(Sorry I'm late, this chapter was a bit longer than usual!)
The four of us made it back to the house without incident. Once we were all inside the entry room, safe behind a locked door, I withdrew the knife from my coat. Dory took one look at it, then disappeared further into the house with Alexius.
Standing across from me, Chase stared down at the blade, a sick expression on his face.
“It’s probably not the knife that actually killed him,” I consoled. “It might even be a knife that Sam used on someone else.”
He raised his eyes to glare at me. “Sam may have been a criminal, but he wasn’t violent.”
I cringed at my own lack of tact. I’d never been good at the whole comforting lies thing. I preferred blunt truths.
“If you say so,” I muttered, turning away to walk into the kitchen.
I held the knife in one hand while I opened one of the cabinets with the other, then pulled a fresh gallon sized plastic bag out of its box. The bag would be a little big for the knife, but it would suffice to keep it from getting contaminated further.
I heard footsteps on the kitchen tiles a moment before Chase reached my side.
“I’m sorry,” he breathed. “You have every right to hate Sam. After what happened with your father—”
I held up my free hand, the knife now securely in its bag in the other. “Don’t. I’m sorry, but you no longer have the right to talk about my dad with me. He trusted you too.”
He winced. “Ouch.”
I felt my expression soften, but I would not apologize. “Are you coming above ground with me to see Rose, or not?”
“But the Code,” he replied. “Didn’t you already use your once a week pass?”
“I don’t care,” I said honestly. “I want to get this over with, and I’m not hiding a bloody knife in my house for a week until we can go talk to Rose.”
“But won’t you get in trouble?” he asked, his gray eyes sincere.
I sighed, truth was, I might, but I had been provided with a nice loophole. “The Council asked Devin to hire me. They can’t get mad at me for doing the job they want me to do.”
He raised a dark eyebrow at me. “But you’re not doing the job they want you to do, unless they hired you to investigate Sam’s murder.”
“But they don’t know that,” I replied.
He sighed, then took a step away. “If you’re going, then I’m going, but I really don’t want you to get in trouble on account of me.”
I cleared my throat, then called out, “Dory! We’re leaving!”
A moment later, she came barreling into the kitchen, long shimmering hair streaming behind her. “Sorry, Pumpkin! I didn’t want to miss the new episode of Happy Days. Where are you going?”
Chase leaned near my shoulder. “Does she not realize that show has been off the air for more than thirty years?”
I nudged him with my elbow in the ribs. “Shhh, she looks forward to the episodes.”
“What are you whispering about?” Dory asked, coming closer.
“Nothing,” I said with an overzealous smile. “We’re going to go talk to Rose about the knife. I’m not waiting an entire week to continue the case.”
“But you can’t!” she exclaimed. “The Demon Code!”
“It will be fine,” I assured. I hoped it would be fine. The Demon council did want me working as their liaison, right?
Her expression was skeptical, but she nodded. “Okay, but be careful.”
“Always am,” I replied, then took Chase’s hand. I tried to ignore how familiar it still felt in my own. How right. It wasn’t right. Not anymore.
I thought of Devin’s place, since that would likely be our best jumping off point. We could borrow a car, then drive around Shelby until we found Rose. Dory watched us as we were enveloped in red smoke. I closed my eyes, then we appeared in Devin’s snow covered driveway.
I let out a sigh of relief. Jason wasn’t watching the front door this time, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t inside. I didn’t know why I was still nervous to see him. I had no reason to be . . . except maybe the demon whose hand I was still holding.
Realizing that, I pulled my hand away, then started toward the door.
“So this is Devin’s new place?” he asked as we walked.
“Yep,” I replied. “Nice and remote for all the little werewolves running around.”
Reaching the door, I knocked, then waited.
Then waited some more.
“Maybe no one’s home,” Chase concluded. “Maybe the Demon Council wouldn’t mind you traveling a few more times up here, since you’re already breaking the rules?”
I shook my head. “I don’t really want to push my luck.”
He exhaled a huff of foggy breath. “Probably wise.” He spun in a slow circle, peering out at our desolate surroundings. “So do we walk, or do we wait?”
I pursed my lips, then knocked again, hard enough to sting my knuckles.
A car crunched up on the gravel driveway behind us, drawing my attention away from the door. I turned, then had to hide my cringe. It was Jason. Of course it was Jason.
