Copyright © 2012 Robyn Bachar
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
“You still haven’t eaten,” Harvey reminded after I hung up the phone.
“Drive through. Don’t let me forget.”
“You said that this morning.”
“I did?” I asked in surprise.
“Yes, you did.”
Damn it all to hell and back, my brain must really be fried, because I had zero memory of that. At least I’d been chugging black coffee all day, so there was something in my system, even if it was only caffeine. I couldn’t keep up this pace for much longer, but I didn’t have a choice. I was the only one left to handle the demon problem. I’d tried to call in extra help from the coasts, and everyone turned me down. They were too afraid of the hunters, and though I couldn’t blame them for that, it still pissed me off. I outsourced what work I could to the local guardians, but it wasn’t enough. They weren’t specialists like me.
I was trying to bail out the Titanic with a teaspoon. It was only a matter of time before we all drowned.
“Well, this time I mean it,” I said lamely.
“Of course, Mistress.”
I grabbed my black cashmere coat from the rack and donned it along with my scarf, then slung my messenger bag over my shoulder. This time I made it halfway across the room before I was stopped, but it wasn’t the phone that interrupted me. It was a faerie invasion, and I had only a moment to recognize Faust by the smoky lenses of his round, dark glasses before he pounced on me. He kissed me fiercely and nudged me back until I stumbled into the front of my desk.
“I dislike this overcoat. It’s much too bulky.” He reached for the buttons and I batted his hand away.
“I’ll be in the car, Mistress,” Harvey called out loudly before vanishing. He’s not a voyeur, and he disapproved of my relationship with Faust. I didn’t approve of my relationship with Faust either. Every summoner knows you shouldn’t fuck a faerie, because it always ends badly.
“Cut it out. I’m on a call,” I warned.
Faust grinned, and my chest tightened with an emotion I fought not to show. Yes, this was headed toward disaster, but I couldn’t help myself. Faust was the most addictive temptation I’d ever met. He was just so damn pretty—tall for a faerie, which made him about my height, and dark haired with a pale complexion that spoke more of a vampire than a faerie. Faust had an angular face with high, sharp cheekbones that reminded me a bit of a runway model, a finely-drawn brow and a smile that could make a girl weak in the knees in 0.5 seconds.
“It can’t wait,” he insisted. “I’ve missed you.”
He tugged my scarf aside and kissed my neck, and it was suddenly much too warm to be wearing my coat. I didn’t fight him as he unbuttoned the garment and slid it off. I kissed him and indulged in the lovely diversion of letting his nimble hands roam for a few moments, because the past few days had been all business and no pleasure. But I had an appointment to keep, and I pushed him away with a disappointed sigh.
“I missed you too, babe, but I don’t have time for a break. I’m on call 24/7 now.”
“I know you are.” Faust’s expression sobered, and he caressed my cheek. “You’re a brave woman, Patience, and I admire that about you. But that’s also why I’m here.”
“You’re here because you admire me? Funny, seemed more like desire a second ago,” I teased. The corners of his mouth twitched, and I bit back the urge to kiss him. Experience had taught me that if I encouraged him I’d end up naked and bent over the desk.
“There’s a problem—” he began, and I cut him off.
“I don’t have time for more problems. We’re all full up here.”
“This is serious. Zachary has hired someone to kill you.”
Zachary Harrison was a billionaire vampire and arguably one of the most powerful magicians in the country, aside from myself. My empty stomach twisted, and for a moment the fear that Faust had come to do the job himself slithered through my veins. After all, he worked for Harrison, and he was a shadowspawn faerie. Faust’s entire clan had been banished from Faerie for doing unspeakable acts of evil. Normally his past didn’t bother me, because as a summoner I could spot evil at fifty paces and he didn’t set off any of my alarms. I assumed while the rest of his family might be guilty, he’d been falsely accused. Then my good sense kicked in and reminded me that Faust wouldn’t hurt me. I trusted him, which for me was a really big deal. I don’t trust easily.
I cleared my throat and squared my shoulders. “Well he’ll have to get in line. I assume he’s pissed because I helped the Titania?”
Damn it, I knew that was going to come back and bite me in the ass. I should’ve said no, but being faerie-blooded, I couldn’t refuse an order from the Titania and Oberon. They’d needed a ritual from the shadow realm—a ritual that freed the Titania from being bound to Harrison—and I helped them retrieve it.
“Why come at me? I’m not the only one who ruined his evil plans. It was a group effort,” I pointed out.
“As I understand it, he is targeting several people for his revenge in this matter.”
“Of course he is. Go warn the Titania and she’ll put a stop to it. I’m running late.” I picked up my coat and started for the door again, and he grabbed my arm.
“This is serious. He’s become…unstable since the bond between him and the Titania was broken. I believe it had unexpected side effects, and it’s growing worse. He isn’t listening to me, and he won’t listen to her. Not about this. He will see you dead.”
