Forsaken (The Djinn Wars Book 5) (9 page)

BOOK: Forsaken (The Djinn Wars Book 5)
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So Qadim had been in Los Alamos, or at least close enough to feel the effects of such a thing? Judging by his current expression, he didn’t look as if he’d enjoyed the experience very much. Were the effects of the device physically painful?

Again, Madison thought she’d better not ask. “But it’s djinn everywhere else except Los Alamos?”

“As far as I know, yes. The Chosen live with their djinn in communities that have been designated for them. There is one in Santa Fe.”

Well, that seemed fitting. The perfect djinn and their presumably perfect partners should be living in New Mexico’s most beautiful town. She wondered if the Southern California djinn and their partners were holed up in Beverly Hills. Or maybe Malibu was more their speed.

“And you’re in Albuquerque because….”

“It was granted to me. The whole of the city, up to that place you called Bernalillo, and then to the east as far as the mountain pass, and west to the hills there.”

Granted by whom, Madison didn’t know, but she figured there must be some sort of djinn government or something along those lines. Someone in authority who’d made the decision. But why Albuquerque? It really wasn’t that much of a gem, not when you considered the whole world was up for grabs. Maybe those people in power didn’t like Qadim very much, for whatever reason.

“Well, I think you’ve improved it a good deal,” she commented, and something about the tight set of his jaw appeared to relax somewhat.

“I’m pleased you think so,” he said.

And she suddenly wondered if she’d made a mistake in complimenting him. But she couldn’t take back the words now. She offered him a small smile, then returned to the remnants of her meal. All the while, though, her thoughts were churning.

Los Alamos. A community of people like her.

Somehow, she’d have to find a way to get there.

Chapter Six

S
omething had set her off
. Qadim could tell that Madison was preoccupied, and after they’d finished eating breakfast, she told him her arm had begun to ache again, and that she thought she’d better lie down for a while. He hadn’t protested, simply because her excuse was plausible enough.

So he merely said that he would see her up to her room, then took her uninjured hand so he could transport her up to the ninth floor where her suite was located. It wouldn’t do to have her climb all those stairs; the movement would jostle her damaged shoulder far too much.

Madison’s stared at him in astonishment as they reappeared in front of the door to her room. “How…?”

“It is how we travel,” he said. “I would have brought you down in the same way, but you had already left your room. I thought this would be easier for you. Walking up all those steps could have jarred your shoulder. ”

“I suppose you have a point.” She stopped and looked all around them, as if she still wasn’t quite certain of her surroundings. “Thank you for breakfast, Qadim.”

“You are very welcome. What would you like for your midday meal?”

“Oh, I — ” Seeming a little flustered, she shook her head. He tried not to stare at the way those rose gold curls bounced against her shoulders and then fell down her back. “Breakfast was so big, I’m not sure I’d want lunch, especially since I might end up sleeping right through it. Can we just skip ahead to dinner?”

“Of course.”

She offered him a quick smile and went inside, then closed the door behind her with a soft
snick
of the lock. For a moment, he lingered outside, but he knew he could not stand there forever. She would emerge when she was ready. And, as she had said, she did need to get her rest.

So he went downstairs and cleared away their breakfast dishes. Not using his djinn powers, but carrying the plates and mugs into the kitchen so he could set them in the sink. Eventually he would snap his fingers and send them, sparkling clean, into their respective cupboards. For now, though, he left them all behind so he could stand in the front entrance of the hotel and gaze at his handiwork.

It was a fine day, the sun out, a brisk breeze blowing through the grasses and trees he had planted, light glinting as their leaves glistened in the wind. Qadim breathed in deeply, hoping the fresh air might help to clear his thoughts, but no matter what he did, he could only think of Madison lying upstairs in bed. Would she be asleep already, lulled into slumber by the meal she’d eaten and her body’s own need for rest? Or would she be lying awake, thinking of everything he had told her?

