Authors: Gayla Drummond
Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Paranormal & Urban, #Mystery, #werewolves, #urban fantasy, #Shifters, #Vampires, #Magic, #Paranormal, #psychic
Tabitha's eyes actually sparkled as she set her phone aside, and pushed it out of easy reach. "I'll try."
Dane offered his USB stick, and she quickly plugged it into her computer. We moved around to her side of the desk, and I noticed her phone's screen, or rather, Damien's name on it. So he'd finally begun talking to her. I wondered if he'd asked her out yet while Tabitha started the video.
"Fast forward to about one-fifty-nine AM," Dane said. She did, and we watched the dark stuff. "We don't think it's smoke. Didn't smell anything."
"No, those are shadows.
Tabitha nodded, pausing the video. Her short, neatly manicured, sea green-painted nails clicked on the screen as she outlined the darkness. "See how solid the edges are? Smoke or fog would be more diffuse. This is a large concentration of shadows."
Living shadows? "What, or who, can make shadows like this? Or what kind of person is made of shadows?"
She leaned back. "Any type of magic users with the right skills. There are some beings who travel via shadows too, or can control them. There are gods who can manipulate them. I don't know of any species made of shadows though."
Great, a big suspect pool. "That's quite a list. Any chance of narrowing it down?"
"Maybe. Was the door opened?"
"No. No alarms were triggered and these shadows took that. It's the mirror." I pointed to the shrouded shape.
Tabitha hit the play button to watch the rest of the video. "Okay, so nothing physical was interfered with except the mirror, and it wasn't physically carried out."
"Not just someone who can control shadows, but someone who can magically transport large objects. Hm." Her eyes narrowed. "I don't think any human magic users could do something like this yet."
"Why not?" I asked.
"It's only been eight years since they gained magic. Shadow magic requires a lot of power and time to learn," she replied. "Most supe species are only able to do limited magic. For example, my people can only change shape and create small magic related to water."
I glanced at Dane, who smiled. "Tab is a Selkie."
Tabitha giggled. "You don't know what a Selkie is, do you?"
"I know it has something to do with water."
"Yes. We can change from human to seal by putting on our sealskins."
She was a shifter, kind of. Also pretty far from any large bodies of water. "That's pretty nifty. Where do you swim around here? Santo Trueno's not exactly beachfront property."
"There are a few suitable places."
I was being too nosy. "So what kinds of supes can do a lot of magic? I know elves can."
"Aside from them, you're looking at either gods or demons," Dane sighed. "Let's hope it's another elf. I've kind of had enough of gods, and would rather not mess with demons."
That echoed my sentiments exactly. "Elf would be good. Besides, why would a god wait until now to steal the mirror? Wouldn't one be able to nab it whenever?"
Tabitha shrugged. "Guess it would depend on the god. They're notoriously capricious."
Ugh. "I didn't want to hear that."
"It's okay." I patted her shoulder, and a vision flashed across my mind, of deep green water and furry bodies swimming. It was neat to already know what those furry bodies were. "Thanks."
"You're welcome." She smiled. "I can help a bit more, do some research into gods that are mentioned to have used shadows, if you like?"
"That would be awesome." I checked the time, which was nearly five o' clock. "Please do that, and I think we should pay a visit to Thorandryll."
"Ah, I kind of have a date." Dane straightened up from leaning on Tabitha's desk. "Remember Sheila?"
"Red glasses cutie from the college?"
He nodded. "Yeah. I'm supposed to meet her at six."
"Okay. I can handle talking to Thorandryll myself. Go have fun, and I'll fill you in tomorrow. How about my house around nine in the morning?"
"Sound good, and thanks. Say hello to Kethyrdryll if you see him."
"I will." And hoped I would. Kethyrdryll was the nicest elf I'd met so far, even compared to Alleryn. Thorandryll's brother wasn't an ass to shifters. "See you later."
