She sneered at me. “You won’t be talking to me like that after Tanith names me leader of New York’s vamps tomorrow night.”


Jesus, was tomorrow already the treaty signing? You’d think I’d remember something that huge, but I guess all my fires lately had created enough smoke to screw up my memory. “Oh, right. Your big promotion.” I snorted. “Do yourself a favor and spend more time brushing up on New York’s dark-races politics and less time picking fights with potential allies.” With that, I turned away and walked back toward the subway stop.

As expected, she took the bait and followed me. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

I didn’t slow my pace or look at her. “The shit’s gonna hit the fan the minute New York’s vamps find out that they’re going to be under a Domina’s thumb again. Once the signing is over, Tanith will go back to California and leave the governor to deal with the fallout. Don’t fool yourself—that role won’t be glamorous or easy.”

She snorted. “It’s got to be better than being an Enforcer. Don’t get me wrong, killing people is fun and all, but I need a new challenge.”

I rolled my eyes at her naiveté. “You want a challenge, tough chick? Go read a book.”

We’d reached the subway station at that point. “Where are you headed?” I asked, hoping she wasn’t planning on following me back to Prytania Place.

She looked up at the map of the city’s routes. When she used her finger to trace the lines, the cuff of her jacket fell back to reveal a tattoo. I couldn’t tell what it was, but judging from what I’d seen so far, I was guessing a dagger or something else equally ridiculous. “I need to get out to the Crossroads. The Despina wants me to do a run-through of the security with your boyfriend before tomorrow night.”

Such a casual mention of Adam. But it felt like a punch to the gut. Luckily, she was so busy reading the map, she didn’t notice.

“Well, I guess I’ll leave you to it, then. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She nodded absently. “Oh, and, Sabina?”

I paused and looked back at her. “What?”

“Thanks for encouraging Slade to make a move.” She turned her head slowly to look at me. “He’s a shitty leader”—her lips curled into a catty smile—“but a magnificent lay.”

I held her triumphant gaze for a moment. She looked so pleased with herself, like she’d somehow bested me by sleeping with my leftovers. I couldn’t help it—I laughed in her face. Finally, shaking my head, I turned on my heel and walked away.

30

Back in the fall, the drive out to Sleepy Hollow was always a treat. The tree line dripped with autumn’s gems. The crisp, smoky air invited open windows so the wind could dance through my hair.

But now, February’s skeletal trees curled their pointy bones over the road like claws. And the frigid breeze pounded at the windows like an intruder. After almost three months of the New York winter, I’d had more than enough of the cold. Which is why, when Giguhl reminded me that the mage ritual would involve standing outside for most of the night, I was far from thrilled.

“Suck it up, trampire,” the demon cat said from the passenger seat. “At least your shorn testicles won’t be swaying in the frigid breeze.”

“You wouldn’t have the problem if you’d worn the snowsuit I bought you.”

“It was pink!”

I bit my lip to keep from laughing out loud. “Real males wear pink, G. It’s a sign of confidence in your masculinity.”

“The only thing I’m confident of is that you’re a sadistic hose beast.”

I shot the demon a look that had him easing back into his seat with his claws raised. “Jeez, sorry. You’re so touchy.”

“Bite me, demon.”

He grew so quiet that I dragged my eyes off the road to see what was wrong. Silence and Giguhl usually meant trouble. But when I looked over, his feline lips were spread into a wide smile.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’ve missed this.”

“Missed what?”

“This. Us. It’s been so long since we’ve hung out, just the two of us.”

“You’re crazy.” I shifted my eyes back to the road. “We’re together all the time.”

“That’s not the same and you know it.” His paw touched my hand on the armrest. “It’s been too long since we’ve spent quality time together.”

“Dude, stop. You’re freaking me out.”

He laughed. “Oh, c’mon. Can’t a magepire and her demon minion share a tender moment of intimacy without it being weird?”

I shot him a look.

“Okay, that sounded wrong. But you know what I mean. You’re my best friend, Sabina.”

I cleared my throat against the sudden emotion welling there. Maybe it was the stress catching up with me. Or maybe, just maybe, I couldn’t believe my luck. Who knew that the same demon who tried to kill me the first time we met would become my best friend. “Back at ya, Mr. Giggles.”

At that point, I pulled the Escalade off from the main road and onto the dirt track leading to the Crossroad’s massive gates. I jumped through the security hoops, which took an extra five minutes because of the heightened alert everyone was on for the festival.

Soon, we rolled through the gates and wound our way through the forest to the manor house. Now that we were there, all of the qualms I’d been ignoring rushed up like bile.

Rhea had left an excited message on my cell that afternoon, reporting that Maisie had spent another day locked in her studio. Even better, she’d informed Rhea she would be ready to share a prophecy at the Imbolc rites. I’d tried to call her back to get details, but I guess she was too busy with last-minute tasks to take the call. Regardless, knowing Maisie was prepared to offer a prophecy went a long way toward easing my worries. There were other issues, of course, but I was happy to have one less crisis to worry about.

Up ahead, the Crossroads manor glowed warmly against the dark wintry sky. Dozens of cars crammed the front drive, so we parked in the grass. As we approached, I pulled my coat tighter around me, both against the cold and the feeling of dread. Not only was I about to see Adam for the first time since our blowup, but also too many things could go wrong once the festival began.

“Relax,” Giguhl said from my arms. “In a few hours, the dark races will finally be at peace. You should be happy.”

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