The thought of mentioning money briefly popped into my head. But then he always gave me a discount, both because I had once saved his life and because he found me entertaining. He wasn't that interested in money even during normal time, and right now he was simply too far gone.
"Morrigan is somehow involved. And a cauldron," I said.
His face was alarmingly close to mine.
"The Celts have a liking for the cauldrons. Cauldrons of plenty. Cauldrons of knowledge. Cauldrons of rebirth." His breath warmed my cheek. His hands were warm, too. By all rights he should have been freezing.
"Cauldron of rebirth?"
"A gateway to the Otherworld."
He tried to dip me, but I resisted and he smoothly turned the dip into a turn.
"Tell me more about it."
"You should ask the witches. They know. But ask later. After the deep magic wanes."
"Because if you leave, I'll be bored again."
Oh crap. "Tell me more about the witches. Which coven should I ask?"
"All of them."
He slid my hand onto his shoulder. I pulled back, but he already held my shoulders, hugging me tight to him. His huge erection pressed against me. Great, just great.
"How can I ask all of the covens? There are dozens in the city."
"Simple." Honeyed breath washed over me. "You ask the Witch Oracle."
"The witches have an oracle?" We had slowed down to mere shuffling now. I shuffled backward, heading toward the end of the roof where the ledge lay.
"In Centennial Park," he said softly. "There are three of them. They speak for all the covens. I hear they have a problem they can't fix."
"Then it's best I go to them."
He shook his head. "But then I'll be all alone."
"I have to go."
"You never stay." He turned his head and kissed my fingers. "Stay with me. It will be fun."
I noticed the ice building around us. If this kept going, we would be encased in an igloo in a matter of minutes.
"Why is the ice growing?"
"It's jealous. Of the vampire!" He laughed, throwing his head back like it was the funniest thing.
I knocked his hands off my shoulders and jumped off the roof.
I landed in a crouch on the ledge and slipped. My back slapped the ice. I slid, rolling down the narrow path. I dug my heels into the snow, grasping at the wall to slow myself down, but my hands slipped. I hurtled along the path, helpless to stop my fall.
The end of the ledge flashed, feet away.
I ripped a knife from its sheath and stabbed it into the ledge. The momentum carried me forward and I jerked to a halt, my legs suspended over the edge. Carefully I flexed my arms and slid myself back onto the ledge, trying very hard not to think of the bottomless chasm yawning at my feet.
Derek grabbed my shoulder, pulled me up, and neatly deposited me on the carpet within the apartment. "Some expert," he growled.
"Yeah. Last time I come here." My brain finally realized that I wouldn't be falling from fifteen stories and impersonating a pancake on the ground. I scrambled to my feet. "I owe you one."
He shrugged. "You had it anyway. I just sped it up a bit."
The vampire met us as we untied our horses.
"You dance very well," Ghastek said.
"Not a word. Not another bloody word."
"SO THIS SAIMAN, HE HAS A THING FOR YOU?" DEREK asked.
"Right now Saiman has a thing for everyone, including you, from what I saw. He's drunk on magic and bored." I finished rebraiding my hair and guided my horse up Marietta Street toward the dense forest that used to be the twenty-one acres of Centennial Park. I really didn't feel like continuing this conversation.
The magic fell. It would reassert itself in a minute: the waves had been coming one after another, short and intense.
"It appeared you were definitely his preferred entertainment," Ghastek said.
Asshole. "It didn't matter who was up on that roof, he would've changed his shape until he found a perfect fit."
"In more ways than one." The vampire cut in front of the horses again.
"Thank you for your commentary. I noticed you didn't do anything to help."
"You seemed to have the matter well in hand." Ghastek sent his vamp galloping forward, ahead of us. When confronted, run away. My favorite strategy.
"Look," Derek said, "all I'm saying is it would've been helpful to have all relevant information before we walked in there."
"I didn't have all the relevant information. Had I known he would be on the roof dancing in the snow, I wouldn't have gone up there."
"I can't effectively help or protect you..." Derek said.
I turned in my saddle. "Derek, I didn't ask you to protect me. I didn't ask you to come with me. If I had realized that you would be imitating Curran the entire time, I would've thought twice about letting you tag along."
Derek clamped his mouth shut.
Ahead of us the vamp turned to the left, loping onto Centennial Drive.
That wasn't a good thing to say. I halted my horse. Derek stopped, too.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snap."
"Who should I imitate, Kate?" he asked softly.
I didn't have an answer.
"Or are you going to give me a load of bullshit about being myself? Who would that be, Kate? A son of a loup and a murderer, who couldn't save his sisters from being raped and then eaten alive by their father. Why would I want to be that?"
I leaned back in my saddle, wishing I could exhale all of the weight that had settled on my shoulders. "I apologize. I was wrong."
He sat still for a long minute and nodded to me. The vamp halted in the street, waiting for us.
"I shouldn't have nagged," he said. "I get like that sometimes."
"It's okay." I sent my horse forward. I knew why he got like that. I've seen him meticulously fold his clothes. His shave was perfect, his hair cut short, his nails clean and trimmed. I bet his room didn't have a single item out of place. When you live in chaos as a child, you strive to impose order over the world. Unfortunately, the world refuses to comply, so you have to settle for trying to control yourself, your habitat, and your friends.
"I'm just worried about a lot of things," I said.
"Julie?" he guessed.
I wished I could have called in to check on them, but I had no clue where I could find a working phone line and with the preflare magic, the phone probably wouldn't work anyway. Andrea had promised to stay with her. Barred from the field or not, Andrea could shoot a squirrel in the eye from across the street.