"Bye, ladies." Dane took off, pulling out his truck keys before he hit the door. I had to grin at his obvious eagerness.
"Do you want me to email the list when I'm done, or print it out?"
"Email's fine, and if you don't mind, send it to us both. But," I gestured at her phone, which had dinged a few times since she'd put it down. "Don't let it interfere with any plans this evening. Thanks again."
I waved and left the office, waiting until I was in my car to call ahead. The stereo Logan had put in my car allowed me to use my phone hands-free.
"Miss Jones," Thorandryll answered. "I was just thinking of you."
Sure he was. Then again, with my luck, he probably really had been. "Hello."
"To what do I owe the pleasure of this call?"
"I have a client, an elf, and have some questions you may be able to answer. If you have time."
"Of course. When will you arrive?"
"Maybe a half hour or so from now." Thorandryll's sidhe was on the northeastern-most edge of the city.
"I look forward to seeing you." He ended the call, without saying good-bye.
Hm, maybe I should drive home and teleport from there. It'd give me the chance to feed my dogs. My house lay beyond the north edge of the city, on the west of the highway. Yeah, I'd do that. Wouldn't have to deal with evening traffic that way. Hurray for teleportation, the quickest, greenest way to travel from point A to point B.
teleported to the gates of Thorandryll's sidhe, where two elves stood guard. One was the same elf I'd taken dinner to, when we'd camped in the entrance of the Unseelie castle a couple of weeks before.
He greeted me with a smile and brief inclination of his head. "Welcome, Lady Discord."
"Hi. I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name last time."
"Edrel, my lady."
"Nice to see you again, Edrel. I have an appointment with..."
"The prince, yes. Lord Kethyrdryll will be here momentarily to escort you."
"Cool, thanks." He opened the gate to let me in. The drive wasn't straight, but a thing of curves lined with tall, thick hedges. The better to ambush unwelcome visitors, I guessed. Kethyrdryll came into sight from around the closest curve, and waved. "There he is. Laters."
When I reached Kethyrdryll, he smiled. "It's pleasant to see you again."
"Same here. Are you settling in okay?" Thorandryll's twin had missed the Melding, trapped on his way to visit the Unseelie.
"Well, I think it's all so fascinating, what humans have become, and the things they've created." His smile brightened. "Their story-telling has morphed beyond belief. Television, movies, the Internet...all the new media. That's the correct phrase, isn't it?"
"Yes." I was smiling too; his enthusiasm was amusing. Then again, maybe I took all the conveniences of modern life for granted, having grown up with them.
He glanced back at the gates. "I didn't see a vehicle. Do you have one? I rather like motor vehicles, in spite of their bewildering variety."
"I teleported, but yeah, I have a car. I'll bring it over when I have the chance."
"I plan to learn to operate them in the future."
"Cool." I had to take off my jacket. Thorandryll preferred summer, so it was way warmer inside the sidhe. "It's fun to drive."
We chatted about nothing in particular the rest of the walk, and Kethyrdryll took me inside, straight to his brother's office.
The elven Prince of Santo Trueno sat behind his desk, reading a sheaf of papers. He wore a dark blue poet's shirt, the lacing loose, and if not for his intent frown, he could've graced the cover of a romance novel. His golden hair was long and straight, not a touch of frizz to be seen. Humidity wouldn't dare wreak havoc on an elf's hair.
"Lady Discordia is here," Kethyrdryll said when his brother kept reading.
"Yes, thank you. Please, have a seat."
There was one chair in front of his desk, but this time, I'd called ahead. Which made me wonder if there'd only been the one chair before I called. There'd always been just the right number of chairs on my prior visits, whether with Nick or with Logan and Dane.
I sat, and he kept reading. Two seconds, and boredom set in, along with irritation. A minute later, he was still reading. After debating my options for another minute, I stood up and headed for the door.
"Where are you going?"
"Home. You're obviously busy." I gave myself a point for not sounding huffy.
