Broken Soul (Excerpt)

When the Master of the city of New Orleans asks Jane Yellowrock to improve security for a future visit from a delegation of European vampires, she names an exorbitant price—and Leo is willing to pay. That’s because the European vamps want Leo’s territory, and he knows that he needs Jane to prevent a total bloodbath.

But Leo doesn’t mention how this new job will change Jane’s life or the danger it will bring her and her team. Jane has more to worry about than some greedy vampires. There’s a vicious creature stalking the streets of New Orleans, and its agenda seems to be ripping Leo and her to pieces. Now Jane just has to figure out how to kill something she can’t even see…

Check out Faith Hunter’s new novel Broken Soul, the eighth installment in her Jane Yellowrock urban fantasy series—available October 7th from Roc.

 

 

 

I left Leo’s office a half mil richer but filled with a gnawing worry. Following Wrassler, Derek behind me, I called the house—my house, which was so cool—on my cell, dialing the new business line, one that rotated over to a business cell when we were out. Working for the fangheads had been good for my bank account—not so good for my conscience, but good for my bank account.

“Yellowrock Securities, Alex Younger speaking.”

I grinned, because the Kid could see who was calling. He was yanking my chain, but, this time, I could hear the enthusiasm in his voice, which meant he had something for me. I pressed the cell to my ear so we could talk without the humans hearing. “Elevator?”

“Is still malfunctioning. The floor buttons being pushed by passengers aren’t being correctly routed, and instead are sending out incorrect pulses and taking the car to the wrong floors. By the way, I can’t tell if the errors are all electrical, digital, or mechanical. The elevator company is doing an online diagnostic before they send out a repairman. They’ll call me with an update on the time, but I’d like to test it once more, with someone on board I can talk to. Can you use the elevator while I watch what happens digitally?”

“Ummm.” I was trying to figure out how to get the Kid to remember that I had no way to test the elevator, because he wasn’t supposed to have a way to test the elevator. And then I remembered my bargain with Leo. “I’m hoping to get some written material from the basement of vamp HQ. So I’ll be a while getting back.”

“Huh? Oh. Yeah. Whatever. I’ll watch.”

He ended the call and I turned to Wrassler. “So can I see the storage basement again?”

Wrassler shrugged his massive shoulders, ushered Derek and me into the elevator, placed his palm on the openmouthed display, and punched a button. We started down. And kept on going.

After a too-long descent, that odd smell of panic came again from Wrassler and he pulled his big-ass weapon. Derek pulled a gun too, a snub-nosed .32. I had an image of Mini Me from some old movie. Smothering a totally inappropriate titter-giggle, and only an instant behind them, I pulled my stake and the tiny knife. Micro Mini Me.

The lights flickered in the enclosed space. My breath caught, laughter mutating into something darker.

The elevator car came to a stop. The doors opened. And everything went black. Derek whispered a curse, soft, fierce, and emphatic.

The space around us and before us was blacker than the mouth to hell. Wrassler clicked on a small penlight, holding it to the side of the laser sight, which did nothing to penetrate the darkness of the room/hallway/cellar/dungeon/whatever-the-heck-it-was in front of us. The narrow bands of light were swallowed.

The stench that hit my nose nearly buckled my knees. It was a combination of old blood, rotten herbs, vinegar, sour urine, and sickly sweat. And then I heard breathing, a slow inhale. Slower exhale. Above us, the lights came back on, blinding after the dark. The space beyond remained black even as the elevator closed with a soft whoosh of sound.

“Palm,” Derek murmured to Wrassler. “Fast.”

Wrassler transferred the heavy gun to a one-handed stance, slapped his hand on the laser-reader box, and hit the button for the main floor. Yes. That. Do not attempt to stop on the storage floor. Just take me outta here. The elevator began to rise, and I realized I had spoken aloud, not just in my head. I hissed softly, inhaling through my teeth.

Derek had started to curse, a single word, over and over, under his breath. In the moments we had faced the blackness, he had sweated through his shirt. So had Wrassler. So had I. “Someone want to tell me what the hell that was?” Derek demanded, when he could say something more coherent.

Wrassler, a faint tremor in his hands, holstered his weapon and said, “Don’t know. Tall tales. Stuff to scare children. Stories the regulars used to tell the newbies, about a dark room, where things are kept, things that used to be human. Maybe. Or maybe never were.”

“Boo stuff,” I quoted, hiding my weapons again.

