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A Perfect Blood (The Hollows #10)(90)

By:Kim Harrison

Part of me wanted to tap a line and smack him a good one, but I didn’t. Restraint. That was going to be my new watchword. That I’d given myself permission to do demon magic scared the shit out of me. I didn’t want to become Al. I’d use my magic only if necessary. Wayde was a reasonable person. We could settle this without violence.
I turned for the doors, angry but trying not to be. It was harder to walk without my crutch, but I managed, my pulse fast as I snatched my bag from the floor and lurched for the handle of the glass doors. Beyond them in the glow of a streetlight was Trent’s car, the lights aimed at the front of the building. There was a tiny scuff behind me, and I turned, ticked.
“Hey!” I yelped, scrambling to stay upright when Wayde plowed into me, pinning me to the glass wall beside the door. “What in hell are you doing?” I wheezed, my back to the door and squirming as he felt in my coat pockets.
“Looking for your keys,” he said, and my hand met his cheek in a loud smack.
“Get off!” I yelled, and I heard the jingle of keys as he backed up. “What in hell is wrong with you!”
His head lowered, Wayde backed off, my keys in his hand. His face was red where I’d hit him, but he didn’t seem bothered about it. “You’ll thank me for this later,” he said, looking as if he’d won. “I know you’re mad about Eloy, but running out and trying to find him isn’t going to help anyone, least of all you.” He jiggled my keys as if he had the world by the nads, and I frowned, tugging my coat straight. Now? I wondered. Can I use my demon magic now?
Trent hadn’t come in yet. I knew he was watching this, and my thoughts whispered restraint. I could walk away, but if I did, he’d just follow me in my car. I needed my keys. “You,” I said as I limped toward Wayde and he backed up, blinking, “haven’t known me long enough to give me advice that I’m not going to take. Give me my keys.”
“No.” He raised them high over his head as if it were a game. “Let’s go upstairs, have some pizza, beer, and burn HAPA in effigy. Tomorrow when we’re done with our pity party, you’ll make some charms and we’ll find out where they went. We don’t have to tell the FIB or the I.S. We can take care of this ourselves.”
Taking care of this myself was exactly what I intended to do. Adrenaline seeped through me, erasing every hurt, making me alive. “Keys,” I said, backing him up until we were at the elevators again. “Give me my keys!” I demanded, my hand out, and he held them in the air like a school bully. “Wayde, I’m not afraid anymore to hurt you!”He shook his head. “My God, you’re a bitch when you’re on pain meds.”
“That’s alpha bitch, buddy,” I said, shaking, “of an honest-to-God pack. And you will respect that. Give me my keys, get in that elevator, and go away, or I’ll pin you to the ground and rip off your ear.”
Face grim, he shook his head. Pity had slipped into his eyes, and he slid the keys into his pocket. “He hurt you, Rachel, and I know what that does to you. My sister is the same way, and she hurts herself worse trying to get back at them. It doesn’t make anything better.”
I looked at him for a good three seconds, feeling my impatience grow. Trent was waiting, and Wayde wasn’t listening. My ankle was starting to hurt again. Maybe I shouldn’t have busted my crutch. I had tried. My idea of no violence wasn’t working. “Maybe you’re right,” I said, relaxing my body as if I had given up.
Wayde smiled. “Good,” he said as he looked away to push the up button.
I lunged forward, grabbing his shoulders and slamming his head into the wall. “Sorry,” I breathed as he howled, reaching behind to get me.
“Son of a whore!” he swore, and I hooked my good leg behind his and pulled. We both went down, but I was expecting it. Arms pinwheeling, he fell headfirst into the ashtray beside the elevator. Kneeling beside him, I grabbed the heavy metal bowl and slammed it on his head.
Wayde yelled, and I hit him again, adrenaline pulling a scream of outrage from me. He went quiet, and I held my breath to make sure I could hear him breathing. I suppose I could have used my magic on him, but this was a lot more satisfying.
“I never should have helped her off the couch,” he whispered, and I hit him again, the ashtray bonging with hard certainty.
He groaned, and this time, he really was out. There were three lumps on his head, and I shoved him over so I could pull his eyelids back to make sure that his pupils were dilated properly. “I told you I wasn’t afraid anymore,” I said as I slowly got up, shaking. Good God, my mother would laugh her pants off. I’d beaten up my bodyguard.
