Blood Trinity (Page 26)

Blood Trinity (Belador #1)(26)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

That is, if he’d ever speak to her again after she’d left him double hanging.

“No. I didn’t kill it.”

“Then you better run along.” His tone was fierce.

“Why?”

“Because you’ll turn into a toasty Alterant if you don’t,” he teased.

She allowed a smile. “Why didn’t you tell Sen about me being at the site where the Birrn was killed?”

Storm could turn a minute into the longest stretch of time with one look into his searing eyes. “Because I’m not Sen’s hit man. I decide for myself who the good guys are.” He turned his hand over to brush his palm through her hair, letting his fingers rest at her shoulder for a brief moment before he stepped back. His eyes were darker than before. Whatever he was thinking disappeared in his shuttered gaze. “Now head out before something even more evil than a Birrn comes along tonight and decides to eat you.”

She would have questioned him more, but every instinct she possessed told her to get out of here as quickly as possible. Because if she didn’t, something wicked just might devour her. Not that it would really matter. At the rate she was going, she’d be dead in three days anyway.

Or would she be able to find the miracle that could keep her free and save the world from those who wanted to destroy it?

EIGHTEEN

Monday predawn traffic poured into the parking lots Evalle rode past. She slowed to scan the area around each one.

No trolls working the pay booths. No demons lurking in the shadows.

She kept an eye on three parking garages in downtown Atlanta for Quinn, who probably owned more real estate than some small countries did. If he wanted to consider a nightly ride to keep an eye on his businesses a part-time job, who was she to argue? Especially since Quinn gave her a reduced rent in trade for surveillance.

All missions completed for the evening.

She turned her gixxer toward home.

When are you going home, Evalle? Quinn asked in her mind.

How did he know she wasn’t there yet? Was the man psychic on top of his other gifts?

She glanced up at the sky threatening to unleash sunshine in another ten minutes. I’m a mile from my elevator.

Z and I’ll meet you there.

Not much for chatting, that Quinn.

She cut down Marietta Boulevard and turned on a side road that deposited her below Atlanta’s traffic level. The rutted street her narrow tires bounced over ran along the railroad tracks that once fed into the original Underground Atlanta, where civies came in groups for safety. Today’s Underground Atlanta was a thriving tourist attraction safe enough for the kiddos.

She preferred the spooky early morning darkness down here in Atlanta’s underbelly, where dock workers sweated out an honest living, to the pristine world full of suits … a world full of doctors who … Don’t go there.

Parking in front of the overhead door to her personal elevator, which could carry a full-sized vehicle, she pressed the remote opener clipped to her tank-bag and climbed off.

Footsteps approached, crunching gravel layered over the pavement. She pushed her bike into the dark elevator stall, turning it to where she could face her guests. “How’s tricks, boys?”

“Must you always cut it so close to daylight?” Quinn asked.

She grinned at him. “Gotta make hay when the sun don’t shine and all that. Besides, Sen ran me late.”

“What’d he want now?” Tzader entered last, sounding whipped. Had he rested at all since yesterday?

“He snatched me in for a Tribunal meet—,” she started explaining.

“Without contacting me first?” Anger boiled off Tzader.

Evalle supported the bike against her hip and lifted a hand, hesitating to say much out here. “It wasn’t a suspension hearing that would have required due process.”

No happier than Z, Quinn picked up on her reluctance to expound. “Let’s get inside her apartment where no one can hear us.”

She keyed the remote, shutting the door, and turned her attention to where a panel of six toggle switches was mounted behind bulletproof glass.

Getting inside the elevator would be simple for an intruder.

Breaking the bulletproof glass over the switches would set off alarms in her living quarters down below. But even if someone made it this far, they’d have to know the correct sequence for flipping the toggles. That changed daily, and only the three people inside this elevator car knew those codes.

Tzader and Quinn could flip the toggles kinetically, which one of the two did before she could, because the elevator started moving.

“You got any food down here?” Tzader got downright surly when he was hungry on top of being tired.

She thought about it. “Sure, I got a new recipe for—”

Tzader and Quinn both said, “No.”

“That’s cold. You haven’t tried anything I’ve cooked since that first time.” When the elevator stopped twenty feet belowground, she mentally flipped the toggles in reverse and pushed her bike into the twenty-by-thirty-foot garage area of her private world. She rolled the gixxer onto the hydraulic motorcycle lift she used to service her baby and tightened the wheel chock to lock the bike in place. White upper and lower cabinets lined one side of the room, but she was the only one who could see all that right now.

A string of fluorescent lights overhead flickered on.

Quinn’s doing, since he had no patience for being in the dark.

“I got the door,” Tzader said and the elevator closed behind them.

With one quick glance to ensure everything was as she’d left it, Evalle led the way through a series of unlit tunnels toward her apartment.

The tension in her shoulders eased the closer she got to her home. Quinn would have let her live here rent-free.

No way. She’d sleep in a public bathroom—and had—before she’d owe anyone for something as basic as a place to live. He’d set a fair price, and she earned her way between working at the morgue and receiving pay from the Beladors’ fund as an agent to the coalition.

VIPER negotiated payment arrangements with all their agents except Beladors, who chose not to accept money from the coalition. She guessed Brina and Macha didn’t want to be dependent on VIPER any more than Evalle wanted to be dependent on anyone.

Quinn was on the board of Belador financial barons, who invested funds accumulated over generations. They took care of their own.

“What happened to the lights in this hallway?” Quinn groused.

“Saving on your power bill.” As she approached the steel door that had no handles or locks evident, she channeled energy to open it.

