Authors: Jenna Black
Saul shrugged. “I’ve been without my human senses for a while. I suppose I’m overcompensating.”
We must have been taking longer than expected to make our way into the kitchen, because Adam came looking for us. As soon as he got within about five feet of Saul, he recoiled.
“Agh!” he said, his nose wrinkled in disgust. “Remind me never to let you borrow my aftershave again. Did you leave any for me, or did you use the whole bottle?”
The stuff was so strong, I hadn’t even recognized it as Adam’s scent until he spoke. I’d always found the scent sexy on Adam, but Saul might have just ruined it for me forever.
Saul gave him a chagrined look. “Morgan was just pointing out that I’d overdone it.” He sighed. “Guess I’ll go take another shower.”
I saw that the ends of his hair were still damp. If the aftershave were even mildly bearable, I’d have told him I’d live with it. As it was, I couldn’t wait to get rid of him. Adam made a shooing motion with his hand, and Saul trudged to the stairs.
The scent lingered after he was gone. I met Adam’s eyes, and he had no trouble reading my thoughts.
“He’ll tone it down soon,” he said. “You can’t imagine what it’s like to experience physical sensations, even tastes and scents, when you first set foot on the Mortal Plain. He’ll overdo it for a little while, then he’ll start acting more like a normal person.”
I regarded Adam skeptically. “Did
bathe in perfume when you first came to the Mortal Plain?”
Adam’s frown told me the answer was no. He hastened to explain. “Okay, so Saul’s a bit of a hedonist. But once he gets reacclimated, it won’t be so bad.”
“Where is everybody?” Dominic called from the kitchen. “Dinner’s almost ready.”
Adam made a sweeping gesture toward the kitchen. “I don’t know about you, but I have no inclination to wait for Saul before we start eating.”
My nose was starting to recover from the shock, so I could take in the cooking smells, and my stomach grumbled its opinion. I was halfway to the kitchen before Adam finished talking.
Saul joined us at the kitchen table about five minutes
into the meal. Apparently, showering at superhuman speed was one of his talents.
As soon as Saul entered the room, I felt the tension that Adam had mentioned. Maybe only because Adam had warned me, but I think even someone as dense as me would have noticed it—though it was a subtle brand of tension.
The three of them joked and laughed amiably, and Dominic practically glowed when anyone praised his cooking. But there was still something slightly … off. Perhaps it was in the way Saul looked at Dom, with a hint of wistfulness in his expression. Or perhaps Adam was making more possessive little gestures than usual. He did seem to go out of his way to touch Dom. Dom had told me once that Adam was insecure. I had a hard time seeing Adam that way. To me, he always seemed a pillar of self-confidence. Arrogance, actually. But I had to admit, he did rather resemble a man afraid he was going to lose his lover.
Call me a cynic, but I suspected the reason Adam wanted Saul out was more for his own sake than Dom’s.
You could never get out of Dom’s kitchen without eating dessert, and tonight was no exception. It was a simple cheesecake, no fancy toppings, no froufrou flavors, but it was the best I’d ever eaten.
The conversation came to a bit of a lull as we were sipping the dark, bold Italian roast coffee that topped off the meal. I suck at small talk—ask anyone, they’ll agree—but unfortunately that didn’t always stop my gums from flapping at inopportune moments.
So as some light, pleasant after-dinner conversation, I looked at Saul and blurted, “What’s the deal with you and Raphael, anyway?”
There was a lot I still didn’t know about Saul, and I had to admit I was curious. It wasn’t until we’d
summoned him to the Mortal Plain that I’d learned his true identity: He was Raphael’s son. Raphael’s
son. I didn’t know anyone who actually
Raphael—Andy and I both hated him—but I think even we didn’t hate him as much as Saul did.
My words were about as welcome as a cockroach parade. All three men turned to look at me with varying degrees of disapproval.
I’ll admit, I knew I was in the wrong. This wasn’t the right time to discuss Saul’s relationship with Raphael. But once I’d hurled the question out there, I wasn’t willing to take it back.
