Black Heart Page 52

“Maybe Titania was going to use them for something and changed her mind?” Beezle asked.

I put my hands over my ears. “Enough. Enough guessing. We have too few facts to work with here. The Cimice are dead. I’m not. That much is true. I don’t know who was actually responsible for sending me to that place, but I’m not even sure it matters at this point.”

“It matters if your actions there started knocking down a chain of dominoes and we’re going to feel the effects of it later,” J.B. said.

“Should I confront Puck directly and demand that he not lie to me? That will be really productive, I’m sure.”

J.B. took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “You’re right. There’s no point in going over and over it right now. You two come back to my place and get some sleep. Maybe Nathaniel or Bendith will have some insight.”

J.B. pushed out his wings. Beezle landed on my shoulder. I glanced around quickly before I took off.

“I was keeping an eye out for him,” Beezle said under his breath as I followed J.B. into the sky. He flew a little ahead of us, like he wanted some time to think, and I let him go. “Jack didn’t come after us once you’d threatened him, and he was nowhere nearby when we were talking.”

“Thanks,” I said. “I was so surprised to see J.B. that I forgot where we were—again. We have to stop having important conversations in the middle of the street. A regular human might have called the cops if they heard us discussing murder and mayhem.”

“Especially since you look weird,” Beezle said.

“Your tact is overwhelming,” I said.

“I don’t mean your face is weird or whatever,” Beezle said impatiently. “It’s your wings. You spent so much of your life as an Agent with the ability to tuck them away when you wanted to blend in. You don’t have that now. And I think that you keep forgetting that your wings are visible all the time now.”

“I do keep forgetting,” I admitted. “I keep forgetting that I’ve changed.”

I put my hand over my belly. What was going to happen when Titania discovered I was pregnant? Or Amarantha? Even as a ghost she’d displayed an uncanny knack for causing trouble, and she’d worked with my enemies before. There was no hiding the baby now. I wasn’t completely sure how big a normal woman’s belly was at three months, but mine looked bigger than it was supposed to be.

“Beezle,” I said. “Was my mom’s stomach this big when she was three months pregnant with me?”

“No way,” Beezle said vehemently. “Either your kid is really big-boned or he’s growing faster than normal.”

“How much faster, do you think?” I asked in a small voice.

“I don’t know,” Beezle said. “Why?”

“I’m not ready to deliver this baby,” I said.

“Most women feel that way,” Beezle said. “Giving birth is a scary thing.”

“I’m not scared of the process,” I said. “I’m scared of what’s going to happen after the baby is born. He’s going to be much more vulnerable. How will I keep him safe?”

Beezle put his little hand on my cheek. “I don’t know how you’ll do it. But I know that you will.”

I nodded, unable to speak. I would do whatever it took to keep my child safe. Of that, I was sure. But would “whatever it took” be enough? Titania, in particular, would love to take my baby from me and raise it as her own. Faeries are crazy about human babies. You only had to read a few old folktales to know that. And for her to take a baby of Lucifer’s line would be an unprecedented coup.

Of course, Lucifer would be unable to allow such an insult to pass. And then he would have to go after Titania. There would be a war, and my child could be killed in the cross fire. But Lucifer’s pride would be satisfied.

I shook my head to try to clear away such thoughts. My baby wasn’t born yet. He hadn’t been stolen away. He was still safe and snug inside me. I just had to make sure that I didn’t get killed.

That was a tall order these days.

I was so caught up in my own worries that I didn’t notice where we were until Beezle nudged me in the side of my neck with his elbow.

“What?” I asked.

“Don’t you want to go with J.B.?” Beezle asked.

I saw J.B. descending toward the sidewalk in front of his building in the Loop. He lived in a condo in Printers Row, a short distance from Agency headquarters. It was a nice little area bordered by some slightly sketchy streets. Like a lot of places in Chicago, the haves rubbed right up against the have-nots.

“Veil your wings,” J.B. called.

“Right,” I said, and did so.

J.B. aimed for a shadowy spot on the street, away from foot traffic, which was fairly sparse this time of night.

“I could eat a horse,” Beezle said as we touched the sidewalk.

“You just ate,” I said. “You haven’t even given your body a chance to digest that pizza yet.”

“Yeah, but Hackney’s is right over there,” Beezle said, pointing toward the next street. “I can smell the burgers.”

J.B. punched a key code in at the front door of his building and held the door open for us. He automatically checked his mailbox on the way in, collecting a couple of envelopes and throwing the catalogs into a small wastebasket underneath the boxes.

He started up the stairs to the fourth floor.

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