“Yeah, but—”

He stabbed the tip of his staff into the floor. “I am well aware of your… issues. You’re just going to have to figure out how to make it work. However, I do think you’ll find my errands dovetail nicely with your own mission of vengeance.”

My eyebrows slammed down. “How do you know about that?”

He shrugged. “Being a god has its privileges.” As far as explanations went, it was actually pretty good. After all, deities knew all sorts of things. But hearing that my quest to kill Cain had become supernatural gossip worried me.

“Okay, what are these errands, exactly?”

“Actually it was quite fortuitous that it was you who owes me. Your former profession makes you the perfect tool for my needs.”

In a former life that felt decades ago instead of mere months, I had been an assassin for the leaders of the vampire race. So, it didn’t take a genius to guess he wanted me to kill someone. No sense telling him I was out of the killing business. Especially since we’d both know it was a lie. “Who?”

“A vampire, she goes by the name Nyx. No last name.”

“Never heard of her.”

“I’m not surprised. She was last seen in Italy…” He let the word hang there like a juicy pint of blood on the end of a stick. I kept my expression impassive, but he saw right through it. “Which, I understand, is exactly where you’re headed.”

“Why do you want her dead?”

Asclepius pursed his lips and shot me an offended glare. “Normally I would smite you for your impertinence, but since this is our first deal together, I’ll overlook it.” He paused as if collecting his thoughts. “Like you, Nyx made a blood offering in exchange for my aid. But she isn’t as smart as you because she squelched on her promise.”

I had to admire the way he managed to weave a threat into his explanation. “Why can’t you just strike her down with a bolt of lightning or something?”

He tilted his head and shot me a pitying look. “I am a god of healing, Sabina. I cannot directly cause harm or death to anyone.”

I supposed that made some sort of sense, but clearly his moral code didn’t prevent him from extorting others to do his dirty work.

I pursed my lips and thought it over. “What’s the second favor?”

“Nyx’s request was for an item of power. A magical vest that protects the wearer from all weapons—magical and mundane. After you kill her, I want you to bring it to me.”

“Um, not to split hairs or anything, but why would she want a vest to protect her from harm? As a vampire, she’d already be immune to most weapons.”

“She had her reasons.”

“What does she look like?”

“She’s a redhead.”

I rolled my eyes. “You just described one hundred percent of the vampire population.” Because the race is descended from Cain, the biblical dude who was marked by the mortal deity with a shock of red hair, all vampires were gingers, too. “Are we talking deep auburn or strawberry blond?”

Asclepius pursed his lips and did a little wishy-washy head shake. “In between. More like cherry red.”

I nodded. That meant I would be dealing with a youngish vamp, maybe a century or so old. Good, she would be easier to kill. “Any other distinguishing characteristics?”

“She’s a hottie.”

Again, this described most of the race. Because of their predatory advantages, vampires were usually incredibly attractive, which lowered the inhibitions of their mortal prey.

At my dubious look, Asclepius sighed. “I know what you’re thinking, but this vamp is gorgeous. If I didn’t want her dead, I’d try to f**k her myself.”

I grimaced and decided to change the subject before I lost my patience completely. “Can you at least give me more specifics about where to find her? Italy isn’t exactly small.”

His eyes shifted left. “No.”

“Why not?”

“You dare question a god?” he thundered.

I raised an eyebrow, sensing he was holding out on me.

He resisted my knowing glare for a few moments before he relented. “Fine. A cloaking ward was embedded in the chain mail so that she cannot be found by magical means.”

I laughed before I could help myself. “Wait, so you gave her an item that prevented you from finding her and then got pissed when she didn’t pay up? Way to screw yourself, dude.”

“Enough!” He took a menacing step forward.

I sobered instantly. “I apologize.” Time to get the conversation back to the big picture. “But if the vest protects her from all weapons, how exactly am I supposed to kill her?”

The god shrugged. “Not my concern.”

I bit my tongue to trap the angry curse that begged to be spoken. “How much time do I have to find her?” I said instead.

“Sabina, time is a fluid thing.” He raised his hands dismissively.

I supposed when you’re an ancient god, that might be true, but I lived in the mortal realm, where time was decidedly inflexible. I didn’t want to leave this detail open to interpretation so he could use it against me later.

“I’m gonna need something more specific.”

He sighed. “Fine. I’ll check in on you in a few days. By that time, I expect to hear you’ve put serious effort toward the task.”

In other words, I couldn’t just conveniently forget to track down this Nyx while I focused on my real goals. “Understood. I just ask that you don’t expect immediate success. Finding her alone could take several days.”

“I accept these terms.” He nodded and thunked his staff on the floor three times. I got the impression this was some sort of supernatural handshake. “So it is done. Gods speed, Sabina Kane.”

I expected the god to vanish in an intimidating display of fireworks; instead he simply opened the doors and exited like any mundane passenger. Only after he reached the sidewalk did he wave his staff and disappear. The instant he did, the world exploded into a kaleidoscope of movement, color, and sound. The trolley jerked into motion with a screech. The sudden movement knocked Adam forward off the bench, where he landed at my feet. He looked up at me with a sober expression.

“What the hell just happened?”

I sighed and held out a hand to help him up. “I’ll tell you in a sec. I need to get something first.”

While the mancy dusted himself off, I wound my way through the disoriented passengers to retrieve my gun from the floor. The old biddies nearby gasped when they saw the weapon. Luckily, the trolley was already slowing again as it approached the stop at First. I tucked the gun into my waistband and pushed Adam toward the door.

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