“Hold her,” Mav told Michael. They were cooperating faster than I could have anticipated. They were really stupid. Which was good. I had kind of been counting on it, though I couldn’t exactly get excited about having the shit beat out of me.
Michael gripped my wrists from behind, more tightly than he needed to. All the better, I told myself, though the feeling made me want to fight harder. I let myself struggle against the hold, just hard enough to guarantee that my wrists would be bruised.
“What the f**k are you? And how old are you, anyways? I heard that you met Dom when he was just fourteen! That was fifty years ago…”
I definitely wasn’t going near that one. My age was a touchy subject, to say the least. Physically, I could have passed for being anywhere between twenty-five to thirty-five, but that was no reflection of my actual age. My kind did not age physically. Or die of natural causes, for that matter.
Mav proceeded to batter me up. There could be no doubt that he relished the opportunity. Sadistic bastard. He landed a solid punch every time I answered one of his questions with an impassioned, “Go f**k yourself!”
It hurt. God, did it hurt bad. And I’d been through some pretty rough stuff. I’d been alive for a very long time, and my life had never been easy, or painless. Nevertheless, getting the shit beat of you never failed to suck. I tried to take my mind elsewhere. I thought of other places, better places. Nope. The beating still sucked royally. I tried to make my mind go to a happy place. Did my mind have a happy place? Apparently not.
“Damn,” Mav said at one point. “Dom told me about this. He told me that your hair and eyes shifted color during sex. I never realized it’d be so pretty. Does this mean you’re turned on?” he asked, leering at me.
I spit in his face. He punched me in the jaw, hard.
“I think it means she’s pissed,” Michael answered for me.
“It means I think you should go f**k yourself,” I added helpfully. Pain had never been a good enough excuse to make me shut my mouth. My breath whooshed out hard. A solid punch to the ribs will do that.
I lost track of time as the beating seemed to last forever. The bastard even made me black out at one point. I had reached my absolute limit when I called a halt to it.
“Enchanter,” I finally gave an answer to his favorite question. It was a lie, but not a real obvious one.
“Bull,” Mav snarled, and smashed his fist into my ribs. He loved that spot. I coughed up more blood, spitting it in his direction.
“Wait, wait,” I said when he went to punch me again. I had really reached my limit. I knew it for certain because the panic in my voice had become very genuine. “I am an enchanter, and I can show you.” He paused, and I continued. “I can make you do my will. For instance, you’re not going to tell Dom that you ever saw me. In fact, you won’t tell anyone that you know where I am.”
Mav just blinked at me for a minute. “Now why on earth would we do that?” he asked. “If that was an enchantment, it was pathetic. I had no urge to obey you.”
“I’m pretty sure you don’t want him to see me like this. And if you tell him that you found me, there’s nothing stopping me from paying him a visit myself.”
Mav just grinned at me. “I’ve seen how fast you heal. You’ll be good as new by the time you reach his casino. And he won’t believe a word that comes out of your lying, whoring mouth.”
I clucked my tongue at him, going in for the kill. “I’m no druid, Mav. You’ve seen how fast I can heal. It’s a spell, not a natural ability. It takes effort on my part. And neither of you have any healing abilities of any kind. That much I remember. You could probably call in someone that does, but I’d be willing to bet that you won’t risk anyone else finding out about this. No one is willing to become an accomplice to you idiots. I wonder how Dom would react if he saw the shape I’m in, with not a scratch on either one of you. I know from past experience that the proof that you restrained me will make him go apeshit.” I held up my wrists. They were red and already turning into a dark, bruised purple. “These little marks alone will trigger his wrath.”
Mav was starting to look a little green, but he still tried to bluff his way out of it. “You haven’t seen him lately, Jillian. He hates your guts. He doesn’t give a damn what happens to you.”
My chest hurt a little at what he said, and I wondered how much of it was true. I tried to snort at him disdainfully, but it just made more blood spurt out of my nose. “You and I both know that he could hate me enough to beat me to death himself, but he’s still dominant enough that if he sees me like this, he’ll rip apart whoever did it just for disobeying a direct order, and with so much apparent gusto. I have no qualms about giving you two up to him.”
Michael finally let go of my wrists. I fell to the floor, glaring up at both of them. “Fine, you win, for now,” Michael said, not looking me in the eye. “We’ll report that we found nothing unusual when we went to make inquiries at your shop. But, you know, all you’re doing is buying a little time. Everyone has to come clean sometime, Jillian.”
“Be careful what you wish for.” I flipped them off with both hands until the bells chimed their exit. I tried to sit up. The world went black.
When I came to, every part of my body was throbbing. I noticed, as I stumbled around the shop, that my assailants had been considerate enough to put up the closed sign on their way out. How nice. And they hadn’t managed to break any bones. When I returned the favor, they wouldn’t be able to say the same.
I dug up some aspirin in my office. It didn’t do much for the pain. A half pint of my sister’s rocky road ice cream helped, though. I more or less passed out in my office chair.
When I next awoke, I noticed a completely different sensation than pain. My skin was literally steaming. I could see the bare skin on my arms glowed gold. My nails changed colors as I watched. Magenta, crimson, scarlet, orange… It went on and on, the colors shifting through the spectrum of every hue. I knew from past experience that my hair and eyes were doing the same.
This had been happening a lot lately. I was pretty sure it wasn’t normal, even for my kind. I needed to ask Lynn about it, but I knew nothing like this had ever happened to her.
My body had been acting up for a while now. Pretty much, I was hoping that whatever problems it was having would work themselves out, or better yet, go away. Whatever this thing was, I was really just counting on the whole immortal thing to trump it. A few hundred years of perfect health had made me overconfident, I supposed.