Roman fell silent, a frown on his face. I too felt dismayed but didn't think we shared the same reasons. Without Seth confirming anything, we'd been unsure if his soul was damned or not, regardless of his success in finding me. I'd half hoped that Hell had given him some fairy-tale challenge, that if he could find and reunite with me, his soul would be restored to him. That apparently wasn't true. Hell had only offered him the chance to be with me. They'd given him no more than that. If we made amends, his soul belonged to them, the same as if we didn't. Our romantic outcome made no difference. I wondered if he had bargained for more or had been so desperate and grateful for the chance to simply be with me again that he hadn't even asked for more.

Marcel smiled. "I see Letha mentioned nowhere in here. There was no violation of the terms of her contract."

"But obviously someone knew," said Roman. "You must have a record of all of his lives. He's encountered her in each one of them. So someone, somewhere made sure that part of the contract was fulfilled - his reunion with the missing 'lover' from his first life. Her. Whom he was supposed to forget, per the terms of her contract. They contradict each other."

Roman spoke confidently, laying his points out reasonably, but I could sense the uneasiness within him. I knew what the hanging point was - the same point Marcel had promptly jumped on. I wasn't cited by name here. Somewhere, there had to be a record of it if Hell had managed to let Seth be reborn near me each time, but we didn't know what that was. Hell certainly wasn't going to help us find it.

"It could be a coincidence," said Marcel. "Maybe he met someone else in his first life whom he fell in love with, someone whom he lost young and continued to seek in the following centuries."

"Someone else who was immortal and would be alive for the next fifteen hundred years?" asked Roman. "That's an awfully big coincidence."

Marcel looked smug. "Be that as it may, Letha is not mentioned anywhere in his contract. Everything's circumstantial at best, with no proof that Hell entered into this under false pretenses."

A thought suddenly occurred to me, and I began attempting to unroll the scroll, seeking a very specific piece of information. There were so many sections, subsections, articles, and clauses, however, that I couldn't make any sense of it.

"Who drafted this?" I asked Roman. "Shouldn't whoever brokered the deal be listed?"

"Section 27E," said Roman automatically.

I paused to give him an incredulous glance. "How do you know that?"

"What do you think I've been doing for the last week?" he asked, by way of answer.

He helped me find the appropriate section, and I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the name I'd been hoping for. Just to be sure, I found the matching section in my own contract. Roman, spying what I had, immediately ran with it.

"Your honor, these contracts were brokered by the same imp. Niphon. He had to have known they conflicted with each other. He had to have known that Letha was the lover Kyriakos was seeking."

"He didn't 'have to have known' anything," countered Marcel. "It could be a coincidence."

"Well, let's get him in here and find out," said Roman.

Hannibal considered this for several seconds. I got the distinct impression that he most definitely did not want to summon Niphon, but some of the angels in the jury were regarding him expectantly. If this were truly a fair trial, with evidence laid neatly out, then there was no reason not to bring in a key witness like Niphon.

"Very well," said Hannibal. He looked over to the guy in the nice suit, the one who'd opened proceedings. I'd taken him for some kind of classy bailiff. "Go get him. We'll call a ten-minute recess while you do." Hannibal banged his gavel, and conversation buzzed as the bailiff hurried out of the room.

I leaned toward Roman. "Niphon knows. He has to know. Did I ever tell you the full story of when he came to visit last year?"

Roman had heard some of it but was very eager for a recap as I told the tale again. Niphon had shown up, ostensibly to deliver Tawny as our newest succubus. During his stay, however, he'd caused no end of trouble for me and Seth. He'd tried to drive a wedge between us, and indeed, some of his actions were what had led Seth to believe a breakup was better for us in the long run. Niphon had also tried to broker a contract with Seth in order for us to be together without the harmful succubus effects that occurred during sex. The cost would have been Seth's soul, of course.

I paused, thinking that over. "I understand the rest . . . him wanting to keep us apart. Hugh had said it was the sign of an imp trying to cover for some mistake - and this is a pretty big one. It makes sense he'd want to split us up and avoid discovery of the conflict. But why bother to make another deal if Seth's soul was already under contract?"

Roman's eyes were alight with thought. "Because he could've done an amendment to the old contract and cleaned up the contradiction. Seth's soul would have been resecured."

We had no time to analyze it further because the recess soon ended. Hannibal brought things to order and the bailiff returned - with Niphon.

My stomach twisted at the sight of him, just as it had last time. Niphon always put me in mind of a weasel. He wore a gray suit, looking business-ready like all imps did, but had heavily pomade-slicked hair that took away some of his credibility. He had thin lips, small eyes, and an olive complexion. He also looked like he'd bolt if given half the chance. The screwup he'd tried to conceal was now being laid out. His escort led him to a witness stand near the bench. Niphon gingerly sat down, sweating visibly. I'd worried about Hugh being dragged into this, fearful of the consequences he'd face. Niphon was probably afraid of the same thing: being punished for helping my case. The difference was that Hugh would at least take some satisfaction out of assisting me. Niphon had no gain in any of this.

"State your name please," said Hannibal.

The imp licked his lips. "Niphon, your honor. At your service."

"You brokered these two contracts?" asked Hannibal, indicating the scrolls Doris had just placed on the witness stand.

Niphon made a great show of studying them. "I suppose so, your honor. My name's on them, but it's been such a long time. Makes it easy to forget."

I scoffed. "You seemed to remember last year when you were scrambling to cover your ass."

"Let's keep this civilized and fair," said Hannibal mildly. Really? I was the one being chastised for civility and fairness?

"Did you know when you drew up Kyriakos's contract that Letha was the one he was seeking?" asked Roman. Seeing Niphon squirm, Roman added, "And be careful about saying you 'don't remember.' The angels in the esteemed jury will know you're lying."

Niphon swallowed and cast an anxious look at the jury box before returning his gaze to Roman. "I . . . yes. I knew."

"And since you'd drawn up Letha's contract, you knew that her terms required all those who knew her as a human to forget her. The fact that he was seeking her at all was a sign her contract had been broken. You weren't able to keep him in a state of forgetfulness."

Niphon made a face. "He didn't mention her by name. He only remembered that she was gone."

Roman smacked my contract hard. "The contract doesn't specify to what degree she can be forgotten, just that she is. Period."

Sweat was practically pouring off Niphon in buckets now. He jerked one of the scrolls toward him and scanned it with his twitchy eyes. " 'All mortals who were acquainted with the Damned in her human life shall have all knowledge of her erased from their memories. . . .' " He glanced up. "This is a translation. I think the original Greek makes it clearer that only those from her human life forget her. Therefore, if he remembered her afterward, there would be no violation. Can we get a Greek copy in here?"

"It wouldn't matter," said Roman. "Even if it does say that. We've already established that a soul defines a person's identity across lives. Even now, he's still technically someone from her human life, and he remembered. You were unable to uphold the contract."

"That's hardly my fault!" Niphon exclaimed. It was unclear now if he was speaking to Roman and me or to superiors in the audience. "I made the arrangements for standard memory loss with her contract. I don't know why it didn't work. Yes, I knew he was her husband when I set up his contract, but I didn't think of this in terms of contract violation. I was just securing another soul."


Tags: Richelle Mead Georgina Kincaid Fantasy
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