I gave a moment’s thought to taking his belt off and tying him up, but Trent was flashing his lights at me. Not wanting Wayde to follow, I felt his pockets for my keys and fished them out. Still shaking, I got up, made a salute to the camera in the corner, and hobbled out.
The cool night air was like a balm, and I headed for Trent’s car with my thoughts swirling. I’d hurt Wayde, but he’d be okay, not dead like if he followed and ended up shot. “You could have helped me out there,” I said as I yanked the handle up and slid into the sharp little black two-seater, finding the seat warm from the electronic heater. The windows were down, but with all the vents wide open and aimed at me, it was comfortable even in the chill autumn night. 
Trent revved the engine, giving me a sideways grin. “I told you to come alone. You think I want to be on a security camera?”
I eyed his black attire as I put my belt on and he jammed the car in first and headed smoothly for the exit. “Besides,” he said as he paused at the entryway to the apartment complex, then gunned it. “If you couldn’t get rid of your bodyguard, you aren’t fit enough to tag Eloy. How come you didn’t make up a healing curse?”
“I haven’t had the time. Besides, I’m okay,” I said, and he nodded. Adrenaline spiked, and I couldn’t help my smile. The car was fast, Trent looked good, and we both knew more than the I.S. and the FIB combined. “Do you know who the-men-who-don’t-belong are yet?”
He shook his head and tossed my battery pack and earbud to me. “Not yet, but they’re human, and they’re targeting HAPA, not helping them. They have one of their men with Eloy and Dr. Cordova at the ‘watering hole.’ Take a listen.”
I fumbled for the earpiece and put it in. The sound of light chatter and the clinking of a spoon met me. It could be anywhere.
“You know what the watering hole is?” Trent asked, slowing at a stop sign.
I shook my head, then hesitated, smiling as the distinctive sound of ice being crushed nearly blew my ear out. “Grand latte! Italian blend! Easy on the syrup, light on the froth! Ready for pickup!” Mark shouted.
“You’re not going to believe this,” I said, thinking Trent looked a shade too devilish to be good backup, but he’d do. “They’re at Junior’s.”
Trent grinned across the car at me, and something in me fluttered. “You’re right. I don’t believe you.”
Chapter Twenty-seven
Ribs aching, I sat next to Trent in his snazzy car as he pulled into Junior’s and parked, lights off, engine running. My fingers looked silver in the dash’s blue light, and all my bruises were invisible but aching. The earbud lay on the console between us, the volume cranked as terse commands went back and forth in a busy, well-organized flow. Inside Junior’s it was peaceful. I can change that, I thought dryly, knowing that the next ten minutes were really going to mess up the new understanding that Mark and I seemed to have.
It was nearing three in the morning according to the clock on Trent’s dash, and if the coffeehouse had been in the Hollows it would be jumping. As it was, it felt much later, the brightly lit eatery sending its glow through the plate-glass windows onto an almost deserted parking lot. Junior, or Mark, as his name really was, was stocking shelves from a pallet of boxes beside him. There were no other employees that I could see.
In the corner, two customers argued over their to-go cups—Eloy and Dr. Cordova. Eloy had a jeans coat on over his white prison jumpsuit. Dr. Cordova was going more casual than usual in black pants and a knit top—comfortable to travel in should she need to jump a plane. In the corner, an athletic-looking man in a jogging outfit sat with his back to them, but I’d sell my best panties online if he wasn’t one of the-men-who-don’t-belong watching everything going on behind him with some sort of electronic gizmo.
Trent hit the seat warmer again as it went out. “Here,” he said, reaching into his belt pack and handing me a tiny vial. “You look like you’re hurting.”
I took it, my eyebrows high. “And this is?”
“Numbs the pain. I could really use your assistance, but not if I have to help you in the door. It masks pain better than your amulet. But it won’t heal you.” He grimaced, needlessly flicking his fair hair back out of his eyes. “I’m not that good, either.”“I said I didn’t have the time,” I said, and he looked at me.
“And I wasn’t going to ask for Ceri’s help,” he added as if I hadn’t said anything. “All you have to do is swallow it.”