Of course he did. When upright people screw up like this...they do try to rebound in their way. The guilt's got to be eating him. People like that try to do things to make up for it. Rash things. How could I be surprised? I'd become a succubus because I'd cheated on my husband and been caught. I'd sold my soul in an effort to blot that act out, to make him and everyone else I knew forget me. Why was this any different?

"You don't think..." Maddie turned uneasy, once more seeking my approval and advice. "You don't think it's too fast, do you? Have I made a mistake? I mean, even if we wait awhile for the wedding..."

I kept smiling. "It's fine, Maddie. There's no time frame that's set for everyone. If it's what feels right to you, then you've got to do it."

Her grin lit back up. "Oh, thank you. I'm so glad to hear you say that. I mean, I said yes, and I've been excited...I just didn't want it to seem like I was rushing in." She glanced back down, admiring the ring. I realized something.

"It's a diamond."

She gave me a curious look. "Of course. Why wouldn't it be? Most engagement rings are."

Last year, I'd teased Seth about getting married, and he'd said that if he ever did, he'd give his bride-to-be a ruby because he thought diamonds were ordinary, and getting married was extraordinary.

I stared into the stone's glittering facets, puzzled. "Did you pick it out? Had you told him you wanted a diamond?"

"Nope. It had never come up. He just got it for me. Why?"

I shook my head and tried to look happy for her. "No reason. It's beautiful. Congratulations." I turned to leave. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Georgina, wait."

I paused and looked back.

"What was your news?"

"Wh-oh. Yeah. I'm buying the place in Alki."

"Seriously?" I swear, she almost seemed more excited about that than the engagement. "When will it be done?"


"Oh, wow. That's great. You could have such great summer parties."

"Yep. Let's hope it gets finished on time."

She sighed happily and gave me a quick hug. "Isn't this a great day? Good news for both of us."

"Yeah," I agreed. "Great."

I walked home, too stunned over the engagement news to process it much. Considering Hugh's prediction, there wasn't much to process. I'd convinced Seth that he and I were a fantasy, that he needed to settle into reality and take what good he had with Maddie. Seth had believed me and tried to make it up to her-make it up to himself, even-with this hasty engagement. He was not a rash person usually, but the extreme circumstances had turned him into one.

My phone rang about half a block from the store. I could recognize Vancouver's area code by now, but I didn't know the number. For all I knew, Evan wanted me to smuggle them some spray paint across the border. To my relief, it was Kristin.

"Hey," I said. "How's it going?"

"Fine. Well, better than fine. Great actually." There were a few awkward seconds of silence. "Me and Cedric...we're..."

The first spark of enthusiasm I'd felt in a while leapt up in me. "Really? You guys are a...thing?"

"Yeah." There was wonder in her voice, like she could hardly believe it. "He told me that you were the one who said that he should go out with me."

"Oh, well. I...just suggested he was looking in the wrong places."

"Georgina, there is no way I can thank you enough for this." Her voice was brimming with emotion, something I wouldn't have thought possible of the businesslike imp. "This is...I've wanted this for so long. Loved him for so long. And he never noticed me until you made him just pause and look. That's exactly how he said it too. That he'd been so busy chasing everything else that he'd never seen what was in front of him."

I thought I might get choked up too. "I'm glad for you, Kristin. Really. You deserve it."

She laughed. "Most would say us damned souls don't deserve anything."

"We're like anyone else, deserving both good and bad. I'm not sure being damned has anything to do with it."

She was quiet for a moment, and when she spoke again, her voice was low, almost hard to hear. I actually stopped walking and stepped off down a side street to get away from the din of traffic.

"It's funny you mention that," she said slowly. "Because...well, I did something for you." I suddenly had an image of Tim Horton's donuts showing up on my doorstep.

"Er, that's really not necessary. I didn't do that much."

"You did, though. To me, at least. And so...I wanted to do something just as big for you. I, uh, went and looked at your contract."

I caught my breath. "What?"

"We've had a lot of paperwork to file, and I managed to work in a corporate trip."

"Corporate trip" was a nice way of saying she'd visited the inner offices of Hell.

"Kristin...if you'd been caught..."

"I wasn't," she said proudly. "And I found your contract and read it."

I'd come to a complete stop now. The world around me didn't exist. "And?"


"What do you mean nothing?"

"I mean, there's nothing wrong with the contract. I went over and over it. Everything's in order."

"It can't be! Niphon was trying so hard to mess with me...to get me recalled. Hugh was certain it meant he was trying to shift attention from the contract."

"I don't know about any of that," said Kristin, sounding truly sympathetic. "All I know is what I read. You sold your soul and took on standard succubus servitude in exchange for every mortal you knew forgetting who you were. That sound right?"


"That's what it said. All the language was exactly as it should be."

I didn't really have any response, so I gave none.

"Georgina, are you still there?"

"Yeah...I'm sorry. I just thought...I'd been so certain..." It had been a foolish hope, that maybe somewhere there was a loophole for me. But then, I seemed to fall for those things all the time, just like I had with Nyx's dream and the impossible chance of getting pregnant while in stasis. I was as naïve as Dante had said. "Thanks. I really appreciate you looking."

"I'm sorry you didn't get what you wanted. If there's anything else I can do for you-that doesn't involve breaking into records-let me know."

"Thanks. I will."

We disconnected, and I stared bleakly at my surroundings, at the quiet residential block I'd stepped off onto. "There is no way," I said out loud, "that this day can get any worse."

A rustle behind me made me jump, and I spun around. I had thought I was alone and now felt like an idiot getting caught talking to myself. I saw no one, though. Then, a bush by the sidewalk twitched a little. I took a few steps toward it and knelt down. Yellow eyes peered out at me, followed by a piteous meow. I made the clicking sound that's universal to cat owners, and after a few moments, my observer emerged.

It was a cat, a very scraggly one-and a cat I was pretty sure I'd seen before. It was smaller than Aubrey, maybe younger, and I could see its ribs poking out underneath the fur, which was matted and dirty. When I petted the cat's head, I noticed a dry texture to the fur that often indicated fleas. The cat seemed unsure of me-but not enough that it ran away. It mostly seemed curious for now, like it was trying to figure me out-and maybe score some food.

Which was fine, because I was trying to figure it out too. Clearly, this cat had no owner, or if it did, that ownership needed to be revoked. I studied its yellow eyes and every frail line of its body. The cat looked so different and yet...I was certain it was the one. And in a musing that was worthy of Carter, I suddenly wondered if the universe might not be done with me after all.

I let the cat sniff my hand a bit longer, and then I reached out and picked it up. It was a she. She didn't fight me as I held her to my chest and walked home. In fact, she started purring. Maybe she knew me. Maybe she was just weary of fighting all the time too.

When I shouldered open my door, Aubrey's head immediately jerked up from where she'd been napping. She made no noise, but all the fur on her back stood on end as she studied our new visitor with narrowed eyes. Roman, lying on the couch as usual, also studied us. He looked at the cat, taking in her orange and brown patched coat. Then, he looked up and met my eyes. I'm not sure what he saw, but it made him smile.

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