“I will only sign the treaty if there’s a section added forbidding mating between fae and weres in my territory,” Maeve stated in an imperious tone.
My mouth fell open. “Maeve, that flies in the face of all the progress we’ve made in tearing down those old walls.”
“As it happens, I agree with her,” Michael cut in. “Our race has struggled too long to keep our population strong and pure to begin diluting it with weak fae blood.”
Maeve made an annoyed sound and added, “And my court has maintained its purity for millennia. It would be a shame to taint it with such primitive genes.”
I sighed. “And if I refuse to allow the addendum?”
“Then I will refuse to allow the migration of any and all were packs into my lands.”
My shoulders fell. As much as I wanted to promote a more accepting attitude among the Dark Races for mixed-bloods, it took a long time to change thinking on such ingrained attitudes. “I’m not happy with this at all. Changing the rules again so soon might encourage rebellion, especially among the younger members of your races.” I sighed and bit the bullet. “But if this is the only way to reach a peaceful conclusion to negotiations, I’ll allow it.”
“Really?” Maeve said, her tone shocked.
“You didn’t think I’d agree?”
“Not really.” She sounded deflated, as if this addendum had been a ploy to make me refuse the agreement.
“Have your people write up the documents and we’ll sign them at next month’s session. I just hope this won’t come back to bite both of you in the ass.” After that, I got off the phone fast before I ranted at both of them and rescinded my approval. Sometimes dealing with dark race leaders was more frustrating than corralling Giguhl’s kids.
Just then, Adam opened the door from inside the workroom. He scrubbed a hand through his hair, but he didn’t look as hopeless as he had earlier. “She’s awake.”
We all stood and I went to Adam. I gave him a hug, and the minute his arms came around me and I sniffed his sandalwood scent, I knew I’d been an idiot. This man was mine and I was his. “How are you?”
“I’ve been less shitty, but I’ll live.”
“Can we go see her?” Brooks said from the doorway. I guess he’d heard us talking from down the hall.
Adam nodded. “She was asking for you.”
Brooks didn’t need any further prompting. He practically ran across the room. Giguhl followed closely behind. Adam and I followed more slowly. When I crossed the threshold, I couldn’t see around Giguhl’s massive shoulders. Zen’s voice rose above the crowd, reminding everyone to take it easy because Cadence had been through a lot. A quieter female voice responded to Brooks in whispers.
I pushed past Giguhl and pulled up next to Brooks. Cadence broke off and looked up at me. Her eyes were wide and I could tell she was nervous. But she looked fifty times better than she had when we pulled her out of that house. Her hair was long and brown with gold highlights. Her eyes were a bright, clear blue and her complexion was getting some glow back. The only sign of her ordeal were the large bandages on her wrists and throat.
As much as I hated to admit it, I totally saw what attracted Adam to her. She had a classic, unthreatening beauty that a lot of men went for. But I also saw the shadows in her eyes. The ones that hinted at deep pain in her life. Of hard lessons and a lack of love. I recognized those shadows because I had them, too.
I glanced back at Adam. Maybe he was attracted to troubled women, I realized with a jolt. But I pushed that thought aside. Everyone has shadows. It’s just, well, some of us have a harder time of disguising them. Turning back to the girl in the bed, I tried to smile.
“Hi,” Cadence said.
I waved lamely. “Hey.”
“You’re Sabina, right?” Her eyes flicked behind me, toward where Adam stood close to my back.
I nodded and swallowed. Why was I nervous? “I’m glad you’re all right,” I mumbled for lack of anything brilliant to say.
The corner of her mouth lifted like I’d made a joke. “Thank you.” The gratitude was offered so easily and genuinely that I couldn’t continue to hold on to the negative feelings toward her I’d been trying to cling to. “Adam’s told me all about you. I’m”—she heaved a shaky sigh—“I’m glad he’s happy. You’ve been good for him.”
I frowned. It never occurred to me that they’d be talking about me in the room all that time. I shot my Mancy a smile. “He’s been good for me, too.” I turned back to Cadence. “And I’m glad you’re all right. You had all of us worried.”
Her gaze hit the floor. “I know you won’t believe me, but I wasn’t using. At least, not before the Rev took me.”
“What happened that night?” Brooks said, his voice careful.
She swallowed hard. “Damascus had been after me to meet him for a date. But when I got there, the Reverend was waiting instead. He tried to get me to go with him, but when I refused he—” She cut off and shuddered. Brooks patted her hand. “He shot me full of smack.”
She paused, as if trying to collect her thoughts. “Next thing I remember is waking up in that house. They kept me so drugged I didn’t even know how many days had passed before you guys arrived.” She began to shake uncontrollably. “Thank the gods you found me. I was so—” She shook her head and started crying.
My heart sank for her. I had no idea how she’d recover from the wounds she’d suffered in that hellhole. But looking around the room, I thought maybe Cadence had more friends than she realized.
A throat cleared behind me. I turned to see Erron in the doorway. He wore huge, dark sunglasses that hinted at a bender the night before. “You’re still alive!” I teased, referring to the prediction his bassist had made about his heart stopping.
“So far, so good.” A line formed between his brows. “Weird, though, because Rocco is usually dead on with his predictions.”
Giguhl came to join us by the door. He and Erron high-fived. “Isn’t your show tonight?”
“I just came from the sound check. Brooks called to say you found your friend, so I wanted to stop in.”
I nodded and turned to motion toward Cadence. Before I could say anything, though, Erron froze. I looked from him toward where Cadence lay in the bed. Her tear-stained face was a mask of shock, too.