"My apologies. Please come back."
I turned and he set the papers down, a faint smile on his face. Recalling the time I'd kicked him in the family jewels, I smiled back, probably showing too many teeth, and returned to my seat.
"Before we delve into the matter that brought you here, I must inform you that your debt is due."
"What debt?" What the... "Oh, that. The dinner date for turning me back to normal."
"Yes, I'm hosting a dinner ball on New Year's Eve, and require your presence as my companion for it."
"A dinner ball."
He gave a nod. "Formal dress."
I seriously considered protesting, but I had agreed to the deal, and getting it over with sounded good. "Fine. What time?"
"I'll pick you up at seven."
Ugh, that made it more date than I liked, but hey, I could always teleport home the second we finished eating. "No magic tricks. That was part of the deal."
"No magic tricks," Thorandryll agreed, and changed the subject. "I've been informed you're not seeing anyone."
Instant suspicion. "My dating habits aren't any of your business."
"They are if I plan to request the pleasure of your company in the future.
I shook my head. "Nope. This is a one-time-only deal. You're not my type."
"And why is that, Miss Jones?"
Well, looked like the time for the "Come to Jesus" meeting had arrived, ready or not. "How about a little plain talk? Like the fact I'm twenty-three, which is basically a fetus compared to you."
Thorandryll waved that away with a languid gesture. "Age matters little to my people."
"It matters to me. I have rules about dating: No guys more than two years younger or ten years older. You're a lot more than ten years older."
"What if it would prove highly advantageous for you?"
"I'm not a gold digger, dude. I date somebody because I like him, not because it's 'highly advantageous' to."
He sighed. "I wasn't talking about financial interest, Miss Jones. It would be politically advantageous."
The sound that erupted from me wasn't remotely lady-like, being a snorting laugh. "I have all the politics I can handle right now, so no thanks."
"I don't think you comprehend the state our community's currently in." Thorandryll leaned forward, resting his forearms on his desk. "Things are unsettled."
"Uh-huh, and us dating would make them settle? I find that really hard to believe, but thanks for confirming my suspicion."
Up went his eyebrows. "What suspicion?"
"See, I may be young, but I'm not as dense as you think I am." I smiled. "I knew there wasn't any way you were actually interested in me. Not romantically."
"I do find you attractive. You're a lovely woman."
"Pretty sure you'd be just as interested if I had a face full of hairy moles, because I'm a psychic. Come on." I scowled. "You're an elf prince with loads of gorgeous elf women around."
"And you don't believe I would choose you over any of them?" He tilted his head. "The lack of self-confidence that implies flies into the face of all I know about you."
"I'm self-confident, not stupid. I'm human, I'll age. You won't."
"Debatable," he muttered.
Had I heard him right? "What?"
"Fine, if you don't wish to believe my interest in you is anything beyond," he paused. "I'm not certain how to finish that."
"Greed for power?" I suggested.
He actually rolled his icy blue eyes. “That, I suppose. You don't think very highly of me."
"Gee, wonder why? There's been lies, trouble, oh and you totally took advantage of me while I was having a vision that time, in your library." I hadn't forgotten him macking on me. "I owe you a slap for that, but we'll call it even because I got to kick you."
"Normally, when a woman has the look that you did, she wants to be kissed."
"Vision, jerk. Seriously, who makes with the sexing in a library?" I waved my hand before he could answer. "Doesn't matter. Unless I say 'kiss me', you don't."
Thorandryll raised his eyebrow. "Do you plan to?"
"Hell to the no. I told you, you're not my type. Too old." Too arrogant and conniving, as well.
Thorandryll nodded. "I see. Even though I can give you every luxury imaginable?"
"I'm not really a fan of luxury. Comfortable, now yeah, I like being comfortable. But I don't need a man to make that happen. I can do it myself." I was doing it myself, even though buying the house and adopting five furry kids was costing more than I felt okay with.