“Boo stuff,” Wrassler agreed. “Tall tales. Till now. And we gotta get you better weapons,” he said to us.

“Yeah,” we both said.

The doors opened and we stepped off onto the main floor, full of lights and milling people, and the bloody smell of vamp digs—herbs, funeral flowers, blood, humans, sex, alcohol, food cooking. Somewhere someone laughed. So normal. Only now did a shiver tremble along my spine, as my adrenal system did a quiver and shake. My mouth suddenly tasted bitter.

I pulled my keys and headed for the door, dodging Bethany, one of the outclan priestesses. She was dressed in a vibrant crimson skirt and shawl, with a purple shirt and bell-shaped earrings that tinkled. As always, she was barefoot, and her toenails were painted the same shade of red as her skirt. Either that or she had been dancing in blood. I turned around in midstride and got another look. Yeah. Polish. With Bethany, one never knew.

On her heels was Sabina, the other priestess, dressed in her starched, nun-habit-like whites. It was good to see them in the same room, though I wasn’t sure what that might mean. They didn’t always get along. Sabina’s whites weren’t splashed with blood, so at least they weren’t killing anyone together. Today. Yet. I grabbed my weapons from the security guy at the front door checkpoint, without speaking, without glad-handing, without good-byes, and blew out of HQ into the night.

It had rained while I was inside, ensconced in windowless offices, on middle floors—and lower floors—and now the night smelled fresh, of water-water-everywhere, the air still so full of rain moisture and ozone from lightning that it soothed and energized both. To the south, lightning still flickered between clouds, brightening the horizon in white-gray flashes. Thunder rumbled far off, a long, low echo. It was probably a great show over the Gulf of Mexico.

I strapped into the SUV and took a deep breath, seeing my hands on the steering wheel. They looked calm, steady, competent, not terrified, shaky, or useless. I turned the key and managed not to put the pedal to the metal and fly around the circular drive. The new iron gate rolled back along its tracks as I approached. I timed it so that the sedate pace allowed the gate to be fully open as my SUV—one not driven by a heavy-footed speed demon or a panicked evacuee—reached the entrance.

And then I was gone, the gate pulling closed behind me. My panic started to ease. I gulped air, hyperventilating, trying to analyze what I had heard and smelled and tasted on my tongue while standing in the dark. It had felt cloying and heavy, the taste oily and vinegary, like really bad salad dressing and raw meat, rather than anything dangerous. My hindbrain, however, said otherwise. That subconscious, reptile brain had informed me that the lightless room contained a horrible, deadly… something.

Beast pulled on the power that lay between us, the gray place of the change, and our energies danced along my skin with a faint tingle, like holiday sparklers. She rumbled deep inside, a snarl of anger. Dead things. Hungry things. Do not go back to den of dead hungry things.

The laughter that had remained hidden inside me tittered out, sounding as panicked as a twelve-year-old kid at a Halloween slumber party—not that I had ever been to one. Whatever had been there, in the dark, waiting, something about it had hit me and the men with me, and even Beast, on a primal level, something so primitive that I couldn’t even name it except by nightmare titles—the bogeyman. Yeah. That was what had activated my Spidey sense. Something dark and malevolent. The bogeyman. And it was hiding in Leo’s basement. Not good. Just freaking not good.

I rolled on through the French Quarter streets, the mutter of the engine and the tires splashing through rain the only sound, shaking off the fear-sweats as Beast let go of our magics. I was still getting used to the time it took to get anywhere in a car in New Orleans. Like forever. The Harley had been so much faster, what with being able to take back alleys, go the wrong way up one-way streets—as long as a cop wasn’t around—and slip between cars stuck in traffic. The city seemed a lot bigger and a lot more crowded in the SUV. I didn’t particularly like it. Not at all. Everything took too long to get to.

One block out from my house and business, something hit my SUV door. Rammed it hard, knocking the vehicle into the oncoming lane. I yanked back on the wheel, righting myself and the vehicle. It hit again, harder, denting the door, rocking the SUV on its tires. A squealing sound pierced my ears, maybe fury, maybe pain. Maybe both, with a frenzied edge to the scream, like a buzz saw sliding along metal.

Before I could find it, the thing busted against the side window, creating a round impression of circular cracks with straight-line cracks radiating out from the center, like the spokes of a broken wheel. It looked like damage from a shotgun, fired point-blank into the laminated polycarbonate glass. I whipped the heavy vehicle back into my lane and gunned the engine. From the corner of my eye, in the rearview mirror, I caught a glimpse of rainbow-hued light and an impression of glittering wings. And then it was gone, leaving behind only the sound of its screaming.

