I ran my hand across the clean countertop at Chase’s small apartment. He’d retreated to the bedroom to pack a bag, leaving me alone with my thoughts. I walked around the counter then opened a drawer, wondering if it was the drawer where they’d found the alleged murder weapon. If Chase really didn’t know about the spheres, then why set him up? Why plant the knife at his place?
“You ready?” Chase asked, reentering the room with a duffel bag slung over his shoulder.
“As I’ll ever be.” I held out my hand to him.
He closed the distance between us and took it. “Do you think the Council knows you’re including me in your new traveling privileges?”
I blinked at him. “I actually hadn’t thought about it. I know they can track when we travel, but I have no idea if they can tell when we take someone with us.” I frowned. “In that vein, I wonder if they could track when Sam traveled.”
Still seemingly absentmindedly clutching my hand, he shook his head. “I doubt it, unless they can track ghosts. Sam didn’t use his own magic to transport himself, he used theirs.”
My frown deepened. Sam had always been a pain to nail down because he could quickly escape with the ghosts he could summon with a thought. They could hide him in plain sight too.
“What is it?” Chase pressed.
I shook my head. “Just wondering what sort of demon finally got the jump on Sam. The only way we were ever able to pin him down was to use witches to summon him.”
His brow furrowed. “Do you think it was witches who killed him? Not a demon?”
“That doesn’t explain how someone got into your apartment in the underground to plant the knife.”
“Unless they were working with a demon,” he countered.
I thought about what he’d said. We really had no reason to believe witches were involved, except that Sam would have been difficult to contain long enough to be killed. “Witches working with demons,” I muttered. “They’d have to be pretty desperate.”
“It’s happened before.”
Yeah, it had happened before, when a demon named Bartimus had manipulated a group of witches and werewolves into sacrificing other supernaturals. Most of them ended up dead.
“Speculating will do us no good now,” I sighed. “Let’s head up and see if Jason has learned anything about the innkeeper. Maybe he’ll have a lead on Nix.”
I turned to find Chase watching me intently. “You two seem pretty chummy again.”
I glared at him. “Who I’m chummy with is none of your damn business.”
He smirked. “Well in case you were wondering, I haven’t been getting chummy with anyone.”
“I wasn’t,” I grumbled, focusing my thoughts on the picture of Devin’s front door I had in my mind.
We were surrounded in a burst of smoke, then seconds later, appeared on Devin’s gravel drive where we were pelleted by stinging cold raindrops.
Ducking my head, I dropped Chase’s hand and rushed toward the house, seeking the refuge of the awning. We reached safety together, then both turned to peer out at the rain. There were two cars parked further down the drive, letting me know both Devin and Jason were home.
“I really wasn’t wondering,” I reiterated.
“Sure you weren’t.” He turned and lifted a hand to knock on the door, but it was already opening.
I took in Jason’s bruised face and torn clothing. “What happened?” I demanded.
He glanced past us warily, then opened the door the rest of the way, inviting us in. “I went to speak with the innkeeper one more time, just to see if I could get anything else out of her, and I was jumped by four vamps.” He shut the door after us, then turned to Chase. “They were looking for your brother.”
I put my hands on my hips, my gaze intent on Chase as he lowered his duffel bag to the entryway tiles. “Is there something you want to tell us?”
He shook his head and sighed. “Do you honestly think I would have kept it from you if I knew Sam was working with the vampires?” He lifted his eyes to Jason. “Did they say why they were looking for him?”
Jason raked his fingers through his hair, stopping halfway through with a wince. Vampires healed faster than most other supernatural races, but the injuries still hurt until they were gone. “I didn’t exactly have time to ask questions. In fact, I’m not even sure how they knew that I knew Sam, unless they saw you and I together at some point yesterday.”
I stepped forward. “I’d say that’s likely if they knew to attack you at the inn. Were they waiting there for you?”
“They must have suspected we’d come back. I wonder if they know something about what happened to Nix.”
Chase nodded. “It’s a possibility, and it makes me wonder if our witch theory actually has some truth to it.”
“Witch theory?” Jason questioned, lifting an eyebrow with a deep gash in it.
“We were just thinking that maybe witches were involved in killing Sam,” I explained. “He wasn’t an easy demon to catch.”
Devin walked in from the direction of the kitchen, a steaming mug of coffee in his hand. “So Sam was involved not only with the vampires, but the witches?” He turned his questioning gaze to Chase.
“I don’t know,” he sighed. “Please stop looking at me like I was somehow involved in all this.