He parked, then stepped out of his charcoal gray car, shutting the door behind him. “I thought you couldn’t come up again until next week!” he said with a smile.
He approached the front door, turning his attention to Chase. “I was sorry to hear about your brother.”
From anyone else, speaking to the guy who basically stole his girlfriend, the words likely wouldn’t be sincere, but from Jason, they were. Of course, he was also old enough to know girlfriends can't be stolen unless they already want to go.
Chase shrugged. “Yeah, it still doesn’t seem real.”
“Except for the murder charges against you,” I said, then bit my tongue. Just hanging out around Dory all the time, I’d gotten out of practice at filtering my words.
Jason glanced between the two of us. “So what are you doing up here? Won’t you get in trouble?”
I shrugged. “Probably.”
Chase eyed me sharply. “I thought you said it should be fine since the Demon Council asked the wolves to hire you.”
“Yeah, it should be,” I clarified, “but who knows if it actually will.”
Ready to change the subject, I turned to Jason. “I don’t suppose you know where Rose hangs out these days? I need to speak with her.”
Jason’s eyes widened. “You can’t just drop in on the local coven. You do recall we’re on the brink of war, right?”
I nodded. “Yes, but last time I saw her, we were still friends . . . sort of. I don’t think she’d mind a visit.”
“Though her coven might,” Chase added.
I shot him a quick glare, then turned back to Jason. “Pretty please? It’s important.”
He sighed. “Fine. I’ll take you by her house, but if there are other witches there, we’re leaving.”
“Deal,” I said before he could take it back.
Jason turned around and led the way back toward his car.
Chase leaned toward my shoulder. “You guys been hanging out?” he asked quietly, though if Jason was paying attention, his vampire ears would easily pick up the words.
I shrugged. “Just once, not that it’s any of your business.”
He was silent after that. We all piled into Jason’s car with me in the passenger’s seat and Chase in the back. The three of us hanging out just like old times . . . or not.
Twenty minutes later Jason pulled the car into a circular gravel driveway in front of what I could only call a mansion. I rolled down the window and stared up at the white pillars on either side of the front double doors.
“Um, I think we’re in the wrong place.”
“This is where Rose lives now,” Jason explained.
I turned to him, then looked back at Chase, who shrugged.
“How the hell does a twenty year-old afford a place like this?” I gestured out the window behind me.
Jason shrugged. “I’ve only been in town long enough to drive by once. I haven’t done much digging.”
I pursed my lips. “Devin has you watching the local witches?”
“Of course,” he replied. “They live within the pack territory. If they make allegiances with any vampires, we need to know.”
The back car door opened and shut before I could tell Chase to wait. I fumbled with my seatbelt, then exited the car, jogging forward to catch up to his side before he could reach the door.
I grabbed his arm, halting his progress. “It’s a bad idea for demons to charge into the homes of witches.”
“Just as it’s a bad idea for us to stay up here any longer than necessary,” he countered. “I don’t want to give the Council any reason to take issue with you.”
I blinked at him, surprised by his sudden shift in mood, then Jason reached us and I realized it had just been Dory and I for too long. My boy behavior sensors were rusty. Driving around with both my exes was perhaps not my most well-thought out plan.
Shrugging off the tension, I dropped my hand from Chase’s arm then walked toward the door ahead of him.
It swung inward before I could reach it, revealing a petite blond woman in sweats and a baggy teeshirt. “What do you want?” she hissed.
I held up my hands. “Wo-ah, do you always answer your door like that?”
Her eyes narrowed. “I do when demons come knocking.”
“Well I didn’t actually knock,” I muttered, lowering my hands. I was stupid for not considering witches would have demon wards, but I didn’t feel any of the normal discomfort said wards tended to cause.
“You’re Alexondra,” she accused, maintaining a death grip on the partially open door.
I winced at my elongated name. “Do I know you?”
She snorted. “Everyone knows the wolves’ pet demon. What do you want?”
I sighed, finally growing angry. “Where’s Rose?”
Don’t throw a fireball at the witch. Don’t throw a fireball at the witch. “We’re old friends. Can you tell her I’m here?”
If looks could kill, I’d be dead right about then. “Who are they?” she questioned, nodding toward Jason and Chase, waiting silently behind me.
