He said the name fondly.
“Is that your ancestor? Samael?”
“No.” He smiled sadly. “But I wish he was.”
I wanted to reach out and touch his cheek, to turn the sad smile into a happy one, but Conah straightened before I could act on the crazy impulse.
“Samael is Peiter’s ascendant,” Conah continued.
I tore my gaze from his face and looked up at the stars. There was a balcony above to our left.
“The pinnacle,” Conah said. “Visiting reapers land there, and the Dominus exit there. Don’t worry, there is no exit or entry without biodata verification. Demons can’t just come and go as they please. You’ll be added to the system.”
“Technology …” I shook my head. “I shouldn’t be surprised. Soul Savers gets email from Shoel.net.”
“Owned by Lilith,” he said. “Our queen is progressive, but there are those who prefer the old ways and regions that reject technological advances.” He smiled to lighten the mood. “So, the pinnacle is our front door.”
“But not yours.” Because he didn’t fly.
“And me? How am I going to get around?” I stared at him in horror as realization dawned. “I can’t do that thing you do, and I don’t have wings.”
“We’ll figure it out,” he promised.
And just like that, I was calm again. “Is that another of your skills?”
He looked at me quizzically. “What?”
“Being able to soothe frazzled nerves?”
“I don’t follow.” He looked genuinely puzzled.
“Every time I start to freak out or feel overwhelmed, you make the panic go away. I’ve never doubted my abilities before … I mean, I take on a task, and I nail it. It’s what I do, but this … This whole situation has thrown me. But you make me feel like I can do this. Like I could be a reaper and do it well.”
This time his smile was soft and filled with wonder. “I do that for you?”
My cheeks grew warm under his gaze. What was wrong with me? I didn’t blush, ever, but Conah made me feel stuff. Things that you only saw in romance movies, and I didn’t want to be that chick, the one who meets a hot guy who’s sweet to her and immediately puts her heart on the line. I’d done that once, and it hurt.
“How long have you known your friend Cora?” he asked.
Huh? The sudden change in topic threw me for a moment. “Um … I guess about a year.”
“Where did you meet?”
A prickle of unease skimmed up my spine. “Why all the questions?”
He frowned. “I thought we were getting to know each other. You ask questions, I answer, and vice versa.”
Okay, now I felt stupid. “Sorry, I guess I’m a little touchy when it comes to Cora. She found me. I put an ad in the paper for a lodger after … after my Aunt Lara passed away, and she answered the ad.”
“Not through allocation?”
Once again, unease stirred in the back of my mind. An echo of grief so strong it made my insides twist.
“Fee? Are you all right?”
The grief vanished. “I’m fine. Sorry, what was I saying? Oh, yeah. Cora is different. She doesn’t want to pass over. I got her the job at Soul Savers so she could stay on this plane without repercussion.”
“How did your aunt die, Fee?”
Pain lanced through my chest. “She was sick. Then she died.” Memories stirred at the back of my mind, but I squashed them. “So, I have a room here?”
Conah studied me shrewdly for a moment longer as if trying to solve a puzzle.
He shook his head and moved smoothly away from me. “You could take your pick of rooms, but I think you’ll like what I have in mind.”
The whole of the Dominus quarters were dark wood and huge windows. Rugs and carpets covered the ground, and there was a hearth in every room we passed. I guess with the freezing temperatures outside, they needed the inside to be warm.
Conah stopped outside an impressive wooden door with wings etched into the wood and tried the handle, but it was locked.
“Nera has the key,” he explained. “She’ll be back tomorrow. We can check out Peiter’s rooms then.”
We passed a study, a library, and then took a flight of steps to the next floor where Conah let me peek into the training room filled with exercise equipment and floor mats.
“You have to work out?”
He looked amused. “No, our bodies are naturally toned and powerful.”
Wait, was he being sarcastic?
“Of course we have to work out,” he continued. “Demons come in all shapes and sizes, just like humans. As reapers … as Dominus reapers, we need to stay in peak physical condition. Although our bodies are able to burn calories quicker than the average human, we still have to work to keep ourselves in fighting form.”
