I turned to Adam. “I’m going to regret this.”

Adam rubbed my shoulders. “It’ll be fun. Ziggy and Goldie will be there with the baby.”

As much as I looked forward to seeing our old friends, his mention of the baby pinged my warning sensors. Ever since the demonlings were born, Adam had been dropping little comments here and there about the two of us jumping into the parenthood pool, too. I wasn’t quite ready to swim in those treacherous waters, so I ignored the comment and focused on ensuring Adam helped enforce the only-stay-an-hour plan. “When we get home, I’m going to rip your clothes off with my teeth.”

He turned toward the door and shouted, “Giguhl, let’s hurry!”

* * *

As a former resident of the Crescent City, Erron always came in a few days early for his local gigs and stayed a few days after. He even owned a home in the Garden District not far from ours. His visit this time coincided with Voodoo Fest, a large music festival that drew many of the biggest names in music to the Big Easy. Erron would be playing the main stage on Halloween with his band The Foreskins. Their first album, The Devil’s Bris, hit all the charts, making them even more successful than his former band Necrospank 5000.

It was a brisk autumn night, so we headed out on foot since it was only about five blocks to Erron’s house. Giguhl was with us, but he was in his cat form instead of his very conspicuous demon guise. Since it wasn’t too cold I hadn’t made him put on a kitty sweater. He’d argued with me before we left the house, but in the end, I’d told him that either he let me do the spell to change his form or I wouldn’t be going to Erron’s at all. He’d relented and scowled at me during every second of the transformation from seven-foot-tall demon to hairless cat.

“Thank the gods,” Giguhl breathed the minute the door closed behind us. “I was worried Valva wouldn’t let me go.”

Adam frowned. “Fatherhood getting to you?”

The cat snorted. “Nah, that part’s fine. It’s the constant feedings.”

I grimaced against the feel of his teats brushing my shoulders. “Why don’t you wean them already?”

“Valva says we need to nurse them until they reach their maturity. She’s determined to do everything the right way.”

“Easy for her to say. They’re not her teats.” Demons didn’t reach maturity until they were a millennium old.

“Sabina,” Giguhl said in that tone parents get with nonparents. “You don’t get it.”

I adjusted my bra with my hand. “And I hope I never do.”

A few minutes later, we walked up to the black iron gate that surrounded the house at the corner of Prytania Street and Third. The home had a fairly illustrious history of famous owners, but I always thought of it as Erron’s orgy house. The first time I’d met the guy, Adam, Giguhl, and I had been staking out the house in an effort to find a murderous band of vampires we were hunting. But instead of vamps, we’d found Erron and his band hosting an orgy with a midget (who we later learned was named Goldie Schwartz), a gimp—in the S&M zippered leather mask sense—and a host of strippers who were snorting cocaine from the massive dining room table using hundred-dollar bills. A first meeting like that makes a lasting impression. Luckily, Erron had quickly proven himself to be a kick-ass mage and all-around stand-up guy in addition to his love of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll.

When we arrived, the house showed no signs of a wild party. In fact, the place looked downright charming with the French windows in the front glowing a warm welcome and the soft strains of classical music whispering from the front door. “Do we have the right place?” Adam asked.

I swatted him on the arm. “Behave.”

Adam and Erron had an uneasy friendship. Erron was what the mage Hekate Council called a “Recreant,” which meant he had shunned the council’s laws. In Adam’s opinion, this made Erron a loose cannon, but sometimes I wondered if the resentment had more to do with Adam feeling stifled by those same laws. Being the nephew of the leader of the Hekate Council came with a certain amount of responsibility, after all. Regardless, the two managed to get along most of the time.

I knocked on the door, and a couple of minutes later, a four-foot-tall woman (the stilettos added four inches) wearing a leopard-print pleather skirt, a black lace corset, and a ton of attitude opened the door. “The f**k you want?”

“What’s shaking, Goldie?”

The scowl on her hot pink lips morphed into a grin. “Just my moneymaker, doll. Get your ass in here!”

She stepped back, opening the door enough to allow all of us entrance. She hugged Adam’s leg and took Giguhl from my shoulder to cradle him against her surprisingly ample bosom. The cat purred and nestled in like he’d found his favorite home. “Erron’s in the kitchen,” Goldie said, leaning in to nuzzle her nose to Giguhl’s. “It’s too bad we’re both married, Gigi.” The cat giggled, and I escaped as quickly as possible to be spared the flirtation.

Adam came with me, and we found Erron in the back of the house, where a huge modern kitchen had been built. The place was too pristine to have ever been the scene of actual cooking, but the attached bar had seen plenty of use. Case in point, Erron was pouring cocktails out of a shaker when we walked in.

“You made it!” He came forward to greet us. He wore faded blue jeans and a Bauhaus T-shirt, and his jet-black hair was expertly mussed. Several earrings sparked from both lobes, a chain with a pentagram hung around his neck, and a thick leather cuff wrapped around his wrist.

“Where’s Giguhl?” he asked, pulling back from the hug he gave me.

“He and Goldie are making out in the foyer,” Adam said. “Where’s Ziggy?”

“He’ll be down in a minute. He had to feed the baby.” Ziggy and Goldie had had their first kid last year. It was hard to imagine two people so dedicated to the hard living of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle settling into parenthood, but they seemed to manage just fine. Erron had even had a special bus made for the family so they could bring the kid with them on tour.

Erron handed us our drinks and we held them up for a toast. “To the old times and the new times, but most of all, to the times we spend in the company of friends.”

We all clinked glasses and sipped on the gin and tonics. Gin wasn’t my usual choice of drink. I preferred vodka with extra blood, but I wasn’t going to complain. Erron was right; it was nice to spend time in the company of friends. I’d spent so much time over the last year traveling that I missed the simple pleasures of being with the family I’d cobbled together. It had been a long, long road from being a lonely assassin for the Dominae to the leader of all the Dark Races, and I couldn’t have gotten there without all of the beings in that room. Sometimes I got so busy I took them for granted—a habit I seriously needed to break.

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