"Thank goodness I wasn't in the kind of body Tawny was when Jerome was summoned," I remarked. She had been wearing a truly horrendous shape, but since we were all cut from our powers until Jerome's restoration, she'd been stuck in it. Although, to be honest, if it meant having my own soul, I would've taken that body. I would've taken my original body. I would've taken anything. The physical trappings were nothing.
"Carter gave us a recap," Hugh said. He shook his head, smiling. "I can't believe you gambled on both contracts. I would've run off with the sure thing."
"I couldn't," I said, thinking back to the events of the courtroom. "Even if he hates me, I couldn't abandon Seth. I couldn't have enjoyed the rest of my life, knowing he was damned."
"He doesn't hate you."
"But he - "
"I know, I know." Hugh wouldn't let me finish. "I know what he said, but he was still in the throes of grief from that f**ked-up hypnosis. That was too much for anyone to handle. Carter talked to him when you got back - explained what happened."
My heart lurched. Was that a good or bad thing? I was beginning to gain some glimpse of just how invested Carter had been in my situation (and Seth's), but had the angel really been able to fix everything so easily?
"Did . . . did Carter change Seth's mind about me or something ?"
Hugh shrugged. "I don't think he needed to. If things hadn't panned out like they had that night - with the car - I think you and Seth would've had a very interesting conversation. I think he'd started to come around. It's why he was there."
"No," I said, disbelieving.
"I talked to him, sweetie. Do you really think all that love could have just been thrown away so easily? And he was here, you know. He was by your bedside until . . . well, yesterday, actually. Then he had to leave for his tour."
"His tour . . ." I vaguely remembered Andrea mentioning that, how it had become a possibility with her recovery. Speaking of Andrea . . . if my contract was off the table, Hell would have no reason to continue messing with her. She could be left in peace to heal on her own. "He went yesterday?"
"Somewhere on the East Coast," said Hugh. "I'm sure you can find it on his Web site. You were the one who always encouraged him to update it, after all."
I smiled at that, thinking of how reluctant Seth had been about the digital age. I gestured vaguely at my prone body. "Probably just as well that he's gone. I need to heal up. Maybe . . . maybe we'll talk when he's back."
Hugh eyed me, staying silent.
"What?" I demanded.
"He's going to be gone two weeks," said Hugh. "That much I know. You sure you want to wait that long?"
"I've waited a long time already," I pointed out dryly.
"Exactly my point. Look, I don't have any delusions about my soul. I made my choice and am content with fate. But if I were you? If I had my soul and the potential for a new life? Fuck, Georgina. I'd go after Seth, wherever he is, the instant I could hobble out of my bed. You're mortal now. It's easy to 'wait a little longer' when you've got all of eternity on the line. You don't anymore. You've wasted the time you have playing Hell's games, bickering back and forth with Seth and who he's been. End it. Go to him, as soon as you can, and fix this."
"You sound like Roman." As soon as I said his name, a million memories came crashing down on me. "Oh my God. Roman. I can't believe what he did."
"I know," said Hugh sadly. "Carter told us that too."
"Why would he do that?" I asked, knowing I'd never have a satisfactory answer. "Oh Lord, Hugh. I left him there. I abandoned him."
"You did no such thing," scolded Hugh. "You had no choice in it. And it's not like he was conned or tricked. He knew for a long time he wanted to do this. After we filed the petition, he grilled me constantly about contract details and Hell's legal procedures. He wanted to do this. He prepared for it. He was just waiting for the chance."
I squeezed my eyes shut, afraid I would cry, as I remembered him defending me in Hell. A vague memory came to me, the night before the game. . . . Roman had had something to tell me but had held off. And when I'd floated above my body, just before I'd faded away, Carter had said he had to go get Roman. They'd planned on all of this. Roman had known what was happening and had been ready to depart. Hugh was right. Roman had wanted this.
That didn't make it any easier.
I opened my eyes. "What do I do?"
Hugh's face was kind as he regarded me. "Don't make Roman's sacrifice be in vain. He wanted you to be happy. So go be happy, sweetie. Go to Seth."
Any response I might make was interrupted when a nurse came and discovered I was conscious. She scolded Hugh for not getting her and went to summon the doctor. Hugh gave me a sheepish look as she did. It was a carryover from being immortal, when I would've healed so fast that we could easily dismiss modern medicine's assistance. The doctor, a fortysomething woman named Dr. Addison, soon appeared and performed a few preliminary tests on me, as well as giving me the rundown on my condition.
When she was finished, I asked, "How long do you think I'll be here?"
"If everything progresses like it should?" she mused. "I'd say you can be discharged in three more days. And you're going to have to take it easy."
"Three more days," I repeated mournfully. Being human was going to take some getting used to. As a succubus, I would've recovered from this in twenty-four hours. There wouldn't have even been any taking it easy afterward.
Dr. Addison scoffed at my dismay. "Honestly, after getting hit like you did, a week total here isn't bad at all. You took some nasty hits, but really, this could've been a lot worse."
When she and the nurse left, I saw Hugh scanning his phone. "What are you looking at?"
"Seth's schedule. In three days, he'll be in St. Louis."
"Hmm," I said.
"In four, he'll be in San Francisco."
"That's close," I said. "Relatively."
"It'd give you an extra day in there to recover," said Hugh.
"An extra day, huh?" I teased. "What happened to not wasting a single day as a mortal?"
"My point about not wasting time still stands," said Hugh. He grinned. "But even I can be realistic. Take the extra day. You need it for the logistics of travel, if nothing else. But not a single day more."
"Get out and live life, huh?"
"If you're up for it."
I thought about his words, thought about Seth. I nodded, not caring whether hopping on a plane right after being discharged was crazy. I was human now. Crazy was in the job description.
"I'm up for it," I said. "Book me a flight to San Francisco."
Hugh's attention was on his phone again. "Sweetie, I already am."
Flying from Seattle to San Francisco is easy, easier even than going to Las Vegas. It takes less than two hours, and tons of flights run each day. The whole trip should've been simple. I mean, there were days when I'd spent more time in traffic just trying to get from downtown Seattle to the suburbs.
But I'd never flown on an airplane as a mortal. I was still determined to get to Seth, so there was no question that I was going to make this flight - only a lot of fear. I sat on the plane, waiting for takeoff, noticing things I'd never paid much attention to before. Were the engines usually that loud? Was that fuel I smelled? Was that a crack in the window, and if so, would the whole thing hold when we were airborne? I'd never done much more than politely watch the flight attendants' safety demo, but this time, I hung on to every detail. I had a lot on the line now - like, my life. An immortal could survive a plane crash. It wouldn't be pretty, but it was possible. Now? Now I faced all the risks the rest of the human world did.
My fears were unfounded, of course. The flight was smooth and easy, just as fast as I'd expected. Flying really was the safest form of travel. That hadn't changed. Only my perceptions of the world had. I made the trip white-knuckled and breathed a deep sigh of relief when the plane landed.
By the time I'd rented a car and was settled into my hotel room, I still had a couple hours before Seth's signing. My hotel was only a couple of blocks from his store - I'd planned it that way - and there was little for me to do except wait. Wait and obsess. A lot of that time was spent agonizing over my appearance. Even when I could shape-shift, I'd always prided myself on my ability to do my own styling. Of course, when Jerome had been summoned and I'd lost my succubus powers briefly, I'd discovered that I really wasn't quite as adept as I'd believed. I'd been cheating without realizing it all along, making small corrections with my powers. Stripped of them, I'd found all the little details I'd missed with blending eye shadow, straightening my hair, and myriad other grooming tasks.