The angel took us up half a dozen steps, and finally stopped in front of a booth decorated in natural woods, with silver, or perhaps lead and iron, worked in subtle glyphs that looked more like art.
“Is this agreeable, Mr. Jones?” the angel asked.
“It should be fine.”
The lady offered to take my coat, but I decided to hold on to it. My journal was in the pocket, and I didn’t want to lose it. I took off my coat, folded it, and placed it on the small bench along the back wall beneath the window.
I sat. Once in the chair, the level of magic went down about a hundred notches, and I exhaled.
“Too much?” Zayvion asked.
There was some kind of Shield spell on our booth too, but it had the added benefit of filtering out some of the magic overload. Maybe that was why they didn’t just hang curtains.
I took a drink of water so I wouldn’t scratch my gloves off. Magic pushed and rolled in me and made me itch. “It’s a lot,” I said. “But not too much.”
, I thought.
He nodded, and I realized he was worried about it.
“Do you like it?” I asked.
“The food is superb. Not magic. Excellent chef. Makes it worth the glitz. Plus the view . . .”
I looked out the window next to us and the tension in my shoulders drained away.
A castle atop a mountain, the restaurant took up the expanse of the hilltop. The lights of Portland, electric gold and baby blue, spilled down the hill to gather like a tumble of diamonds on the valley floor, thickest along the winding cut of the river and the star-spray grid of downtown.
“Oh,” I said. “Gorgeous.”
“I thought you might like it. From this high up, all you can see is the beauty.”
He studied the city below us, the corners of his thick lips drawn downward. I wondered how much pain this man had seen. Being a Closer, someone who could take away a magic user’s memories or life, and being a secret part of a secret society of magic users that casually dealt with horrors like that thing back in the alley, must come at a high cost.
An echo of a memory—just the emotional wash of being in danger and knowing Zayvion was there, doing something to make that danger, that fear and pain, stop—pushed up from deep inside me.
That moment was broken by the polite throat clearing of our waiter.
He recited the chef’s specials of the evening for us, and we both turned our attention to ordering food and wine.
The waiter made approving sounds and melted into the swirl of magic and noise outside our booth. He reappeared within seconds with our sweet black currant liquor and canapés.
“Earlier today,” I said, after our waiter had left and I’d had a chance to let the sweet and dry Kir fill my mouth with the dark berry taste of autumn, “when I asked you if Violet hired you to body guard me. You didn’t answer.”
Zayvion finished a canapé and took a sip of his wine. “I am not working for Violet. Not anymore. But if I were body guarding, you’d be at the top of my list.”
I opened my mouth.
“You,” he said before I could get any words out, “are rich. So at least you’d pay me well. Besides that, your father made enemies in both his public and private lives, and you seem to have inherited his knack for that, though you’ve mostly made your enemies through Hounding. So I certainly wouldn’t be bored. What?” he said to my glare. “Didn’t think I’d be honest? You carry more magic in your body than half of Portland’s cisterns combined, and you are the leader of a pack of Hounds, half of whom don’t like you, and all of whom are unpredictable addicts.”
“I went to school. You Hounded for Detective Stotts, who has logged more Hound deaths than any other law enforcer on record,
I know you’d do it again in a hot minute. Plus, for some reason, your father refused to bring you into the Authority back when you were young—”
“Watch it,” I growled.
He grinned. “—younger, to train you in the less standard and more useful ways of magic that you, of all people, should know. On top of all that, you tend to stroll into the middle of situations that can kill you, and you have no formal self-defense training.”
“Is that all you got?”
He put both elbows on the table and rested his mouth against his fingers, covering his smile. “Well, I’ve only known you a few months.”
“Might just stay that way.”
He watched me a moment while I sipped my water. “I don’t think so.”
I gave him a noncommittal nod. “Never know. You left out a few things, though.”
“For one, I can read you like yesterday’s want ad.”
“Is that so?”
He leaned back. “Well, then. Get on with it.”
“Reading you?” I rested one elbow on the table and folded my fingers under my chin. What did I really know about Zayvion Jones? Not a hell of a lot. He had the advantage of a complete memory, and time spent following me around for my father.
But I had instincts. Good instincts.
“You aren’t as patient and calm as you look. As a matter of fact, you have a short temper, which is why you put on the Zen Maseter bit all the time.”
He raised one eyebrow but didn’t say anything.
“You have a lot more money than you’d like people to know, but you don’t spend it because you don’t have a life outside your work. You don’t have any friends, and you never speak to your family anymore. You are a total loner, Mr. Jones.”
He gave me a blank look and took a sip of his wine.
“You can pour on the charm and get any woman in a room to go home with you, but it’s always a one-night stand, which suits you just fine. And even though you like to pretend you’re deeply moral and just, you’d willingly break the law, lie, and cheat if it’s for something you believe in.”
“Is that it?” he asked.
“Almost. Your favorite color is blue.”
“Green,” he said, looking straight into my pale green eyes.
“Okay,” I said. “Green. Am I right?”
“You’re not all wrong.” He took another bite of his appetizer. “Not a big fan of one-night stands, though.”
Just what I needed—a rundown of his love life. “Really. So you’ve had multiple long-term relationships?”
“Want to see the scars?”
“Depends on where they are.”
He flashed me a smile. “On my . . . heart, of course.”
