Master of the Shadows

Page 18

“Rebecca, stop.” Reese tried to go to her but cried out and pressed her hands to her head as something stabbed into her ears. “Don’t kill him.”

The unconscious driver slid to the ground, and Rebecca crouched over him, intent. “He is a pig.”

“You’re not.”

Rebecca looked down at the trucker’s face, and then slowly moved away. The smell of clover became thinner. She turned her head as Reese took a step toward her. “Stay where you are.”

Reese saw blood streaming from the trucker’s eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. As the pain in her ears vanished, she pulled her hands away, and saw red stains on her palms. “This is your talent?”

Rebecca uttered a laugh like a wail. “My curse, you mean. Yes.” She met Reese’s gaze levelly. “This is what I do. This is my power over the living world. I make it bleed.”

“The living world? You mean—”

“Mortals. Kyn. Animals.” Her shoulders hunched. “Anything with blood in its veins.”

“But you said you can control it.”

“When I am at Rosethorn, with Sylas, among our friends, yes, I can.” Rebecca looked down at the trucker. “When I am away from him, alone and angry…”

“Then you need to calm down,” Reese said carefully.

Slowly Rebecca moved away from him, her movements lurching and painful to watch. She hesitated, removing the copper dagger from her girdle and turning it over to offer the hilt to Reese.

“I don’t need this.”

“Take it,” Rebecca told her. “If I lose control, I will do whatever I must to return to Sylas. I will kill anything that stands between me and my lord. Should it come to that, you know what you must do.”

Reese considered arguing with her, but the horizon was brightening and they were both exhausted. She put the dagger in her bag before she offered Rebecca her arm. “Lean on me, and I’ll help you to the cab.”

“You have too little regard for your own safety.” Rebecca placed a hand on her shoulder, but glanced back. “He is not dead, or even badly hurt. When he wakes, he will report us to the authorities.”

“We’ll be in the city by then.” Reese led her over to the truck’s cab, and helped her up inside. “Go into the back of the cab; there aren’t any windows so the sun won’t bother you there. Try to get some sleep.” She went around the cab, climbed up behind the wheel, and, remembering what she’d seen the driver do, started the engine.

Rebecca emerged from the back a moment later. “That mortal has not been sleeping in there. It reeks of body fluids.” She pulled the passenger’s seat belt over her torso and clipped it in place.

Reese eyed her. “Would you rather go in the trailer? You have to get some rest.”

“No. I cannot settle myself, not in this state.” She put her head back and closed her eyes against the light from the rising sun. “Keep the windows open and the air cooler set on high, and talk to me, please.”

Reese took a moment to remember everything she had watched the trucker do when they had left the diner, and then carefully imitated his actions as she put the truck in gear, checked the side mirrors, and pulled back out onto the highway. Hopefully she wouldn’t have to parallel park this monster. “What do you want to talk about?”

“Anything. Tell me about your home.”

“There’s not a lot to tell,” Reese said. “I live with my father in the city. Our house is nothing like Rosethorn, but it’s nice, and the neighborhood where we are is quiet. When I’m there I work with him in the garden. He still grows his own vegetables and flowers.”

“He is…retired?”

“For the most part.” Reese felt a kind of distant wonder at how easily she could lie about Ennis. Maybe she could because the truth about him—about them—was so unbelievable. “He does some work from home. He’s also a book collector, so he’s always going to auctions and estate sales, and looking for little out-of-the-way shops.”

“I love to read. I taught Sylas how, our second year together.” Rebecca looked at the empty road ahead of them. “He never learned as a boy, but then, few did in our time. He was so proud that he insisted on reading the Holy Scriptures to me, from start to finish.”

“All in one night?”

“No, thank heaven,” Rebecca said. “It took him the better part of a year. Then there came the questions. Who was Cain’s wife? How could Noah and his small family repopulate the world after the flood by themselves? If the torment of man was Satan’s work, then why would God do the same to Job?” She made a helpless gesture. “I thought for a time he would drive me mad. Soon after, happily, he took to reading the Greeks.”

The heaviness of Rebecca’s scent had retreated, Reese noticed, and she seemed much calmer. “How are you feeling?”

“Tired now.” The chatelaine squinted against the sunlight. “Is it much farther?”

Reese saw the Atlanta skyline ahead of them. “We’re almost there.”

