His hand caught mine as he spoke, and a jolt shot through me. He’d sealed his vow.

I didn’t know what to say; my mind was a blur. Kurtis recognized that and grinned. “See you around.”

He walked out of the bakery, but I just sat there picking at my cinnamon roll, suddenly no longer hungry.

Chapter Seven

The third day of the trial brought out the last suspect, a demoness named Starla. She was a tiny little thing, all doe eyes and long golden hair. She was also a new demon, one who must have recently fallen. She had apparently been a lesser-ranking angel in her pre-Hell days because she was relatively weak now as far as power went. So weak, in fact, that there was absolutely no way she could have blown Anthony away.

However, as the questioning went on, it became clear she might have blown him in another way.

“You had a romantic relationship with Anthony?” Margo asked. She said “relationship”

like it was dirty word. She probably hadn’t had sex in centuries, and honestly, if there was anyone I’d ever met who needed to get laid, it was her.

Starla was fragile looking, but she was a demon, weak or no. And even a weak demon was still a force to be reckoned with, particularly for an annoying lesser immortal like Margo.

“Yes,” said Starla, her voice calm.

“So why’d you do it then? Jealousy? Lovers’ quarrel?”

“I didn’t do it.”

“It’s always the ones who are closest to the victim,” continued Margo, glancing at us jurors. “This shouldn’t be a surprise.”

“I didn’t do it,” growled Starla.

“Were you afraid of losing him maybe? Sort of a ‘If I can’t have him, no one can’ thing?”

“I didn’t do it,” the demoness repeated. “I couldn’t have done it. You know that.”

“You could have easily gotten someone else to,” retorted Margo. “And while we’d like to find and chastise that person too, there’s no doubt that you’re the mastermind.”

“Except that I’m not.”

Margo brought out her idiotic clipboard again. “I understand that Noelle told you two to end your…relationship. She thought it was interfering with your work.”

A flash of anger gleamed in Starla’s eyes as she glanced briefly at her archdemoness. “It wasn’t.”

The imp shrugged. “So you say. But again, that would certainly lend credence to the ‘If I can’t have him…’ theory, hmm? Someone like Anthony wouldn’t have stayed lonely for long…there were certainly other ports he could have docked his ship in. But you? Who are you?

Some minor, struggling little antisocial demon…so fresh from angelhood that you might as well still be wearing a halo. Not really worth anyone’s attention unless it was someone who wanted to break you in. Anthony was your first, wasn’t he?”

“That doesn’t matter,” said Starla tightly.

But apparently it did because it brought my fellow jurors to life. They showered her with questions, digging out as many personal details as they could. I could see Luis’s ire growing, but it was Noelle who cut things off.

“We don’t need to hear any more personal details,” she snapped, sweeping the jury with those turquoise eyes. They radiated fury.

“I agree,” said Luis. “If you guys can’t ask anything useful, then don’t say anything.”

Unsurprisingly, the other jurors fell silent. I raised my hand. Starla regarded me warily.

“Did…do you have other friends? Aside from Anthony?”

She looked surprised by the question. “I have colleagues.”

“Any that you’re close to?”


Margo grinned broadly. “More proof as to why you’d have such a psychotic reaction to being separated from Anthony.”

Starla glared at me as though I’d purposely just set her up. But I hadn’t. Margo had called Starla antisocial earlier, and Starla herself admitted to having no close friends or colleagues. She could be lying, I supposed, but I didn’t think so. The friendless thing only made her look more desperate; she wouldn’t have purposely furthered that image by admitting to it. And if she was friendless, then I wondered who she could have gotten to kill Anthony. It was possible she could have made a business arrangement with someone. Maybe she had something to offer, but I doubted it.

Nonetheless, she found me afterward, just like Clyde and Anthony had.

“Wealth,” she told me, standing with me in the hall by my room. “Money.”

“Yeah,” I said. “That’s generally the definition of wealth.”

She crossed her arms over her chest. “I’m offering you a great thing here. I mean, not like piles of gold or anything, but we’re talking serious cash. Investments. Accounts in the Caymans. Stuff like that.”

I shrugged. “I don’t believe in bribes. And even if I did, I don’t need the money. I’ve got my own stockpile. Besides, not like I couldn’t find someone to give it to me if I wanted.” It was exactly what Clyde had said.

I waited then for anger, for snippiness. What I didn’t expect, however, was for her to suddenly start crying. I’d seen demons do a lot of things over the centuries. Torture. Destruction. Betrayal. Never, ever had I seen a demon cry. I didn’t even know they could do it.

I started to reach for her in some sort of awkward attempt at comfort but thought better of it.

“Look,” I said uneasily. “I’m sure there are other jurors who’ll take the bribe.”

She sniffed and shook her head, running a hand over her wet eyes. “No. Not from me. I don’t have anything to give—not like Clyde and Kurtis. Everyone on the jury’s stronger than me. There’s nothing I can offer that they can’t already get themselves.”

“Well…I mean, I don’t know. I guess you just have to wait for justice to run its course.”

A harsh laugh cut off one of her sobs. “Justice? Here? There’s no justice with this group. Even you can’t be that naive.”

I didn’t answer. I knew she was right.

Starla exhaled heavily and leaned against the wall, tipping her head back. “For all I know, Noelle’s giving bribes out for them to vote for me.”

“Noelle wants to punish the person who did it,” I pointed out.

“They’re never going to find that out. There’s both enough and not enough evidence on all three of us. No clear decision. In that case, she’s going to just take it out on me. She hates me. Hates that Anthony…” She trailed off, and I was pretty sure she’d been on the verge of saying

“love.” Something else I didn’t expect from a demon. “…that Anthony and I were involved. When she told him to end our relationship, he argued against it. He wanted a transfer, and she was going to try to block it; that’s why he was so angry the day Clyde saw him. You can’t imagine how jealous that made her—that Anthony would stand up for me. So, if she can’t figure out who did it, she’ll settle for seeing me punished. She’ll do it out of spite.”

“I’m sure she wouldn’t…” But I wondered. Demons did stuff like that. And I’d seen Noelle’s face when she talked about Anthony. His death had hurt her. When people get hurt, they tend to lash out to make themselves feel better. Torturing a romantic rival was just as good a way as any.

Like Noelle, Starla didn’t need to use any powers to know what I was thinking. “You know,” she told me. “You know she can do it. And you must know what it’s like…being hated by other women.”

A few moments of silence passed, then the demoness took a deep breath. She opened her mouth, swallowed, then said with great effort: “Please.”

I stared. My mind couldn’t handle any more demonic discoveries. “Please” wasn’t in a demon’s vocabulary. I was pretty sure they spontaneously combusted if that word crossed their lips. Maybe that was what had happened to Anthony.

“Please,” she repeated, blue eyes wide. “Please help me with this. Maybe I can’t offer you anything now…but someday I could do you a favor. Please. Just vote for one of the others.”

Her pain made my own chest ache. “I want to…but I have to make sure…make sure I’m making the right choice…”

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