SHE USUALLY DID NOT COME WHEN CALLED. Of course she knew this was dangerous. He could force her; He could just make her do it, just snap His fingers and control her.
Of course He never did, but that wasn’t the point. He could. That was all. So she didn’t always obey. It was better to dare Him. To challenge Him. But this time, this one rare time, she decided to heed His invitation.
She traveled half the planet’s distance and three different worlds, skipping through Zenith (and no one ever dreamed she’d hide there in the land of the Sun), through the Silver Dawning (stupid Fey never saw her coming), and through Umbra (the world of the Darkness was home) before coming to plain old human Earth.
Which was boring.
She took Seishirou with her just for funsies. He followed with his usual solid, loyal determination, with the low-key joy of a job well done. And he really had no idea that she knew all about him and Jonathan.
She didn’t care what was between them. What mattered was Seishirou hid it, and that meant it was valuable, and that meant it could be broken.
Someday she would do it. Someday, she’d call him on the fact that he’d cost her her seer, freeing Jonathan from her grasp. Someday, she’d press that tender place until he broke, but for now, it was enough to keep him near. He was beautiful; solid; honorable; and as a bonus, he squirmed like a rat whenever he encountered Jonathan.
The prognosticating little prick. Someday, she’d crush Jonathan’s head – but only when there was no more future to tell.
All of these thoughts were distractions. She focused: the enemy’s home lay ahead.
“ARE YOU PREPARED?” said Notte.
Terrance looked up. He’d posed in the doorway like Gene Kelly gone rogue, all knife-slim and limber as a whip. “Yeah.”
“Be certain. You will not have help.” Notte rose. The tea was cold, the delicate bone china almost translucent in his dark hands.
Terrance grinned. He always grinned. “Does a giant know how to pull his giant prick?”
“As always, my child, your euphemisms leave me both amused and disoriented.” Notte came around the table and put his hand on Terrance’s shoulder.
They were very different, these two.
Terrance – tall, gangly, red-haired and orange-freckled. Notte – shorter, darker skinned, beautiful in the way ancient forgotten things can be at the bottom of ocean trenches.
They shared blood. Literally, by choice. In this place, that made them family.
“Are you sure?” said Notte.
“Yeah.” A rare serious answer.
“I ask too much of you.”
“Naw.” Terrance drew the word out like taffy. “It’s the first real job you’ve given me in about a thousand years.”
“Surely not that long.” Notte walked past him, pausing to straighten a portrait that had gone awry when Ravena slammed the door.
“’Tis. Let’s see, first there was that pickpocketing thing.”
“That was when you were still human,” said Notte. The candles winked out as he passed them.
“Then there was that business with the horses,” said Terrance, counting on his fingers as he followed down the hall. “And the fire. And then those weird fairies.”
“Furies. They were Furies, caretakers of Death.”
“Whatever. They ate cotton candy and drank gin,” said Terrance.
“Cotton candy is not a thousand years old.” Notte paused, staring into the wide, blank eyes of a bust sitting on a table. It could have been anybody; art like this wasn’t specific, wasn’t personalized beyond gender. But he knew who it was. One tear – clear, in spite of diet – slid down his cheek.
“True, not a thousand,” said Terrance. “But that wasn’t really a job, either. More like babysitting.”
“Then perhaps you should revise your list,” said Notte, and resumed his slow walk, snuffing candles by his presence.
At These Stores: