The vampire’s lips drew back, revealing long, sharp, pointed fangs. There was still blood on them. An expression of utter, mindless rage flashed over his icy face. “The name’s Mallucé, asshole,” he hissed.
Score one for Barrons, I thought. J. J. Jr. still hated his name. Losing control of an immense fortune didn’t seem to bother him nearly as much as merely being addressed by the name with which he’d been christened.
Barrons flicked a contemptuous gaze over the vampire, from frothy, bloody jabot to pointy-toed, silk-trimmed leather slippers. “Mallucé asshole,” he repeated. “And here I thought your last name was ‘fashion nightmare.’”
Mallucé’s inhuman yellow eyes narrowed. “Do you have a death wish, human?” He’d recovered quickly, his face was blank again, his voice once more controlled, so light and melodic it was nearly a verbal caress.
Barrons laughed again. “Might. Doubt you’ll be helping me with it, though. What do you know about the Sinsar Dubh, Jr.?”
Mallucé flinched, almost imperceptibly, but it was there. If I hadn’t been watching him so closely, I wouldn’t have caught it. Twice now he’d betrayed an emotion, a thing I was willing to bet he rarely did. With a glance at his guards, then to the door, he said, “Out. Except you.” He pointed at Barrons.
Barrons wrapped an arm around my shoulder and I instantly shivered, just as I had last night when he’d touched me. The man packed a seriously weird physical punch.
“She stays with me,” Barrons said.
Mallucé gave me a deprecating once-over. Slowly, very slowly, his lips curved. The smile didn’t work with those chilling, dead, animal-eyes of his. “Someone certainly took that passé Rolling Stones song to heart, didn’t they?” he murmured.
Everyone’s a fashion critic. I knew which song he meant: “She’s a Rainbow.” Whenever I listened to it on my iPod, I would close my eyes and spin around, pretending I was in a sun-dappled clearing, with my arms spread wide and my head thrown back, while colors of every hue sprayed from my fingertips like brilliant little airbrush guns, painting trees, birds, bees, and flowers, even the sun in the sky, glorious shades. I loved that song. When I didn’t answer him—Barrons and I might have reached an agreement about how he would and wouldn’t refer to me, but I was still under orders to keep my mouth shut—Mallucé turned to his bodyguards, who hadn’t moved an inch, and hissed, “I said out.”
The two Unseelie looked at each other, then one spoke in a gravelly voice, “But O Great Undead One—”
“You’ve got to be kidding me, Jr.,” Barrons muttered, shaking his head. “Couldn’t you come up with something a little more original?”
“Now.” When Mallucé bared his fangs at them, the Rhino-boy bodyguards left. But they didn’t look at all happy about it.
Well, that was a pure waste of time,” Barrons growled as we picked our way back through the antique furnishings and all-too-modern morals of Mallucé’s house.
I didn’t say anything. The Unseelie Rhino-boys were right behind us, making sure we left. “The Master” was not at all happy with us.
Once he’d dismissed his guards, Mallucé had simply pretended not to know what Barrons was talking about, acting as if he’d never heard of the Sinsar Dubh before, even though a blind man could see that not only had he, but he knew something about it that disturbed him deeply. He and Barrons had gotten into a pissing match, trading barbs and insults, and within moments, they’d completely forgotten about me.
Ten minutes or so into their little testosterone war, one of Mallucé’s guards—one of the human ones—had been stupid enough to interrupt and I’d seen something that had convinced me J. J. Jr. was the genuine article, or at least something supernatural. The vampire had picked up the nearly seven-foot bruiser with one pale hand around his throat, raised him in the air, and flung him backward across the chamber so hard he’d slammed into a wall, slumped to the floor, and lay there, his head lolling at an impossible angle on his chest, blood leaking from his nose and ears. Then he stood there, his yellow eyes blazing unnaturally, and for a moment, I’d been afraid he was going to fall slathering on the bloody bundle and feast.
Time to go, I’d thought, on the verge of hysteria. But Barrons had said something nasty and he and Mallucé had gotten right back into it, so I’d stood there hugging myself against the awfulest chill, tapping a foot nervously, and trying not to throw up.