“What is it?”

“So you’ve finally decided to answer the phone? Do I need—” Simon starts in on me and his voice sounds shitty. Probably using speaker phone.

“Fucking shut up, you fucking arachnid. What the hell do you want?”

There’s a long silence and I can hear his breathing come out in a hiss. “You fucking Neanderthal. Do you have any idea what you are doing? You were ordered to specifically bring the woman to us, and you couldn’t even do that. You even bought a child. You were expressly told to bring us the woman. Everything else was to be igno—”

My voice is low, but I put as much menace in it as I can. “Simon, if you say one more fucking word about the kid… I. Will. Fucking. End. You.”

The long silence between our words rings out. We’re both breathing heavily, and I can feel his sheer anger through the phone.

I leave the room as quietly as I can to keep from waking Beth.

I know she’s more than likely playing possum. Her breath is too shallow, her body too unnaturally still.

Shutting the door, I walk down the hall, past the room where the kid is curled up in a ball under the blanket. He’s so fucking small… It’s like looking at a wounded animal turning in on itself.

“Gentleman, I believe we need to restart this conversation,” Lucifer’s slow drawl comes through the line, and I know instantly he’s been listening the whole time, watching the little drama play out.

He’s been getting a feel of the situation. Looking at all the angles and lines this little episode shows.

“Yes, sir,” I answer first. “What is it you want, Simon?”

“Why did you not bring the woman here?” he asks, and I can tell he is forcing the civility out his ass.

“I bought her, she’s mine,” I say, and as soon as the words leave my mouth, I figure that right there was stupid.

It lays my thoughts and feelings out bare for the world and the devil himself to see.

“That money was from my accounts, Johnathan,” Lucifer says calmly, but I can hear the annoyance in his voice.

“And I have more than enough money to pay you back for both purchases, which I will be doing today. Even with interest it won’t be an issue.”

“That’s convenient,” Simon snarls. “But that isn’t the issue and you know it very well.”

“I didn’t bring her back to you because she’s mine and I’ve taken claim of her. Is that what you need to know, Simon?”

“What exactly do you mean by that?”

I stop looking at the child in his bed and walk down the hallway to the bathroom.

Unleashing a fucking torrent into the bowel, I say, “She’s under my protection. No matter how we look at this situation, she would be as good as dead if we gave her back to her father.”

“Explain,” Lucifer says, and I can tell both he and Simon know exactly what I’m going to say before I even say it.

“They know who she is, there’s too small of a chance they don’t. The moment she’s spotted anywhere near her father, they will be going all in to take her out. The collateral damage would be too big for us to contain, as well.”

“Us? What’s this have to do with us if they harm him or her?” Simon asks, and I’m not sure if he’s pulling my strings or not, but he sounds generally unaware of the most basic answer.

“It comes down to us not being able to contain our fucking problems in the city. We let the Russians get too big of a head and they’re going to take a look at all of us. We can’t afford that, not right now.”

“That’s above your pay grade, Johnathan,” Simon mutters.

“He’s right, Simon.”

There’s another long pause.

Then Lucifer says, “That’s neither here nor there, for the moment. Johnathan, bring Beth and the child to the offices today. We need to speak with them and get what information we can. We also need to know what was happening behind the scenes.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good, and we also need to speak about this buying her for yourself.”

“We’ll see,” I say.

The phone hangs up and I put the phone down on the sink.

Flushing the toilet, I head back to the bedroom. Passing the bedroom with the kid, I see he’s slowly waking up. His head is turned towards me and his eyes are staring wide-eyed at me.

Shit.

I’m only in my boxers, this isn’t going to be good.

He begins to tremble and I can see his mouth opening to scream, but I shake my head.

Hiding my lower half, I say quietly, “Let me get some pants on. I promise nothing bad is going to happen to you.”

He doesn’t respond verbally, but his mouth closes tight and a small streak of tears erupts under one of his eyelids.

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