What’s on the agenda tonight?” I asked Barrons the moment he stepped into the bookstore. I’d been pacing near the front windows with all the lights blazing, both interior and exterior, watching as night fell beyond the illuminated fortress.
I guess my tone was a little tight, because he raised a brow and looked at me hard. “Is something wrong, Ms. Lane?”
“No. Not at all. I’m fine. I just wanted to know what I have to look forward to tonight,” I said. “Robbing somebody we get to let live, or somebody we have to kill.” I sounded brittle even to myself, but I wanted to know just how much worse a person I was going to be by tomorrow morning. Every day I looked in the mirror it was getting harder to recognize the woman looking back at me.
Barrons paced a slow circle around me. “Are you sure you’re all right, Ms. Lane? You seem a little tense.”
I rotated at the center, turning with him. “I’m just ducky,” I said.
His eyes narrowed. “Did you find anything at the museum?”
“Did you search every exhibit?”
“I didn’t feel like it,” I said.
“You didn’t feel like it?” For a moment Barrons looked perfectly blank, as if the idea that someone might disobey one of his orders just because they didn’t feel like it was even more inconceivable to him than the possibility of human life on Mars.
“I am not your workhorse,” I told him. “I have a life, too. At least, I used to. I used to do perfectly normal things like date and go out to eat and see movies and hang out with friends and never once think about vampires or monsters or mobsters. So don’t go getting all over my case because you think I haven’t performed up to your exacting standards. I don’t plan your days for you, do I? Even an OOP-detector needs a break every now and then.” I gave him a disgusted look. “You’re lucky I’m helping you at all, Barrons.”
He closed in on me and didn’t stop until I could feel the heat coming off his big, hard body. Until I had to tilt my head back to look up at him, and when I did, I was taken aback by his glittering midnight eyes, the velvety gold of his skin, the sexy curve of his mouth, with that full lower lip that hinted at voluptuous carnal appetites, and the upper one that smacked of self-control and perhaps a bit of cruelty, making me wonder what it would be like—
Whuh. I shook my head sharply, trying to clear it. From my two brief encounters with V’lane, I knew that merely being in the same general vicinity with a death-by-sex Fae caused an extreme hormonal spike in a woman that did not go away until it was released somehow. What V’lane had done to me today had left me so awfully, icily aroused that it had taken more orgasms than I’d thought possible and a long frigid shower to calm me. And now it seemed I hadn’t done a good enough job, because I was still suffering residual effects. There was no other way to explain why I was standing there wondering what it would be like to kiss Jericho Barrons.
Fortunately, he chose that moment to open the mouth I’d been finding so disturbingly sexual and begin speaking. His words abruptly restored my perspective.
“You still think you can walk away from this, don’t you, Ms. Lane?” he said coolly. “You think this is about finding a book, you think it’s about figuring out who killed your sister—but the truth is, your world is going to Hell in a handbasket and you’re one of the few people that can do something about it. If the wrong person or thing gets its hands on the Sinsar Dubh, you won’t be ruing the loss of your rainbow-hued, prettily manicured world, you’ll be regretting the end of human life as you know it. How long do you think you’ll last in a world where someone like Mallucé, or the Unseelie who’s got his Rhino-boy watchdogs stationed all over the city, gets the Dark Book? How long do you think you’ll want to? This isn’t about fun and games, Ms. Lane. This isn’t even about life and death. This is about things that are worse than death.”
“Do you really think I don’t know that?” I snapped. Maybe I hadn’t been talking about everything he’d just said, but I’d sure been thinking about it. I knew there was a bigger picture going on out there than just what had been happening to me, in my little corner of the world. I’d eaten ketchup-soaked fries and watched the Gray Man destroy a helpless woman and I’d wondered every night since who was falling victim to him now. I’d gotten an up close look at the Many-Mouthed-Thing’s many mouths and knew it was out there somewhere, feeding on someone. I’d wondered—if I could jump forward in time a year or two—what Dublin would look like then. I had no doubt the dark territory of the abandoned neighborhood was expanding even as Barrons and I spoke, that somewhere out there another streetlamp had fizzled, emitting a final, weak flicker of light before burning out, and the Shades had instantly slithered in around it and tomorrow, according to Barrons, the city wouldn’t even remember that block had ever existed.