I was gripping the steering wheel so hard the leather squeaked. I slowed and came to a stop on Canal Street, not sure how I’d gotten there. I was shaking, breathing all wonky. Eyes darting around, searching for an enemy. Seeing nothing. The street was empty at this hour. No attacker, no witnesses. As my eyes darted around, I spotted a security camera. And then realized that I had stopped after an attack, instead of clearing the scene at all speeds. Too much adrenaline in my system in too short a time had made me fuzzy-brained. “Not smart. Outta here.” I pressed the accelerator and drove on. I wasn’t attacked again.

But I did notice a black SUV, paralleling my progress one street over. Black SUVs were a dime a dozen, but this one… Had I seen it from the corner of my eye while the light thing attacked me? It looked familiar. I slowed, and the black vehicle continued on. Paranoid me.

When I got back to my place, I stepped from the SUV and inspected the damage. It looked like the kind that could be caused by a two-hundred-fifty-pound deer in a full run ramming an ordinary vehicle. But unlike a deer accident, there were no short brown hairs or blood in the indentations. No indication or evidence of what had hit the vehicle, though the rain may have washed some away. I had seen the sort of thing that hit me before, several times, in fact. The first time was when it wrecked Bitsa, my Harley, and most recently in Chauvin, Louisiana. It had been all teeth with vaguely humanoid features. Had the creature I had seen down south been the same species as the thing that hit my SUV? Maybe the same creature? And did this mean the creature was hunting me? Not a happy thought.

Feeling the damp in my bones, I shook off my misery, entered my house, acknowledged the guys sitting in the main room with a wave and a promise of info, and went to my bedroom, closing my door. I stripped and climbed into a shower, letting the steam and the water pressure pound the stress out of me.

The thing that had attacked my vehicle was similar to the being that was my ex-boyfriend’s partner in the department called PsyLED under the umbrella of Homeland Security. Her name was Soul and she was brilliant and curvy and gorgeous and deadly. And not human. When lives were at stake, she moved like the thing I’d seen, the thing that had now attacked me in the streets several times. The thing I had seen splashing in the water of the canals, like a dolphin playing, below Chauvin, Louisiana. A thing others didn’t seem to see at all, except for Bruiser, with his Onorio magics. Whatever she was, Soul changed form in a swoosh of light, just like the things, the light beings, though she didn’t smell like one. Thinking of Soul and Chauvin made me think of Ricky Bo. Which just ticked me off.

Before I went back into the main room, I dressed and texted Soul, not that she had come here, or done anything substantive, when I saw the previous things. But informing her seemed the right thing to do. Another thing like you attacked my SUV. Dented it. I listed the time and sent the text. And stared at the screen, hoping Soul would call or text me back, but she didn’t. I knew how hard it was to step up and deal with the “I am not human” problem, but I had hoped Soul would come through sooner rather than later.

Back in the main room, I curled up on the couch and said, “Update.”

“Not trying to be rude or anything, Janie, but you look like crap,” the Kid said.

“It’s been an interesting night.”

To my side, Eli appeared, carrying a huge mug of tea, smelling of spices, with a dollop of Cool Whip on top. He put it in my hands and wrapped my fingers around the warm stoneware. His hands held mine on the heated mug, his flesh warm over mine. It was an odd, kind, unexpected thing, that touch. Tears burned under my lids. “Thanks,” I whispered, not trusting my voice for more than that.

“Alex is right,” Eli said aloud. He dropped into the chair across from the couch, watching me. “Debrief. Take it slow.”

As I sipped, I filled them in, step by step, while the Kid typed up a report. We had discovered that it helped to have a running record of the weird stuff in our lives and business.

When I got to the part about the thing in the basement, Eli asked, “What did it smell like? Did you recognize it?”

“No. It was…” My nose crinkled, remembering the oppressive dark and the stench.

“You didn’t have a record of the scent in your skinwalker memory?”

“The closest I can come to it is to say that it smelled like a village full of sick and dead humans, mixed with the strong odor of lightning, and the scent of vamps when they had the plague. And vinegar. Sick and dead and dying and electrified salad dressing all at once.” I shook my head as if shaking away the memory. “Anyway, we went back up the elevator and I got the heck outta Dodge.”

