Spy Glass Page 21

Zebb joined me.

“Would curtains help protect her?” I asked.

“To some extent. The magician would have to guess if the Councilor was here. Or risk alerting me by sweeping the building. We could move her desk to make it harder for him.”

“No curtains,” Tama said. Her first words since the incident. A touch of color had returned to her pallid cheeks.

“But—”

She cut Zebb off. “I understand your concerns. How about a compromise?” She swiped the hair sticking to her face. “No curtains and I’ll let Zebb and his null shield stay with me.”

“Finally,” Zebb said. “It’s what I’ve wanted from the beginning!”

Not a diplomatic response and uncertainty filled her eyes.

“You’ve made a smart decision,” I said. “Zebb may be a pompous ass, but he’s trustworthy.” The background check on him hadn’t found anything.

Faith rushed in before he could retort.

“Tama, are you all right?” She gathered the Councilor in her arms. Tama leaned into her.

“What happened?” Faith demanded.

I let Zebb handle the explanation while I mulled over a possible reason for the attack.

When he finished addressing all her questions, I asked Tama about her enemies. “Any other relatives that might be trying to usurp you?”

Faith answered for her. “No. Akako is her only sister. Her parents died years ago and she has one aunt and a couple of cousins on her father’s side. They live in the Krystal lands and she’s never even met them.”

Tama pulled away. “My father was from the Krystal Clan. He met my mother while here on business.” Her colorless lips formed a wan smile. “He claimed love at first sight, but it took him a few seasons to convince her. The clan wasn’t happy about their heir marrying an outsider. But he won them over just like he did with my mother. Everyone loved my father.”

A sweet story, but no help for our current problem. “Can you think of anyone who might be after you? Or a reason someone wanted to control you?” I asked.

“Perhaps we missed one of Akako’s people,” Faith said. “Only Tama can release Akako from prison.”

“Then why did he force me to arrest Opal?” the Councilor asked. “I was convinced she was a spy and I’d only be safe once she was secured in Wirral.”

“Basic strategy,” Zebb said. “Eliminate the person’s supporters so no one protests when the person changes her behavior.”

A logical argument, yet an uneasy chill swirled. Being incarcerated in Wirral would be a waking nightmare.

For now, at least the null shield protected Tama, and I had my immunity. Faith declared she would go over Akako’s files, searching for any insurgents who may have been missed.

I returned to my desk and the thick file on the hotshots in the SMU. Perhaps Akako had managed to bribe one of them or one could already be loyal to her. I would have laughed at the irony if I had the energy. The creative reasoning that netted me the file in the first place might lead to an answer and to something to prove to the warden that his prison wasn’t perfect.

I read through the files until I was cross-eyed with fatigue. After spending the entire afternoon studying the information on the hotshots, I had nothing to show for it. Finn’s matched his story. Complete background checks with confirmations from two different sources had been attached to each CO’s dossier. Even the rookie Lamar’s papers had been included. His letter of recommendation from the Iolite Prison’s warden had been verified twice.

When the words swam together, I stopped for the day. Tama had retreated to her suite for the night, but Faith remained in her office. I debated. Should I skip supper and get a few extra hours of sleep or go to the Pig Pen for a bowl of stew?

Preoccupied, I left the Hall and paused. The black sky meant I had missed the late-afternoon training again. Nic and Eve would harass me about it.

“Working late?” a voice asked from behind me.

I drew my sais, whipping around. Finn leaned on the Councilor’s Hall. He spread his hands. “Easy there.”

“Sorry.” I slid my weapons back under my cloak.

“Are you always this jumpy?” he asked.

“No. It’s been a long day.” I gathered my scattered wits. “What are you doing here?”

“Waiting for you.”

“Why?” The question popped out without censure.

Finn laughed. A nice rumble. “I enjoyed our conversation the other day and wanted to continue it.”

“Oh.” My tired brain finally caught up. This was good. Right? I wanted to get closer to him and find out more about the prison. Kade would understand. I was working undercover. But what if our roles were reversed? How would I feel if he had to seduce another woman? Horrible. I shook my head. Ridiculous speculation. I didn’t plan to seduce Finn.

“Would you like to have dinner with me?” he asked in an uncertain tone.

“Of course. I’m sorry. I’m tired and—”

“We can go another time then.”

“I didn’t mean that. I’m famished. How about I pick the place this time? I know a tavern with the best stew in town.”

He flashed me his slanted smile. “Any angry officers?”

“We shouldn’t need a distraction in order to leave.”

He swept his arm out. “Lead on.”

The jumble of voices reached us before we entered the Pig Pen. Nic’s brother served drinks, and Nic and Eve sat at their usual places. Not good. I thought they were on duty. Fulgor soldiers filled every table and people crowded the bar. I was about to retreat to another tavern when Ian waved me over. He snapped his fingers a few times and two stools next to my friends emptied. So much for a quiet conversation.

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