“Well,” Devin said, gesturing with his mug toward me, “you did leave our poor, sweet, defenseless Alexondra all on her own so you could gallivant about with your criminal brother. You cannot blame us for being at least slightly suspicious.”
“Now, now,” I said, glancing at Chase, then back to Devin. “You forgot beautiful, charming, and more clever than the most ancient of demons.”
“Yes,” Chase grumbled, “no reason to stand up for me, it’s fine.”
I was ready with another sarcastic remark, when a knock sounded at the door.
Jason moved past us and opened it. “Can I help you?”
“No,” a woman’s voice hissed, “but I can help you. May I come in?”
Recognizing the voice, I hurried toward the door, shoving my way past Jason. Audrey, the innkeeper of the Pinetop, stood on the stoop, raindrops glimmering on her red hair and navy trench coat.
I pushed the door wide open, then gestured with a dramatic bow for her to step inside.
As she walked past us she muttered, “Must demons always be so utterly infuriating?”
“No,” Devin replied, still standing further in the entryway sipping his coffee. “That is a talent exclusive to Xoe.”
Audrey looked to each of us as Jason shut the door, her gaze lingering on him as he moved to stand at my side. “My apologies. I take pride in my establishment being a safe place.”
I raised my brows. “Safe? Someone just got kidnapped from there only yesterday.”
She rolled her eyes. “I told you I don’t involve myself in the affairs of demons. Wolves and vampires, on the other hand, I must deal with frequently. I have remained neutral in their affairs until now, but the vampires crossed a line this morning.”
I glanced at Devin’s mug, wishing I had a cup, then back to Audrey. “Does this mean you’re now willing to tell us who took Nix?”
She narrowed her gaze at me. “No, as I said, I do not associate with demons.” She turned toward Devin. “I’ve simply come to offer you a warning. The vampires are planning something big. I believe this war you’ve been expecting is about to begin.”
Devin tilted his head. “And how would you know anything about it? You are neither vampire, nor werewolf.”
“Yeah,” I butted in, “what the heck are you?”
She gave me a look of distaste, then answered, “I am Fae.”
“Are you kidding me?” I balked.
“The Fae went extinct centuries ago,” Devin interrupted. “Do not take us for fools.”
“You think we went extinct,” she countered, “and that is how we like it. We’ve no need for policing by the Werewolf Coalition, and we’d rather remain under the radar of the Demon Council,” she said pointedly, turning back to me.
“Then why did you tell us your race isn’t extinct?” I looked her up and down, wondering if the Fae appeared any different from humans. I knew next to nothing about them, given they’d disappeared long before I’d been born.
She sucked her teeth, shifting ever so slightly from foot to foot. “Because the vampires figured it out, and now they’re trying to blackmail me. I refuse to be threatened by the undead.”
“So you’re not really here to help us,” I observed. “You’re here because you want us to help you.”
She gave a curt nod.
“Okay,” I began, mulling things over, “Tell us what happened to Nix, and maybe we can discuss how to get you away from the vamps.”
“Xoe,” Devin hissed. “You should not enter into deals with the Fae so lightly.”
“One might say the same of entering into deals with demons,” Audrey countered.
I stepped toward her. “So are you saying we have a deal?”
“Xoe,” Chase cautioned. “Nix might not be worth this.”
I glanced over my shoulder at him. “No, she really isn’t, but you are. I might be mad at you, but if we don’t figure things out soon you’re going to die.”
“I told you I won’t involve myself in demon affairs,” Audrey growled, bringing my eyes back to her. “I’ll tell you what I know of Nix’s . . . situation, but my involvement ends there.”
I looked to Devin, wondering if he was game for such a deal. Protecting a Faerie from the vamps might involve him in things he’d rather stay out of.
At my glance, he nodded. I wasn’t sure if he was doing it for me, or because he wanted a Faerie ally, but either way, we finally had a lead . . . maybe. I turned back to Audrey. “Shall we discuss this over coffee?”
“I’ll take tea, but yes, a beverage would be nice.”
I motioned for her to lead the way toward the kitchen, then followed closely behind, looking the backside of her up and down for any signs of . . . faerie-ness.
“We don’t have wings, if that’s what you’re looking for,” she grumbled.
She hand’t looked back, so I wasn’t sure how she’d noticed. “Maybe I was just checking out your butt.”
“Now that,” she said, finally glancing over her shoulder, “I’d believe.”
It was then that I realized the Fae would be as much a pain in the butt as the vamps and werewolves.