“You bastard,” I whispered. Before he’d dragged me from one bizarre “player’s” house to the next, before he’d gotten me to rip off both a vampire and a mobster, I’d still had a chance. It might have been a slim one, but it had been a chance. Now it was a whole different ball game and I was playing in the dark and somehow, everyone but me had night-vision goggles and understood the rules of play. And I suspected this had been part of Barrons’ plan all along: to shave down my options, to whittle away my choices until he’d left me only one—to need him to survive.
I was furious with him, with myself. I’d been such a fool. And I couldn’t see any way out. Still, I wasn’t entirely helpless. I needed him? I could swallow that if I had to, because he needed me, too, and I was never going to let him forget it. “Fine, Barrons,” I said, “but I’m keeping this. And that’s non-negotiable.” I raised the spear I was gripping. Maybe I couldn’t fight off vampires and mobsters, but at least I could give the Fae a decent battle.
He looked at the spear for several moments, his dark gaze unfathomable. Then he said, “It was for you all along, Ms. Lane. I suggest you remove the shaft and make it portable. It’s not the original and only the head itself matters.”
I blinked. It was for me? Not only did the relic have to be worth an absolute fortune on the black market, but Barrons was also a sidhe-seer and could use it to protect himself, too, yet he was going to let me hang on to it? “Really?”
He nodded. “Obey me, Ms. Lane,” he said, “and I will keep you alive.”
“I wouldn’t need to be kept alive in the first place,” I snapped, “if you hadn’t dragged me into this mess.”
“You came looking for this mess, Ms. Lane. You sauntered in here all innocence and stupidity asking for the Sinsar Dubh, remember? I told you to go home.”
“Yeah, well, that was before you knew I could find things for you. Now you’d probably tie me up and drug me to keep me here,” I accused.
“Probably,” he agreed. “Though I suspect I’d have no problem at all finding more effective means.”
I looked at him sharply. He wasn’t joking. And I never wanted to know what those “more effective means” might be.
“But considering everything that’s after you, I don’t need to, do I, Ms. Lane? Which puts us right back where we started: Go to your room and do not come out again for any reason until I come for you. Do you understand me?”
Mom says humility isn’t one of my strengths, and she’s right. To reply would have reeked of capitulation, or at the least, acquiescence, and although he might have won this particular battle, I sure didn’t have to admit it, so I stared down at the spear in stony silence. The spearhead shimmered like silvery alabaster in the brightly lit anteroom. If I broke it off to a short shaft, it would be only about a foot long. The tip was razor-sharp, the base about four inches wide. It would no doubt fit nicely in my largest purse, if I could figure out a way to keep the lethal point from puncturing the side.
When I looked back up, I was alone.
Barrons was gone.
My folks have some funny sayings. They were born in a different time, to a different generation. Theirs was the “hard work is its own reward” generation. Admittedly it had its problems, but mine is the “entitlement generation” and it has its fair share, too.
The EG is made up of kids who believe they deserve the best of everything by mere virtue of having been born, and if parents don’t arm them with every possible advantage, they are condemning their own children to a life of ostracism and failure. Raised by computer games, satellite TV, the Internet, and the latest greatest electronic device—while their parents are off slaving away to afford them all—most of the EG believe if there’s something wrong with them, it’s not their fault; their parents screwed them up, probably by being away too much. It’s a vicious little catch-22 for the parents any way you look at it.
My parents didn’t screw me up. Any screwing up that might have been done, I did to myself. All of which is my roundabout way of saying that I’m beginning to understand what Dad always meant when he said, “Don’t tell me you didn’t mean to do it, Mac. Omission or commission—the end result is the same.”
I understand now. It’s the difference between involuntary manslaughter and homicide: the dead person is still dead, and I highly doubt the corpse appreciates any legal distinctions we make over it.
By omission or commission, one orange, two candy bars, a bag of pretzels, and twenty-six hours later, I had blood on my hands.