said Margo. “According to what I have here, you had nearly double Anthony’s power. That would have been a neat, easy kill. Over before anyone noticed it—which, from what we can tell, was exactly what happened.”

“I wouldn’t have destroyed him for that,” growled Clyde, his temper clearly rising.

“Noelle made her decision. That was that.”

“Not exactly.” Noelle spoke for the first time, and heads turned. She had a sweet, lilting voice. Like music. Even some of the other jurors started paying attention. “You came to me after I appointed him, and you were not happy. In fact, I recall you saying some very…ugly things to me.” She spoke crisply, all business-like. Even in the heat of an event like this, it was clear professionalism and calm were important to her. I admired that.

Although it was impossible to tell, I got the impression Clyde was blushing now. “I…was out of line, Noelle. I shouldn’t have said what I said, and I apologize for it. I apologized then, after the fact.” The words came out stiffly, but I got the impression they were sincere. Demons apologized. Who knew? “Although…not to place blame, but you were already upset when I walked in. You were in a bad mood, and it fed mine…and made what I said far worse than it might otherwise have been. Made me angrier than I normally would have been.”

“You admit you were angry.” Margo seized on this, a mongrel with a bone in her mouth.

“Angry enough to insult and talk back to your archdemoness. Angry enough—according to witnesses—to ‘exchange words’ with Anthony too.”

I could see Clyde’s chest rise and fall as he took a few deep breaths before speaking. There was a temper there behind those dark eyes—again, not surprising for a demon—but he was working hard to stay calm.

“Yes. I had a few…confrontations with Anthony. He wasn’t exactly humble about the promotion. We got into a few arguments.”

“Because you were angry,” reiterated Margo. “Angry enough to explode. Angry enough to kill him. You probably couldn’t blow him apart fast enough, could you? Or maybe you ripped him up…tore him limb from limb or something before incinerating him. Anything to sate the bloodlust inside of you, right?”

He narrowed his eyes. “Honestly? It’s been centuries since I had any bloodlust to sate. Funny thing, though…” He gave her a cold smile. “You’re inspiring me to maybe rip something apart after all.”

Luis sighed heavily and gestured to Margo. “Do you have anything else to add?”

The imp smiled smugly. “I think I’ve proven my point.”

Luis glanced over at us. “Does the jury have any questions for the suspect?”

We all sort of sat there a moment, squirming under the room’s attention. Then the demoness beside me raised her hand. Luis gave her permission to speak.

“So, did you call Noelle a bunch of names or something? What were they?”

“Yeah,” piped up another demon. “Did you call her a ladder-climbing, self-serving cunt?

That’d be a good one.” While I admired Noelle’s professional demeanor, it was obvious that others among us did not. I had the distinct impression my fellow jurors wanted to get a rise out of her.

Clyde’s angry face registered momentary surprise. Luis snorted.

“Don’t answer that,” said Noelle, nodding to Clyde. Her face was still composed.

“Ooh,” said my neighboring juror. “Then he must have called you a cunt, if you don’t want us to know.”

“I don’t care if you know what he said,” explained Noelle in exasperation. “But I’d rather you ask questions that are actually useful. This isn’t The Jerry Springer Show.”

“I agree,” said Luis, giving my neighbor a censuring look. “Does anyone have any questions that will actually facilitate this matter?”

Silence. I have to admit, I felt kind of appalled. Demons were demons, evil by nature. But they also tended to be very efficient and business-like. The apathy around me was disheartening, even among our ranks. Whoever had thrown together this jury had picked low-ranking demons, ones who were completely self-absorbed and would never rise up in the ranks. They weren’t shrewd like Jerome or commanding like Luis. They were bottom-feeders who’d be doing crappy jobs in Hell for the rest of eternity. They didn’t care about this case. They were probably only here for the free food.

Tentatively, I raised my hand, needing to ask a couple of things that I honestly couldn’t believe hadn’t come up yet.

I thought I saw amusement in Luis’ eyes when he noticed me. “Go ahead, Georgina.”

The silence in the room grew even heavier. I don’t think many of them had noticed there was a succubus on the jury until now. Even the center stagers—Noelle, Margo, and Clyde—seemed surprised to see me.

I put on my customer service face, hoping I looked as calm and confident as Noelle.

“Where were you when Anthony was killed?”

Clyde didn’t answer right way, and I could tell from his gaze that he was appraising me in a new way. I don’t think he’d expected any sort of reasonable questioning in this courtroom. I don’t think anyone had.

“I was at home, watching a movie.”

“Was anyone with you?”


“No alibi,” said Margo happily.

She was right, which didn’t help his case. On the other hand, I felt pretty confident a demon like Clyde could have gotten some low-ranking vampire or imp to lie for him and play alibi.

“Any other questions?” asked Luis.

“What movie did you watch?” asked the drunk juror.

Luis glared at him, then flicked his gaze back to me. “Any other questions?”

I thought about it. “When was the last time you saw Anthony?”

“That morning. He was leaving Noelle’s office while I was coming in.”

“Did you talk?”

“No. Well, cursory greetings…and even that seemed to piss him off. He was angry and in a hurry. Was kind of an ass**le.” I had a feeling he might have elaborated, but Clyde probably realized trash-talking the guy he was accused of killing wasn’t too smart.

I nodded and looked back at Luis. “That’s all I’ve got.”

“Why did no one ask those questions right away?” Seth asked me later, back in our room. There’d been a little more procedure, and then the court had recessed for the day. “Those are, like, the most basic courtroom questions ever. ‘Where were you when this happened,’ etc., etc.”

I shrugged. “I know. None of them care.”

“Yeah, but there’s a five-century disembowelment on the line.”

“They’re demons,” I told them. There wasn’t more I could offer by way of explanation, and Seth seemed to understand.

“So, what about the other suspects?” he asked. “When will they be examined?”

“Tomorrow and the next day. Nobody wants to work too hard at these things, so they spread it out. In fact, most of the people watching are only here for the social aspect. It’s the party of the century.”

“Literally,” muttered Seth.

I laughed and brushed my lips against his cheek. “Well, speaking of parties, there’s one right now up in the penthouse. Wine and appetizers for dinner.”

A wary look crossed his face. “And you want to go.”

“It’s a party. And not everybody here sucks. Luis is cool.”

Seth was silent a moment, and I could almost see the wheels turning in his head. “Luis was…nice.”

“So, you want to come with me?” I asked. “It’ll be fun. I saw you packed your Moon Patrol shirt, so you can even dress up.”

He gave me a wry look at the shirt joke. “You know how I feel about parties and groups of immortals. This would be like…”

“A five-century flaying?”

“Yes. Exactly.”


He caught me in his arms, pulling me to his chest. “Around this sort of thing? Yes. I make no pretense to bravery.”

“What are you going to do instead?” Like I didn’t know the answer.

“Are you kidding? There are five coffee shops around the corner with free wi-fi. I’ll have a new novel done by the time you get back from the party.”

Tags: Richelle Mead Georgina Kincaid Fantasy
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