Though her boys had been teaching her some moves, Laura let Erilon guide her movements. Her opponent stood no chance against the demoness. The big man hit the ground as she made his knee and elbow both bend in ways nature had never intended. Then she turned to note the young man had no trouble putting his own opponent down. Be careful. There is something strange about him. I cannot get a read. Right. “Come on.” She jerked her head before moving toward the next gallery.
Once they’d put some distance between themselves and the fight, she caught his arm. “How did you know my name? Who are you?”
“What?” She blinked.
“Madam…” He gave her an elaborate bow. “I’m Adam.”
“That…” She stared at him before giggling. “That was terrible.” Laura, he’s Adam. “Oh, shit, you’re Adam!” Immediately she dragged him into the gallery garden before taking another look at him. He didn’t exactly look intimidating, certainly not like the kind of guy who could shoot four professional killers before any of them got their weapons out. Hell, he looked like a cute kid not much older than her. Not much bigger, either. He’d have been dwarfed by her boys, except maybe for Ted. Then again, he had just put a man half again his size on the ground with practiced ease. He feels strange. Empty. “So, you’re the guy who rescued Ash.”
“To be fair…” Adam shrugged. “I’m also the guy who kidnapped him.”
“Right.” She frowned, then narrowed her eyes. “Why are you following me?”
“I wasn’t.” Adam chuckled. “I was on my way to get some dinner, and you uh…” He flicked one of her blue braids. “Kind of stand out in a crowd.”
“There is no way you just randomly run into me in San Francisco.” Laura shook her head. “It would be hard enough to believe just in a city this size, but since I’ve only been in this city a few hours…” She glared. “Tell me why you’re following me.”
“You’re cute when you’re trying to be threatening.” He smirked. “I take it you’ve got Erilon calling in backup?”
How did he know about you? How did he know about me? “How did you know about her?” She poked him in the chest. “Ash couldn’t talk when Sima was around so he didn’t tell you.” She folded her arms. “Does the Cabal know?”
“Do you have her calling in backup?” He glanced at the archway they’d come through. “Cause I’d really prefer not to have to hurt any of your friends.”
“Pfft. They’d take you apart.” She caught his arm again when he started to move away. “I’m not done questioning you yet. Does the Cabal know about Erilon?”
“No. I didn’t tell them.” He glanced down at where her hand was around his arm. “Let go.” His eyes narrowed just a little. “Now.”
Laura released his arm. “You didn’t tell them. How’d you learn?” She made a growling sound. “You were spying on us.”
“Yep.” And he had the nerve to not even look apologetic.
“What are you doing in San Francisco?” What else do we know about him? Well, for starters, he’s wearing Armani and he’s got three guns concealed on him. One of them is loaded with silver. But even getting a surface read on him is taking effort. If you weren’t looking at him, I wouldn’t be able to see him at all. How is that possible? It’s not. Or at least, it shouldn’t be.
“Killing people.” He shrugged. “Mostly bad ones. You?”
“You just confessed to spying on us and you’re asking me for information?”
“You asked me first.” He waved a hand. “Fair play and all.” He sighed, then glanced at the gallery. “They are closing. You’ve got a safe place to stay?”
“I…” Slowly she nodded. “Yeah. I do.”
“I’ll walk you to the cab stop.” He gestured toward the street.
He put her in the cab and watched it pull away from the curb. It was tempting to change shape and follow her, but if he was sent after her he’d prefer not to actually know where she was. Besides, now that the demon knew he was here there was a good chance she could follow him. And he was still hungry. Adam grabbed a burger from a place about to close, and finished it before ducking into the shadows. He took the form of a bird, and headed up. San Francisco didn’t quite have the skyscrapers of New York or other places, but the hills gave it plenty of good vantage points. The fog was already starting to roll in.
The night would have turned cold if he didn’t have feathers to keep him warm. Adam considered heading back to his room at the hotel, but he didn’t feel like dealing with the stares of the others in the Cabal. He shrugged, found himself a good perch, and tucked his head under a wing to sleep.
The campus was huge. You’re lost. And beautiful. You’ve been lost for the last hour. The buildings were majestic, and the landscaping made it seem peaceful. Not only do you not know where you are, you don’t know where you’re going. There was even a little farmer’s market art fair type thing going on right there in campus. Don’t pretend it was your destination, you’re lost. Laura smiled as she started browsing. Then she caught a sign stating there was a museum right there. She headed in that direction.
She was almost to the entry doors when she saw a familiar figure heading in the same direction. She started glaring. “What the hell are you doing here?” Rather than the more casual looking attire he’d worn yesterday, he was actually wearing a suit. One that he looked really damn good in, like it had been tailored to him. It probably was.
Adam had the nerve to look surprised to see her. “Uh…” He looked around, then looked back at her. “Are you following me?”
“Why would I…” She put her hands on her hips. “Be following you?”
“No, seriously, what are the odds that you’d be where I am twice in San Francisco of all places?” He narrowed his eyes. “Did you sic Erilon on me?”
“I can’t have followed you. I’m lost.” Told you so. But seriously, what is he doing here? “What are you doing here?”