I shrugged as if unconcerned by the glares the guys were shooting at me. “Come on. It’s a fair question, and I’ve waited more than a week to ask it. I’m not usually that patient.” I could have asked Lugh about it, but we hadn’t been communicating a whole lot lately. I was having a lot of trouble sleeping, and Lugh didn’t want to disturb those hours I managed with our lucid dream conversations.
“It’s none of your business why Raphael and I don’t get along,” Saul finally said, breaking the tense silence.
It didn’t escape my notice that Saul had said “Raphael” rather than “my father.” Whatever it was that lay between them, it was deep-seated.
“You’re both part of Lugh’s council, and I’m Lugh’s host,” I retorted. “If there’s a problem between you and Raphael, I need to know about it.” I tried to sound like the voice of authority, but I’m not sure I succeeded.
“You know there’s a problem. There’s no reason to go into the specifics.”
To my surprise, Dominic cut in before I could formulate my reply. “There’s also no reason not to,” he said. “Why should it be a secret?”
I glanced at Dom, wondering if he knew the answer himself. But I was pretty sure he wouldn’t tell me even if he did. It was Saul’s story to tell—or not to tell, as the case may be.
Saul’s mouth pursed like he’d just eaten something nasty, but he caved under Dominic’s persuasion.
“Fine. I’ll tell you all about my relationship with my
His eyes narrowed, and I could see the muscles in his jaw working. “I refuse to call him my father when the only reason he sired me was to piss off Lugh.”
I felt my eyebrows arch in mingled surprise and curiosity. I was never much into gossip—you have to have girlfriends for that, and I’d always related better to guys—but this definitely piqued my interest.
“Back up one moment,” I said, despite my curiosity. “There’s something I don’t understand. You guys are incorporeal in the Demon Realm. So how do you, er, reproduce?” I wondered if that was a rude question, and I also wondered if the answer would embarrass me, but Saul answered matter-of-factly enough.
“We don’t have bodies as you would understand them, but we are still distinct entities. It might help if you think of us as collections of energy. It’s not a very accurate description, but it works as an analogy. When we mate, the child we create draws energy from both parents. The more powerful the parents, the more energy the child draws. If the parents are of unequal power, then the more powerful parent has to contribute more energy to protect the less powerful one. Otherwise, the less powerful one can be drained completely and die.
“My mother was a … friend of Lugh’s, although she was of a much lesser rank and was much less powerful. Lugh is egalitarian enough to care about the lower-ranked demons as much as about the royals
and elite, and he and Raphael fought about it. Raphael thought Lugh should ‘stick to his own kind.’ When Lugh didn’t agree, Raphael struck out at him through my mother. He convinced her to have a child with him. He promised to contribute the lion’s share of the energy and to protect her from the drain. But, as usual, he lied. He put in as little as possible and let my mother pour her … life force into me.
“My mother was destroyed, and I was born a royal without a royal’s power.” He swallowed hard, his Adam’s apple bobbing.
“It’s not unheard-of for demons of such wildly disparate power to have children,” Adam said softly when it seemed that was all Saul had to say. “But it is unusual. When it happens, it is usually the more powerful parent who is most … depleted. They return to full strength eventually, but it can take centuries for them to regenerate all the energy they lost. If Delilah had known Raphael better, she’d have realized he’d never put himself in such a position. But she didn’t, and the lure of having a royal child was too much for her to resist.
“We are something of an elitist society, I’m afraid, and had Raphael followed through on his promise, her rank would have been greatly elevated.”
I rolled all that information around inside my head, wondering what to make of it. I’d never really speculated on demon reproduction before, but I guessed I understood Saul’s explanation—except for one thing.
“Why did Raphael do it?” I asked. Yes, I hated him. Yes, he was ruthless, and selfish, and at least borderline evil. He was even capable of being petty. But for all of that, there was a reason behind everything he did. Not a
reason, mind you, at least not from my point of view, but a reason nonetheless.
“I told you,” Saul said with a little snarl. “To piss Lugh off. And because he could.”
My every instinct told me there was more to it than that. I glanced at Adam and raised an eyebrow. He shrugged and shook his head, which I took to mean he shared my opinion but didn’t know Raphael’s motivation, either.