Quinn growled something low. “I’m not a bloody slumlord. All my properties are green efficient and you know it. Not like your eyes can’t take a little lighting.”

“You got better places to spend money.”

He could be overbearing some days, especially when it came to what he considered her well-being, but he respected her need for independence.

She stepped into her abode, where wall sconces and tiny overhead puck lights strung along a wire brightened the simple room. Quinn maintained she needed enough light for guests to move around safely.

She didn’t have guests as a rule, but even a blind person could navigate around the few pieces of furniture she’d accumulated.

This was home and hers. She came and went at will. Her one indulgence was plants, especially flowering ones that she had to trick into blooming with artificial lighting.

Tzader dropped down on her lumpy sofa, let out a groan born of deep exhaustion then kicked off his boots. He leaned back, stretching out his jean-covered legs and crossing his arms over the sleeveless black T-shirt, so completely different from Quinn’s pewter gray collared shirt with a golf logo on the chest and creased slacks.

“I see you’ve decorated since I was last here.” Quinn sent a reproachful frown at the oversize orange beanbag in the middle of the room. “Having a time deciding on the most advantageous location for that?”

“Too bad there’s no snob police, Quinn. They’d make a fortune writing you up.”

He sighed with strained patience.

She loved tweaking his aristocratic nose.

A noise from the back of the apartment snapped her into action. She hurried over to stand by the offensive beanbag.

Growling rumbled from down the hallway that led to her bedroom.

Footsteps slapped the hard concrete floor, heading toward the living room, picking up speed, running full bore until the pounding echoed like bomb blasts.

“Evalle?” Tzader issued the sharp warning and came to his feet. The knives hanging at his h*ps snapped and hissed. He took a step toward her.

“Oh, good Goddess,” Quinn muttered.

She ordered both of them, “Stand back. I got this.” Keeping her attention on the hallway, she prepared for the attack that flew out of the darkness at her.

The two-foot-tall gargoyle went airborne, wings flapping, like a cannonball with mouth open to expose sharp teeth. All that heading for her chest.

“Dammit, Evalle!” Tzader reached for her arm and missed when she jumped aside at the last second.

The gargoyle landed on the beanbag, his momentum sliding him with the bag all the way across the room until he smacked the solid wall.

She laughed out loud, enjoying the best sound that had traveled up her throat all day. “Nice one, Feenix. Come here, baby.”

Feenix made a noise that sounded part growl and part snort when he was happy. His mouth spread wide, showing off sharp incisors that were as deadly as they looked. He clutched his little potbelly and tucked his batlike wings close when he rolled off the bag, still chortling over his NASCAR-worthy slide. They were both fans of American car racing.

“That thing doesn’t know his strength,” Tzader growled, but his knives had settled down. A sign he was at ease. “He’s going to hurt you one day.”

“No, he won’t.” She squatted down as Feenix waddled to her, wings flapping happily. His huge eyes were two orange orbs that glowed bright as a Halloween pumpkin against his dark-green-and-brown scale-covered body.

“I could have acquired you a dog—something adequately trained that wouldn’t kill you.” Quinn stepped aside, moving his expensive pants out of snag range from the sharp points on Feenix’s wings.

“A dog or a cat would want to go outside in the daylight and need more care than I could give it. Feenix likes the dark and he’s self-sufficient and he loves me. He’s perfect.” She opened her arms and he walked into her embrace, tucking his wings so she could hug him. It was like holding a soft alligator that was as cold as a dark cave and smelled like freshly tanned leather. The skin covering his wings was the smoothest part of him. “I finally settled on the perfect name. Feenix.”

“Because Lucifer was taken?”

“Careful, Quinn,” she said with mock threat. “Or I’ll tell Feenix you want a hug.”

Tzader chuckled and shook his head.

Quinn shuddered on his way to the recliner she’d picked up last week from a late-night going-out-of-business sale.

Hard to hit yard sales when most of them ended by nightfall.

“He’s no bird rising from the ashes of destruction,” Quinn muttered.

She argued, “Yes, he is, but his name is different.” She spelled it for him. “I picked Feenix because this little critter survived that demented sorcerer and crawled out of a burning building when all the other things the sorcerer had created died even though they were bigger and stronger.”

She released Feenix, who waddled across the room making grunting noises. He picked up a stuffed alligator and tucked the soft toy into the crease of his bent arm, holding it like a baby doll. “And phoenix, the bird name, means ‘the most beautiful one of its kind.’ Just like my Feenix.”

Quinn cleared his throat. “Evalle, darling, you may need prescription glasses after all. That creature is not attractive.”

“He is to me,” she whispered, then smiled at Quinn, who groused about most of her choices in life. He hated that she wouldn’t let him hire people to finish the interior of this place or buy any furnishings. She did allow him and Tzader to give her plants, which was why it looked more like a jungle than a home.

“Food, Evalle?” Tzader reminded her.

She swung around, grinning. “I’ve got frozen pizzas.”

Neither of the men made a sign of interest. She added, “And, I stocked my bar. I’ll throw in a Boodles and water for Quinn and a Guinness—on draft, no less—for you, Z.”

“Now you’re talking.” Tzader stretched out again, propping his feet on the arm at one end.

“With enough Boodles, I can eat anything.” Quinn waved at her dismissively.

“Wouldn’t want to ruin your taste buds for caviar,” Tzader muttered.

“Or yours for Vienna sausage.” Reclined and with eyes at half-mast, Quinn stretched his hands along the chair arms, as if he enjoyed the pedestrian furniture more than he wanted her to know.