"This morning. It showed up at Seth's. I sensed the courier and woke up to it."
"You were at Seth's. What were you doing at the time? What were you doing just before then?" He'd stopped petting Aubrey, and she slithered toward me in a huff, seeking a more attentive audience. "Walk me backward from that point."
"Well, like I said, I was sleeping. Before that . . ." I winced, remembering getting into bed with Ian. "I met Seth's mom and younger brother. Before that, I was at Peter's fondue party. Before that, I was at the mall - "
"Peter's. Tell me about Peter's. Did anything weird happen to you there?"
I cut him a look. "It was a fondue party at a vampire's. Everything about that is weird."
"I'm trying to help you!" There was a strained, agitated quality to his voice as he leaned toward me. "Just hold off on the jokes, okay? Think. What happened - to you specifically? What did you talk about? What did they say to you?"
I was growing increasingly uncomfortable at his intensity. "They were teasing me about my job," I said.
"Of course. He said me being an elf was an embarrassment and that I should do something else." A shocking thought hit me. "Roman . . . you don't think Jerome requested the transfer, did you? Could he really be that upset with me? That embarrassed?"
"I don't know," admitted Roman. He absentmindedly ran a hand through his curling dark hair. "It's possible. Some of the weirdness might be explained away if Jerome was trying to hide that he initiated all this. But then, it's not like any of your other friends are exactly normal. If something was going to embarrass Jerome enough to get rid of an employee, I kind of feel like there would have been a lot of other opportunities before you. Anything else come up?"
"I asked them about - " I hesitated. The topic was still sensitive for me. It was hard to mention to Roman, and I could hardly believe I'd had the guts to bring it up to the gang that night. Roman caught my uncertainty and pounced. "What? What else? What did you ask them about?"
I waited a few more moments and then decided to tell him. It couldn't hurt, and besides, for all I knew, Roman had mentioned my name to Seth.
"About a month ago, when we were in bed, Seth called me Letha when he was half-asleep. When I asked him how he knew that name, he couldn't remember. He couldn't even remember calling me that. So, I asked the group that night if any of them had told my name to Seth."
"And they all said no. Cody didn't even know my name. I got berated for being melodramatic again, and the general consensus was that Seth had just overheard it from me or someone else and forgotten."
Roman was silent, which was almost more unnerving than him grilling me. I straightened up and nudged him.
"Hey, you didn't tell Seth, did you?"
"Huh? No." He frowned, caught up in his own thoughts. "What did Jerome think? Did he concur with that theory?"
"Yes. He thought me bringing it up was a total waste of time and didn't hesitate to tell me. He was so bored by it that he started talking about bowling instead."
"That's when he told you about the bowling team? The bowling team that came out of nowhere?"
"Yeah. . . ." Now I was frowning. It was clear that Roman's thoughts were running off to a place I wasn't at or able to follow. "Why? What are you thinking? Is this related somehow?"
"I don't know," he said at last. He stood up and paced the living room a couple of times. "I need to think about this. I need to ask some questions. What are you going to do now?"
I rose as well and stretched, suddenly feeling weary. "I need to talk to Seth. I have to tell him what happened. And I suppose . . ." I made a face. "If I do have to go to Las Vegas, this weekend is the time to do it."
"So you don't miss bowling practice?" teased Roman.
"That, and I have it off from work. Seth's pretty tied up with his family in town, which makes it another good time to go. Although . . . it'd kind of be nice if he went with me. I mean, if he was going to think about moving, he could check it out too." Yet, again, that worry returned to me: how could I ask Seth to abandon Terry and Andrea?
"Actually," said Roman, humor vanishing, "I think it's best he doesn't go."
"Because whatever the reasons, something's just not right about this. I don't know what's waiting for you in Las Vegas. Maybe nothing. But I just feel like there's a larger hand in all of this, guiding it, and that it's safest for Seth if you don't drag him into immortal drama." Roman's face softened. "I'm actually not thrilled about you facing it alone, but I'm not sure me walking into a hotbed of immortal activity is so smart either."
"I'll be fine," I said, trying to not be put off by his ominous words. "No matter how terrible a transfer is, I have to admit, I got kind of lucky with this one. I mean, I'm not saying I trust any demons, but if I had to, it would be Luis. He's really great, and Vegas is, well, Vegas. Like I said. I got lucky."
Roman grew thoughtful again. "Yes. Yes, you did."
The next day, I found Seth later at his brother's house. Andrea had had another treatment that day and was sleeping it off. Seth and Margaret were helping take care of the household as best they could, cooking a late dinner and watching the girls. I arrived at about the same time as Terry got home from work, and our double entrance was greeted with shouts and hugs. I scooped Kayla up in my arms and kissed her while Terry asked what I had been wondering.
Seth and Margaret exchanged looks. "Ian had some things to do," she said neutrally.
"Yeah," agreed Seth. "In the form of scoping out ironic parts of Seattle."
So much for Ian stepping up to help the family. No doubt he'd found new hipster friends at a coffee shop and was now hanging out with them somewhere, drinking PBR and regaling them with stories of all the obscure bands he knew.
Terry smiled good-naturedly. "Well, that's his loss because dinner smells great. More for us." He swung Kendall around and kissed his other daughters before going upstairs to check on Andrea. I felt a lump form in my throat as I watched him go. He put on such a good face for the kids, but I knew this had to be tearing his heart apart. My own petty concerns seemed exactly that: petty. Small. Inconsequential.
Nonetheless, news of the transfer weighed on my mind throughout dinner. I'd wanted to wait until Seth and I were alone at his place, but my face must have betrayed my feelings.
"Hey," he said gently, slipping an arm around me. The family was gathered in the living room, starting a movie, while Seth and I stood in the doorway to the kitchen. "Everything okay?" I hesitated, unsure about bringing it up here. Sensing that, he pulled me into the privacy of the kitchen. "Thetis, talk to me."
"I got some bad news today," I began. I tried to think of a clever or funny way to lead into it, but nothing came. So, I just blurted it all out, explaining the inarguable nature of transfers and the details of mine.
"Las Vegas," he said flatly. He looked as though he'd been slapped. "You're moving to Las Vegas."
"Not for a month," I said, clasping his hands. "And believe me, I don't want to. God, Seth. I still can't believe it. I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry."
"Hey, don't apologize. Not for this." He drew me near, the kindness and compassion on his face nearly making me cry. "This isn't your fault. You have nothing to be sorry about."
I shook my head. "I know, but . . . it's just so crazy. I thought this was it. Our chance to be together. And now I don't know what to do. I can't ask you to . . ."
"Ask me to what?"
I leaned my head against his chest. "Come with me."
He was quiet for a few moments. "Would they let me? I always thought . . . I mean, whenever you've talked about your past, it always sounded like you reinvented yourself. New name, new appearance. I thought you had to leave your past life behind."
"I have, but that was always just my choice. For you . . . I mean, of course I wouldn't do that. I'd stay Georgina Kincaid, just as you know her. But you can't leave them." I gestured to the living room. "It's not worth it."
Seth moved his hands to my head, tilting my face up so I could look him in the eye. "Georgina," he said softly. "I love you. You're worth it. You're everything to me. I'd follow you to the ends of the earth. And beyond."