“He says it was fine, and he slept most of the way,” Chris said. “He’s also grateful for your hospitality, hopes not to be any trouble, etc. etc.”
Lucan glanced at the girl. “Indeed.”
“It’s the same boring stuff they always say,” she told him. “Why can’t you guys just settle for ‘Hi, how are you?’”
“Seven centuries of inviolate tradition and custom cannot be distilled down into four words.” He smiled a little. “There should be at least five, perhaps six.”
Jamys shifted his hand on Chris’s shoulder and studied her face.
“I keep telling you, I’m fine.” She turned to Lucan. “He thinks if he uses me as a psychic interpreter for too long that I’m going to pass out. I never . . .” She swallowed and swayed. “Okay, maybe that’s a good call.”
Jamys guided her over to a chair and helped her to sit down before he took out a notepad and pen, wrote something on it and handed it to Lucan.
I am sorry. My talent does this to mortals. I cannot speak through them for very long.
“You cannot communicate through talent with Kyn?” When Jamys nodded, Lucan thought for a moment. “Other than a few inappropriate gestures, none of us know sign language.”
“I think I can make myself understood,” a cool voice said from behind Jamys.
Lucan regarded his sygkenis, who had her hand resting on the grip of her weapon. She appeared ready to employ it. “Samantha. I expected you an hour ago. This overtime is becoming an annoyance.”
She ignored him as she moved between Jamys and Chris. “Are you all right?” she asked the girl.
“I’m fine.” Chris stood. “You look pissed off, though.”
“We just recovered a body three blocks from here. Young guy in an old leisure suit. Some Kyn we don’t know was involved. And guess what, there’s only one Kyn we don’t know in our territory right now.” Sam shifted around until she blocked Lucan with her body. “Rafael?”
Lucan saw his seneschal, armed with a copper-edged sword, step up behind Jamys. His temper flared, causing several bottles of liquor behind the bar to shatter and spill “Have I perhaps been replaced as ruling lord and everyone has forgotten to tell me?”
Rafael breathed in and then lowered the blade. “His scent is not what the mortal described to us, my lady.”
Sam didn’t move. “Maybe he did some suggestion-planting before he left the bistro. Chris, get away from him,” she added as the girl went to Jamys.
“He can’t talk unless I help him.” She gripped his hand and looked up at his face. “No, it’s okay. I can do it.” She turned to Samantha, and her eyes took on a curiously bright sheen as her voice dropped to a deeper register. “I have not harmed anyone, my lady. I was with Christian from the time I left the train to when I arrived here. I would not insult the suzerain by attacking anyone in his territory.” She blinked, and in a more normal voice said, “He’s telling the truth, Sam. I was with him the whole time.”
“That’s only what you remember.” She flinched as Lucan took the weapon from her holster. “What are you doing?”
“Hopefully I am avoiding a grievous insult to the Durand family, and the son of the most efficient killer I know besides myself.” Lucan pocketed the weapon. “Now, shall we sort this out like civilized folk?”
“I have a backup piece,” she reminded him before she stared at Jamys. “You should know that I keep my weapons loaded with copper rounds. I don’t care who your Daddy is, you try anything – anything at all – and I’ll blow your head off.”
The young Kyn male, who had not moved since the beginning of the confrontation, nodded slowly.
Despite the danger she had just put them all in, Lucan felt almost proud of her. His woman might not be the soul of diplomacy, but she would kill to protect what was theirs, and damn the consequences. Not even Cyprien could boast of such a life companion. “Now that you have finished with the death threats, sweetheart, come and sit down and tell me about this killing.”
In terse fashion, Samantha related the tale of the body she and his seneschal had found in a nearby restaurant, and the statements made by the witnesses.
“Kyn do not feed on the dead.,” he pointed out. “Nor do they drag them about Europe for three decades.”
“Two years ago I chopped the tail off a Kyn who had spent a couple of centuries feeding on snake blood.” Samantha eyed him. “Maybe this one uses the dead for dinner.”
“How may I explain this to you?” Lucan thought for a moment. “When you were mortal, would you have eaten a maggot-ridden piece of rotting meat? No? That is what feeding on the blood of the dead is like for us.”
Jamys took out his notepad and pen and wrote something quickly. He handed it to Rafael, who read it and shook his head.
