Black Heart Page 45

Beezle continued. “Anyway, who’d have thunk that a generation of people prepared by supernatural TV shows and movies would be so completely receptive to the existence of actual vampires and werewolves and so on?”

“Yeah, who’d have thunk?” I said dryly. “So has any group formally introduced themselves?”

“Not yet,” he said. “Wade is considering it. They are holding back because of Therion.”

“He’s dead,” I said. “I don’t think his opinion should come into play.”

“It’s not his opinion they’re worried about,” Beezle said. “It’s the way he went on TV and announced he was taking over everything, and lots of people were eaten up before and after his presentation.”

“Wade is so harmless. He looks completely ordinary,” I said. “All he has to do is go on the air with his beautiful wife and adorable child and say that he’s going to live and let live. Everyone will love him.”

“It’s his beautiful wife and adorable child that concern him,” Beezle said. “He doesn’t want to see his family harmed if the gamble fails.”

“I thought most people were accepting,” I said.

“They are,” Beezle said. “They’re accepting of the idea that there might be interesting creatures among them. But that doesn’t necessarily translate to welcoming an entire population of something that could potentially kill them.”

“Humans do a very fine job of killing one another when magic is not involved,” I said.

“They don’t usually slaughter each other in the streets and then eat each other’s faces off,” Beezle said. “So while there is human curiosity, there is also trepidation. A lot of supernatural creatures think it’s best to ease into things.”

“Introduce themselves to a small group, hope that the response is positive?” I said.

“Pretty much,” Beezle said. “There are anecdotal tales of wolves and fae coming out to their workplaces or their sports teams, things like that.”

“And?” I asked.

“Most responses have been positive,” Beezle said.

“Most?”

“There are bigots everywhere,” Beezle said sadly. “And they like to kill what they don’t understand.”

“So you think I should continue to hide my wings,” I said.

“For now,” Beezle said.

I stopped on the sidewalk next to the Art of Pizza’s plaza. There was a rock music school next door, and a tiny parking lot. The restaurant was bright and bustling. Large glass windows fronted the building. I could see people picking up take-out orders, others gathered in groups in the informal seating area. Delivery drivers rushed in and out.

“Beezle,” I said. “If I’m a folk hero, won’t people recognize me?”

“Nah,” Beezle said. “You had really short hair in the first picture that Therion showed on the vampire broadcast.”

“People are going to be fooled by the length of my hair?” I asked.

“You were also covered in blood,” Beezle pointed out. “And you were wearing that stupid coat.”

“That stupid coat keeps me warm,” I said. “Or it did. It got burned up, along with the rest of my stuff. What about the video of me destroying the vampires? I had long hair then, and no blood on me.”

“But you have wings in that video,” Beezle said. “And they are covered up now. So people might think they recognize you, but they won’t be sure. It will be like an Angelina Jolie sighting.”

“I don’t think it will be anything like an Angelina Jolie sighting,” I muttered, but I crossed the parking lot and entered the restaurant anyway. I couldn’t hide out from the world, and anyway I had nowhere to hide.

I’d thought I’d just slide up to the counter, order a couple of slices to go and get out, like a regular person. But I’d forgotten that I had Beezle on my shoulder. All it took was one person noticing my gargoyle. A murmur rose in the restaurant as men and women pointed at him. My cheeks reddened as I stepped up to the counter.

“One thin-crust mushroom and a sausage deep-dish to go,” I said to the short Latino guy working behind the counter.

I have to give the guy credit. He didn’t even blink. Or maybe he was just so focused on getting through the order and to the next person that the presence of Beezle on my shoulder didn’t really register.

It took only about a minute for him to get my slices and ring up the order, but it felt like an eternity. I could feel the stares of the curious burning into my back. Beezle seemed unaffected by the whole thing, adopting the attitude of a celebrity who knows he’s been identified but wants to pretend otherwise.

I collected my change and the container holding the pizza and headed for the door. I pretended I had tunnel vision and focused only on the exit. Almost there. Almost . . .

A young man a few inches taller than me wearing a Muse T-shirt and a pair of worn-out jeans slid in front of me just as I was about to push the door open. His blue eyes were alight with excitement.

“Hey,” he said loudly. “Aren’t you Madeline Black?”

11

I DUCKED MY HEAD AND TRIED TO STEP AROUND HIM. “No, sorry; you must have mistaken me for someone else,” I mumbled.

He put his fingers on my shoulder to stop me. “No, I think you are,” he insisted.

My temper flared when he put his hand on me. I know he didn’t mean me any harm, and even if he did, it would be nothing for me to squash him like a bug. But nobody pushed me around. Not even an insignificant human.

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