“Asking for permission is exactly what Mike’s doing. And P.S., Orpheus had no qualms about allowing the werewolves to settle in Manhattan decades ago.”
“Yes, well, look where Orpheus’s permissiveness got him.”
“That’s enough,” Rhea snapped. Her outburst wasn’t a surprise seeing how the deceased former leader of the mages had been her best friend and rumored lover.
“All right,” I said. “Let’s table this discussion for tonight. But I expect a resolution before Samhain.”
The queen pursed her lips and crossed her arms. “Tell that to him.”
“I intend to. Now, is there any new business?”
Several heads wisely shook to decline my invitation. I rapped my gavel on the table. “Then this meeting is adjourned.”
* * *
After the council meeting, I left the chambers and all but ran across the grounds toward the house to find Adam before anyone could distract me with more diplomatic drama. I found him in the library on the first floor of our Garden District mansion. Even though it wasn’t that cold out, a cheery fire crackled in the hearth. The warm glow illuminated Adam’s handsome profile, which was bent over a large, leather-bound tome in his lap.
I closed the double doors behind me. He looked up and gave me the smile I’d missed like a lost limb during my travels. “There you are.”
I ran toward him and threw myself in his lap. The book slid to the floor, but we were too busy kissing to care. He tasted like home and I intended to make myself very comfortable there for a very long time. His hands came up to cup my face. His touch was warm and a tingle ran from my scalp to my toes.
When he finally came up for air, his gaze caressed my face. “Gods, I’ve missed you.”
“How’d the meeting go?”
I shook my head. “No talk. Kiss.” I dove back in for another round of tongue tango. Luckily he was willing to let me take the lead.
Before long, his hands snaked up under my shirt and cupped my br**sts. I pressed into those warm hands and wiggled my ass on his lap. He pulled his lips just far enough away to say, “Keep that up and we’ll put on a show.” He nodded toward the open curtains on the floor-to-ceiling sash windows.
Normally, I wouldn’t have cared, but with Giguhl’s demonic rug rats running around at all hours, you couldn’t be too careful. I sighed and put my forehead against his. “Then I think it’s time to move this discussion upstairs.”
He groaned. “Trust me that there’s nothing I’d love more—”
“Do not say but.”
“But,” he began in an apologetic tone, “Giguhl’s been pacing around the house all night asking when you were getting back. In fact, I’m surprised he hasn’t busted in—”
At that exact moment, the doors to the library flew open. On the threshold stood a seven-foot-tall, scaly, green demon. He wore a red smoking jacket that complemented his black horns and hooves. Despite the distinguished attire, his expression was anything but composed.
“Bael’s balls, Mancy! You promised to let me know the instant she got back.”
I sighed and dismounted my man. “Hi, G.”
“Thank the gods!”
“What’s wrong?” I glanced at Adam, who shook his head as if to say he took no responsibility for the demon. “Did you and Valva have another fight?”
Valva was Giguhl’s wife. A marriage between a Mischief and Vanity demon already had enough built-in drama to fuel an entire season of reality TV shows, but when you added their litter of demon babies to the mix, it was downright combustible.
“Well, yeah,” he said. “But that’s not the issue.”
“Did the kids destroy another car?” I asked.
His gaze skittered south. “Yes,” he said in a quiet tone. “But we bought Brooks a new one.”
My left eye twitched. “Giguhl, that’s the third car they’ve eaten this year! You really need to set some boundaries.”
“Hey! I’m doing the best I can, okay?” He threw open the lapels on his robe, exposing five distended teats.
“Jesus, Giguhl,” Adam exclaimed.
“You try breastfeeding five demonlings when your teats are scabby and tell me how much energy you have for discipline!”
I closed my eyes and prayed to every goddess I’d ever met for patience. “We know you’re doing your best. But please put your teats away.”
I opened my eyes and was relieved to see he’d pulled the lapels closed.
“Okay, now take a deep breath and tell me what’s got you all worked up.”
He sucked a huge gulp of air and then exhaled it slowly. I nodded encouragingly, ignoring Adam’s eye roll. He always said I gave the demon way too much leeway, but I had to keep reminding him that Giguhl wasn’t officially my minion to order around anymore.
“Didn’t you tell her?” Giguhl demanded of Adam.
I sighed, losing my patience. “Why don’t you tell me?”
“Okay, so Erron’s in town for the big concert on Halloween, right?”
I blinked. “Oh, that’s right. And?”
“And he invited us over for dinner tonight.”
The thought of going anywhere but to my bed was not a pleasant one. “I don’t know, G. I’m pretty exhausted.”
“You have no idea how hard it was to convince Valva to let me have a night off. We have to go!”
“Why don’t you just go alone?”
The demon dug a hoof in the carpet. “Because…”
I raised my brows expectantly.
The demon finally sighed. “It’s been so long since the three of us hung out together. I miss you guys.”
My heart dropped. In truth, I had been so busy running the Dark Races I hadn’t had much time for socializing at all. “Can’t we just hang out here?” I offered.
He crossed his massive arms and scowled. “If we hang out here, the kids won’t leave us alone and you’ll just fall asleep.”
I glanced at Adam, who shrugged, as if he hated to admit the demon was right. Exhaustion tugged at me like a gravitational force, but the hope in the demon’s eyes was battering my conscience. “Okay, we’ll go for an hour.”
The demon let out a celebratory whoop.
“One hour!” I repeated. “Not a moment longer.”
The demon waved a claw in the air. “Sure, sure. I’ll go tell Valva,” he called as he ran out the door.