I licked my lips. “It’s not off-limits. There’s just nothing to talk about.”


“Sabina, no offense, but when I opened that door you two looked like you were trying to swallow each other whole. I’d say that qualifies as something to talk about.”

I cringed at her entirely accurate summary of the kiss. “Look, it’s not a big deal. I think it was curiosity more than anything.”

“Curiosity? Like you were wondering what his tonsils tasted like?”

I shot her a baleful glance. “No. More like, we’ve been spending a lot of time together and we’re both healthy adults. It’s only natural to wonder.” This was bullshit, of course. I’d already indulged that curiosity back in California, and I could hardly claim I’d forgotten the taste of him after that time. I hadn’t. Not that I’d ever admit that out loud.

“Hmm,” Maisie said. “So you’re not planning on pursuing anything with him when he gets back?”

I shook my head. “Definitely not. Don’t get me wrong, Adam’s great.” She nodded her agreement on that count. “But we’d never work out.”

She frowned now. “Why not?”

I opened my mouth to share my long list of reasons but stopped myself. Maisie might be my sister, but I wasn’t about to have a heart-to-heart about Adam with her. Or anyone, for that matter. To discuss it would imply it was a big deal. And it wasn’t. Adam was hardly the first male I’d been attracted to in my fifty-four years. I’m not some giggly schoolgirl who thinks a kiss means happily ever after. Chicks like me don’t get happily-ever-afters. I might be able to handle happy-for-a-night-or-two. But the idea of having even that with a mage—just like dear old Dad—brought up all sorts of Freudian issues I wasn’t too keen on exploring.

“Hold on,” I said, turning the tables. “Shouldn’t you be upset about that kiss? I mean, what about the whole ban on fraternizing between the races?”

Maisie raised her eyebrows. “First, who am I to judge when you and I are the result of such an affair? And second”—she shrugged—“you’re half mage, so I don’t think the laws apply in this case.”

“Look,” I said with a sigh. “I’ve had a long night. The last thing I want to do right now is talk about a stupid kiss that didn’t mean anything.”

Maisie drew back. “Okay, I’ll drop it for now. But I should warn you: Adam is one of my best friends. I don’t want to see him get hurt.”

I choked on a laugh. “Maisie, my to-do list is fairly long, but I can assure you hurting Adam isn’t on it. He’s my friend, too, and I respect the hell out of him. That’s exactly why what happened earlier won’t be happening again.”

She narrowed her eyes, looking like she wanted to say something else about it. But her expression betrayed the exact moment she thought better of it. “Understood.”

Frustrated, I drained the last of my blood, grimacing at the chemical aftertaste. “The sun’s coming up soon. I’d better hit the sack.”

She nodded, toying absently with her own glass. “Good idea. You’ll need a good night’s sleep for tomorrow night.”

I set down my glass, glad for the change of subject. “What’s tomorrow night?”

“We’re heading up to the council’s estate near Sleepy Hollow for your vision quest.”

I frowned. Images of drugged-out shamans flittered through my head. “What exactly does that entail?”

She shrugged. “It’s pretty straightforward. You’ll drink a special tea that will bring on visions. Afterward, we’ll interpret the symbols to figure out your magical path.”

I rubbed my forehead. All this talk of paths and symbols and other woo-woo stuff made my head hurt. “Can I ask you something?”

She smiled. “Of course.”

“Have you considered the possibility that I don’t have any special magical skills?”

Maisie crossed her arms and smiled ruefully. “Of course not. Sabina, you have a demon familiar. I’d say that’s a pretty clear sign you’ve got some magic in you.”

I shook my head. “Yeah, but isn’t that pretty standard stuff?”

“The summoning is common, yes. But most mages can only control a demon long enough to carry out a specific spell. Very few can control one for long periods. The fact you can do so without really thinking about it is quite remarkable.”

I rolled my eyes. If anyone had bothered to ask me, which they obviously hadn’t, I’d tell them I didn’t control Giguhl at all. Sure, I could command him to change to and from demon form, but otherwise I spent most of my time doing damage control or arguing with him. Call me crazy, but if I really controlled Giguhl, shouldn’t he be more, you know, submissive?

“Look,” Maisie continued. “Go to bed. Tomorrow we’ll have some answers and can formulate a plan. Until then, there’s no need to worry.”

I nodded. “Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow night.” I moved toward the door.

“Oh, Sabina? You might not want to eat anything between now and the vision quest.”

I paused with a hand on the doorknob. Considering I’d spent a good portion of my night worshipping the porcelain goddess, Maisie’s words didn’t comfort me about the “relative painlessness” of the vision quest. “Why?”

She paused as if choosing her words carefully. “You’re better off with an empty stomach. Trust me.”

It was clear she wasn’t just talking about blood. It’s a myth that vampires are undead. The old movies that claimed we never ate food were wrong. Truth is, we’re born just like humans. We get hungry and thirsty, and satisfy those needs with real food. The only difference is we also need blood to satisfy a more urgent hunger. The food didn’t sustain us by itself, but we definitely enjoyed a good burger as much as any mortal did.

As I made my way back to my room, I realized that Maisie didn’t know me at all if she thought I could trust anyone that easily.

7

I received this today while you were sleeping.” Orpheus tossed a letter on the table.

His office was on the first floor, where all the administrative offices for the council were located. He stood behind his massive oak desk, looking more like an angry politician than an ancient mage. He’d summoned Maisie and me to his office right as we headed toward the courtyard to leave for the Crossroads.

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