The Kid said, “Otis Online Repair did a diagnostic and told us nothing we didn’t already know. The palm scanner and the button control panel are functioning according to specs, just as our own diagnostic showed. They speculate that the problem with the elevator may be an electrical pulse in the HQ wiring, maybe something not digitally traceable in the control panel. I pulled up an electrical schematic of vamp central.” He whirled the laptop to display a floor plan with varicolored lines on each floor, including five layers of basement, which was really unusual, what with New Orleans’ high water table. “The basements should be permanently flooded from water seeping in from the ground, but they aren’t,” I said, “which means that magic went into the construction. Some kind of spell that keeps water outside the basement walls.” Which meant witch assistance in the building process several hundred years ago. But what was most interesting were the different-colored lines threaded through the building, floor to floor.

“The colored lines,” he said, “are the electrical systems according to date of installation. The red lines are the original installation in—get this—1890. Most of the original wiring has been updated, some parts repeatedly, for decades,” Alex said. “Some were torn out—that’s the yellow—and replaced, especially after insulated copper wires first came on the market to replace the original uninsulated ones. The major updates were done in 1893, 1906, 1947, 1969, 1998, and again in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina. In fact, all the rewiring dates followed major hurricanes, and twice in that time, all of the aboveground floors were totally rewired due to a storm surge that supposedly flooded the basements from above.”

“So the spell that keeps water from seeping in through the walls won’t stop it from entering from above.”

“That’s what I’m getting,” Alex agreed. “But according to what I can find online and in the databases of vamp HQ, the lines in the two lower basements have never been upgraded, and are still in use.”

“And the two lower basements would have suffered the most from aboveground flooding, so that excuse to rewire was bogus. If our problem isn’t the control panel of the elevator—which is the most likely suspect—then maybe something about the wiring—”

“In that case, most likely, water is seeping through the walls,” the Kid interrupted, “and is collecting on or dripping on the wires. That would cause the stuff you’re seeing, brownouts and blackouts and loads of glitches. The electrical is tied into everything from food storage to the computers to the security systems.”

“Ducky.” The word sounded as tired as I felt. “Just freaking ducky.” Because our jobs had just gotten harder and we all knew it.

“I’m waiting for a final arrival time for the Otis repair people. I’m aiming for after six a.m. on whatever day they can come. You’ll want to have security personnel with each member of the repair team.” We both looked at Eli.

“Okay by me. I’m always up for a rappel down an elevator shaft. I’ll make coffee,” Eli said, sounding psyched. He disappeared into the kitchen. The Kid and I blinked and shook our heads in unison. Eli had weird ideas about what was fun.

When he came back, bringing with him the smell of espresso and a mug, I said, “Now we get to talk about my SUV. I got attacked again, just like that time that thing, whatever it was, attacked me on my bike.” I looked at Eli. “The SUV is damaged.”

Eli dropped back into a chair across from me, his eyes crinkled up in delight. “Really? Leo will be so ticked off at you for damaging his loaner. Can I watch you tell him?”

“Thanks for the heartwarming concern. Leo won’t care. Raisin, now, she’ll care,” I grumbled. “She’ll probably take the repairs out of my pay.” Raisin was the name I had given to Ernestine, the in-house CPA, the woman who ran all things of vamp financial natures, and kept the vamp social calendar. She was, like, three hundred years old, and got decades older every time I saw her, dry and wrinkled and old, like an unwrapped mummy, and she wrote my checks—yeah, old-fashioned checks written with a pen dipped into ink—and paid the vamp taxes and kept the bills and paid the food service vendors and clothing expenses and collected tax money and tribute money from the subservient clans and worked with financial advisors to make money with the money she collected. And she took care of paying for cars. And paid repair people. And she didn’t like me because I cost money. Raisin terrified me, maybe because she had authority and wasn’t above slapping the back of my hand with a ruler to punish a transgression.

“Being boss has to suck.” Eli looked positively happy about my having to face Raisin.

“Yeah. Back to the thing that attacked me? It was probably caught on a security camera in front of the Cigar Factory on Decatur.”

“On it,” the Kid said.

