“It’d be a whole lot easier to trust you if you’d just answer my question.”
“I don’t know why you ask, anyway. I could lie to you a million ways to Sunday. Look at my actions. Who saved your life?”
“Yeah, well, OOP-detectors don’t work so hot dead, do they?” I pointed out.
“I managed just fine before you came along, Ms. Lane, and would have continued swimmingly without you. Yes, you can find OOPs, but frankly, my life was a great deal less complicated before you barreled into my bookstore.” He sighed. “Bloody hell, I miss those days.”
“Sorry I’ve been such an inconvenience,” I retorted, “but my life hasn’t exactly been a bowl of cherries since then, either.” We were both quiet for a time, looking into the night, thinking our own thoughts. “Well, at least now I know who killed Alina,” I said finally.
He looked at me sharply. “Did you hear something in that warehouse I missed, Ms. Lane?”
“Well, duh, her boyfriend was the Lord Master and she didn’t know it. She must have followed him one day and found out who and what he was, just like I did. And he killed her for it.” It was so obvious I couldn’t believe Barrons didn’t see it himself.
But he didn’t. Skepticism was written all over his face.
“What?” I said. “Am I missing something? Are you saying I shouldn’t go after him?”
“Oh, we should definitely go after him,” Barrons said. “Note the ‘we’ in that sentence, Ms. Lane. Head off one more time by yourself after something big and bad, and I’ll hurt you worse than the monsters do. I want the Lord Master dead if only for one reason: I don’t want any more bloody damned Unseelie in my city. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life it’s this: assume makes an ass out of ‘u’ and ‘me.’”
“Cute,” I said, spelling ass-u-me out in my head.
“I’m not trying to be cute. I’m saying don’t assume you know who your sister’s killer is until you’ve got solid evidence in your hand or a confession. Assumptions,” he said darkly, “can make even worse things than an ass out of the best of us.”
I was about to ask him “like what?” when I was suddenly so nauseous that I couldn’t speak. Bile splashed the back of my throat without warning and somebody suddenly poked a knife through my skull—a twelve-inch-long blade I just knew had to be sticking out both temples.
I lurched to my feet, crashed into the table, and ruined every last one of my nails trying to catch myself. I would have hit the ground and probably rebroken my arm if Barrons hadn’t grabbed me. I think I vomited.
Right before I passed out.
When I regained consciousness, I was lying in the chaise and Barrons was bending over me, his expression stark. “What?” he demanded. “What just happened to you, Ms. Lane?”
“Oh G-God,” I said faintly. I’d never felt anything like that before and never wanted to again. That was it. I was going home. Abandoning it all. Quest for vengeance—over. I quit. I was turning in my formal sidhe-seer notice.
“What?” he demanded again.
“I c-c-can’t st-stop sh-sh-sh . . .” I trailed off. “Shivering” was what I was trying to say, but my teeth were chattering too hard for me to get it out. My blood was ice in my veins. I was cold, so cold. I didn’t think I’d ever be warm again.
Barrons shrugged off his jacket and draped it over me. “Better?” He waited all of two seconds. “So? What?” he asked impatiently.
“It w-was here,” I finally managed, gesturing with my good arm toward the edge of the roof. “Somewhere d-down there. I think it was in a c-car. It was moving fast. It’s g-gone now.”
“What was here? What’s gone?”
With a last violent shiver, I got my chattering under control. “What do you think, Barrons?” I said. “The Sinsar Dubh.” I took a deep breath and released it slowly. I knew something about that elusive book I’d not known before: It was so evil it corrupted anyone who touched it—no exceptions. “Oh God, we’re in a world of trouble, aren’t we?” I breathed.
Though neither of us had brought it up, I knew we’d both been thinking about all those Unseelie who’d come through the dolmen that day and were even now being introduced into our world, trained to cast glamours so they could interact with us, and prey on us.
When everything is in place, the Lord Master had said, I will open the portal and unleash the entire Unseelie prison on this world.