“Well, there goes all hope of suddenly waking up with a killer, kickass bod.”
“You could totally wake up with a killer, kickass bod; in fact, once I’m done with you, that’s exactly what you’ll have.”
His tone was amiable, but his words rankled. I’d been teased for being on the chubby side all my life, and diets and exercise hadn’t done much to change things. Admittedly, my penchant for the odd donut or four didn’t help, but still, I was happy with who I was.
I lifted my chin. “I happen to like my body.”
He stopped and turned to face me with a horrified expression. “No, that’s not what I meant. I like your body too.”
Had he just said he liked my body?
He made a slashing motion with his hand. “No, what I mean is, it’s perfect.”
“Um, thank you?”
“Shit …” He stopped and exhaled through his nose. “There is nothing wrong with your body, Fee. But you’ll need to build stamina and strengthen your core to do the work we do.”
“Reap souls and evade mouths?”
“Reaping is only a small part of what we do.” He walked farther down the corridor and stopped outside a door. “This is you.”
I joined him as he pushed open the door to a huge bedroom with a massive four-poster bed in the center of it.
“That’s an impressive bed.” I walked in, my boots sinking into the deep pile of the carpet.
“The quarters were decorated by Lilith. She has a penchant for large beds. She often entertained several lovers at the same time.” He said it casually as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
Images of orgies and porn filled my head. Begone with you, naked mind renders.
“And what about you guys? Do you utilize the beds?” I held up my hands, palms outward. “No, forget that. I shouldn’t have asked. I mean, your private affairs are none of my business.”
Although it would be interesting to know if he had a lover, a girlfriend, a life-mate. My stomach trembled. Better to know now, right? Before the gooey feeling I had around him got worse.
It was the bluer-than-blue eyes and the golden hair that did it and the way he looked at me as if I was the only person in the room, which, on this occasion, I was, but still …
“Mal does,” Conah said. “Mal enjoys the large beds, but Peiter was mated, and there had only been one woman for him for centuries.”
Nera … and now she’d lost him.
“But the bed isn’t the reason I chose this room for you.”
He strode around the bed, and I followed him to find a massive window bordered in crimson drapes, but that wasn’t the best part, the best part was the deep window seat made of plush velvet. There was even a knitted blanket to use and a small side table. Someone had placed a pile of books on the table, all detective titles.
My chest warmed with joy. “How did you know I like to read?”
“I may have taken a wander up to your attic room while you were speaking to your friend Cora. I noticed you like mysteries, so I had a few brought to your room. I’ve also had your gaming console set up in the second lounge. There’s a TV in there and Wi-Fi that connects to Necro.”
“When did you have time? We just got back.”
“I called ahead.” He indicated the wardrobe. “You’ll find your clothes are already here too.”
“Don’t tell me you have invisible minions.”
His expression grew serious. “They’ve been instructed to show themselves when interacting with you.”
I stared at him. “You have invisible minions.”
“Imps,” Conah said. “They’re shy and can be mischievous, but they’re extremely hardworking and loyal to a fault. I’ve assigned Iza to you. She was Peiter’s imp.”
I looked about the room. “Is she here now?”
“No. Like I said, she will make herself known to you. There’s a bell by your bed, which you can ring if you need anything.”
The idea of ordering someone about made me feel super uncomfortable. “Or I could just get what I need myself. Look, I don’t need a maid. I can take care of myself. I’d prefer to, actually.”
“In that case, I’ll let Iza go.”
“What do you mean?”
“Iza was Peiter’s imp, and now he’s gone, there’s no place for her here.”
“You’re going to fire her?”
Conah shrugged. “Imps are territorial. The others won’t allow her to help with their chores.”
Crap. I couldn’t let this Iza get fired. “No, it’s fine. I guess I could use the help while I’m here.” Speaking of which … “I know I need to stay here while you get me up to speed. I understand that, but I have a home, and I’d like to go back there, maybe work from there?” I couldn’t keep the hope off my face. “I have a job at Deadside. I start in two weeks. I’d like to take the position, hold on to me, you know?”