Home > Shades of Wicked (Night Rebel #1)(14)

Shades of Wicked (Night Rebel #1)(14)
Author: Jeaniene Frost

Lack of control, I decided in a grab for an excuse. I was in the very unfamiliar position of being spellbound into following Ian’s lead tonight. I must be trying to distract myself from that by inventing a possessiveness I didn’t really feel.

Yes. That had to be it.

“Which act would you prefer for tonight?”

His questions broke through my musings. I was all too glad for the interruption. “What do you mean?”

He shrugged. “There’s the new lovers act, the friends-who-fuck act, the swingers act, the gold-digger and sugar-daddy act, the fighting couple act—”

“What about a platonic friendship act?” I interrupted.

He looked at me as if I’d finally spoken a language he couldn’t understand. “Is that a joke?”

“Hardly. You might be attractive, but not everyone wants to have sex with you.” As soon as I said it, I cringed. Did that sound as overly defensive as I felt?

“No, some people also want to kill me,” he said at once. “Some want me to turn them into a vampire, some want my money, some want me for my rare artifacts, some for my fighting skills, and one wants to dangle me out as bait for a demon she’s trying to kill. See? No one is with me simply to be with me.”

Guilt pricked me, followed by a rush of empathy. I knew what it was like to be considered an object first and a person last. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time someone had been with me just to be with me, either. Wait . . . yes, I could. Tenoch.

Loneliness and a far deeper wave of guilt swelled, followed as always by pain. How could I have not known what Tenoch was trying to tell me the last time we were together? How could I have been so blind as to miss that he’d been saying good-bye?

As much as I wanted to, I could do nothing for Tenoch. But I could do something for the man next to me, if Ian allowed himself to accept it.

“I might be with you for ulterior reasons now, but it’s well established that it’s been a while since I’ve gone out for fun,” I said in a carefully nonchalant tone. “And whatever else you are, you are fun, Ian. So, assuming we’re both still alive when this is over, would you accompany me for an evening out?”

He looked at me in amazement. Then he began to laugh. “Offering me a pity date? Now I’ve heard everything.”

“It’s not pity and it’s not a date,” I said, a testier note creeping into my tone when he continued to laugh as if I’d told the funniest joke ever. “Since you’ve never gone out with someone just as a friend, and I’m in clear need of an update on places to have a good time, I thought . . . oh, never mind, if you can’t stop laughing at me!”

“My apologies,” he said, still chuckling. “It’s only that I can’t decide which is funnier—my being pitied for an assumed lack of companionship, or the look on people’s faces if they saw you, a venerated Law Guardian, out with an infamous, law-scorning rakehell like me.”

He was right that I’d hear no less than a decade’s worth of snide remarks from some of the more sexist council members, not to mention a few from my fellow Law Guardians, too. But that didn’t matter. “Long ago, I decided I wouldn’t let other people’s disapproval dictate my actions, so as the saying goes, I can handle it if you can.”

His laughter stopped and something flashed over his face, too quick for me pinpoint what it was before it was gone. “If you hadn’t played a part in the execution of my friend’s child, I think I would very much like you, Veritas.”

She’s still alive.

I couldn’t say that out loud without endangering her, and I wouldn’t do that despite the surprisingly strong urge I had to redeem myself in Ian’s eyes. On that awful day, I’d been close enough to the “little girl” to know she wasn’t the real human/vampire/ghoul hybrid who’d been sentenced to death. She was a demon-branded shape-shifter disguised to look like her. Thankfully, the council members and other Law Guardians hadn’t noticed. They couldn’t sense demons the way I could. When I realized the switch had been made, I knew I didn’t have to freeze time to save her, which was what I’d intended.

I told Ian none of that. All I said was, “You’ll never forgive me for her death, will you?” As if there were any doubt. His calling me by my name instead of his usual moniker of “little Guardian” had been enough to tell me how serious he was.

“No, I won’t,” he said in a low, steady tone.

I met his eyes and held them. “Good. Some things should remain unforgiveable.” I’d never forgive Dagon for what he’d done. Every once in a while, I still woke up screaming from the memories. Unlike the popular saying, time did not heal all wounds.

In truth, I was grateful for Ian’s reminder of how he saw me—as another merciless player in the execution of a child whose only crime was frightening the bigoted because she’d been born different. Now, I could stop with these ridiculous thoughts and feelings about Ian. They were a waste of time and more importantly, a waste of energy. Nothing mattered except bringing Dagon down. Tonight was one more step toward accomplishing that.

“Pick whatever act you want,” I said, and stared straight ahead for the rest of the walk.

Chapter 12

Central Park was bathed in a blanket of white. Lights from the surrounding buildings reflected off the snow and made it appear to glimmer. New York was the city that never slept, but at midnight at the famous park located in the heart of the city, things appeared to be winding down.

I’d been to New York City many times for business, but I couldn’t remember the last time I’d strolled through Central Park. A few decades? Longer? Many things appeared new, such as the Alice in Wonderland sculpture and the ice-skating rink. I had seen Belvedere Castle before, but back then, it had been in a state of disrepair. Now, the faux castle looked fully renovated. It was also the location of exhibit rooms, an observation deck and the local weather station, according to a sign we passed.

Ian took us around the main entrance of the castle to the back side of it. There, on the rocky foundation that faced a small pond, he stopped and gave me a serious look.

“I’ve been asking your preference on things because I don’t want the spell to force you into acting against your will. But I don’t trust you not to return here in your official capacity later. That’s why I’m claiming one of my acts of obedience. By the spell that binds us, Veritas, I command that you will never prosecute anyone for their magical actions tonight, and you will also never tell other Guardians, Enforcers, the council, or other law-worshipping vampires about this place.”

I felt the spell responding to his words, tightening around me until they were part of me. At the same time, it was all I could do not to whoop in relief. This is what he was spending one of his acts of unquestionable obedience on? When he said “I command” I’d almost whipped out my silver knife in fear that it would be something I couldn’t tolerate. But I never would have told anyone about this place. I only prosecuted people for magic when that magic harmed others.

Not that the council or anyone else knew that about me. If they did, I wouldn’t be a Law Guardian. “Done,” I said at once.

My breezy tone caused his gaze to narrow, as if he just realized he might have wasted one of his commands. I smiled innocently while on the inside, I was chuckling. One down, two to go. If the rest were anything like this, I wouldn’t need to bother with the effort to get out of this spell.

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
Most Popular
» Shades of Wicked (Night Rebel #1)
» Medicine Man
» Dangerous Exes (Liars, Inc. #2)
» Rock Chick Reborn (Rock Chick #9)
» Wild Like the Wind (Chaos #5)
» The Hookup (Moonlight and Motor Oil #1)
» Loose Ends, Volume One (Loose Ends #1)
» The Greatest Risk (Honey #3)