“Also old friends.”
She started at me for several seconds. “Fine,” she decided. “Wait here.”
The door slammed in my face.
I looked back to the boys. “Is it just me, or are witch/demon relations even worse nowadays?”
“They’ve always been bad,” Jason replied. “The big reveal just made things a little worse. The Demon Council is not above threats to keep their existence secret.”
My brows raised in surprise, but really, I should have known better. Demons had been threatening witches for centuries. There were always a few bad witches who would still try summoning us. Things rarely ended will for them.
The door creaked open behind me. I turned to find the blonde had come back to us. “Come in,” she sighed, then held the door open wide enough for us to walk through.
“So you don’t have demon wards?” I questioned. Since I was half-human, I could walk through the wards regardless, but most witches didn’t realize that.
“Rose doesn’t like the wards. She doesn’t want us picking sides.”
Well that was a relief. The witches might not be willing to help us, but at least they probably wouldn’t kill us.
I led the way into a sleek entry room with sparse decor. A massive set of stairs led up to the second story in a traditional fancy mansion manner. Wide halls led off to either side.
“Xoe!” a familiar voice called out, moments before someone barreled into me.
I returned Rose’s enthusiastic hug, pleased she didn’t seem to mind the visit.
She pulled away and looked me over, pushing a lock of her long, dyed black hair behind her ear. “Sorry I couldn’t greet you right away, I was on the phone.”
“That’s alright,” I assured. “Blondie here received us graciously.”
Blondie’s jaw tensed. “It’s Melrose,” she said through gritted teeth.
“Demons make Mel a little anxious,” Rose whispered conspiratorially. “She’s been spending too much time around my mom.”
I forced myself to continue smiling. Rose’s mom, Cynthia, had never been one of my favorite people, but I couldn’t really blame her for hating demons. They’d killed her younger daughter and husband, after all.
Rose’s gaze finally encompassed Chase and Jason. “Is the whole old gang back together then? Where are Lucy and Max?”
Chase and Jason both stepped forward, ignoring Mel staring daggers at them. “We have a favor to ask,”
Chase explained. “Well, I have a favor to ask.” He glanced back at Mel. “It’s a sensitive matter.”
Rose lifted her hand and made a shooing gesture toward Mel.
Mel’s glare deepened, but she stalked off like a good little minion.
Rose turned back to me. “Coffee? Don’t you dare think you can get out of here without telling me all about living full time in the demon underground.”
I frowned. Did everyone know what I’d been up to? “Sure, coffee sounds good.”
We followed her through a space too wide to be called a hallway, though that’s basically what it was, and into an expansive kitchen, gleaming with bronze fixtures and gray marble tiles.
“This is Mel’s place,” she explained, making her way toward a coffee pot with more buttons than I’d know what to do with, “but I’ve been living here a few months.” She turned toward us as she filled the kettle with water from the tap. “How did you know where to find me?”
I glanced at Jason as I lowered myself onto one of the stools bordering the counter.
“I still work for the wolves,” he said cryptically.
“Ah,” Rose replied, then finished the coffee setup.
Chase stepped forward as Rose approached us. “I need your word that anything said here will remain between the four of us. Demons can be sensitive about such matters.”
Rose snorted. “I of all people know not to involve myself in demon affairs any more than necessary.” She turned toward me. “This won’t bring any trouble here, will it? I won’t endanger Mel.”
My eyebrows raised as realization hit me. “Are you and her a thing?”
Ah, now her living in the mansion made sense. “I don’t see any reason why it would endanger either of you. We just need you to tell us who an object belongs to, or at least send us in the right direction.” I reached into my deep coat pocket and pulled out the bagged up murder weapon.
Rose took a step back. “What the hell have you guys gotten yourselves into?” She leaned forward, narrowing her gaze at the bag still dangling from my grip. “I’m guessing that’s not animal blood?”
I shook my head, then sat the knife down on the counter.
Jason balked at me. “You’ve been carrying that around this entire time?”
I rolled my eyes. “How else did you expect her to trace it?”
He shook his head, clearly displeased with my antics. So what else was new? I turned back to Rose. “Do you think you could tell us where this dagger came from?”
She nodded, still staring at the weapon. “I can, but first you have to tell me who was stabbed.”
I glanced at Chase.