Samantha frowned. “Mind sharing that with the rest of group?”
“He writes that the victim may have been taken from his grave to be used by a Kyn lord,” Rafael said. “It is nothing but an old superstition among our kind.”
“You think the boy we found was raised from the dead?” When Jamys shrugged, Samantha turned to Lucan. “Just when were you going to mention that you guys can make zombies?”
“Never, as we cannot. We have our own ridiculous folk lore, my darling, just as humans do.” Lucan felt impatient now. “There has to be another explanation. I have roamed every continent not covered by ice on this earth, and never once have I seen a mortal brought back to life as a revenant.”
“Have you?” she asked Jamys, who reluctantly shook his head. “Good, because I’m not putting zombie on my report.”
“He didn’t hurt anyone,” Chris said, her tone sharp. “Burke tested me before I signed on for this gig. You know I’m resistant to l’attrait.”
“But not to talent.” Samantha stood and addressed Jamys. “I know you’re here as a guest, and I’m sorry you can’t talk. I know I’ve probably embarrassed the hell out of Lucan by questioning you. But my job is to find out who killed this boy. If it was you, or you were in any way involved, you and I are going to have a serious problem.”
Jamys took out two copper daggers and placed them on the table before he rose, bowed, and walked out of the club.
“What does that mean?” she asked Lucan.
“He is not insulted.” He picked up the blades. “He disarmed.” He looked at his sygkenis. “It means he agrees with what you’ve said.”
“Then why did he leave?”
“That you will have to ask him,” he advised her. “If he returns.”
After sending Chris home, Sam went up alone to the penthouse suite she shared with Lucan. The smell from Wilson Carcher’s body still clung to her; she needed a shower and a fresh change of clothes. After that she planned to head down to the morgue to see what Tenderson had found during the autopsy, and what she would probably have to compel him to forget. If she were quick, she might even avoid the reckless idiot she loved.
She didn’t make it out of the shower.
“As erotic as I find your working garments,” a silky voice said as a large shadow appeared on the other side of the frosted glass door, “I prefer to sleep with you in your skin.”
She shut off the water. “I have to go back into work for a couple hours,” she told him as she wrung out the long, dripping tail of her hair. I’ll be sure to strip when I come home.” She watched as a thin crack ran diagonally from the top of the shower door to the bottom. “Or not.”
“You,” he said pleasantly, “are not leaving. Come out of there.”
Sam emerged to find her lover standing and holding a large black bath towel. The delicious scent of jasmine curled around her, which dispelled most of her remnant anger. “I suppose you want me to apologize.”
“Not at all.” He began drying her off as impersonally as a valet. “I’ve been despised among the Kyn for several lifetimes. Another century or two of hostility will not make much difference.” He draped the towel over her head and began to massage it against her damp hair. “And I am sure the men will understand why my lady is acting in my place when it comes to territorial matters. Perhaps you can persuade them to name you suzeraina, as they did with Jayr of the Realm.”
“Okay, I get it. I was out of line.” She glanced up at his beautiful face, but his expression remained impassive. “Go ahead, yell.”
“Why would I shout at my life companion, the woman I love above all others, whose love for and loyalty to me is as constant and unwavering as the sunrise?” His eyes glittered. “When she is not threatening to blow the head off the beloved, only son of a Kyn lord who single-handedly slew five hundred mortals, of course.”
She swallowed. “That many?”
“That many.” He kissed her brow. “On one of his bad days.”
“I’ll go after the kid and explain and apologize.” Sam reached for her clothes.
“Rafael is already tracking him, and I think you have said enough for one evening.” He swept her up in his arms and carried her out into their bedroom, where he sat down in his favorite oversize armchair with her. “Be still,” he told her when she tried to get up. “I am still deciding whether or not to beat you.”
Sam hid a smile. Lucan might be one of the most powerful Kyn in existence, with a talent that could cause a living being to literally explode, but he’d never hurt her. “Let me suggest some reasonable alternatives. You could give me a time out. Make me stand in the corner. Or have me write ‘I will obey my lord and master without question’ a couple hundred times.”
“You are not a child, Samantha.” He looked down his nose at her. “Although I confess, the thought of giving you a good, hard spanking appeals to me.”
She angled her head to put her mouth a breath away from his. “Is that really the only good, hard thing you want to give me?”