Perhaps it had been a mistake to mention Los Alamos. He’d seen the way she’d grown quiet and thoughtful afterward, although she’d done her best to hide her reaction. It was only natural that she would yearn to be with others of her own kind. After all, she had just spent more than a year alone.

But she was not alone now. She had company. His company. Should that not be enough?

Then he wanted to shake his head at himself. Through the millennia, many djinn women had been glad enough to spend time with him, but their pleasure in his company should not have given him such an inflated sense of his own attractions that he believed they could outweigh the lure of a chance to be among one’s own people.

Perhaps he could change that. Perhaps he could show her that she would do very well to be with him. And then when he had tired of her, he could take her to Los Alamos himself — or at least as near as he could without being affected by one of Miles Odekirk’s infernal devices. Madison should be able to traverse that last half mile without too much trouble.

He saw no reason why he would not tire of her at some point, since that had been the eventual outcome in all of his previous liaisons. Anyway, it was better that they should enjoy one another for a time and then part ways before things grew sour, or he became bored.

Of course, that particular scenario was predicated on the belief that she would eventually succumb to him, and she certainly had not yet shown any signs of doing so. But she was not healed, and had suffered one shock after another. Time was the one thing djinn had plenty of, and so Qadim was prepared to give her whatever she required.

Assuming that Hasan al-Abyad did not make another unannounced visit. He would surely detect Madison’s presence, and things could get nasty. Or perhaps not. Qadim thought he might be able to convince the other djinn to let her alone for as long as she was in Qadim’s keeping. A few hints that Hasan could do as he pleased with her as soon as Qadim was finished should be enough to get the air elemental to retreat for the moment. Hasan didn’t have to know that Qadim planned to see Madison safely to Los Alamos once their relationship had run its course.

Yes, that sounded like quite a good plan. While she was here, though, Qadim knew he could not go forth and continue with the demolition of Albuquerque’s man-made features. The landscaping would have to wait, because he did not think she would be safe here if he left her alone.

Not that it mattered all that much. He had plunged into his transformation of the city because he had had nothing else to occupy his time. Now, though, he had something far more distracting to fill his days.

He moved out onto the sidewalk that remained and gazed upward, toward the floor where she now slept. Soon enough she would wake, and he’d begin his pursuit of her in earnest.

* * *

S
leep was
the farthest thing from Madison’s mind. After she’d locked the door to her room, she’d made sure all the blinds were firmly shut so no one — not even Qadim — would be able to see inside. Yes, certain things he’d said made it sound as if he was the only one of his kind remaining in the city, but what if those rampaging djinn she’d seen months before were still at large in Albuquerque, trying to sniff her out? Best to be safe, even if she had the completely unfounded impression that Qadim would do his best to protect her.

Right then she wished more than anything that she was back in the shelter so she could access the excellent map library Clay had gathered there, the really detailed topographical maps hikers used, along with super-accurate USGS charts. Then she could try to plot a course from Albuquerque to Los Alamos, see if there was some way she could take side roads and routes hidden in canyons and creek beds and manage to avoid any djinn interference.

But she was more than a mile away from the shelter, so that idea was out. For now, she’d have to rely on her own somewhat hazy memories of Los Alamos as she began to formulate a plan. In a few days, Qadim would let her go, and then —

What makes you think he’s going to let you go?

The thought popped into her mind so vivid and clear that she knew she couldn’t ignore it. She wished she could, but she’d never been one to avoid unpleasant facts, and she wasn’t about to start doing so now.

Yes, Qadim had been friendly. Maybe too friendly. No, he hadn’t seemed interested enough in humans to save one by making her his Chosen, but now that he’d had a human female basically dropped in his lap, it was entirely possible that he’d decided it might be a good idea to amuse himself with her for a while. He was probably waiting for her arm to heal itself. A one-handed lover could be somewhat limiting.

Oh, come on,
she thought then,
do you really think you’re that irresistible? Why have you when he could be with a djinn woman instead?
She’d never seen a djinn female, but if they were anything like their men, then they were all probably extremely attractive as well.

That all sounded very sensible. But….

