Killian’s eyes smoldered. “An alliance.”
I laughed harshly. “You’ve got to be kidding. You kicked me out and called me useless, and now you want an alliance? Hah!”
“You knew I was lying about that.” Killian slid his hands into the pockets of his slacks. “You said so as you stormed out of my office.”
“That doesn’t excuse what you did!” I curled my hands into fists, shaking with anger—and maybe a hint of betrayal.
I’m not sure if it was the fury in my voice or just their instincts, but Celestina and Josh appeared behind Killian. They weren’t holding weapons or anything, but I got the feeling they were there just in case I decided to launch myself at him.
Killian shrugged. “I did it for your own good.”
“You did it because you didn’t trust me,” I snarled.
“No.” Killian stared at me, unflappable. “I did it because the Night Court fae threatened you. That’s what the paintball attack in the mall was all about.”
“You seem to think that your lying, manipulating, and scheming is acceptable as long as it’s for a cause you decide is right,” I said. “Newsflash, it’s not! And you better get it through your head that I’m not one of your little minions who is going to fall in line and end friendships just because you tell me to.”
That, I was somewhat satisfied to see, made Celestina wince.
Killian tilted his head. “You’re still mad? Even though you know I sent you away to keep you out of harm?”
“I sent the Paragon to you to make it easier to fight your cousin, and attacked the Night Court while you fought him so they couldn’t provide backup. If you don’t believe me—”
“I already knew about that!” I felt magic jolt through me with my high emotions. “The problem is you didn’t trust me! If you had told me we could have worked something out. But you’re suspicious and paranoid, and you wanted to deal with it in your own way. That’s fine for you vampires, but that’s not how I’m willing to play.”
“Very well. What, then, do I do to change your mind?”
“You have to apologize!”
“I’m sorry.” He sounded about as convincing and sincere as a con man. “Now will you join in an alliance with me?” he continued.
“You had absolutely no sincerity, and you still clearly don’t believe you were wrong—” I groaned and cut myself off.
“An alliance would be beneficial for House Medeis as well,” Killian prodded, unable to let the topic drop. “The Night Court might have left you alone before, but after tonight there’s no chance they’ll let you off.”
The distant sirens pounded into my head like nails. “I can’t deal with this tonight.”
“Come to Drake Hall tomorrow,” Killian said. When I murderously glared at him, he added, “So we can continue this talk. I’d like to reconcile, Hazel.”
“Yeah, and I’d like a pony,” I grumbled.
“You’ll come tomorrow?”
I glanced back at my wizards. They were all staring at me with great attention, but none of them showed any kind of reaction beyond curiosity and interest.
A sigh leaked out of me like I was a poked balloon. “Not tomorrow. We’ll have to talk to Elite Bellus. We’ll come over this weekend.”
Killian slightly bowed his head. “We will prepare for your arrival.” He lifted his hand and almost brushed my cheek before I recoiled.
“This weekend,” I stiffly said.
It took a lot of willpower to turn my back to him and force a smile to my cheeks. “Let’s go, House Medeis.”
“I’ll run ahead and get the cars.”
“Do you want me to dart in and see if your notes happened to survive?”
I had never been more grateful for my family. Since my nerves were obviously frayed, they enveloped me as a group and chatted brightly without expecting real answers as they bodily escorted me away from Killian Drake.
He wanted an alliance?
What on earth was he thinking?
Two nights after the attack at the Cloisters, I impatiently tapped a pen on my desk as I considered the conundrum that was Hazel Medeis.
She had sent me a curt message, scheduling a meeting for tomorrow evening. Which meant I had roughly twenty-four hours to figure out how to win my way back into her good graces.
It felt both ridiculous and refreshingly challenging. I hadn’t worried about what any specific person thought of me since long before I became the Eminence. And now here I was, wondering how I could get one petite but powerful wizard to talk to me without annoyance crinkling the corners of her blue eyes.
I sighed and tossed the pen on my desk. “I’d say it’s embarrassing, except—alarmingly—I’m more worried about the outcome than my prestige.”
“You are referring to Hazel, Your Eminence?”
I glanced over at my Second Knight, who hovered in the open doorway of my office. “Yes.”
