"I have nowhere to go," he said mildly. Aubrey strolled out from the bedroom and jumped up next to him.
"You just got amnesty from an archdemon. That's unheard of for a nephilim. I thought you wanted to put down roots? Why don't you go get a place in the suburbs? Work on your lawn?"
"No one wants to live there."
I raked my hand through my hair in exasperation and then immediately rearranged it. God, I'd missed shape-shifting. If I was going to be damned, I might as well enjoy the perks.
"You can't stay here. This place isn't big enough."
"I don't mind the couch."
I prepped myself for a rant, but then someone knocked at the door. Part of me hoped it would be Seth, even though that was pretty impossible. There was no immortal signature, which meant my visitor was a human. Yes, I'd definitely missed my abilities, even if they had strings attached. I opened the door and found Maddie.
"Hey," she said cheerily.
"Hey," I said, not sure I matched her enthusiasm. "Come in."
She stepped through, then faltered when she saw Roman. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt-"
Roman hopped up from the couch. "No, no. I'm just an old friend. Roman." He extended his hand. She shifted some papers she was holding and shook his hand in return. Her smile returned.
"I'm Maddie. Nice to meet you." She turned to me. "You got a sec? I was on my way to work and wanted to show you something."
She handed the papers over to me. They were in-depth reports of the new condo over on Alki Beach. There were detailed price listings, as well as room-by-room photos of one unit in particular. It wasn't finished yet. The floor was only a foundation, and the drywall wasn't painted. Nonetheless, the pictures were clear and gave a good idea of the spacious layout. One picture showed a balcony that opened up to a breathtaking view of the water and the Seattle skyline beyond. It was nothing like what Seth and I had shared, but it was nice.
Roman, peering over my shoulder, let out a low whistle. "Nice."
I elbowed him out of my personal space. "Where'd you get these?"
Maddie smiled. "You said you were busy, so I went over there myself and talked to the builder. This is the only one left, and they let me go through and take pictures."
I jerked my head up. "You took all these?"
"I knew how stressed you were and wanted to help. Look, keep going, and you can see all the options you can still get. There are the floor choices: maple, bamboo, cherry..."
I took a deep breath to steady myself. Maddie hadn't just printed out info for me. After all that searching and fine-tuning, she'd actually gone out of her way to assemble an entire dossier on this place, a place I'd just been acknowledging at random to make her feel better.
"They've got a realtor on-site, but you can get your own too," she continued. "Someone else was just looking at it, but the guy said if you were interested and put a bid in soon, he'd consider it along with the other person's."
"Look," piped in Roman. "Two bedrooms."
"Maddie..." I swallowed. "You shouldn't have done this."
She gave me a quizzical look. "Why not?"
"It was too much work."
"Whatever. Besides, after all the stuff you've done for me? Georgina, this is nothing. Are you going to go talk to them? I'll go with you if you want."
I sank down onto the couch, flipping through the pages without really comprehending them. I'd been angry when she and Seth hooked up. I had no right, however. She hadn't known about our past. And if I hadn't been so dead-set on keeping things secret, if she had known Seth and I had dated, I felt absolutely certain she would have never, ever gotten together with him. Because she was my friend.
I felt a burning in my eyes and willed myself not to cry. I didn't entirely know what I'd done to deserve that kind of friendship. She was a good person. She believed the best in me-just as Seth did. In this dark phase, Seth had never given up on me. Both of them were so good, so kind. And at the end of the day, there really wasn't much of that among humans.
Carter had said that if there were no other complications in the world, I would be the one Seth chose. But we did have complications. I still refused to hurt him because of sex, and that problem was now in full effect again. He'd thrown himself into danger for me on the beach. There would always be danger with the life I led-danger for him, not me. I wanted him badly, wanted to reestablish what we'd had, but if I did, I'd only be subjecting him to more of this rollercoaster existence. I'd deny him a normal life, a normal love. I couldn't do that to him, no matter what he said about trying it again.
Just because things don't work out, it doesn't mean there aren't other people you can't love. Love is too big a thing for you to go without it in life. At least for humans it was. I wanted Seth and Maddie to have that. I wanted them to have the dream I couldn't have.
Maddie's expression softened as she peered at me. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
I swallowed and gave her smile. "Just still amazed you did all this."
"Will you go take a look?" she asked excitedly.
"Yeah. I will."
This earned me a hug and a smile, and then she had to scurry off to work. I sat back down on the couch, papers still clutched in my hands. Roman sat down opposite me.
"You're going to end it, aren't you?" His voice was surprisingly gentle. "With Mortensen?"
"Yeah. I mean, I knew we would, but it didn't hit me until just now. We were deluding ourselves...caught up by a temporary situation. They deserve to be with each other, and I shouldn't have done what I did to her." I sighed. "Nyx tricked me with the dream. It wasn't real." Without thinking much about it, I rested my hand on my stomach. Even if there'd been any chance of getting pregnant while in stasis, it was gone now. "It might be real for them, though."
Roman looked so pained, so sympathetic that it was hard to imagine he still wanted to kill me. Though I was pretty sure he did. "I'm sorry," he said. "Sorry you can't have your man and your daughter. I'm even sorry you can't have your cats."
I glanced over at where Aubrey slept, recalling the tortoiseshell cat from the dream. "Well, I think she's happier being an only child anyway."
Seth showed up later that evening. Roman was mercifully gone, off to buy groceries. No matter my protests, he seemed intent on staying with me. I thought about complaining to Jerome but was pretty sure my boss wouldn't appreciate such a petty concern right now. If he was still even my boss. I was taking no news as good news for now.
Seth handed me my car keys as he walked in. "It's out behind the building."
"Sorry I took off like that. I didn't want to...God, that was so hard."
"It was what I wanted," I told him. We stood a couple feet apart, hesitant to get much closer. "I'm glad you listened to me."
"I wasn't going to, you know. As soon as I got off the phone with that demon-and let me tell you, that was weird-I was going to head right back, and...I don't know. I don't know what I would have done. I would have stood by you."
"You could have gotten yourself killed."
He shrugged, like that was inconsequential. "I did actually head back, and then...then I saw Dante."
I crossed my arms, still fearful about approaching him, largely because I was afraid I'd throw myself at him. "I knew that's what you'd done. But why? You don't like him. You know what kind of person he is."
Seth nodded. "I don't like him, but...they would have killed him, wouldn't they?"
I thought about Jerome, that cold and barely repressed anger in his eyes. He'd been pissed off, and I knew it must have killed him to not be able to take his wrath out on Grace. There were taboos about directly harming and interfering with mortals, but well, it wasn't unheard of, and there were always loopholes. He would have gotten in less trouble for it than for smiting Grace.
"Well," I said, "let's just say, they would have at least made him suffer considerably."
"I figured. And I couldn't let that happen...not even to him. What he did was wrong-it seriously messed things up for you and put you at risk. But in some bizarre, crazy way, he did it because he loved you. And I'm not sure someone should be tortured for that. And..." Seth studied me carefully. "I had a feeling you wouldn't have wanted that."