He glanced at the entry door, then exhaled. Then he laughed softly. “I’m here looking for some information. Notes from an archaeological dig back in the 20s. There were six artifacts. Two were destroyed a couple decades ago.” He waved a hand. “There were pictures taken though, detailed scans and sketches and lab tests. It’s possible with those, a sufficiently powerful witch could recreate the other two items.” He jerked his head at the doors. “The guy who put all the old professor’s notes into digital format took a new name and is apparently now a professor of history here. I’m on my way in to question him.”
“And by question —” Her eyes widen.
“My instructions are to get the information by whatever means necessary.” He sighed. “Don’t suppose your friends are nearby to get this guy away from here before ‘whatever means necessary’ starts meaning bad things, are they?”
“What’s your time frame?” How soon could they get here? Not for at least six hours.
“I need a lead today, or one of the local cell is likely going to get stupid and try to grab themselves some glory.” Adam folded his arms. “The professor has a family.”
“And these artifacts are…?” She raised an eyebrow.
“You heard of Nimue?”
Oh shit. Laura blinked. “Well, you just got Erilon’s attention, so I’m guessing these are something the Cabal shouldn’t have.” She shook her head. “Alright, let’s go talk to this professor.” She started in.
It took only a heartbeat for Adam to catch up with her. “Are you insane?”
“We can get that information to Gabriel, he’ll know what to do.” She nodded.
“Okay, first objection…” He moved to stand in front of her. “I’m not one of the good guys. In fact, if any of the Cabal learn you are here I’m going to get orders to take you prisoner so we can use you as a hostage against the others.” He shook his head. “Because we still don’t know what the fuck Williams is and that means they want him neutralized.”
“Yeah. Let me know how that works out for them.” She went to a directory. “What’s the professor’s name?”
“Two, if I get the information, I have to —”
“You’re not getting it though.” She looked over her shoulder at him. “I am.” She made a shooing motion. “You can go over there somewhere.”
“Three, as I just pointed out I’m not the only fucking Cabal member looking for these things. They’ve got heavies in town other than me.”
Laura turned and gave him a skeptical look. “You’re a heavy?” Matthias could break the guy in half. If all you say was outward appearance, you’d say the same of Gabriel. Ouch, good point. What is this guy? I think the fact that I have no idea is all the more reason to be cautious. No shit.
The damn girl wasn’t listening to a word he was saying. And the unfortunate part was that with Erilon around just locking her in a closet wasn’t going to be an option. He took a couple deep breaths, then decided what the hell. “Tomer Kravitz.” He gestured at the directory. “Office 307.”
“Third floor. Skedaddle.” She made a shooing motion at him, then frowned. “Actually, give me your cell phone in case I need to get in touch, then skedaddle.”
“If skedaddling was a fucking option I’d have left San Francisco five days ago.” Adam started toward the stairs. “I’ve got orders.” He went silent as they passed a group, then he glanced at her again as they reached the stairs. “They’ve already got four.”
Her voice changed. “Have they consecrated them all yet?”
Which meant he was now talking to the demon. “No. I recovered the chalice a few days ago. Wren’s back in Paris and she’ll need a new moon.”
“Is there any way you could hand the chalice over to us?”
Adam took a deep breath, exploring the edges of his orders. “No.” He exhaled. “At best I could tell you where I stashed it but then I’d be obligated to defend it. I wasn’t kidding when I told Ash that if it I have to throw down with you, I won’t pull punches.”
“You told Michaels you’ve killed an alpha werewolf.”
“The witch…” Erilon’s eyes narrowed, then widened. “That’s why you feel empty. Oh, you poor mutilated thing, she bound you.”
He glared. “Mutilated thing?
“It was not meant as an insult toward you, Adam.” She shook her head. “We could help you.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that from witches before. One I had a lot more reason to trust than I do someone who let themselves be possessed by a fucking demon. So let’s be clear…” He turned to face her. “I don’t trust you. The only reason I’m bringing you in on this is I don’t think it’s a good idea for Wren to have Nimue’s shit. I think it’s a lot better for everyone if that shit never gets put back together.”
“You helped us —”
“I wanted Sima dead.” Adam showed his teeth.
The glow vanished from Laura’s eyes, and her voice returned to normal. It was easier to look at her when her eyes weren’t glowing and he could pretend she was an ordinary person. She had pretty eyes. “Ash uh…” Her voice softened a little. “We had Patrick Delacroix cremated, and we got a good resting place for him. Planted a memorial tree for him, just like we did for Rosa. An apple tree.”
“I…” The anger slipped away like smoke. He felt tears pricking the back of his eyes for a moment. He’d wanted to make such an arrangement, but Wren wouldn’t have allowed it. The thought of Patrick in some community plot had hurt. His friend had deserved so much better. “You did?”
“Ash said he was your friend.” She squared her shoulders. “So, let’s be clear. Ash begged us to save you, and he’s my goddamn friend, alright. You kept him from losing it while that bitch had him, protected him, and got him away from that bitch as soon as you could. Whatever your reasons were, what you did back there probably saved the lives of some of my friends. So, if I can help you, I’m going to.” She put her hands on her hips. “Deal with it.”
“I…” He took a deep breath. “Alright. Let’s find this professor.”