passed.
“Who’s your little friend, Barrons?” a tall, anorexically thin man with a frightful shock of white hair asked. I wanted to pull him aside and give him the gentle advice that wearing all black only made him look thinner and sicker, but I didn’t think now was a good time.
“None of your fucking business,” Barrons said.
“Ah, we’re in our usual fine form, aren’t we?” the man sneered.
“‘We’ implies we came from the same gene pool, Ellis. We didn’t.”
“Arrogant fuck,” the man muttered to our backs.
“I see you’ve got a lot of friends here,” I remarked dryly.
“No one has friends in this house, Ms. Lane. There are only users and the used at Casa Blanc.”
“Except for me,” I said. Weird name for a weirder house.
He gave me a cursory glance. “You’ll learn. If you live long enough.”
Even if I lived to be ninety, I would never become like the people in this house. The murmured acknowledgments continued as we passed through the rooms, some hungry—mostly from the women—and others damning—mostly from the men. It was an awful bunch of people. I suffered a sudden stab of homesickness, missed my mom and dad with a vengeance.
I didn’t see anything that wasn’t human until we came to that last room, at the far end of the house on the fifth floor. We had to pass through three sets of armed security guards to get there.
Reality check: I was at a party with armed security guards and I was wearing all black. It couldn’t be my reality. I wasn’t that kind of person. Sadly, despite the short skirt that bared my pretty tanned legs to well above midthigh, a snug, bosom-enhancing top and high heels, compared to the rest of the women at Casa Blanc, I looked fifteen. I thought I’d turned my shoulder-length dark hair into something wild and sexy, but I obviously didn’t know the meaning of those words. Nor did I understand a thing about the artful application of makeup.
“Stop fidgeting,” Barrons said.
I took a deep breath and held it for a three count. “Next time a little more detail on our intended destination might help.”
“Take a good look around, Ms. Lane, and next time you won’t need it.”
We stepped through a pair of enormous white doors, into a large white-upon-white room: white walls, white carpet, white glassed-in cases interspersed with white columns upon which priceless objets d’art rested. I stiffened, confronted with double double visions. Now that I knew such monsters existed, it was easier to spot them. I decided these two couldn’t be putting much effort into the glamour they were throwing or else I was getting better at penetrating it, because once I saw past their beefy blond bouncer projections, they didn’t flicker between the two, but remained Unseelie.
“Easy,” Barrons murmured, sensing my tension. To the man seated on the absurd white thronelike chair in front of us, as if holding audience for his subjects, he said in a bored voice, “McCabe.”
I don’t generally like big-boned, hard-bodied, auburn-haired men, and I was surprised to find McCabe attractive in a rough-hewn Irish way that would never polish up no matter the wealth he managed to accumulate or the treasures with which he chose to surround himself. But the two Unseelie flanking him, left and right, weren’t attractive at all. They were huge, ugly, gray-skinned things that reminded me of rhinoceroses with their bumpy, oversized foreheads, tiny eyes, jutting underbites, and lipless gashes for mouths. Wide, squat, barrel-like bodies strained at the seams of ill-fitting white suits. Their arms and legs were stumpy and they were making a constant deep-in-the-throat snuffling sound, like pigs rooting through the mud for whatever it was pigs rooted. They weren’t scary; they were just ugly. I focused on not focusing on them. Aside from mild heartburn and a sense of increased agitation, they hardly made me feel sick at all. Of course, any Fae’s impact would now and forever be diminished in the dark shadow of the Sinsar Dubh’s.