Winter (The Manhattan Exiles) (30 page)

BOOK: Winter (The Manhattan Exiles)
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Richard flashed Bran a stare of pure hatred. He slipped out of his coat, leaving it in Bran’s grasp. Leaning on his stick, he limped past the Wards, through the curtain.

“What’re you doing?” Bran demanded even as he fumbled in the coat for the detonator.


Going after them.” He broke into a stiff jog. “The trains aren’t running, the rift’s still open. I’m going to get her back.”


They’ll kill you!” Bran shouted, not sure if he cared. His fingers closed around a hard, round piece of metal in Richard’s coat pocket. “They’ll rip you to pieces. Stupid kid.”

He pulled the detonator free of the coat, handling it gingerly. But it wasn’t a detonator. It was a small, round tin of breath mints, and it rattled between his fingers.

Richard was almost around the bulge in the tunnel, almost out of sight. At Bran’s yell, he hesitated, dripping blood onto the ground.

The glowing Wards turned the rictus of his smile golden.

“I may be useless,” he said. “But at least I know my limits. I wasn’t sure I could do it, push a button. I worried I’d change my mind. There’s no detonator, detective. The C-4’s wired to a timer. Better run, Healy. You’ve got roughly three minutes.”

 

 

 

 

 

21
. Grey Lady

 

She’d been Liadan for thousands upon thousands of human years, and Katherine for several centuries, but she thought of herself as Katie, because that was the name Bran had given her when he’d saved her from herself.

Katie was smart, sexy and powerful. Katie kept a chic little apartment on the upper East Side, and was an excellent cook. Katie had a pampered old dachshund named Longfellow, and spent too much money on Missoni dresses, and always cried at the end of old, black and white, sappy movies.

Katie was the sort of woman Bran Healy fell in love with, and Bran Healy’s love was the only thing left in the bleak, human world that could keep Katherine Grey from falling into despair and then madness.

Despair didn’t frighten her as much as madness. Mad things were lost and ugly, at worst pitied or ignored, at best put cleanly to death. She’d have chosen death long ago, if it had been an option.

Once, not really so long ago, she’d swallowed pride and gone down on her knees before Malachi, begging his mercy and the bite of his sword. He’d refused.


I can still smell the Mending in your blood,” he’d said, and she thought the regret on his face had been unfeigned. “You’ll only suffer and live on. I’m sorry. Mayhap it will fade, in another hundred years . . .”

She’d fled before he could finish, because of all the imprisoned
sidhe
she hated Malachi the most. Malachi, who continued to believe someday their exile would end. Malachi, who alone of all the Manhattan Fay still had hope.

Malachi, who was dead, cut down by Pope’s sword, and now entirely beyond hope.

Liadan would have laughed at the indignity of his end.

Katie didn’t dare.

She clutched her cell phone to her ear as she ran up the steps of The Plaza Hotel, listening, listening. The line was still open, fading in and out. She could hear nothing but muffled scraping and sighing. She was afraid if she hung up, she’d lose the line entirely.

A single hotel doorman stood at the top of the red-carpeted steps. He opened a glass door as she approached. He looked as if he had been crying, which he probably had. Humans grieved tragedy without shame, as did the
sidhe
.

The televisions in the hotel lobby were all turned on, tuned to separate channels, muted. The screens displayed nearly identical images taken from several different angles: Washington D.C., and dawn over the smoky skyline, now forever changed, minus one of humankind’s greatest and most beautiful achievements.

Captions scrolled across the bottom of the television screens. Katie didn’t pause to read them. Patrons stood rooted to the marble floor, or slumped on The Plaza’s pretty furniture, staring silently at the newsfeed. In the background the concierge muttered quietly into a phone.

Katie marched past them all. At the elevators the hotel manager himself tried to stop her.

“Ma’am,” he said. “We’ve tightened security, I’m sure you understand. Access for hotel guests only. Is there a room I can ring for you?”

Katie pushed him aside. He protested, reaching for the discreet radio he wore on his belt. Under more normal circumstances Katie would have used a Glamour, if only because a secret part of her still enjoyed turning mortals into willing slaves.

Instead, she knocked him flat on the marble floor, and stepped into the elevator.