Coming to terms with one’s own beauty was always problematic. Madison had never paid all that much attention to her own looks, except for wishing on numerous occasions that she’d inherited her father’s nice straight hair instead of this curly mass that only did what it wanted to and seemed to laugh at any actual attempts at styling it. However, when strangers — both male and female — started approaching her when she was at the mall, handing her business cards that advertised various modeling agencies, she’d begun to realize there must be something appealing or at least interesting about her looks. She’d never called any of those phone numbers, partly because she wasn’t that interested and partly because she knew her father wouldn’t approve. Still, she’d always carried in the back of her head the strange notion that someone, somewhere thought she was attractive enough to be a model.

And then there had been that creepy T.A. during her sophomore year of college, the one who told her she looked like something out of a Botticelli painting and who kept wanting to sketch her. She’d said no repeatedly, but he wouldn’t leave her alone, and eventually she’d gone to the head of the department and made a complaint. The T.A. was removed from her class soon afterward, and she felt guilty about the situation…but not too guilty. After all, she’d given him plenty of chances to tone it down, and he hadn’t.

But even with all that, she still didn’t see anything entrancing enough about herself to make her think Qadim was anything like that long-ago T.A. — well, nothing except the way she’d caught him staring at her on several occasions. She wasn’t a complete imbecile; she knew what that spark of interest in men’s eyes generally meant.

Even if the man in question happened to be a djinn.

All right, so maybe Qadim was contemplating getting a little human booty. Maybe the best thing to do would be to act as if her arm was still hurting even after it was actually healed. Then all she’d have to do was wait until he wasn’t paying attention — maybe while he was in the middle of making dinner — and then she could make a break for it.

Framed that way, her plan seemed a little cruel. He hadn’t done anything to her. He hadn’t even said anything suggestive. He’d only looked at her a few times in a way that made her uncomfortable. She could be misinterpreting everything, including his very obvious kindness to her.

Damn it.

She sat down at the table by the window and used her good hand to separate the blinds slightly so she could peek outside. This room faced north and west, so she could pretend that she was able to see all the way to Los Alamos, even though she knew in reality it was too far away for her to glimpse anything of that mountain town. From this angle, she couldn’t even see all the way to the edge of Qadim’s “grant.”

What she could see was the evidence of his work all around — the strangely altered skyline, the open grassland with its careful groupings of trees and bushes and rocks at regular intervals. All seemed quiet, though; it didn’t appear as if he was working on his project today.

He’s sticking close by because he doesn’t want to leave you alone here,
she thought.

Unfortunately, that idea seemed too plausible for her to even bother denying it.

* * *

D
inner on the rooftop bar
, he thought. It might be rather cold for Madison, but the space had been equipped with large portable heaters. Qadim didn’t have any trouble getting them started, as they were still filled with propane, waiting for guests who would never come.

The notion saddened him for some reason, and he pushed the thought away. This space would have one very important guest tonight.

He wished she had something more becoming to wear, however. The clothing he’d placed in her room was functional and nearly identical to the pieces she’d been wearing when he found her, but it wasn’t exactly suitable for a romantic evening. He thought then of the shimmering golden outfit he’d had Julia Innes wear when she’d been his captive, and let out a breath. She’d looked like a goddess.

But gold wouldn’t suit Madison. No, she needed something more delicate — a soft green, or a pale blush color. Would she even wear something he provided?

Only one way to find out, he supposed.

He’d left her alone all afternoon so she could get her rest. That had given him time to decide what to make, how to decorate the rooftop space. The water fountain at the edge of the roof, with its blue lights and line of flames along the angular obelisk that dominated the water feature, couldn’t be improved. While poking around the hotel, he’d found lengths of filmy cloth he guessed must have been used to decorate the ceilings, and he hung some of that in swags from pillar to pillar, softening the angular lines of the walls that surrounded the area. No need for a crowd of tables when it would only be the two of them; he placed one round table and two chairs in an intimate corner, then covered the table with a dark red cloth.

BOOK: Forsaken (The Djinn Wars Book 5)
9.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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