Autumn Whispers (Page 8)
“That seems to be our job to find out.” Camille accepted the printouts of the information Carter handed her. “Who owns the building now? We know that it doesn’t belong to Hanson anymore.”
Carter tapped a few more keys and up popped the info. “That would be Lowestar Radcliffe. There’s not much here about him. He appears to hold a degree from Yale in business management, but background info is sketchy. Information says he was born somewhere in India. I have no idea if that’s true. Picture of him looks odd but for the life of me, I can’t tell you if he’s mixed heritage or just an ordinary FBH.”
We took the packet of papers and thanked him. As we headed for the door, he stopped us. “Girls, be cautious in approaching your cousins.”
“Yeah, they may not welcome having mixed-breed relatives.” I stared at the papers in my hand. We’d been called Windwalkers all our lives—a derogatory term in Otherworld, used for someone with no roots, often used for half-breeds.
“That’s not the only reason.” Carter limped over to us. He winced and I had the feeling his leg was hurting him more than usual tonight. “There are other reasons to be cautious. They may embrace you, but they may also want to use you. Or they may be no-good low-life types. You never can know, until you meet them. I didn’t have time to vet the information.”
Camille cocked her head. “So, how did you come by this in the first place?”
Carter blushed then—I’d never seen the demigod lose his cool and it kind of tickled me. It was his turn to stare at his feet. “I . . . it was a gift. Someone paid me to look into your background as a gift to you.”
“Who?” The only person I could think of that might do so was Chase. “Was it Chase?”
But Carter shook his head. “The party in question asked to remain anonymous. And unless you feel like testing my powers, let it be. There was no ulterior motive. I would never do anything to deliberately hurt you, know that.”
I stared at him, but his unflinching gaze was deep and dark and hid so many layers of power that I knew better than to push it.
“Very well. But, as grateful as we are for the information, if whoever paid you to dig it out becomes a problem in any way, then I’m holding you accountable.”
Carter nodded, a bare dip of the head, and we left. Unsettled, I headed up the stairs first, Camille slowly following behind me. We didn’t speak until we were back in her car, buckled in and ready to go. Then—and only then—we looked at one another.
“What do you think?” I was afraid to admit my hesitance, afraid I’d sound like the old Delilah—all timid and nervous.
But Camille surprised me. “I’m not sure about this. I’ve wanted this for years. Wanted to meet Mother’s family. But it’s always been a pipe dream. The fantasy of what would it be like if we were to find them—with all the long-lost love and family embracing that you see in one of those Lifetime victim-of-the-week movies. But life doesn’t always work like that. Yes, Father and I are mending our fences, but there’s a long way to go before I can fully trust him again. If ever. And how will he feel about this? About us meeting Mother’s relatives?”
I bit my lower lip, chewing on it until I punctured a hole with one of my nonretractable fangs. Another by-product of being a half-breed werecat. “Does he have to know?”
“Of course he has to know. We can’t just not tell him. Can we?” She looked over at me, the question hanging between us.
“What if we don’t tell him until we meet them? Then we’ll know if we should even bother. If they don’t want anything to do with us, we can keep quiet about it. If they want a relationship, then we deal with that when it comes.” It made sense to me. But there was another question we needed to answer first. “My concern is . . . do we want to do this? Do we want to even go there?”
Camille braked sharply as she was pulling out of the spot. She eased the car back next to the curb, disappointing a driver who had been waiting for the spot. He honked, but drove past.
“You think maybe we shouldn’t? I thought you’d be beating down the door.” She put the car in Park and turned to me.
I shrugged, not knowing quite how to phrase my thoughts. “I thought I would be too, but now that we’re facing this as an actual possibility, the prospects of this ending well . . . let’s just say I’m not feeling the rosy scenarios I envisioned all these years. I just don’t want us to have any regrets.”