She could see herself reflected in the gold: wide-eyed, frightened, disfigured in the decoration. The mobile phone against her ear was now buzzing white noise. She wouldn’t admit to herself that maybe she’d lost the line after all.

The guards that usually graced Siobahn’s entrance hall were absent. She kicked the penthouse door open, only then realizing she’d forgotten shoes when she’d run from her own apartment. Her feet were bare, and dirty.

Katie knew her way through Siobahn’s home, but she didn’t have to go far. They were all gathered in the small sitting room Siobahn preferred. The room was made for cozy meetings, not impromptu councils, and it was crowded.

Summer and the human child sat on the floor. Siobahn perched behind her desk, her hair scraped back in a severe bun, her eyes shadowed. Winter lingered behind his mother, head bowed over his own mobile phone. A very large man in cleric’s brown robes had claimed the couch, and Morris stood tall in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows.

Someone had opened the room’s faux armoire, revealing a discreet television. Like the screens downstairs, it was muted. The newsfeed had switched from skyline to ground-view.

One glance at the black crater on the television and Katie howled. She hurled herself across the room at Winter, nails and teeth bared.

Morris blocked her before she could reach Siobahn’s desk. Morris wasn’t as powerful as Barker, but he had a way of putting himself wherever Katie turned, and her curses bounced away unheeded.

“Think twice, Liadan,” the Fay Queen warned wearily. “No one here would regret your loss.”

Katie took a deep breath. She clenched both fists at her sides, to keep from striking out again.

“You dropped your phone,” the human boy-child said. He stood and retrieved it from the rug, holding it out, polite, although his narrowed brown eyes were full of hatred.


You’re very brave, or really stupid,” Winter said without looking up. “To come here after arranging my father’s murder.”


I didn’t,” Katie spat. “I tried to save him. Those two - “ she nodded at Summer and the spiteful boy “ - got in my way. Your fault,
Geimhreadh
, this is all your fault. Siobahn, your son is a horror.”


I couldn't agree more. Finally, someone with sense.”

Katie had been too distraught to take notice of Winter’s companion. The young woman stood slightly behind him, as though seeking a shadow to hide in. When she stepped forward, Katie saw that she was
fay. Fleetingly, Katie thought the girl looked familiar.


Tell them to let me go!” the girl demanded. “Tell
him
to let me go. I didn’t want to come here!”


Quiet,” Siobahn ordered, even as Winter put out a hand and casually shoved the girl back into the corner. “Liadan, what is it you want?”


What is it I want?” Katie whirled around. “Have you not seen the news?”

Siobahn looked past Morris at the television. Her brow wrinkled.

“Human politics,” she said, staring blankly at the gaping crater. Hoses spewed rivers of water into the hole, smothering the spots of fire that still blazed. “A sad thing, but none of our concern.”

Choking on rage and fear, Katie could only hiss and moan.

Winter’s head jerked up and around. He looked hollow and ill. He studied Katie, growing paler still.


What is it?” he said, sharp.


You know.” Katie brushed Morris aside, and he let her. She set her hands on Siobahn’s desk. “You guessed, or wondered, because they’re not answering your texts, are they, Winter? And they always answer your texts. Wrecker of worlds, breaker of vows. Read it in my mind, Siobahn’s son. We should have killed you when you freed the Host!”

Siobahn rose from her chair even as Winter
flinched. Summer jumped up from her place on the carpet, steadying her brother.


It was Richard?” he breathed. “Richard did this?”


You left the tunnels!” Katie screamed. “You were never supposed to leave the Host unguarded!”


No!” Wide-eyed, Winter turned toward his mother. “Richard’s smart. He knows how to handle the ghouls. He’s been handling them for years. He - “


Blew up your blighted tunnel.” Katie spat the words one at a time, hoping he could feel her hatred and sorrow like blades in his head. “Blew up my Bran.”


Liar!” The human child hit Katie hard with his fists, braids swinging. “Richard would never do that! Aine was there! Richard would never hurt Aine! Richard rescues spiders from the kitchen and sets them free outside. Winter, tell her!”

One of his small fists connected soundly with Katie’s ribs. Only Siobahn’s dire expression kept Katie from spelling the boy into a worm.

