"THIS IS RIDICULOUS," I GRUMBLED.
"Quiet, you!" Andrea slid the key into the lock and opened the door to her apartment. "You'll stay with me. It's just for a couple of days. I promised Doolittle to watch over you for a weekend. I'm supposed to keep you from 'storming any castles.' "
It was that or spend another forty-eight hours in Doolittle's care. He was the best medmage I had ever had the honor to deal with. He was a kind and caring person, a far better human being than me. But the longer you stayed in his care, the more pronounced his mother hen tendencies became. He would spoon feed me if I let him. Staying at Andrea's was the lesser of two evils.
"I still say you should have taken the flowers," she told me, walking through the apartment.
"They were from Saiman." Saiman, true to his modus operandi, had sent me white roses with a thank-you card, left on the doorstep of Jim's safe house, the location of which Saiman wasn't supposed to know. Jim nearly had an apoplexy when he saw it. The card told me that Sophia, the show's producer, had confessed to providing the shards of the Wolf Diamond to the rakshasas. She apparently employed several dummy bettors and had placed large sums on the rakshasas from the start, when they were an unknown commodity and the odds were against them. Saiman didn't mention what had become of her. Knowing him, nothing pleasant.
Andrea looked into her living room and froze. She stood still like a statue with her mouth hanging open. The bag slipped off her shoulder and crashed to the floor.
A huge thing hung suspended from the ceiling of Andrea's living room. It wasn't quite a chandelier and not quite a mobile; it was a thin, seven-feet-tall, giant metal . . . something , a warped Christmas tree-like construction, made of brass wire and crowned with the works of Lorna Sterling, books one through eight, perched in a fanlike fashion at the very top. Below the books, several levels of wire branches radiated under all angles supporting dozens of delicate crystal ornaments suspended from tiny golden chains and twinkling softly when they bumped. Each ornament was decorated with a small ribbon and each contained a piece of fabric: white, pastel pink, blue . . .
As if in a dream, Andrea reached over and plucked one of the ornaments off the tree. It popped open in her hand. She plucked the peach fabric out, unrolled it, and held up a thong.
She stared, speechless, and shook the thong at me, her eyes opened wide like saucers.
"I'm going to go now," I said and escaped. Doolittle would never know.
At least I knew where Raphael had vanished during the Midnight Games.
I rode a Pack's horse to my apartment. I didn't fall off her, which required a heroic effort of will on my part. The lack of adoring crowds, ready to greet me with flowers and medals at my door, was sadly disappointing.
I stopped by the super for the new key, climbed to my apartment, and studied my new lock.
Big, metal, and shiny. Not a scratch on it. Even the key itself had a bizarre groove carved into it, which made the whole setup supposedly completely burglar proof. Pick that, Your Majesty.
I unlocked the door, stepped inside, and shut it behind me. I kicked my shoes off, wincing at the hint of ache in my stomach. It would take a long time before it healed completely. At least I no longer bled.
Tension fled from me. Tomorrow I would worry about Hugh d'Ambray and Andrea and Roland, but now I was simply happy. Aaahh. Home. My place, my smells, my familiar rug under my feet, my kitchen, my Curran in the kitchen chair . . . Wait a damn minute.
"You!" I looked at the lock; I looked at him. So much for the burglar-proof door.
He calmly finished writing something on a piece of paper, got up, and came toward me. My heart shot into overdrive. Little golden sparks laughed in his gray eyes. He handed me the piece of paper and smiled. "Can't wait."
I just stared like an idiot.
He inhaled my scent, opened the door, and left. I looked at the paper.
I'll be busy for the next eight weeks, so let's set this for November 15th.
I want lamb or venison steak. Baked potatoes with honey butter. Corn on the cob. Rolls. And apple pie, like the one you made before. I really liked it. I want it with ice cream.
You owe me one naked dinner, but I'm not a complete beast, so you can wear a bra and panties if you so wish. The blue ones with the bow will do.
Beast Lord of Atlanta