After that the bid is void. You can pay at the front before you leave, and the attendant there will provide my contact information. Liam just nodded, that amused expression still touching his face. I mirrored him, nodding back, now straining to keep my smile in place. Time to extricate myself from this social train wreck, and let Mr.
Chatty get back to polishing his biceps. And there it was; faint, just a smudge across the pane of my temporal lobe—like memory, but thicker—with edges and hooks that snagged my attention. He let his natural scent intensify, growing so densely cloying I had to breathe through my mouth, and even then the oxygen was round and full, like I could bite it. My heart thudded in my chest, and I had to fight to keep my own nerves, and scent, from rising to permeate the room. What do you want? Uh-uh, he warned, shaking his head as he sensed the direction of my thought.
And why not? He was a Shadow. I was an agent of Light. It was only natural to want to kill each other. Look at all the people, Joanna. Look at the press. You know who I really am. Though surprised at his use of my real name, I stated it as fact…because the real question was How? He smiled in mock sympathy and began that slow head nod again. I clenched my jaw, but said nothing.
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Shadows were braggarts, down to the last, and while annoying, it was something I might be able to use to my advantage. Keep him talking, buy enough time to signal Vanessa, and we could corner him and escort him outside to his death. If that failed? For some reason our enemies had been lying low for the past six months, a move that spoke of a blanket command.
His eyes narrowed, and the air around us warmed, peppery cinders bleeding from his pores. Not just some rogue agent looking to score brownie points with the local troop? His face tightened. Prove it, I said, shooting an unconcerned glance around the room. What raids have you led lately?
As expected, he was anxious to brag. I was responsible for the showgirls held hostage at the top of the Trop at the beginning of the year. That was you? I feigned interest, having caught sight of Vanessa near a tray of crab cakes, and he nodded while I waited for her to turn.
Not very original. I shrugged philosophically.
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Cleanup was a bitch, was it? Not really, I said, shrugging. Vanessa had turned my way to grab a champagne flute from a passing waiter. Now all I had to do was catch her eye. Okay, then. He licked his lips, provoked. He smiled when an involuntary twinge shuddered up my spine. The mayor and his damned martinis. That was a close one, I had to admit. His arrogance returned. Been taking many photographs lately, Joanna? Those words had been in my obituary six months earlier. Though plenty are taken of her.
You know. Saving Las Vegas from evil beings bent on chaos and destruction. You mean tourists? Liam grinned at my unamused stare. I rolled my eyes and caught Vanessa heading toward the Henshalls. Actually I wanted to see for myself what all the excitement was about. And he looked me up and down, doing just that. I was something new, after all. Something spoken about in the superhero mythology and written about in our texts, but that no one on either side of the Zodiac had ever seen before.
Basically I could tip the metaphysical scales in the favor of whatever side I chose, Shadow or Light, which made me a valuable commodity in the paranormal world.
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Liam leaned close in a way that must have looked intimate and wolfish from afar. And I think you should die for even breathing the same air as I am right now.
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And now my paternal heritage pushed itself to the fore-front, soot and dust overpowering his own scent as my vision went red at the edges, telling me my eyes had gone tar black. He just reached out very slowly and put a hand to my face, resting it on the side of my cheek. I let him, just to show I truly felt no fear just then. I could reach up and snap his wrist before anyone in the room blinked, but I let him touch me. I was feeling philosophical about the whole thing. He let his hand rest before patting my cheek hard enough to sting, and probably leave a red mark as well.
Do you know he was actually proud of the way you took care of Ajax and Butch? A Shadow, proud of the Light. He shook his head and scoffed. I wonder, do you know how to do more than just fight? He let his gaze wander off over my shoulder, as if he was pondering the eternal question, and when his eyes returned to mine, he smiled. He was gone before I could take a breath.
I swiveled as the air rushed past me, caught myself before I darted after him.
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People were watching. Plus it was already too late. Liam was already halfway to his destination; a normal door with a red-lettered exit sign fixed above it, but with another symbol above that, one noticeable only to those who knew how to look. I cursed inwardly and bit my lip as I stared at the tiny winking star that marked a portal. I sighed inwardly. Even the mortals had noticed that. More importantly, the star above the doorway flickered, then blinked out. Portals disappeared as soon as they were accessed, a paranormal precaution against mortals accidentally getting through…and proof positive the Universe had a twisted sense of humor.
Run, Liam had said. But what he meant was follow. Either I stopped Liam before he got too far, or my hidden identity would spread across the supernatural world like napalm across the rain forest. And if that happened, Kairos or not, my troop would place me in a secured holding cell to wake up a week from now with an entirely new identity, and alias, to get used to.