“Lorenzo.” The big man on the couch reached out and pulled the child almost into his lap. “Stop.”


How do you know this?” Siobahn demanded. “The news is calling it an act of terrorism.”


Bran called me.” Katie squeezed her phone against her palm until she felt her flesh rip. “From the tunnels. As he ran. He asked me to tell Winter.” She had to struggle to shake the words free. “I heard the explosion myself, Siobhan.”

Siobahn looked at the television, then back at her son.

“Can this be true,
Geimhreadh
?” she demanded.

Winter seemed to have shrunk in stature. His shoulders were hunched, his grey eyes wide. Katie noticed for the first time that one side of his face was scabbed, some of his beauty marred.

He looked like the barely grown child he was, and not the warrior he pretended to be.


It’s true,” Katie said, full of scorn. “He couldn’t handle it, Siobahn. You set him the one task, a chance to make reparation, and he failed. He left his post unguarded, and as a result damaged something precious to me. I demand recompense.”

She felt tears threatening. She wouldn’t show weakness. She swallowed grief back, but Siobahn’s expression soften
ed.


Liadan,” the Fay Queen said. “Sit down, before you fall down.”

The human priest stood up.

“Come, Lorenzo,” he said. “Leave the couch to the lady.”


Grey bitch,” the boy cursed. “You just wait.”

The priest grabbed the child by the back of his sweatshirt, hauling him out of the way.

Siobahn pointed at the couch.


Sit,” she ordered. “Morris will get tea.” She ran a hand over her scraped-back hair, as if to neaten the already impeccable strands.


Before you demand my only son’s head on a platter,” Siobahn continued. “Let me show you what he’s brought us. Hannah?”

The young
fay stepped rigidly from behind the desk. Katie had been a puppet on Siobahn’s strings twice before, and recognized the distress on the girl’s face. Quickly enough, she knew, distress would turn to sizzling resentment. Siobahn wasn’t often gentle with her strength.

The
fay walked to the edge of the couch on stiff legs, propelled by Siobahn’s will.


Someone whelped and kept the babe a secret,” Katie said. “What is it to me?”

Once, she might have pretended celebration. In five hundred years only Siobahn and Malachi had managed to produce viable offspring. Most of the Manhattan
sidhe
had long ago stopped trying for young. The heartbreak of so many lost or malformed babes had become too overwhelming.

Once, Katie might even felt a small spark of pleasure. Now, she had room for grief and nothing more.

“Look closer,” Siobahn demanded. “Hannah. Stop frowning and smile, now. Show some grace.”

Katie watched as the girl struggled to keep her scowl, and lost it to Siobahn’s will. She smiled prettily, as pretty as any maid at Court, although her dark eyes were full of horror and the muscles in her jaw shook.

It was the smile that did it, the lovely, crooked smile that had nothing of real joy behind it.

Katie’s knees gave out. She sat down hard on the couch, staring.

The hair was different, darker, longer. And the pert nose had never graced Gloriana’s face. But the rest . . .


Bless us and shake us,” she whispered, heart pounding. “Gloriana. Or her fetch.”


Close enough,” Siobahn said as Morris returned to the parlor, tea cups rattling on a silver tray. “It seems it was Gloriana who whelped, and thought to keep the babe a secret, and safe. My son found her.”


Where?”

Morris set a bone china cup in Katie’s hands. Katie set her cell phone on the couch and curled her fingers around the heat. She’d been cold since the explosion had silenced Bran. She wasn’t sure she’d ever be completely warm again.

“Winter?” Siobahn said.

Winter walked around the desk of his own accord, the glittering gems in his ears a visible reminder of the last time he’d disobeyed.

“Hannah was on this side of the Way.” He appeared to have mastered shock and regained control. “In Virginia. She’s a changeling. It was her other half Smith summoned in the tunnels, her human counterpart.”


Gloriana closed the Way five centuries ago. There has been no possibility of infant swapping since,”  Katie argued. “How old are you, girl?”


My name is
Hannah
,” Gloriana’s image growled, still smiling prettily. “I turned sixteen last May. Let me go, or I’ll burn you all to embers and dance in your ashes.”

BOOK: Winter (The Manhattan Exiles)
11.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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