“Of course,” I said.
The waiter interrupted our conversation, and we got busy ordering. We both chose the onion soup au gratin for our appetizer. Zayvion ordered lamb medallions with garlic for his main course, and I ordered the duck with apples and porto sauce.
“So tell me about Maeve Flynn,” I said once the waiter had left.
“What do you want to know?”
“Anything. It would be nice to have a clue about what I’m getting into.”
“She’s a good teacher. A master in her chosen magic—blood magic. She will teach you how to access and control magic in the ancient ways. The hidden ways. She won’t be easy on you. Maybe much harder now . . .” He shook his head and gazed out the window again. Nothing out there but darkness and stars fallen to earth.
“Harder now?” I prompted.
“She lost her husband a few years ago. It . . . changed her.”
Oh. I took a drink of my water. “How did he die?”
“The death certificate says heart failure.” He looked away from the window. Waited. Waited for me to ask.
“Okay. Now tell me how he really died.”
“Your father killed him.”
“Shit.” I sat back and tucked my hair behind my ear. “Terrific. My teacher hates me.”
“I don’t know that she hates you. Maeve has always been fair-minded. Kind, in her way. She’s not . . . or at least she hasn’t been . . . the kind of person to punish someone for their blood relations. There’s a chance she’ll very much enjoy teaching you the things your father didn’t want you to know.”
“And there’s a chance she’ll want me to fail spectacularly.”
“Maybe. Will that stop you?”
“No. I want to learn. Holding all this magic isn’t easy, you know? Plus, I can be pretty stubborn when I put my mind to it.”
“Really? I did not know that.”
“Ha-ha. You can stop trying to look so surprised.”
The waiter swooped down upon our table and placed the soup in front of us, then refilled our wine before disappearing back into the swirl of color and light beyond our booth.
“Stubborn might help,” Zayvion conceded.
“At least I have one family trait going for me.” Speaking of family, I might need to talk to Zayvion about my dad.
Did I know how to do romantic dinner conversation or what? How did one casually bring up possession?
I thought about it while I ate the soup. Zayvion was right about the food. It was spectacular.
“Um, I had a weird thing happen today,” I said.
Okay, that was dumb. The day had been filled with weird things, starting with attending my father’s second funeral.
“Yes?” Zay asked.
“I thought I heard my father call my name. Twice.” Zayvion wiped his mouth with his napkin. “When? Where?”
“In my bathroom—well, in my head. After you left this afternoon.”
He frowned. “What did he say?”
“My name. Told me to find the disks. Find his killer. Aren’t you even a little freaked out by this?”
He took a drink and shrugged one shoulder. “I’m not thrilled by the idea, if that’s what you’re asking.”
And I guess if he could deal with that thing that jumped us on the street with relative calm, a dead magic user in my head probably didn’t seem like all that big a deal.
“He is dead, isn’t he?” I asked.
“Do you think he could be dead and in my head? When Maeve came to see me, right after I got out of the hospital, she was worried about that.” I took another drink of wine. My glass was almost empty. How had that happened? I was starting to feel it despite the heavy soup. It was probably time to slow down with the wine.
“Possession—full possession after death—is not well documented.” Zayvion refilled my glass. “Your father had enough mental strength after he was dead to step into you in spirit form and wield magic through you.” He lifted his glass in a subtle toast.
“That threw some rocks at the theory that no one can possess the living after death. But then, your father’s spirit was being . . . supported . . . by Frank Gordon and dark magic. What he did was uncharted territory. Forbidden.”
“Which he? Dad or Frank?”
“Both. It’s a problem.”
“A problem,” I repeated.“So that list? The one I just made about you? I’d like to add
master of the understatement
The waiter appeared, whisked away our bowls, and replaced them with the main course. It smelled delicious, and we both took some time to eat.
“It is possible you have his memories in your mind,” Zayvion said.
“Is it possible he’s actually alive?” I asked again.
“I don’t . . . We don’t know,” he finally said. “Sometimes I think anything is possible with you. Maeve is going to do a more thorough search when you see her.”
“Wait. You’ve talked to Maeve about me?”
“Maeve was my teacher for a short time. We see each other fairly often. She’ll know what to do.”
“Are you sure you can’t just look for me?” It came out smaller than I expected. No matter how little I knew Zayvion, I knew Maeve even less. I could let her be my teacher, but I was not ready to let her mess with my brain.
Zayvion reached across the table and caught the fingers of my hand. “If I could, I would. We are Complements, Allie. More than that, we are Soul Complements. Lightning and steel. We can . . . manipulate magic together, as if we were one person. That’s . . . amazing. But there are things we should never do, lines we should not cross. Using magic together is one thing. Powerful. Stepping into each other’s minds . . . even with the best intentions, the clearest need . . . that never ends well.”
“I suppose that’s documented somewhere?”
“Soul Complements are rare.”
“That’s not an answer.”
He took a moment to study me. I was not as drunk as he might think I was.
He sighed. “This isn’t what I wanted to talk about tonight either. I don’t suppose you’d like to discuss the weather?”
“Foggy,” I noted. “Tell me the truth. I can take it; I’ve had plenty of wine to soften the blow.”
He smiled, but it didn’t make it to his eyes. “The truth? The few Soul Complements that are documented read like a tragedy. It has never ended well. For any of them.”