She drove directly to the Armstrong building, parking the stolen truck in the back by the loading platform. As soon as she got out of the cab, a man came out of the receiving office and called to her.

“Ma’am, this is a private building,” he said. “You can’t park that here.”

Her eyes went to the signet ring on his right hand, which had onyx and ivory stones engraved with a cameo of Robin of Locksley’s profile. “I am tresori,” she told the man, and showed him the cameo tattoo on the inside of her wrist. “There is a Kyn female with me. We have to see Will Scarlet at once.”

“He is not here, sister,” the man told her. “He left at dawn for Rosethorn.”

“What?” Reese felt as if she’d been slapped. “Why? He cannot lay siege to the stronghold by himself.”

“He won’t be alone, sister,” the tresora said. “Before he left, the seneschal summoned the suzerain from the south. They are bringing two hundred of their best, and will join him there by nightfall.”

Reese glanced back at the truck and saw through the windshield that Rebecca had fallen asleep. If Will had left the book behind, she could retrieve it now and be done with this. If he had taken it with him, she would have to return to the stronghold.

“I have to go up to the penthouse to look for something I might have left there,” she told the tresora. “Will you watch over the lady while I am gone?”


Suzeraina Jayr mac Byrne lifted high-powered binoculars to her eyes and surveyed the camp a half mile away. “Will and his people have taken position in the trees.”

Her husband and seneschal, Aedan, spoke softly into his handheld radio. “Beau, you and your men hold the road here. Harlech, divide yours and move to the east and west approaches. Farlae, you and yours wait here.”

Behind them, one hundred warriors split into four separate groups and silently dispersed.

Jayr turned to her tracker, who was still crouched on the ground, his eyes closed and his face curiously blank. “What can you tell me, Rain?”

“It is colder here than Orlando,” the tracker complained. “I should have listened to Farlae and brought my furs.”

She pressed her lips together. “I meant, what can you tell me about the Italians who came here?”

“There are seventy or so. They left their vehicle behind and went in on foot, in formation. Wait.” He opened his eyes and turned his head, nodding at a thicket. “Five carried a great weight in there and returned lighter.”

“A body?” Aedan asked.

The hulking tracker gently touched an almost invisible footprint on the road, pinched a bit of soil from one side of it, and brought it to his nose. “No. Burlap. Twine.” He sneezed twice and scowled. “Copper and steel.” He looked up at Jayr. “I think they brought many swords, my lady. They had them bundled like potatoes. Then they came back for them.”

She held out her hand to Rain and helped him to his feet. “I want you to scout the boundaries of the property. I need to know who has walked through here in the last week.”

Farlae, a shorter, slim male with fair hair, joined them. His eye, flawed by an enormous black mote, glittered with malice. “Someone was careless.” He offered Jayr a copper dagger of ornate design. “’Twas made in the fourteenth century. The owner is Kyn, likely female, and recently traveled over seawater.”

“Female?” Aedan echoed. “You can see that on the blade?”

Farlae nodded at the blade. “There is sea spray on the hilt, and a chip of pink nail polish near the pommel.”

“Whoever she is, she used it last on a mortal,” Rain said, disgusted. “The smell of blood still clings to it. Throw it away, my lady.”

“We may need it as proof later.” She handed the dagger off to one of her guards before she patted the tracker’s shoulder. “Stay with Farlae and the others. Aedan and I will walk ahead to the camp.”

Although it was customary for a Kyn seneschal to walk behind his lord paramount, Aedan led the way toward the encampment. He served Jayr faithfully as her second, but she was his sygkenis, and in dangerous situations protecting her came first. Yet when they arrived at the edge of the camp, Aedan stepped back to stand at her side, and kept silent as she addressed the guards.

“I am Suzeraina Jayr mac Byrne, summoned here by Will Scarlet, seneschal to Robin of Locksley. My men and I await his orders.”

The guards bowed and one trotted off, returning a few moments later with a Kyn male dressed in a red mantle.

“Lady mac Byrne.” Will bowed deeply before he offered his hand to Aedan. “Lord mac Byrne. I am grateful beyond words for your quick response.”

“Stow the gratitude and the speeches, lad,” Byrne said as he clasped forearms with Will. “Tell us how we may help.”

He nodded. “Come with me and I’ll brief you together on the situation.”

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