“Don’t worry about it. Orpheus wasn’t happy, of course, but he’ll get over it. He’s just tense about the vote right now.” The corner of her mouth twisted up. “Besides, I don’t really care if he’s mad.”
“Did you get a chance to talk to Rhea about the familiar thing?”
Maisie nodded. “Yeah, she agrees with Giguhl’s theory. I didn’t do the spell wrong, so there’s no other explanation for why Valva is tied to me.”
“Don’t be.” She waved away my concern. “To be honest, I’m kind of excited to have my very own demon.”
“Really? You’re not going to send her back to Irkalla, then?”
“Nah, I’m going to keep her. For some reason, the universe thinks I need a familiar right now. Who am I to argue? Besides, turns out she’s pretty cool.”
I ignored the universe comment and focused on the second part. Other than her being a screamer during sex, I didn’t know much about Valva. “How so?”
“Did you know she can turn into a peacock?” Maisie asked.
I shook my head. “No, but I guess it makes sense. If a Mischief demon turns into a cat, I guess it makes sense a Vanity would turn into a peacock.”
Maisie laughed. “But that’s not all. She’s also a whiz at organization. While Giguhl took a nap today, she completely rearranged my workshop. I had no idea I owned twelve tubes of alizarin crimson. She even organized my canvases by size. She’s going to save me a fortune in painting supplies.”
Neither of us mentioned the fact that if Maisie didn’t start having visions again, she wouldn’t be needing any new supplies. Still, I was glad to see her excited about the prospect of having her own minion. “That’s great, Maze.”
She nodded absently. “Although we’re going to have to figure out some sort of conjugal-visit schedule for those two. The minute Giguhl woke up from his nap, she disappeared on me.”
I laughed. “You may be right. They kept waking me up all day.”
“Maisie?” Damara interrupted, coming toward us. She didn’t even acknowledge my presence as she gave me her back to talk to Maisie. “Rhea needs to talk to you about the Blood Moon Festival.”
“Oh!” Maisie said. “Sabina, I’m sorry. I promised Rhea we’d go over plans for the festival right now.”
I waved a hand. “No problem. I was going to hit the gym anyway.”
Maisie waved. “Cool. I’ll look for you there after my meeting. I’ve got a surprise for you.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Oh? What is it?”
She smiled. “You’ll have to wait and see. Bye!” She rushed off with Damara in tow.
As I made my way out of the chambers toward the gym, I felt pretty good. There were still storm clouds on the horizon, of course, but for the first time in a while I felt like maybe the glass was half full. Maisie and I were growing closer, my magic lessons were progressing nicely, and the council had finally snagged the support of the queen, which meant Adam would be back soon. Yep, life was definitely looking up.
The gym was empty, thank the Goddess. I’d been so anxious to get there, I’d forgotten to change out of my ceremonial chiton. But I didn’t want to take the time to run all the way to my room now, so I shrugged. The skirt was loose enough I could still kick, and the sleeveless design wouldn’t get in the way of punching. I pulled the gun from my thigh holster and set in on the table so it wouldn’t get in the way.
I probably should have been practicing my magic, but with Rhea busy with Maisie, I decided to sneak in a physical workout instead. It had been so long since I’d had the freedom to really put my body through the paces and work up a good, honest sweat.
I threw on a pair of boxing gloves and made a beeline for the punching bag in the corner. Soon my punches and kicks fell into a soothing rhythm, allowing my brain to focus on other things. I realized it had been days since I’d thought about my grandmother. When I’d arrived in New York, I’d been driven by the need for revenge. And while I still wanted to make her pay, I found that the edge of that need had dulled. One of these days, I’d meet her again face-to-face, but in the meantime, there were more pressing concerns. Like Maisie’s prophecy, and a looming war, and finding out who was trying to kill me and why.
I hadn’t told Maisie, but I resented how little the council had done to track down the mage who sent Eurynome after me. I hadn’t mentioned it because, well, they had bigger issues to deal with. But I hoped that Lenny’s attempt on Giguhl’s life would light a fire under their asses. According to Maisie, Lenny was sitting in a cell in the basement of the building awaiting trial. But whoever sent him after Giguhl was smart. A trial wouldn’t reveal the real culprit.
I imagined a female mage’s face stamped on the front of the bag. Whoever the bitch was would pay for going after Giguhl. Coming after me was one thing, but no one threatened my friends.
My knuckles started to bleed, but I kept punching. The pain eased some of my frustration. My breath came in quick pants now.
My mind shifted back to my conversation with Michael Romulus. He seemed to think the mage who tried to kill me might be working for someone else. But who?
Wham, wham, wham—I punched faster.
If Michael was right, why would someone want to make sure I didn’t have any allies?
Whack! I side-kicked the bag twice. I jogged around it now, hitting it with jabs and kicks, punishing it for not giving me answers.
Finally, the bag surrendered under the force of my blows and split open. Sand spilled to the floor like blood from a wound. My breath heaving, I lifted my hands. My fingers throbbed hotly. The knuckles looked like someone had taken a mallet to them.
I sighed. Violence was so simple. Kill or be killed. Wound or be wounded. There was a pleasing symmetry in the black and white of it. Mages seemed to prefer shades of gray. And the longer I stayed with them, the more that gray creeped into my brain. The more I felt like I was groping my way through a dense fog.
“I think it’s dead.”
I spun into a crouch, hissing in surprise at the intruder.
Hawthorne Banathsheh stood in the doorway, his hands raised. “I apologize for catching you off guard.”
I rose and forced my muscles to relax. My heart still pounded, but I forced a casual shrug. “I didn’t hear you come in.”
He pushed away from the door. “Not surprising.” He nodded toward the ruined punching bag.