As he pulled the demon toward the stairs, he called back toward Adam and me, almost as an afterthought. “Y’all come on now.”
Upstairs, Brooks led us down a hallway to a red door. He held up a finger to indicate we should wait there and disappeared behind the portal.
I leaned back against the wall. Adam crossed his arms and leaned next to me with a sigh.
“He’s ….. friendly,” Giguhl said, filling the silence.
I smiled. “I like him. But is it just me, or did anyone else notice that he’s a”— I paused for dramatic effect— “faery?”
The corner of Adam’s mouth quirked. “You don’t say.”
“Surprising he didn’t freak out when we walked in with a cat.” From what I knew, faeries hated cats as a rule. My old nymph roommate, Vinca— gods rest her soul— took a long time to get used to having Giguhl around. They eventually warmed up to each other, but it had been touch and go there for a while.
“Couple of species don’t consider cats mortal enemies. It’s too soon to know which he is, though,” Adam shrugged. “But I will say he seemed to be quite a fan of Mr. Giggles.”
Giguhl waved a claw over himself. “Can’t blame him for digging this fine ass.”
I rolled my eyes at the demon. “Anyway, something tells me this Madam Zenobia’s going to be interesting. Isn’t it odd for a mage to practice voodoo?”
“I’ve never met any who did, but who knows? The mages down here are a different breed from the ones in New York.”
“Literally a different breed?” Giguhl asked. It was a fair question. Mages were created by the goddess Hekate, but that didn’t mean there weren’t offshoots of the original race. After all, faeries had dozens of subspecies.
Adam shook his head. “No, I just meant it wouldn’t surprise me if they did things differently here. Since they’re so far from the central group in New York, it would make sense they’ve developed their own ways of doing things.”
The door opened again and Brooks stuck out his head. “Madam Zenobia is ready to receive you.”
He stood aside to allow us entrance. I noticed his eyes on Adam’s impressive posterior as he walked by. As I passed, Brooks smiled knowingly at me, totally unembarrassed to be caught looking. Since I’d been watching it myself, I couldn’t really blame him.
I heard the shuffle of hooves behind me and stopped. Turning to Giguhl, I said, “Wait here, okay?”
“Why?” Giguhl asked.
I shot him a look that shut him up pretty quick. He just crossed him arms and leaned back against the wall. Just as I closed the door I heard him say to Brooks, “So you’re into dudes, huh?”
When I heard Brooks laugh, I decided it was safe to leave those two alone for a few minutes. Shutting the door the rest of the way, I turned to look around.
Just a few candles lit the room, leaving most of the place cloaked in shadow. My vampire eyes adjusted easily to the low light, but Adam squinted around the room, trying to spot our host. I’d already seen she wasn’t there, so I took the opportunity to case the place.
From the looks of things, this was a sort of receiving parlor. Except most of the parlors I’d seen in books didn’t feature altars covered in skulls, candles, and chicken bones. A sitting area squatted under a floor-to-ceiling window that looked down on Bourbon Street.
Two closed doors were across the room from the windows. I assumed Zenobia must use this floor as her living area, so one of the doors probably led to another hall or possibly a kitchen and bedroom.
The door on the left opened and Madam Zenobia walked out. I’m not sure exactly what I’d been expecting a voodoo priestess to look like. Probably someone old and possibly obese. Blame it on movies, I guess. But I should have known better than to base my expectations on popular culture. After all, Hollywood had been getting vampires wrong for decades— don’t get me started on the soulless undead thing ….. or the godsdamned sparkling. Regardless, the female who glided out of that doorway was definitely not old or fat.
Candlelight cast a golden glow on her flawless tawny complexion. Dark waves framed high cheekbones. A simple white tunic and jeans hugged her curvy frame. There was no guessing her age, but her confident posture and warm brown gaze hinted at wisdom gained from lots of life experience.
I glanced at Adam. His mouth gaped wide enough for a small bird to take residence. I nudged his arm. He closed his maw, but his eyes didn’t leave her. I guess I couldn’t blame him.
Okay, I totally could. Madam Zenobia was a stone-cold fox, and seeing Adam watch her with adoration normally reserved for goddesses made jealousy rear up like a greeneyed demon.
She approached with a wide, welcoming smile. “You must be Adam and Sabina. Welcome to New Orleans.” She pronounced the city with a syrupy drawl— N’Awlins.
Zenobia held out a finely boned hand to Adam. Unlike when he met Brooks, he didn’t hesitate to bow over it and deliver a gallant kiss to her knuckles. “Madam Zenobia,” he said. “It’s a pleasure.”
Her laugh sounded like rustling velvet. “Please. Call me Zen. You’re practically family anyway.”
“All right.” Adam flashed his dimples at her. “Zen.”
Maybe I was imagining things, but I could have sworn he added a little extra baritone to his voice. I tried not to give in to my sudden urge to kick him in the shins.
Instead, I stuck out my hand. “Hi, I’m Sabina.”
She turned toward me and her smile dimmed a little. “Ah, yes, the mixed-blood. It’s nice to meet you.”
I ignored her mention of my heritage, which frankly was none of her godsdamned business, and focused instead on our connected hands. Normally, when I made contact with a mage I experienced a tingle of magic. Not so with this one. Hmm.
“Please sit.” She motioned to the sitting area. “You’ll have to forgive my appearance. I’m afraid I had already retired for the evening when Rhea called.”
Adam grabbed the only chair, which meant I shared the couch with Zenobia. “We apologize for the lateness of our arrival, but our business is urgent.”
“It’s fine. Really.” Zen waved away his apology. “Rhea said you were looking for a missing relative?”
I scooted over a bit to create some space as I faced her. “Yes, my sister— twin, actually. We have reason to believe she’s being held somewhere in the city.”