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A Perfect Blood (The Hollows #10)(95)

By:Kim Harrison

Eyes narrowed, the captain leaned away. “You both will forget the entire evening,” he said, and I glared at him. “Including the realization that HAPA has infiltrated the FIB. We’re getting them one by one, and your interference is sending them deeper. HAPA does not exist anymore as far as you’re concerned.”
Bullshit. But I forced myself to relax like Trent and Mark were, pretending. I let my hands unclench, and my shoulders slumped. Beside me, Trent breathed, slow and relaxed. I’m sorry, Trent. I will get your memory back for you. I promise.
Head bobbing, I watched the captain huff as if satisfied, then glance up at the doctor, standing at the end of the table. “Well?” the captain said, and the doctor looked at his watch.
“They won’t remember a thing,” the man said, his European accent harsh. “Not even how they got here.”
“Good. Let’s go. Lady. Gentlemen,” he said, hands on the table as he rose. Without a backward glance, they headed for the door. Just as they reached it, the captain hesitated, turning with one hand raised in question. “Oh, and if you ever interfere with another one of my actions, I will put both of you in the cells next to those cretins we just caught. I have lots of room in my facility, and unlike Alcatraz, I’ve never had anyone break out. Elf. Vampire. Were, or witch.”
Touching his forehead in salute, he turned to leave, holding the door for the laughing couple coming in. Depressed, I sat for a moment as the bells jingled against the door.
That’s a different chime, I thought as I looked up. My eyes were damp, and I wiped them. How was I going to explain to Trent why he was here dressed in thief black and with his lip swollen? He’d never believe me.Something hit my foot, and I jerked my attention to Mark as he slid out from the bench, confusion pinching his eyes. “Ah, I’ll have your coffee in a sec,” he said, glancing at the seat as if wondering why he had been in it. “What was it you wanted?”
I swallowed hard, my hands shaking. “I’d like a grand latte, double espresso, Italian blend—”
“Light on the froth, heavy on the cinnamon, with a pump of raspberry in it?” he finished, starting to smile. “I remember. And for you . . .” He looked at Trent. “It was a grand latte, hazelnut, with two pumps, right? You were in here last week.”
“If you would,” Trent said, his low voice sounding as depressed as I felt.
Mark strode briskly away, his pace jerking to a pained slowness after three steps. Rubbing his shoulder as if confused, he went behind the counter, pulling his sleeve up to look at the new bruise in the making.
“I’m sorry, Rachel,” Trent whispered as if to himself. “I should have worked harder to find a memory charm that worked on demons.”
My head jerked up. “You remember?”
Trent’s jaw dropped. “B-but . . .” he stammered, his eyes going to my arm where they had injected me.
“You remember!” I said, elated, then lowered my voice, almost dancing as I moved around to sit across from Trent, taking my shoulder bag from the table and sliding it next to me. “Oh my God! Trent! How?”
Looking delighted but confused, he leaned in until our heads almost touched. “My father owns the patent on those drugs. You don’t think I know how to circumvent them?” He shook his head, amazed. “But you. Rachel . . . I didn’t have time . . . It was either the pain charm or the memory charm, and I thought you’d rather be alive without your memory than dead with it.”
I leaned back, then forward again, not knowing what to do with myself. He remembered. “The I.S. was wiping the memories of witnesses, and since I didn’t want to solve these crimes for them and wind up with nothing in my bank account . . .” My words trailed off, and suddenly I couldn’t look at him anymore. His ring glinted on my pinkie, and I turned it over and over, a weird feeling coursing through me as I avoided his eyes. “It doesn’t work for anyone but demons. I would have found something for you, but there wasn’t time to do that and everything else.”
He was silent, and I looked up. “I’m glad you didn’t forget,” he said, and I froze when he reached across the table, put his hand on mine for a bare second, and gave it a squeeze. I blinked, startled, and he jerked away, the rims of his cropped ears turning red.
“You okay?” I said, a new tension starting to build as he hid his hand under the table. There was a group of highly trained, well-funded humans who could take down Inderlanders and keep them incarcerated. We had helped them capture two HAPA members, one deeply entrenched in the FIB. I was having coffee with Trent. It was the third thing that I was worried about. 