I wasn’t about to approach Raphael to ask him about it. But surely Lugh knew exactly what his brother had been up to. I sent him a mental message to talk to me in my dreams tonight. I was pretty sure he’d grant my request.
in quite the pensive mood when I left Adam’s place. I could clearly see that the current housing arrangements weren’t optimal, but I felt no more inclined to offer Saul my spare room than I had before. I like to think I’m a pretty decent human being, but I’m not all that altruistic by nature.
I decided that instead of brooding on my inadequacies, I’d brood on what Adam had told me this afternoon about Reporter Barbie. Although I’d known I hadn’t seen the last of her, I’d sort of allowed myself to forget about her for a while. Out of sight, out of mind, you know? But now that she was back in the forefront…
I was halfway to my car, which I’d parked by the curb a little more than a block from Adam’s house, when it occurred to me that if Barbie really was bent on investigating me, she might well be following me around, trying to dig up dirt. So instead of just getting in my car and driving away, I took a moment to regard my surroundings.
When you grow up female in a big city like Philadelphia, you learn to always be aware of who’s
around you. But you also learn to ignore people who don’t register on your threat radar. Sometimes when you see people walking down the street, it looks almost as if each one believes he or she is the only human being around.
No one had tweaked my threat radar, but then, Barbie wouldn’t. Scanning the pedestrians who were within my line of sight, I searched for any sign of her. No dice. I almost convinced myself to just forget it, but my paranoia was in high gear, so I began examining the parked cars by the sides of the street.
There were enough streetlights to more than illuminate the streets and sidewalks, but car roofs made great shadows, and if I hadn’t been looking so closely, I never would have seen her. She was nothing more than a patch of deeper darkness in the shadowed interior of a nondescript little sedan, and I might almost have missed her even in my careful sweep if the headlights of another car hadn’t momentarily shone on her face.
Clenching my teeth, I strode toward the car. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do—after all, as far as I knew, she wasn’t doing anything illegal—but I was determined to get her off my back one way or another.
It didn’t take her long to realize she’d been made, and I halfway expected her to start her car and zoom on out of there. Instead, she opened the door and stepped out to wait for me.
I thought of her as “Barbie” because she was petite, blond, and curvy, and her sweetly pretty face still reminded me of some stereotypical vapid cheerleader. However, today she seemed to be going for the Cat-burglar Barbie look: tight black pants, a snug black T-shirt that clung in a way that would make guys’ tongues hang out, and a light black jacket. Her usually
ostentatious blond hair was pulled back into a pony-tail at the nape of her neck, the stray wisps held back from her face by a black velvet headband. All the better to hide in the shadows, I guess, though with her pale skin she probably needed camouflage makeup— or a ski mask—to stay truly hidden.
I came to a stop in front of her, close enough to make the most of our disparate heights. Of course, this was a woman who’d been willing to go toe-to-toe with a demon, so I wasn’t surprised that she wasn’t intimidated. She was also probably armed—it was a little warm for that jacket tonight, unless she was wearing it to hide her shoulder holster.
“You look like an extra from
I informed her, but instead of being insulted, she smiled and shrugged.
“So it’s a bit of a clichéd outfit. But black works best for nighttime surveillance.”
“I guess that means you’re not pretending to be a reporter anymore.”
“I’m sure you’ve already shot that cover story full of holes, so I see no need to insult your intelligence by keeping it up.”
“Considerate of you,” I said, then wondered what to say next. What did I hope to accomplish by confronting her? I didn’t know, and now I wished I’d thought it out beforehand.
“For an exorcist, you seem to spend an awful lot of time in the company of demons,” she commented.
I didn’t know what to say to that, so I decided to keep my mouth shut.
“Especially Adam White,” she continued. “I’ve canvased the neighbors, and I know you’ve spent the night there at least once.”
I’ve never been any good at keeping a poker face, and I’m sure my shock and dismay were obvious.
This was the city! People weren’t supposed to pay any attention to their neighbors here. I couldn’t think of any reason why my spending time with Adam would be harmful to me in the lawsuit, but Barbie could definitely make my life … uncomfortable if she decided to share that information.