“My brother,” he sighed. “He’s dead, and we think this knife will lead us to his killer.”
Rose’s expression crumbled. “I’m so sorry. I mean, he was kind of a jerk, but he didn’t deserve . . . ” she glanced at the knife, “that.”
“Thanks,” Chase muttered.
Jason looked like he wanted to say something, but held back. What could you really say to your one time friend who kind of stole your one time love?
Rose pushed away from the counter, returning to the coffee pot to pick four mugs from a little wooden mug tree. She filled them each, then retrieved a glass bottle of fancy cream from the fridge.
I swiveled off my stool, then went to grab a mug. If Jason couldn’t come up with any comforting words for Chase, I sure as hell couldn’t. What could you really say to your one time love who kind of broke your heart?
I dumped cream in my cup, then took a sip. When in doubt, fill yourself with coffee.
As the boys prepared their mugs, Rose and I returned to the knife.
“We’ll start by determining the owner’s species and gender,” she explained, lifting the edge of the plastic baggie. “After that, we can work on location. I won’t be able to tell you specifically who it is, unless it’s someone I’ve met. If it’s someone I’ve met, I’ll know right away.”
“Doubtful,” I replied. “He was killed in the demon underground.”
She nodded. “So another demon then. That might make things difficult. Instead of giving you a location, we may just have to try summoning the owner.”
I cringed. The Council might let my extra traveling slide, but they would not like that.
Rose watched me carefully. “Let’s just see what info we can get off the blade, then we’ll go from there.”
I nodded, then took another sip of my coffee. “We really appreciate this. I’m not sure how else we could solve this otherwise.”
“Alright,” she said, lifting the baggie off the counter. “You guys sit tight, and I’ll get Mel to help me track this. Don’t worry, she won’t breath a word. She wants to be involved with demons even less than I do.”
She left the kitchen, leaving me alone with Chase and Jason.
I resumed my seat, content to quietly sip my coffee.
“Are you sure we should be trusting an extra witch with this?” Chase questioned, approaching me. “Mel clearly despises us.”
I smirked. “Who doesn’t?”
“I’m serious, Xoe.”
I sighed, then set my cup on the counter. “You asked for my help, remember? So please just let me do my job.”
Jason had wandered away from us, and was now peeking down the hall. He glanced back at me.
I waved him off. “Go ahead and snoop. If you get caught, it’s on you.”
“I just want to check and see if any vampires have been here,” he explained then disappeared down the hall.
I turned back to Chase. “Devin is worried about the witches and vampires allying against the wolves,” I explained.
He set his unsipped coffee on the counter. “That’s exactly what I’m afraid of too. I don’t want any demon information being linked to the vamps. You could get in big trouble for even being here, Xoe.”
I blinked up at him, waiting.
His shoulders slumped. “I know, I know, I asked for your help, but you can’t blame me for wanting to keep you safe.”
My eyebrows raised. “Oh? I think I’ve done a pretty good job of staying safe all by myself lately. I don’t need you to watch out for me.”
He stared at me from beneath his furrowed brow.
I stared right back, a pleasant smile on my face.
Clearly admitting defeat, he walked around the counter, then took the stool beside mine. “You haven’t changed a bit, have you?”
“I’m getting worse with age.”
The corner of his lip ticked up into a half-smile, then Jason slipped back into the room.
“Any vamps?” I questioned.
He shook his head. “Some faint traces of scent, but everything was cleaned recently so it’s hard to tell.” He returned to his abandoned coffee cup.
I heard female voices arguing, growing louder as they neared. A moment later, Rose and Mel entered the kitchen.
Rose stalked ahead of Mel, the bagged knife in hand. She extended it as she reached me. “Did you know?” she growled.
I blinked up at her. “Know what? We came to you because we don’t know a damned thing.”
She dropped the knife onto the counter with a loud clang. “I didn’t think there was any chance I’d actually know the demon that belonged to.” She stared at the knife like it might bite her.
Well now I was really curious. “Rose,” I said patiently, “who owns the knife?”
Anger glittered in her eyes as they met mine. “The demon who killed my sister and stepfather, that’s who.”
I was so stunned I nearly lost my grip on my coffee. I knew the demon who’d killed her family members too. The demon who’d killed them was Nix.
I hope you enjoyed this week's chapter! I'll try and be on time next week ;).