She pressed her lips together for a moment, staring at the steering wheel. Then, quietly, she put her hand on mine. “Part of me wants to say fuck it. We don’t need them. But we know that Mother never knew she had half brothers and sisters. She never knew we had cousins. She didn’t even know her mother was alive. Don’t we owe it to her memory to find out what we can? To forge a link with her past, if it’s meant to be?”
It made sense when she put it that way. “I suppose. We still have to tell Menolly. She’ll no doubt have an opinion on all of this.”
Camille shuddered. “I’m not sure if I want to hear her opinion, but you’re right. Okay, so what next?”
“What say we drive by the Farantino Building, take a look at it, then go wait for Menolly to come home. We can’t very well call . . . what are their names?”
“Hester and Daniel.”
“We can’t very well call them this late, can we?” I glanced at the clock. It was going on eleven o’clock already, and even though our bedtime was usually well after midnight, that didn’t mean everybody else stayed up as late.
With a silent nod, Camille pulled back out of the parking space, and we were off.
• • •
The streets were empty as we eased into another parking space, this time across from the Farantino Building. Brick, it was six stories high from the looks of it. For some reason, I’d expected a skyscraper, tall with chrome and glass, but that wouldn’t make sense if it had been built over a hundred years ago.
The building held a brooding old-world charm, almost gothic in nature. The brick was weathered and in some places had eroded away. A ledge between the fifth and sixth stories sported a circle of gargoyles guarding the building. I gazed at the line of stone statues, wondering if any others besides Astralis and Mithra had been actual Cryptos. Were any of them up there now, watching our car, silently perched there in constant observation?
The thought made me vaguely angry. What we’d been taught about gargoyles didn’t jibe with the reality. I wondered why our father had never seemed concerned. He had to have known about the treatment of the granticular gargoyles, considering he was privy to government intelligence. And he’d always been so antislavery. Turning a blind eye to the enforced servitude of Astralis and his kind was yet another contradiction in our father’s nature.
Camille unfastened her seat belt and slid out the driver’s side. I followed, leaning on the top of the car. We stared at the building, waiting for a sign. For something . . . anything . . . to happen.
Although the Farantino Building was six stories high, who knew how many levels it had underground. The intricate carving around the ledge reminded me of knotwork braided into the stone, beautiful, looking far older than it really was.
Camille shaded her eyes from the rain as she looked up. “The building has a definite energy signature of strength and foundation. Whatever goes on in there, there are some major power players at work.” She folded her arms across her chest and glanced back at me. “It makes me nervous, to be honest. I’m not sure what we’re dealing with but it makes me think of old money and cognac and . . . like Roman, only far more ruthless.”
Roman was ruthless enough. If whatever—or whoever—lurked behind these walls was more dangerous than he, I wasn’t sure I wanted to get involved. But thanks to Grandmother Coyote, we didn’t have a choice. I sucked in a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“There’s not much we can do now. We might as well drop back to the bar and tell Menolly to get her butt home. We have a lot to tell her. And we need to go through the information Carter gave us about this monolith here.”
As I shivered and climbed back in the car, I glanced up at the building one last time. The Farantino Building loomed over the neighborhood. It felt a whole lot bigger than its six stories. As a hint of Camille’s clairvoyance broke through to me, I realized that the building itself was watching us. The damned thing was sentient, and it knew we were here.
• • •
Menolly caught sight of me as I peeked into the bar. It was still packed but the crowds had thinned somewhat. She strode toward me, her stiletto boots tapping hard on the floor over the sound of conversation and laughter. She was light and petite, but each step she took had a tremendous amount of force behind it.
I pulled her off to one side. “We need you to come home. It’s not an emergency but we have . . . there’s no way to explain it here. Carter had some news for us. The three of us have to discuss it—it’s big.”
“Another demon general hit the city?” She narrowed her eyes. “After Gulakah, we know Shadow Wing is going to be sending somebody bigger and badder in, and you can’t get much bigger than a god.”
