"But he couldn't," a voice behind me pointed out, "because, as I've said, vampire hunters can only inconvenience you, not kill you."

I turned, startled at hearing Jerome's voice. It startled me further to see Carter with him.

"Leave it to Jerome to play devil's advocate," joked the angel.

"What are you doing here, Georgina?" demanded the demon icily.

My mouth gaped, and it took me a moment to speak. "How... how did you do that?"

Carter stood there dressed as disreputably as ever. Whereas Doug and Bruce looked like they were in a grunge band, the angel looked like the band had kicked him out. He gave me a lopsided grin. "Do what? Come up with a clever pun referencing Jerome's demonic status? The truth is, I usually keep a stash of them on hand and - "

"No. Not that. I can't feel you... can't sense you..." I could see Carter with my eyes, but I could not feel that powerful signature, aura, or whatever, that normally radiated from an immortal. Turning to Jerome suddenly, I realized he was the same. "Or you. I can't sense either of you. I couldn't the other night either."

Angel and demon exchanged glances over my head. "We can mask it," said Carter at last.

"What, like a light switch or something? You can turn it on and off?"

"It's a bit more complicated than that."

"Well, this is news to me. Can we do it? Hugh and I?"

"No," both Jerome and Carter answered together. Jerome elaborated, "Only higher immortals can do it."

Hugh weakly attempted to sit up. "Why... are you doing it?"

"You never answered my question, Georgie," Jerome pointed out, obviously avoiding the subject. He glanced at the imp. "I told you not to contact the others."

"I didn't. She just came."

Jerome turned his gaze back on me, and I fished the mysterious note out of my purse. I handed it to him, and the demon read it expressionlessly before handing it over to Carter. When the angel finished, he and Jerome looked at each other again in that annoying way of theirs. Jerome deposited the note into an inner pocket of his suit jacket.

"Hey, that's mine."

"Not anymore."

"Don't tell me you're going to stick to your party line about this being a vampire hunter," I shot back.

Jerome's dark eyes narrowed shrewdly at me. "Why wouldn't I? This person mistook Hugh for a vampire, but as you've already observed, Nancy Drew, Hugh could not be killed."

"I think this person knew Hugh wasn't a vampire."

"Oh? Why do you say that?"

"The note. The person who wrote it mentions my shape-shifting. He knows I'm a succubus. He probably knows Hugh's an imp."

"His knowing you're a succubus explains why he didn't attack you. He knew he couldn't kill you. He wasn't sure about Hugh, however, so he took his chances."

"With a knife." Again, I remembered: How do you know if a demon is lying? His lips are moving. "I thought the story was that this was some amateur vampire hunter arbitrarily going after people with a stake because he didn't know any better. Instead, this person somehow knows about me and took on Hugh with a knife."

Carter stifled a yawn and joined in on Jerome's game. "Maybe this person's learning. You know, expanding their choice of weapons. After all, no one stays an amateur for long. Even new vampire hunters wise up eventually."

I jumped on the one detail here no one had addressed yet. "And even children know that vampires don't come out in daylight. What time were you attacked, Hugh?"

A strange look crossed the imp's face. "Late this afternoon. When the sun was up."

I looked exultantly at Jerome. "This person knew Hugh wasn't a vampire."

Jerome leaned against a wall, appearing unfazed as he picked nonexistent pieces of lint from his slacks. He looked more like John Cusack than ever today. "So? Mortals get delusions of grandeur. He kills one vampire and decides to do his part against the rest of the evil forces inhabiting this city. That changes nothing."

"I don't think it was a mortal."

Both Jerome and Carter, looking at other things in the room, now snapped their heads toward me. "Oh?"

I swallowed, slightly flustered under that scrutiny. "I mean... you guys prove higher immortals can go around without being sensed, and no one's been able to sense anything from this guy. Plus, look at Hugh's damage. Erik said mortals can't really do substantial - " I bit off my words, realizing my error.

Carter laughed softly.

"Damn it, Georgie." Jerome straightened like a whip. "I told you to let us handle this. Who else have you talked to?"

Whatever cloaking Jerome had been doing vanished, and I suddenly became aware of the power crackling around him. It reminded me of one of those sci-fi movies when a door opens into outer space, and all the debris gets sucked out as a result of the vacuum. Everything in the room seemed to be drawn into Jerome, toward his swelling power and might. To my immortal perceptions, he became a glowing bonfire of terror and energy.

I cringed against Hugh's bed, resisting the urge to shade my eyes. The imp put a hand on my arm, though whether it was for my comfort or his own, I didn't know. "No one. I swear it, no one else. I just asked Erik some questions..."

Carter took a step toward the furious demon, face angelically calm. "Easy there. You're sending up a beacon to any immortal in a ten-mile radius."

Jerome's eyes stayed fixed on me, and I felt true fear for the first time in centuries in the focus of all that intensity. Then, like the light switch I'd joked about earlier, it all vanished. Just like that, Jerome stood before me completely incognito for all arcane intents and purposes. Like a mortal. He exhaled heavily and rubbed a spot between his eyes.

"Georgina," he said at last. "Contrary to whatever you believe, this is not all some elaborate attempt to vex you. Please stop going against me. We're doing what we're doing for a reason. Your best interests really are at heart here."

My catty nature wanted to ask if demons had hearts, but something else struck me as more pressing. "Why the 'we' here? I assume you mean him." I nodded toward Carter. "What could involve both a demon and an angel and make them skulk around hiding their presence? Are you guys afraid of something?"

"Skulking?" Carter sounded jovially indignant.

"Please, Georgie," intoned Jerome, patience obviously at a breaking point, "leave well-enough alone. If you really want to do something useful, you will avoid dangerous situations like I advised before. I can't make you stay in protected company, but if you persist in being a nuisance otherwise, I can find a convenient place to stash you until this all blows over. This is not about anyone's 'side,' and you only run the risk of muddling up matters you don't understand."

I unconsciously squeezed Hugh's hand for support. I did not want to think about what sort of "convenient place" Jerome had in mind.

"Do we understand each other?" the demon asked softly.

I nodded.

"Good. You will be of most assistance to me by keeping yourself safe. I have too many things to worry about now without adding you to the list."

I nodded again, not trusting myself to speak. His small display had had its intended effect on temporarily cowing me, though some niggling part of me knew I would be unable to "leave well-enough alone" once I walked out of here. It would be best to keep that knowledge to myself.

"That will be all, Georgie," Jerome added. I heard the dismissal.

"I'll walk you out," offered Carter.

"No thanks." But the angel followed in my wake anyway.

"So how'd it go with Seth Mortensen?"


"Just okay?"

"Just okay."

"I hear he's living here now. And spends a lot of time at Emerald City."

I eyed him askance. "Where'd you hear that?"

He only grinned. "So? Tell me about it."

"There's nothing to tell," I snapped, uncertain why I was even discussing this. "I've talked to him a few times, toured him around. We don't really click. We can't communicate."

"Why not?" Carter wanted to know.

"He's a hardcore introvert. Doesn't talk much. Just watches. Besides, I don't want to encourage him."

"So you're increasing his silence."

I shrugged and pushed the button for an elevator.

Tags: Richelle Mead Georgina Kincaid Fantasy
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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