As if appreciating the change in topic, he shifted uncomfortably on the hard seat. “I’m finding it very hard to believe that there’s been a group of humans policing HAPA and Inderland without my knowledge.” Crossing his arms, he looked over the repaired coffeehouse. “I wonder who funds them. I’ve got some toys they might be interested in.”
I snorted, my arms draped over the table in contrast to his upright decorum. “They just tried to wipe your mind and you want to sell them stuff?”
Shrugging, he flicked his eyes to mine, looking embarrassed. “I need to make a call.”
In the background, Mark was staring in confusion at the note in his pocket. I bit my lip, feeling the sweet relaxation of burnt-out adrenaline. I didn’t want this to end yet. We had gotten HAPA, survived the-men-who-don’t-belong, and my coffee was on the counter waiting for me. “Can it wait? I need a moment to catch my breath,” I said, and his attention jumped to me.
“Sure.” His gaze going to the dessert shelves, he tilted his head. “How about a piece of cherry pie to go with that coffee? Bringing down bad men makes me hungry.”
“Perfect,” I said as I stood. Pie? Trent liked cherry pie? I’d have to remember that.
“My treat,” Trent said, and I hesitated, waiting as he reached behind him for his wallet. His breath caught and he blinked up at me. “Ah, I didn’t bring my wallet,” he said, and I laughed.
“I got it this time, Daddy Warbucks,” I said, and I ambled to the counter, happy and content with the world.
Chapter Twenty-eight
My pace was fast as I hustled through the cold, sunset gloom toward the DMV office. They were about to close, but if I could get in the door before it was locked I was going to try an old-fashioned sit-in to get them to cough up a permanent registration; the one that Nina had gotten me was ready to expire. I’d been trying all week. I would have asked for Nina’s help, but she was on extended sick leave. She was in bad shape, but Ivy was making a difference. It must be hard to adjust when a dead vampire suddenly isn’t in you anymore. Like a crash from riding the high of a drug.
Someone was coming out of the bland-looking building, and I ran the last few steps, reaching out with my gloved hand to catch the door and missing. The man looked up from buttoning his coat, his eyes going over my shoulder and widening. Behind me reflected in the door’s glass was a ruddy square face, a hunter-green top hat, and a wicked, smiling grin.
“Al!” I shouted, spinning to put my back to the door, heart pounding. I hadn’t realized the sun was so close to setting. “What are you doing here? I’ve got to finish this before they close. I’ll meet you in the garden in twenty minutes.”
“Twenty minutes,” the demon scoffed, peering over my shoulder at the line still stretched to the door. “Not likely. Let me have a go,” he said petulantly. “Scaring civil servants is beyond all but the most depraved demons, and you, itchy witch, are not nearly nasty enough.”
He was reaching around behind me to the door handle, and I put a hand on his chest. “No. I’m trying to be a part of society, not get my way out of fear.”
Startled, he looked down at my hand and Trent’s ring still glinting on my pinkie. Behind me came the snick of the lock being slid into place, and I slumped. Damn . . .Smiling over his glasses, he reached for my hand and I slid out from his reach. “Same difference,” he said lightly, swinging his walking cane as he looped his arm in mine and escorted me back to the parking lot. It was cold enough to snow, and I jammed my free hand in my pocket, depressed, as Al walked jauntily at my side with a walking cane and a hat. Not much had changed in the month since putting HAPA away, but then not many people remembered that HAPA had been responsible for the murders.
“Anyway, we don’t have time for you to practice scaring civil servants,” he said as we made our way back through the cars. “I want you to try that curse. The marvelously complex one rife with risk that you’ve been avoiding. We have a party to attend later tonight.”
Swell. Head down, I reclaimed my hand and dug through my shoulder bag for my keys as we neared my car. “Al, I’m not ready to fix Winona. What if I get it wrong?”
But he had put a heavy, white-gloved hand on my shoulder, and even as I reached for my car door, my outsides seemed to pull inward with a rush of ever-after, and I snapped a bubble of protection around me as I felt the line take me. It held the icy sensation of frost, and my mind seemed to relax into an om of a hum. I had missed this.