Black Heart Page 62

I glanced around the room. You could hardly tell that there had been a network of slimy, dripping eggs a few moments before. All that remained was a few blackened, shriveled fragments. Most of the eggs had disappeared completely, nothing remaining except some flakes of ash on the floor.

J.B. released Nathaniel’s arms. “I’ll go out the back and up to the window of the condo and get your clothes. Stay here.”

He disappeared into the darkness as he passed out of the glow of Nathaniel’s nightfire, which still floated above us.

Beezle floated in the air between Nathaniel and me, a disapproving look on his face.

“Don’t say anything,” I warned.

“I could just dump the rest of this water over your head, since you deserve it,” Beezle said.

“Why didn’t you go with J.B.?” I asked.

“Because I think the two of you need monitoring,” Beezle said.

“It was me that was the problem, not Nathaniel,” I said. “I lost control of my power.”

“I don’t think so,” Beezle said. “I think you knew exactly what you were doing. And you were enjoying it.”

“I didn’t expect it to be like that,” I whispered. “Nathaniel, I’m sorry you got hurt because of me.”

“He was enjoying it, too,” Beezle said.

“Do not presume to know my feelings, gargoyle,” Nathaniel said.

“You may have marginally improved as a person, but deep down you’re still a guy who loves power. That was why you wanted Maddy in the first place, way back when Azazel arranged a marriage between you. Don’t lie to me and tell me that you didn’t feel the call when she looked at you,” Beezle said. “I could see it happen.”

“Madeline may tolerate your interference in her business, but I do not have to,” Nathaniel said.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Beezle said, smirking.

I approached Nathaniel, a little embarrassed. “I should heal you.”

He put his hand on my chin, lifting my eyes to his. “Do not hide from me. You did not mean me harm.”

“But I did it anyway,” I said. Everything inside me was a tangle. “I don’t know who I am anymore.”

“I know who you are,” he said softly. “You are Madeline Black, as you have always been.”

I placed my hands on his neck, his lips, making the blackened, blistered flesh disappear.

I heard the sound of pounding feet, and we turned to see J.B. running down the hall between the storage spaces.

He stopped in front of us and dumped an armload of clothing on the floor. My sword clattered to the ground.

“Get dressed,” he said. “Bendith’s gone.”


NATHANIEL SWORE. “WHOEVER SET THE CHARGE ON the building must have known he was inside.”

He yanked a shirt and jeans from the jumble of clothes and pulled off his pajama pants. He wasn’t wearing any underwear beneath but he didn’t seem self-conscious in the least.

Beezle turned away, covering his eyes with his hands. “For the love of the Morningstar, don’t do that without warning me. I’ve seen enough naked humans for one day.”

J.B. had collected my jeans and shoes, but my underwear and shirt had burned up in the heart-of-darkness incident. I put on the jeans while he scooped a plaid flannel shirt out of the pile.

“I brought you one of mine,” he said, trying to look everywhere except my chest.

“Thanks,” I said, pulling it over my head, as it was already buttoned. I felt better once I was covered by the shirt. J.B. was a lot taller than me, so the tail hung to the middle of my thighs. “Was there any sign of a struggle outside?”

J.B. shook his head. “No. It’s like he just disappeared into thin air.”

Nathaniel finished dressing, pulling on a pair of well-worn black leather boots. “It could not have been the assassins, then. They would not have bothered to take him away.”

J.B. nodded grimly. “They would have killed him and left him there so we could see that we’d failed.”

“Somebody took him,” I said as I put on my own boots. “I don’t think he would have left of his own accord, do you?”

Nathaniel paused. “I suppose it’s possible he ran off in a fit of pique.”

“I noticed that he wasn’t too happy about my arrival,” I said.

Nathaniel directed the nightfire back toward the stairs and we all trooped in that direction. Beezle took up his usual position on my shoulder.

“No, he was not,” Nathaniel admitted. “However, I still need to find him. If Bendith is out on his own, then he is vulnerable.”

“Doesn’t he have magic of his own?” I asked. “He can’t be totally helpless. He’s Puck and Titania’s kid, after all.”

“He does have abilities,” Nathaniel said. “But they are woefully underdeveloped. It seems that Titania deliberately prevented him from nurturing his power.”

“She was afraid he might realize he was related to Puck and not Oberon if he used his magic too much,” I guessed.

“Precisely,” Nathaniel said. “I have attempted to help him access more of his magic, but it is difficult to overcome centuries of neglect.”

We spilled out into the alley, all of us braced for the possibility of attack. There was no one there. It seemed unusually silent, especially after the excitement of the explosion. I’d half expected the place to be crawling with assorted emergency personnel. But there was no one around. The scent of smoke pervaded the air, and the sky appeared to be lightening.

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