“Then tell the pretty boy to take his best shot. I’m not afraid of him. Look, I appreciate the heads up, but it doesn’t change anything. I still have work to do. If I hid every time someone threatened to kill me I’d never leave the house,” I joked, but Faust didn’t appear amused.
He calmly removed his glasses, revealing the pale blue eyes that I’d only seen a few times before. I don’t know why he hides them, because he doesn’t have a pressing reason like I do. His eyes are so light they’re almost clear, but blue is a nice, normal color, unlike yellow. As though hearing my internal monologue, he pulled my sunglasses off next and set them on the desktop. I hoped my eyes weren’t glowing. I hate it when that happens.
Faust stared at me with a seriousness I don’t often see from him. Our relationship is built on lust, and we have an understanding that we enjoy each other’s company without mentioning commitment or the future. Really, a future isn’t possible with a faerie lover, because he’ll live forever and I have an expiration date. Faust slid his arms around me and held me close, and I fought to appear unaffected as my pulse leapt.
“Patience, please listen to me. You’re one of the strongest magicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, but you’re exhausted. You’re doing work that should be handled by dozens of summoners. There are hunters, demons and powers know what else out there trying to kill you, and now Zachary’s hired a master necromancer as well. It’s only a matter of time before you make a mistake.”
“I don’t make mistakes,” I argued sullenly. It was an outright lie, but you don’t become a cast-iron bitch by admitting your weaknesses.
He smiled. “Of course. Take the rest of the night off. Come home with me. I’ll make you dinner, and you can get some sleep.”
My brow rose. I didn’t know he had a place of his own. Most of our horizontal activity occurred in my office, with the occasional late-night booty call at my condo. “That’s a nice offer, and I’ll happily take a rain check, but right now I have plans.”
“Then let me come with you. I’ll watch your back while you work.”
Stepping away to get some thinking distance, I ran my fingers through my hair as I considered it. I needed a haircut, though I doubted I’d fit one in before the apocalypse started. What started out as a trendy, angular cut had grown into a messy mop. My fire-engine-red hair was something I’d been born with thanks to my faerie blood. It’s a shade that doesn’t naturally occur in humans. In the past it would’ve marked me as abnormal, and I might’ve been killed by a mob of superstitious villagers with torches and pitchforks, but in the modern age I could claim it was an unfortunate dye job.
Not that any of that aside helped me figure out what to do about Faust, who was still watching me far too intently. This was odd behavior, even for him. The cold, dark part of my soul that’d been corrupted by dozens of deals with demons whispered that I should tell him to get the fuck out and never come back, because I didn’t need him. I didn’t need anyone. I choked the urge down like a mouthful of bad medicine.
“Why?” I asked. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful, but why warn me? You’re on Harrison’s payroll. Shouldn’t your loyalty be to him?”
He frowned. “No, not for this. I love you.”
I froze as the world paused around me, because that was not the answer I was expecting. I’d heard him speak those words often enough in my dreams—and occasionally in my nightmares—but I never thought I’d hear them in reality. My heart leapt at the idea and then plummeted at the sheer insanity of it.
“Don’t say that,” I muttered as I rubbed my face with my hands.
“Do you doubt my affection for you?” he asked, sounding offended.
And that was part of the problem. I knew he was sincere, but there was zero potential for happily ever after with a faerie, no matter how badly I might want it. I’d known that going into the affair. Gripped by the sudden craving for a smoke, I dropped my coat on my desk and walked back behind it to rifle through the top drawer. After some searching I found a pack of cloves and withdrew a black cigarette. I lit the end with my fingertips—I love being descended from a fire faerie.
Faust continued to study me, and I shivered as I inhaled. “Are you going to deny having feelings for me?” he asked.
Lie to him. Now both my good sense and my bad sense screamed it at me. Deny everything. Tell him he was nothing more than a good fuck. End it now before it went any further…but I couldn’t. I don’t often have squishy moments, and vulnerable is a word that’s never been used to describe me, but I couldn’t lie to Faust. I’d been doing my best to keep my feelings bottled up and hidden for months, because I figured sooner or later he’d move on to a new obsession, and I wanted to be prepared for it when he did. Faeries are wanderers, and they don’t stick to one lover for long. We’d been fooling around for almost three years and I’d feared that the end would come any day now.
Apparently not. Of course, that was part of the problem—I was used to people leaving. I never expected anything permanent from anyone, but Faust had stayed with me far longer than any other lover I’d had.
“That’s not the point,” I said.
“So you do love me.”
“That’s not what I said. There’s no future in this. We’re not even the same species. You’re Peter Pan, and I’m Wendy. You’ll still be a lost boy when I’m old and gray.”
He stepped closer, extending a hand to take mine. “That doesn’t matter—”
“Hell yes it matters!” I shouted as I flinched away.