“Barrons,” I hissed desperately. “Where are you?”
“Unbelievable,” a dry voice said above me. “Of all the potential scenarios I’d envisioned, this was not one of them.”
I tried to look up but aborted the painful effort and clamped both my hands to my head instead. What was he doing on the roof? For that matter, how had he gotten on the roof? I didn’t recall passing any convenient ladders. And wasn’t that building two stories high? “Hurry, it hurts!” I cried. I knew how lucky I was that he was there. If I’d gotten into this predicament by myself, I would have had to tear the hair out of my skull to escape, and frankly, I wasn’t sure that could even be done. I have really strong hair and it was holding a huge handful of it. “Come on, hurry! Get my purse! I don’t know how long it’ll stay frozen.”
Barrons dropped to the sidewalk in front of me with a soft thud of boots hitting stone, his long black coat billowing out around him. “You probably should have thought about that before you froze it, Ms. Lane,” he said coolly.
Hanging as I was put me eye-to-eye with him. I transferred my grip from my scalp to the Gray Man’s immobilized arm and used all my strength to take some of the weight off my hair. “Can we talk about this after you’ve gotten me down?” I gritted.
He crossed his arms over his chest. “You wouldn’t be having an after if I weren’t here to save you. Let’s talk about where you went wrong, shall we?”
It wasn’t a question, but I tried to answer it anyway. “I’d rather not just now.”
“One: It was obvious you didn’t expect it to sift in on you and you weren’t prepared for it. Your spear was down at your side. Your purse should have been up and you should have been ready to stab the Gray Man through it.”
“Okay, I messed up. Can I have my purse now?”
“Two: You let go of your weapon. Never let go of your weapon. I don’t care if you have to wear fat-clothes and strap it to your body beneath them. Never let go of your weapon.”
I nodded, but not really. I couldn’t move my head that much. “Got it. Had it the first time you said it. Now can I have my purse?”
“Three: You didn’t think before you acted. Your greatest advantage in any one-on-one battle with a Fae is that it doesn’t know you’re a Null. Unfortunately, this one does now.”
He retrieved my purse—finally—and I reached for it with both hands but he held it beyond my grasp. I clamped my hands back on the Gray Man’s arm. I was getting a headache the size of Texas. I tried to kick him but he sidestepped it easily. Jericho Barrons had those kind of flawless reflexes that I’ve only ever seen before in professional athletes. Or animals.
“Never freeze a Fae, Ms. Lane, unless you are absolutely, one-hundred-percent sure you can kill it before it unfreezes again. Because this one”—he tapped the rigid Unseelie coat hanger upon which I was draped—“is perfectly conscious even though it’s frozen, and the very instant it unfreezes it’s going to sift out with you. You’ll be gone before your brain even manages to process that it has unfrozen. Depending on where it takes you—you might materialize surrounded by dozens of its kind—you will be there, your spear will be here, and I won’t have any idea where to begin looking—”
“Oh, for God’s sake, Barrons,” I exploded, kicking wildly in midair, “enough already! Will you just shut up and give me my purse?”
Barrons glanced down at the spear, which was half-poking out of my purse, and plucked the ball of foil from the lethal tip. Then he leaned forward and got right in my face. Up close I could see how truly furious he was with me. The corners of his mouth and rims of his nostrils were white, and his dark eyes burned with anger. “Never get separated from this thing again. Do you understand me, Ms. Lane? You will eat with it, shower with it, sleep with it, fuck with it.”
I opened my mouth to tell him not only didn’t I have anyone I was currently doing that last thing with, I never called it that, and didn’t appreciate him calling it that, when my perspective changed abruptly. I’m not sure if the Gray Man began moving before Barrons stabbed it in the gut, or after, but something wet suddenly sprayed me, and it let go of my hair. I fell to my knees and got a face full of sidewalk.
The Gray Man slumped next to me. I instantly backed away on my hands and knees. A deep wound in its abdomen oozed the same grayish-green stuff that I was revolted to discover was also on my shirt, my skirt, and my bare legs. The Unseelie looked from Barrons to the spearhead—half-wrapped in what used to be my favorite purse, and might still have been if not for the slime dripping all over it—its eyes blazing with disbelief, hatred, and rage.