Hugh's eyes were still sad and unfocused, but finally, he looked at me and studied my face, like he'd just noticed me in front of him. "We get our various gifts and immortality for selling our souls," he began slowly. "Those unique abilities-and their side effects-come from our contract with Hell and are filtered through our archdemons. It's what lets them keep track of us. We're...connected..." He frowned, grasping at how to best explain the system through which Hell managed its employees.

"I know what you're talking about," I said. Cedric would know if I crossed into his territory simply because he could sense me when I was close enough. Jerome, so long as he was my supervisor, knew where I was at all times and if I was hurt. He was always aware of me, always tied to me. "Our...powers...are transmitted from Hell, through Jerome, to us."

"Right," Hugh said. I waited for more, but that seemed to be all he had to say.

"Right what? Why are our abilities gone?"

A bit of the normal Hugh exasperation glinted in his eyes. "Because Jerome is gone."

"Jerome's gone all the time," Peter said. "We can never get a hold of him. We can't get a hold of him now."

Hugh shook his head. "You aren't getting it. When I say gone, I don't mean hiding from us at a bar. I mean gone . Vanished. Disappeared. Might as well not exist for all intents and purposes. No one knows where he is. Not our side, not the other side. He. Is. Gone."

Dead silence hung around us for what felt like an eternity. And that was saying something.

Peter's voice was hard to hear when he finally spoke. "And as long as he's gone..."

"...then so are our abilities," I finished.


Cody asked the obvious question.

"So...if he's gone did that happen?"

Hugh rubbed his eyes. "He was summoned."

"Oh, shit," said Peter. His fun-in-the-sun joy disappeared. He looked as grim as Hugh and me. "That changes everything."

I glanced between him and Hugh, feeling as naïve as Cody. "What's that mean exactly? I've heard of summoning, but that's about it. I don't know any specifics. I don't know anyone it's happened to."

Peter nodded. "Me either, but I know what it is. Basically, a powerful human calls and binds a demon to his or her will. That human can then imprison and control the demon."

"Like Marlowe's Dr. Faustus ."

We all turned to stare at Cody. Citing highbrow literary references was usually my thing, not his.

"What?" he asked, looking uncomfortable under our scrutiny. "I had to read it in high school."

I looked back at Peter. "Okay, we're immortal, and we could never even scratch a demon. How could a human control one?"

"Humans who use magic wield a different kind of power than immortals. Besides, from what I've heard, those who summon demons often have help," explained Peter. He glanced at Hugh for confirmation.

"From another demon," the imp said.

"Whoa. Let's go back to the part about controlling demons. What exactly is this human making Jerome do?" asked Cody.

"Probably nothing," said Hugh. "Or else someone would have found him by now. My guess is he's just being hidden."

Cody frowned. "Why? If you've got a pet demon, why not use him? Otherwise, what's the point?"

It all came together now. "To get him out of the picture," I said slowly. "That's it. The final piece in all this weird demon intrigue. That's what all the misdirection was building toward."

"Right. Cedric gets rid of Jerome, and suddenly there's an opening in Seattle for a new archdemon. And if Jerome doesn't return soon, they will get a new archdemon and reestablish the hierarchy here." Hugh gestured to all of us. "The status quo will resume."

"Let's stick to 'when' he returns and not 'if,'" I said. "And I don't think Cedric's behind it."

"Of course Cedric's behind it," said Hugh. "They've been fighting over territory, right? You of all people should know that."

I shook my head, recalling Cedric's exasperation and Nanette's smug look. "No...I think Cedric's being set up here. If you ask me, it's Nanette who's behind it." I gave them a quick recap of my observations of her with both Cedric and Jerome.

Hugh arched an eyebrow. "Portland Nanette? She's hot, I'll give you that, but she's not that strong."

"All the more reason for her to mess with Jerome and Cedric. She's been worried about them dragging her into their turf war. Besides, if she combined her power with a human capable of a summoning..."

"Yeah," he admitted. "She could maybe do it...but that doesn't mean she did. My money's still on Cedric."

"Wouldn't she get in trouble for that?" asked Cody.

"Only if she's caught," said Peter.

I sighed. "And in the meantime, this is bad for Jerome."

"Glad to see your powers of stating the obvious didn't disappear with your shape-shifting," remarked Hugh.

I shot him a glare. "I mean reputation-wise. Nanette told me lots of people have been keeping an eye on Jerome because of all the stuff that's gone down here-particularly with letting nephilim escape. They think he can't keep control. Even if he surfaces tomorrow, I've got to imagine that getting summoned in the first place won't look good."

"It won't," agreed Hugh. "In fact, that's the other reason I stopped by. A bunch of demons are having a meeting tonight to talk about replacing him. Back room of the Cellar at seven."

"Wow, they move fast," said Cody.

"It's nothing official. Once word got out that Jerome was gone, every demon maneuvering for power moved in like that." Hugh snapped his fingers. I refrained from pointing out that all demons were maneuvering for power as a general rule. "They're mostly just here to assert themselves-show how tough they are, cozy up to Grace and Mei. They might try to schmooze us a little, actually."

"Why? We don't have any say in this," said Peter. He glanced between us all. "Do we?"

"No, but eventually someone from Management will come here to size up the situation and will talk to us in their assessment. Everything plays a part. Those wanting the position will strut around, show how they could keep this place in line, and put their bids in."

"Is Nanette going to be at this meeting?" I asked suspiciously.

"Yes," said Hugh, eyeing me. "And so will Cedric."

I eyed him right back. "I'm telling you, it's not Cedric. I'm certain of it."

"What, you have donuts with him for a week, and now you guys are BFF?"

"No, but I know him better than you do. And I think I understand Nanette better than you too," I shot back.

"So, you guys..." began Cody, a questioning note in his voice.

"Are you sleeping with Cedric?" Hugh demanded. "Are you playing both sides now?"


"It kind of sounds like it."

"You guys," repeated Cody.

"Look," I said, "you just want to believe Nanette's innocent because you think she's hot."

"She is hot. For a demon."

"You guys!" yelled Cody. We turned to him. "What about us?"

"What about us?" I asked.

"What are we?" Cody's face was pinched and worried. Like Peter, he no longer seemed that excited about his newfound freedom. "Are we human?"

I opened my mouth to answer and then fell silent. I honestly didn't know. Hugh glanced at me and shrugged.

"Not exactly," said Peter. "I think we're kind stasis. We're neither mortal nor immortal."

"We have to be one or the other," argued Hugh. "There's no purgatory equivalent to mortality."

Peter shrugged. "Hell's still got the lease on our souls. That's not going to change, no matter who our archdemon is. Removing him from the equation cuts us off from the abilities we get with immortality, but that's temporary."

"But does it cut us off from immortality itself?" asked Cody. "Can we die?"

Silence fell.

"Shit," said Hugh.

"I think..." Peter bit his lip. I had a feeling he was at the end of his knowledge on this subject. "I think they'd bring us back if we did."

"You think ?" asked Cody incredulously.

Peter threw up his hands. "I don't know! This has never happened to me before, okay? Maybe we are human. Maybe we can get sick. Maybe we can lose in a fight. Maybe Georgina'll get her period. I don't know, okay?"

Tags: Richelle Mead Georgina Kincaid Fantasy
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