“The last time I was attacked in the streets, I was on Bitsa and was hurt pretty bad. This time, it didn’t get near me, but I was surrounded by steel and glass, so maybe it can’t tolerate either. Bruiser injured it that time with a steel blade.” It had happened in the gray place of the change, which I hadn’t gotten around to telling the guys about. The weird thing was that I’d never seen a nonmagical being in the gray place until Bruiser strode into it. Somehow. And Bruiser and I had, so far, managed to not talk about that. In fact, I had managed for us to not talk about much at all, except for work. Nothing personal. Nothing about… us. Whatever we were. But from the looks I’d gotten this evening, that wasn’t gonna last. Whatever space Bruiser had been giving me in the wake of Ricky Bo’s betrayal was used up. He was gonna do… something. Whatever. And soon. That left a hollow feeling in my middle, and I drank deep from the tea, licking the melting Cool Whip off my lips.

“So, steel,” Eli said. “Possible to hurt it, then, as long as we’re faster than it is.”

“Good luck with that,” I said.

The Kid was still typing, his fingers clacking on the keys. He might like touch screens and the newest model of tablets, but when it came to reports, Alex was old-school, using an ergonomic keyboard and Microsoft Word. All important files were encrypted and triple backed up, unimportant files were just backed up and e-mailed to himself. For his birthday, as a surprise, I had opened accounts for him online at three different electronics stores. Of course, I had put a limit on all of them—I wasn’t that stupid.

“This light creature. Was it the same one that attacked you last time?” Alex asked. “I mean the exact same creature or just one like it?” Which was the question I’d asked myself.

“I don’t know. Maybe. Why? How’s the research coming on them?” I scooted across the couch, closer to the small table he used as a desk.

“Not good.” He shoved his hair behind one ear, the curls getting kinky as his hair grew out. I didn’t know the Younger brothers’ ethnic backgrounds, but African figured prominently in there somewhere. “And if there’s one, there’s usually more.”

Not always, I thought. A pang went through me, shrill as a cracked brass bell. I’d seen only one other of my own kind since I walked out of the mountains at age twelve. And he’d been insane.

Unaware of my reaction, Alex went on. “Maybe all of them hate you,” he added with glee. “The closest I can find for it is the lillilend, a mythical creature adopted by gamers as a lillend.”

“Wait a minute. My dragon made of light is a role-playing-game creature? Seriously?”

Without looking up from his tablets, Alex gave me a lopsided grin. “Gamers adopt a lot of mythical creatures and then crossbreed them to get new creatures. The lillilend is a shape-changer.” He glanced up at me from under his too-long hair to see how I’d respond to the presence of another shape-changing creature in the world, besides weres and skinwalkers.

I sipped again, which he took as “No comment,” and went on. “It has a female human or elf-like form, one with legs and arms, but also has hybrid forms, sometimes winged, with a twenty-foot wingspan. When it’s in the hybrid shape, it’s been reported to have a humanoid upper half, or humanoid head, and a snakelike lower half, with coils that can reach twenty feet. And wings. When it’s in one of its hybrid forms, it can acquire a pure energy structure. Like a creature made of light, as seen through a prism.”

Light forms. Like what I saw in the gray place of the change? I thought back to the creatures I’d seen. I didn’t remember a twenty-foot wingspan, but if the wings had been made of light, or had been pulled in tight, then maybe I’d just overlooked them. And if they’d been half-furled, maybe they had looked like a frill. And maybe the one I’d seen wasn’t fully grown. A lot of maybes.

Alex went on. “All sorts of legends mention the lillilend, perhaps even the Adam and Eve story of the snake in the Garden of Eden, and even the apocryphal Lillith story. Similar creatures in mythology are the Fu xi, the Lamia, the Nuwa, the Ketu—which is an Asura, but none of them have wings.”

I had no idea what kind of creatures he was talking about but I nodded. I’d discovered that agreeing meant less time listening to explanations that I didn’t care a whit about. Listening to descriptions of things that weren’t what I was looking for seemed like a waste of time, and the Kid could run on for hours about gaming and mythological stuff.

“I’ve been compiling artistic renderings of all the mythical creatures, but—”

“But since they’re mythical, no one really knows what they look like,” I said.

“Right. Here.” He spun two of his three tablets and I pulled them closer, skimming through the paintings, the graphics, the friezes of snakelike creatures carved in stone from long-lost civilizations, the comic-book renderings of big-busted beauties.

“Nope. None of these match what I saw. In fact, if I had to describe it and didn’t mind the funny looks I’d get, I’d call it a dragon made of light or a spirit dragon.” I pushed the tablets back. “So, on to other things.” I filled them in on the minutiae of the vamp meeting, and finished with a question. “Where do we stand on the spike of the crosses? The Europeans want it. Leo wants it. And no, they’re not getting it. We need to find it first and toss it in the Mariana Trench or a volcano somewhere.”

