Black Heart Page 76

The three Retrievers came to their feet and growled. Puck looked askance at the dogs.

“I see you’ve obtained some new pets,” he said.

“Yes” I said, enjoying his obvious discomfort. “And I bet that there would be no restriction on Lock, Stock or Barrel harming you, as there is on me.”

Puck raised an eyebrow at the names. “It’s a good thing I have business elsewhere, then. Until we meet again, Madeline. Daharan.”

Puck whirled in a dramatic little circle and disappeared.

I considered calling him back with the jewel and setting the dogs on him just for the fun of it, but I didn’t.

Although I wanted to. I really, really wanted to.

I sat down in one of the dining room chairs. The dogs crowded around me, putting their muzzles in my lap. My baby fluttered gently inside my belly, as if he were pleased by the presence of the Retrievers.

Daharan stood. “I imagine you do not wish to see me at this moment.”

“You didn’t know everything,” I said. “But you knew some things. And you didn’t tell me.”

“I have no children of my own. I wished to protect you,” Daharan said.

“But you couldn’t,” I said sadly. “You didn’t.”

“The apartment downstairs is empty. Do I have your permission to use it?”

“Yes,” I said. “For now.”

My uncle walked out of the front door without another word. I heard his footsteps softly creaking on the stairs.

I rubbed the head of the first Retriever, the one I’d named Lock. “I hope that he doesn’t sleep in his dragon form. There isn’t enough room down there.”

“Or enough fire extinguisher,” Beezle said from the hallway.

Beezle and Nathaniel were there, both with identical expressions of worry on their faces.

“How long have you been there?” I asked.

“Long enough that you don’t have to give us a recap. We know all about the Puck manipulation thing and the killing of Titania thing and the rising of the dark inside you thing,” Beezle said. “Ooh, dinner!”

He flew to the table and dove headfirst into the roast chicken.

“I hope you weren’t hungry,” I said to Nathaniel.

“Give her the thing,” Beezle said, his voice muffled because he was inside the chicken.

“What thing?” I asked Nathaniel.

He approached me cautiously, giving the Retrievers an unsure look. They lifted their heads and growled.

“It’s okay,” I soothed. “He’s a friend. It’s okay.”

Nathaniel continued toward me. I noticed he had a piece of paper in his grip. He handed it to me while Lock, Stock and Barrel gave him the beady eye.

I unfolded the slip of paper. All it said was, “We know who you are, and we know where you are. We are watching.”

I turned it over, hoping for something more. “Where was this?”

“On the porch,” Nathaniel said. “Beezle seems to think it’s from someone named Jack.”

Jack Dabrowski, the blogger who wanted me to be mayor, who wanted to broadcast my business on the Internet. Apparently I hadn’t done a good enough job of scaring him off.

The Retrievers let Nathaniel put his hand on my shoulder. I covered his hand with my own and leaned my head back against his body.

“Nathaniel,” I said. “You need to be careful. Puck killed Bendith to serve his own purpose. I don’t think he feels particularly warm toward his children.”

“I know,” Nathaniel said. “But I am not in any more danger than you. Now that you have killed Titania, you will have many more enemies. You have established yourself as something to be feared, something to dread.”

“I am something to be feared,” I said. “Puck made me this way. And Puck had better watch his ass.”

Beezle stopped stuffing his face long enough to say, “I hope you’re not thinking of revenge. Because I think Puck has already proven that he’s much better at thinking long-term than you are.”

Maybe Puck was better at strategic planning. I was more emotional, more spontaneous. But he had twisted me into this shape and used me like a weapon.

There was no reason why that weapon should not, could not, turn on him.

I smiled, thinking of Puck suffering at my hands.

“Maddy?” Beezle said. “What are you thinking?”

Inside me, the darkness smiled, too.