“She has the fire of humans within her,” Josh placidly said. “It allows her to be passionate about many things.”
“Maybe in some cases.” I leaned back in my desk chair, making the leather sigh. “But I suspect this grudge of hers has been nursed along because she’s suffered a lot of betrayal recently.” I narrowed my eyes at my desk. “She’s known since the day she left Drake Hall that I was sending her off for her own good. And I suspect she knew the Paragon didn’t drop by House Medeis when she was fighting Mason because he thought he should pay a social call.”
“Perhaps someone ratted you out,” Josh said.
“Of course they did,” I snorted. “It’s why I put all the bleeding hearts on guard rotation for her street. I thought Julianne was my surest shot, but I don’t know for certain it was she who told Hazel about the raid we pulled off on the Night Court…”
“Even though Hazel knows your motivations, she’s still angry with you,” Josh said. I think he thought he was helping me organize my thoughts, but instead a dagger to my side would have been more comfortable.
“I’m not in that position all by my lonesome,” I reminded him. “She’s furious with you and Celestina as well.”
“Indeed. Celestina assured me she had a plan to worm her way back into Hazel’s good graces after she left, but apparently she was out maneuvered.”
I shrugged a little. If I was going to be in the wizard’s bad graces, I might as well have some company. “You are here to report on Gavino, I assume?”
“As you requested, yes.” Josh straightened his shoulders. “He is up and walking around. It’s been recommended that he refrain from training for at least two days, and no strenuous work outs for a week.”
“Good. Make sure he and Julianne are kept off guard rotation for this week. And Rupert?”
“Is perfectly recovered,” Josh reported. “Or so he would say. He’s still tight in the shoulders and drops his guard a bit in hand to hand combat, but I imagine by tomorrow evening he’ll be back in perfect condition.”
Tomorrow, that would be just in time to thank Hazel—which was sure to put Rupert in a sour mood given his dislike of her.
I went back to staring at my desk. “She’s mad because she says I don’t trust her.”
“Ah, we have returned to the topic of Hazel?” Josh thoughtfully tipped his head. “Perhaps she does not understand that the small degree to which you do trust her is rare.”
“Yes,” I agreed without any intonation. “A small degree.”
In reality I trusted Hazel far more than I wanted to.
A wizard’s blood reeked to vampires—a self-defense mechanism because if a vampire actually did manage to drink a wizard’s blood, they were then immune to that wizard’s magic. The magic in the wizard’s blood, however, was not very amiable, and acted as built in protection. As long as the wizard didn’t trust the vampire, their blood would taste so rancid and disgusting that no vampire would be able to swallow. On the flip side, as long as a vampire didn’t trust the wizard, the wizard’s blood would smell like a rotting carcass, and if the vampire tried to drink it anyway, they’d get sick.
It was a tactic Hazel had used to her advantage before. When fighting a crazed, Unclaimed vampire she’d smeared her blood across its face, making it gag and stop attacking her.
Unfortunately for me, Hazel smelled amazing. It was difficult to pin down because she didn’t even smell like prey. Rather, she smelled how sunlight used to feel before I was a vampire and it sapped my strength. Warm, caressing, and beautiful.
As delectable as her scent was, it was a dangerous thing for me. Trust was dangerous. The only silver lining to this was no one had any way of suspecting just how much I really did trust her.
I sighed and dropped the depressing line of thought. “She wanted an apology, then said it wasn’t good enough. She said it wasn’t…” I frowned as I recalled her exact words. “Sincere?”
Josh blinked his red eyes at me, absolutely no help.
Maybe I should ask Celestina. But it weirdly seems like that would be admitting defeat—besides, Hazel is mad at her, as well, so Celestina obviously isn’t that much more advanced in this area than I am.
“You sent her away for her protection, but given the alliance you proposed to her, might I assume you believe it’s no longer needed?” Josh asked.
“She badly needs protection,” I said. “Because she’s an idiot who will run head first into a fight that doesn’t involve her just because she thinks it’s the ‘right thing to do’.” The distaste I held for the idea made me furrow my brow. “But I’m willing to admit she’s trained her underlings faster than I thought possible. She’s only had approximately two months, and already they were fighting as a unit and were able to hold up magic-made shields that were strong enough to repel a blast from a holy sword.”