“Poseidon, Pele, and Vulcan might think they’re being dissed.” Alex was grinning, teasing.

Too bad I couldn’t appreciate that. “Whatever. It needs to be destroyed.” Every magical implement used in black arts needed to be destroyed. The old saying about absolute power was totally true when it came to vamps. And witches. And humans. And probably skinwalkers, come to think of it.

“And what did you do with the other weapons of power?” Eli asked softly.

I turned to the former Ranger sitting across the rug from me, his legs stretched out, his fingers laced across his stomach. He looked deceptively relaxed, but I knew better. He could strike across the room almost as fast as a cobra, and he was always armed. Always. “Uncle Sam can’t have them,” I said flatly, my tone soft.

“So you’re the only person who has the right to them?”

It was an old argument, one we had been having for weeks, and we were stuck. “I’m the only person who won’t use them.”

“And if using one would save Angie Baby’s life?”

Angie Baby, Molly’s daughter, my godchild. I knew what he was doing. He was telling me that I would, eventually, find a need for the blood-magic. “Uncle Sam can’t have them,” I repeated. “Not now, not ever. We need to destroy them.”

“Stop it,” Alex said, his voice low.

Eli and I looked at him, but he was staring at his screens, his head down and his eyes hidden behind slitted lids. His lips curled up on one side, a smile so like one of his brother’s understated gestures that it shocked me. And then the half smile stretched into his own wry grin. “I don’t like it when Mommy and Daddy fight.”

I threw a line drive at his head. It would have been deadly had I used something other than a couch cushion. As it was, he did a good imitation of a bobblehead doll before he scooped the pillow off the floor and threw it back at me. And missed. Eli was grinning at our antics—actually showed a hint of his pearly whites. “Bro,” he said to his brother. “You throw like a girl. And, Jane, so do you.”

We both grinned back, Alex flipped him off, and on that happy family-time moment, I stood, stretched until something popped in my back, and said, “’Night.”

“What’s left of it,” the Kid griped.

 

I woke at eleven a.m. when a knock sounded on the front door, and I threw on a robe. When the guys moved in, I’d discovered that I needed a better robe, so I bought three, all matching, blocky-shaped, black terry-cloth robes, and gave them out at a Sunday breakfast. The guys had rolled their eyes, but they wore them when they came downstairs in the mornings. Most of the time. I tossed my hair over my shoulder and peeked out the window in the door, then looked back over my shoulder at Eli, poised on the top landing, a handgun in each hand. His robe hung unbelted, revealing the sculpted body of a warrior, and the pale scars that had nearly killed him. He had new scars on his throat and chest caused by a vamp eating on him. He didn’t remember much about the event but I did. He said it didn’t bother him, but it bothered me. A lot. I’d nearly gotten my partner killed.

Keeping the remembered horror of that night out of my voice, I said, “It’s Bruiser.”

Eli safetied both weapons, lifted one in acknowledgment, and trudged back to bed. Keeping vamp hours was hard on us all. I remembered the expression in Bruiser’s eyes from the night before and my shoulders drew up. Feeling stupid, or maybe uncertain, which was stupid come to think of it, I pulled my robe together, tightened the belt, and tossed my hip-length black braid out of way before opening the door.

A peculiar mix of scents met my nose: cooked grease, sugar, tea, green things, citrusy something, and gun oil. Less intense was the smell of New Orleans: water, exhaust, food, coffee, old liquor, spices, and urine. I blinked at the combo, trying to take it all in. Bruiser was dressed in dark brown khakis and a light brown shirt, the sleeves rolled up, his muscled arms showing beneath the cuffs. He was holding the handle of a basket in one hand and flowers in the other. Flowers. Stems wrapped in lavender paper. Like… flowers. Like from a fancy florist. White calla lilies framing three bright red calla lilies with yellow stamens, all nonaromatic. And a wide frill of catnip in bloom, tiny white flowers with a scent so delectable Beast rolled over on her back and purred.

I just stared at the flowers. Feeling weird.

Bruiser had brought me flowers.

 

3 Comments

Subscribe to this thread

Post a Comment

All comments must meet the community standards outlined in Tor.com's Moderation Policy or be subject to moderation. Thank you for keeping the discussion, and our community, civil and respectful.

Hate the CAPTCHA? Tor.com members can edit comments, skip the preview, and never have to prove they're not robots. Join now!