I must have muttered something to that effect, because Barrons’ chest rumbled beneath my ear. “The spear did something to him, Ms. Lane. I’m not sure what or why, but it slowed him down.”
The next time I regained consciousness, he said, “Can you hook an arm around my neck and hold on?” The answer was yes—one. The other one wouldn’t move. It dangled limply from my shoulder.
The man could run. We were in the sewers, I could tell by the splash of his boots and the smell. I hoped I wasn’t deluding myself with optimism, but I didn’t hear the sound of pursuit. Had we lost them? All of them?
“They don’t know the underground like I do,” he said. “Nobody does.”
How weird. I was a chatterbox and didn’t even know it, reeling off question after question despite the pain I was in. Or was he reading my mind?
“Not a mind reader, Ms. Lane,” he said. “You think all over your face sometimes. You need to work on that.”
“Shouldn’t I go to the hospital?” I asked muzzily when I woke up for the third time. I was back in bed, in my borrowed bedroom at Barrons Books and Baubles. I must have been out for a while. “I think things are broken.”
“Your left arm, two ribs, and a few fingers. You’re bruised all over. You were lucky.” He pressed a cold compress to my cheek and I inhaled sharply with pain. “At least your cheekbone didn’t get shattered when he struck you. I was afraid it had. You look a little worse for the wear, Ms. Lane.”
“Hospital?” I tried again.
“They can’t do anything for you that I haven’t already done and would only ask you questions you can’t answer. They’ll blame me if I bring you in looking like this and you won’t talk. I already set your arm and fingers,” he said. “Your ribs will heal. Your face is going to look . . . well . . . yeah. You’ll be fine in time, Ms. Lane.”
That sounded ominous. “Mirror?” I managed weakly.
“Sorry,” he said. “Don’t have one handy.”
I tried to move my left arm, wondering when and where Barrons had added casting to his seemingly endless resume. He hadn’t. My arm was in a splint, as were several fingers on that hand. “Shouldn’t I have casts?”
“Fingers do well with splints. The break in your arm isn’t acute and if I cast you, it will only cause your muscles to atrophy. You must recover quickly. In case you haven’t noticed, Ms. Lane, we’ve got a few problems on our hands.”
I peered blearily up at him through my one good eye. My right one was swollen completely shut from the contusion on my cheek. He’d called me Mac back there in the warehouse, when Mallucé had hit me. Despite my doubts about Barrons, and my worries over whatever arrangement he had going on with the Shades, he’d been there for me when it mattered. He’d come after me. He’d saved my life. He’d patched me up and tucked me into bed and I knew he would watch over me until I was whole again. Under such circumstances, it seemed absurd to continue calling me Ms. Lane and I told him so. Perhaps it was time I did better than “Barrons” myself. “You can call me Mac, er . . . Jericho. And thanks for saving me.”
One dark brow rose and he looked amused. “Stick with Barrons, Ms. Lane,” he said dryly. “You need rest. Sleep.”
My eyes fluttered closed as if he’d spoken a spell over me and I drifted into a happy place, a hallway papered with smiling pictures of my sister. I knew who her killer was now, and I was going to avenge her. I was halfway home. I wouldn’t call him Jericho if he didn’t like it. But I wanted him to call me Mac, I insisted sleepily. I was tired of being four thousand miles away from home and feeling so alone. It would be nice to be on a first-name basis with somebody here. Anybody would do, even Barrons.
“Mac.” He said my name and laughed. “What a name for something like you. Mac.” He laughed again.
I wanted to know what he meant by that, but didn’t have the strength to ask.
Then his fingers were light as butterflies on my battered cheek and he was speaking softly, but it wasn’t in English. It sounded like one of those dead languages they use in the kind of movies I used to channel-surf through quickly—and now regret not having watched at least one or two of because I probably would have been a whole lot better prepared for all of this if I had.
I think he kissed me then. It wasn’t like any kiss I’d ever felt before.
And then it was dark. And I dreamed.
No, not like that. You’re gooping it on. The first coat’s supposed to be light,” I told him. “This isn’t a cake you’re icing. It’s a fingernail.”