“R-r-research. We need to find out all we can… about that… p-place.” I didn’t want to say Evalanedea aloud. That would be stupid.
I did not trust those around me any longer.
And Coty… I don’t think she trusts people in general.
“So, how do we do that? I’m fantastic at researching. Especially with a computer.”
I grinned. “Me, too. Not with a computer, though. I’ll tell you about me researching k-k-kissing a werewolf once.”
“Oh, do tell. I’ve always thought vampires were hotter than werewolves, but…” Coty deadpanned. “We beggars can’t be choosers, here. Now if the hot guy all in black would like to spend a few hours with me…”
She looked over at Equan Black’s table and sent him a sultry look.
I knew she was teasing. Just like I knew she wasn’t nearly as experienced with males as she was acting.
Everything about her was an act. Inside… Coty was just as scared of the world as I was. We’d recognized each other on a soul-deep level, me and this girl young enough to be my daughter.
“He was super-hot. I-I-I will tell you sometime.”
“Personally, I would never want to be with a werewolf. Drew told me some things. Is it true that if you are their mate, you get stuck with twins four months after you meet? That’s totally barbaric. Not for me. Of course, I’m probably going to die here in this hotel someday. Eaten by vampires—present company excluded, of course—simply because of who my father is.”
I could feel her hurt down to my soul, even though we rarely could read each other. I covered her hand with mine. “I-I-I won’t let that happen to you.”
She smiled at me. “You give me hope, Jume. That not all vampires are that bad. Or out to kill me.”
“That’s good. Most of us aren’t out to kill you. But a select few…” Why sugar-coat it? I had spent years seeing the darkness of my Kind, after all. I knew what some Dardaptoans would do to innocent young females such as this. Sometimes in the name of vengeance. “S-s-some of us… just aren’t good. You have to always remember that.”
I am old enough to be this girl’s mother. Sometimes I forget that. At other times, she seems so achingly young.
I have accepted… I will never have children of my body. I will have no mate.
But as I sat there eating pizza and talking to Coty, I made a realization—I can still be there for the young and defenseless. The females who have no real family or a mother to love them.
I would protect Coty just as much as I would with my Alleah and Julea. As a mother would. Something I know Coty had not had enough of.
“So… where are we going to start this research?” she asked.
I thought for a moment. I had permission to use the Dhar’s library, as well as Theo’s—they were connected, and I had used them both for years in my position as Theo’s clerk. But Riv… Riv had access to restricted books I could never hope to be allowed to see. The Dardaptoan library was right next door to the hotel.
If we took the back path behind the rear exist… we would only be exposed for about one hundred feet.
I looked behind me. My guard was right there. Watching. He was new. Not Wiac or Tol.
“I-I-It might take some… planning. I want to go to the library. Not the ones here. The one where my sister works. But… it means leaving the hotel. Defying Theo and Cormac Jareth’s o-o-orders.”
“Oh, a real plan. I love the idea of sticking it to those assholes. Do tell,” Coty leaned in closer. I mimicked the movement, but I looked up first.
Right into the eyes of Equan Black. He smirked at me. Wagged a finger in my direction. Chidingly.
I had met him before. Knew him long before he was injured. He had been arrogant and frightening even then. Intimidating.
I raised my chin, almost daring him to come say something.
He was not a seer. Of that, I am certain. A part of me thought… Nalik Black had actually heard what we were saying.
And that was just beyond impossible.
No Dardaptoan could hear across the room like that.
Even him, the most ancient Dardaptoan I have ever met…