Sounded like good advice to me. We left the pub.
I followed the Gray Man and Barrons followed me, a dozen paces behind. The last time I’d seen this Unseelie, I’d had long blonde hair. I doubted it would recognize me with my new look. It didn’t know I was a sidhe-seer or a Null, or that I had the spear, so I figured my odds of killing were high, if I could get close enough.
Getting close enough, however, was going to be the problem. Inhumanly tall, it was also inhumanly fast. I was already sprinting to keep pace with it. In order to catch it, I was going to have to break into a run. It’s a little hard to sneak up on an enemy at a full gallop, especially in heels.
“It’s getting away, Ms. Lane,” Barrons growled behind me.
“Do you think I don’t know that?” I snapped. It was nearly halfway down the block and seemed to have suddenly amped up its glamour-repellent; pedestrians were scattering in its wake, detouring wide, out into the street. Abruptly, I had a clear view of it down the sidewalk, which was not good. I could hardly shadow something without any camouflage between us. I was going to have to make a dash for it.
It stopped, turned around, and looked straight at me.
I froze. I had no idea how it knew, but it knew I knew, and I knew it, and there was no point in faking.
“Bloody hell!” I heard Barrons curse softly, followed by the scrape of steel on stone, the rustle of fabric, then silence behind me.
We stared at each other, the Gray Man and I. Then it smiled with that awful mouth that used up half its tall, thin face. “I see you, sidhe-seer,” it said. Its laugh was the sound of cockroaches scuttling over dried leaves. “I saw you in the bar. How do you want to die?” It laughed again. “Slow or slower?”
I wished I’d thought to ask Barrons earlier if my suspicion about the strange word the old woman had used today was correct. I was pretty sure from the context she’d used it in that I’d gotten the gist of it, but there was only one way to find out. I wet my lips, batted my eyes, and praying I was right, said breathlessly, “Whatever you wish, Master. I am Pri-ya.”
The Gray Man sucked in a long, hissing breath that showed shark teeth in its lipless mouth. Its mocking amusement faded and its black eyes gleamed with sudden interest that married sexual excitement to homicidal sadism in a way that chilled me to the bone.
I bit my tongue to keep from betraying my revulsion. I was right. Pri-ya meant something along the lines of Fae-addict or Fae-whore. I would ask Barrons for an exact definition when this was over. Right now, I had to get closer to it. The Gray Man might have somehow clued into me watching it, but it didn’t know I was a Null, or that I had a weapon capable of killing it.
There was no mistaking that it wanted what it thought I was offering, wanted it enough to believe I was the real deal. This was its weakness, I realized, its Achilles’ heel. It could steal beauty, it could cast a glamour to make even the most beautiful human woman desire it, but it would never be desired in its true form and it knew it.
Except . . . maybe . . . by one who was Pri-ya. A woman that was Fae-struck, Fae-blind, a whore for anything Seelie or Unseelie. Such sick devotion would be the closest thing to true attraction this monster could ever know.
It rubbed its leprous hands together and leered. At least, unlike the Many-Mouthed-Thing, it only had one mouth to leer with. “On your knees, Pri-ya,” it said.
I wondered what the deal was with Fae liking women on their knees. Did they all have worship fetishes? I pasted a smile on my lips like the one I’d seen on the blankly compliant face of the Goth-girl at Mallucé’s, and sank to the sidewalk, bare knees to cold stone. I could no longer hear Barrons or anyone else on the street behind me. I had no idea where everyone had gone. It looked like the Gray Man’s glamour-repellent was on a par with V’lane’s.
My purse was unzipped, my hands ready. If it would just stay frozen half as long as the Many-Mouthed-Thing, I’d have more than enough time to kill it. Once it approached, it was dead.
It could have worked that way, it should have worked that way, but I made a critical error. What can I say? It was my first time. My expectations weren’t in line with reality. It had walked down the street and I expected it to walk back.
It sifted back.
It had me, one yellow-taloned hand in my hair, before I even knew what was happening. Inhumanly strong, it jerked me up off the ground, its gray fist tight to my scalp.
Fortunately, my sidhe-seer instincts kicked in and I slammed both hands into its chest as it lifted me into the air.
Unfortunately, it froze exactly like that, with its hand in my hair, and me dangling. Fact of some significance: I have arms of normal human length. My spear was in my purse. My purse was on the sidewalk, a foot below my feet.