Rhea smiled and patted my arm. “Yes, dear.”
“Can I have some water at least?” I snapped. “Or is thirst part of my penance?”
“Of course you can have water,” she said with a patient smile. “Giguhl? Would you please get Sabina a glass of water?”
For the first time, I realized Giguhl had been sitting in a chair across the room this whole time. His arms were crossed, and his posture told me he was in full sulk about something. When Rhea asked him to get me water, he rolled his eyes and sighed. “Fine.”
“What’s wrong with him?” I asked.
Rhea shook her head. “We’ll discuss it later.”
While I waited for my surly demon to bring me a drink, I took stock of my surroundings. A familiar scent lingered in the air, but I couldn’t place it yet. We were in an office I didn’t recognize. A glass-and-steel desk sat about five yards away. I lay on a black leather couch next to a coffee table matching the desk.
Giguhl handed me the glass and trudged back to his chair without a word. I took a long drink, swishing the water in my mouth first to wash away the silver flakes.
“Where did the weres go?” I asked Rhea, since apparently Giguhl wasn’t speaking to anyone.
“Rex took Romulus back to the pack. He’ll recover. Not sure he’ll be too happy with the outcome when he does, though.”
Mention of the outcome reminded me of the latecomer to the fight. That was where the familiar scent came from.
“Slade.” The word came out sounding like an expletive. As far as I was concerned, the name ranked right up there with ass**le. “Where is he?” I tried to sit up. The blood was helping a little with the pain, but I was still in a world of hurt.
Rhea, however, had other plans. “You need to rest.” She pushed me back gently. “He’ll be back soon. I take it you know him?”
I relaxed back into the cushions and nodded. My wounds might be healing, but I was shaky as hell. “He used to work for the Dominae in L.A.”
“An old friend, then?”
I narrowed my eyes. “More like frenemy.”
“In that case,” said Rhea, “I suppose asking you to be civil during our meeting is a waste of breath.”
“You could say that.”
The door opened then. Slade strolled in like he owned the place, which I guess he did. Giguhl perked up.
“Hey, Slade!” he said with more enthusiasm than necessary.
Slade nodded at Rhea and Giguhl as if they’d all already gotten acquainted while I was out, but his eyes were on me.
I jerked up, ignoring the stitch in my side. I didn’t want to face him lying down. Rhea tried to help me up, but I waved her away.
Slade slowed and a smile crept across his face. “Sabina Ka—”
He was interrupted—by my fist.
“Sabina, no!” Giguhl yelled.
I heard a loud curse and movement at my back. The scent of sandalwood filled my nostrils. “Stop!” Rhea grabbed my arms and held me back, surprisingly strong for a mage.
Slade smiled through blood streaking his lips and chin. “Nice to see you’re still feisty as ever.”
A growl came from somewhere deep inside me. “Feisty? Try furious, ass**le.”
I didn’t like surprises. Although, truth be told, Slade wasn’t a surprise, exactly. He was more like a bombshell.
“Come, now, Sabina. I’m not your enemy.”
“Could have fooled me.”
“Sabina.” Rhea’s quiet tone held a hefty dose of reprimand.
Then I got a load of the smug smile on Slade’s face. The first thing I learned in assassin school was never to let emotions get the best of you. Hell, Slade himself had reinforced that lesson when we worked together. Allowing an enemy to make you lose your temper was like giving them a weapon to use against your most vulnerable spot. I took a deep breath and willed my muscles to loosen, my jaw to relax, my heart rate to slow.
Rhea felt the change and loosened her grip. Stayed close in case she needed to step in again. However, Giguhl looked like a child witnessing Mommy and Daddy fight for the first time. That really burned my ass. Giguhl was my demon, but he obviously had a man crush on Slade. What the hell had happened while I was out?
Slade didn’t seem impressed by my demon. Instead he went with a patronizing, “Good girl.”
Now he was just trying to taunt me. I let the condescending tone slide off my back. “You owe me ten grand. With interest and adjusted for inflation.”
He laughed. “Still funny, too.”
I clenched my jaw, knowing he was trying to goad me into losing my temper again.
“Sabina, The Shade deserves our thanks. He agreed to let the fight stand as a draw. Your debt has been paid.”
“Stop calling him that ridiculous name. His name is Slade.”
“Let’s not bicker over trivialities. Sabina, I don’t go by that name anymore. Here”—he motioned with his hands—“I’m The Shade. But since you’re an old friend you can call me Slade.”
“Don’t do me any favors, ass**le. We’re not friends.”
Slade laughed. “Surely you’re not still mad.”
“Mad about what?” Giguhl prompted. “Does someone want to clue us in here?”
“No,” I snapped.
“Sure,” Slade said at the same time. “Sabina and I used to work together.”
Giguhl shot me a look. “Worked together, huh?”
His emphasis on the word made it clear the demon wasn’t buying it. Good instincts, that Giguhl.
“Among other things,” Slade said with a smile. I gritted my teeth, not wanting to get into this in front of Rhea.
I met Giguhl’s interested gaze. “We worked together on a case. But Slade here took credit for the kill and ran off with the payday.”
I felt Slade’s stare and glanced over. What I hadn’t mentioned was Slade and I had slept together—once—before he screwed me in a different way. The heat in his eyes now told me I wasn’t the only one remembering the more carnal aspects of our past dealings.
“You know why I left, Sabina,” he said quietly.
I shook my head. “I don’t want to talk about it. It’s ancient history.”
“If you say so.” His sardonic look made me want to punch him again. But I was already embarrassed about my earlier lack of control. No reason to give him more proof I was anything but over what happened last time I saw him.
A brief, awkward silence followed. Rhea had gone silent, preferring to observe the fireworks rather than get involved. On the other hand, Giguhl was obviously itching to find out all about the subtext zinging through the conversation. Too damned bad. Meanwhile, Slade looked like the cat that swallowed the canary. I just wanted to shove that canary up his ass.