“Yeah, it’s just a matter of time. But no, this has nothing to do with Shadow Wing. It’s purely personal.” I really didn’t want to go into it here. For one thing, if Menolly reacted badly, it could hurt her business. And I had no clue how she’d feel about the news. There really wasn’t any reason for her to get pissed, but then again, vampires didn’t really need a reason to get angry. And sister or not, Menolly was a vampire.
She cocked her head. “Is everybody okay at home?”
“As far as I know. Camille is waiting out in the car. Let Derrick close up and you come home now, or we’re going to be standing here all night. You are going to want to hear this but it’s not something I’m comfortable talking about in public.” With that, I turned to go before she could ask any more questions.
Curiosity playing across her face, Menolly nodded. “I’ll follow. See you at home. And be careful—it’s slick out there, and the fog is rising.”
As I headed back to the car, I saw her disappear into her office. By the time I was buckling my seat belt, Menolly had darted out of the bar, jacket slung over her shoulder, and was running for her Jag. We pulled out, with her following.
The district where we lived was about fifteen minutes away from downtown Seattle. On a good night, when traffic was light, we could make it in ten minutes, but with the roads slick from the downpour, Camille took it slow and easy. As we wound out of the city proper, we entered the Belles-Faire neighborhood.
Belles-Faire was a heavily wooded suburb that almost could be considered rural, but it was still part of Seattle. Just like Shoreline, Lake Forest, Bothell, and the dozens of other suburb cities on both sides of Lake Washington, the neighborhoods ran into one another in one massive urban and suburban sprawl.
As we rounded one bend in the road, Camille suddenly swerved as a blur raced across the road. The car skidded sideways—even though we hadn’t been going a high speed, the road was slick enough to cause hydroplaning. Camille drove into the skid, and finally managed to ease the car onto the shoulder. She was breathing heavily, clutching the steering wheel. Behind us, Menolly had pulled off the road and was running over to us.
Shaking, I got out of the car as Menolly yanked open Camille’s door and helped her out.
“Are you okay? What the hell happened?” She brushed Camille’s hair back from her face.
Camille shivered, then looked around. “Something leaped out from the bushes by the side of the road. Did you see it?”
I squinted, looking into the night. There had been something—the blur—but I had no clue what it was. As I tried to puzzle out where it had gone, Menolly let out a shout.
“Kitten! Behind you!”
I whirled. There, behind me, peering out from behind a large cedar, was a pair of eyes. Brilliant green, they glimmered like a cat’s eyes, reflecting the light from street lamps. But whatever it was, it was no cat. No Were, either. I could sense the presence of other Weres. And it wasn’t the creature that had darted across the road, unless it had managed to recross without us seeing it.
“Is that Demonkin?” I asked softly, reaching for my dagger.
Camille slowly moved around the car to my left, and Menolly to my right.
After a moment, Camille let out a slow breath. “No, but I have no clue what it is. Feels Fae, but it’s not any Fae I know about.”
“Elder Fae?” The Elder Fae were highly unpredictable, beyond any sense of human behavior. They played by their own rules, and most didn’t interact with FBHs or even those of us considered “regular” Fae. This was probably a very good thing, given some of the predilections the Elder Fae had for the consumption of human flesh.
“Possibly.” Camille moved forward, slowly, holding her hands out. She inhaled deeply, closing her eyes, the magic beginning to swirl around her. As a flicker of sparkling light surrounded her hands, she reached out and a luminous glow began to emanate from her fingertips.
At the same moment, Menolly let out a grunt and went sprawling to the ground as a dark figure jumped her, holding tight to her back. The creature was bipedal, with the same luminous green eyes that were still staring at us out of the woods. About Menolly’s height and weight, the creature seemed stronger than even her vampire nature. Menolly struggled against it, but the woman—it looked female—managed to hold her down.
I launched myself at it, grabbing it by the shoulders as it clawed deep into her arms to hold itself steady. At the same moment, a brilliant flash told me that Camille had let loose with whatever spell she had been prepping. The glimmering light flared in the woods. She had aimed it at the other creature, apparently.