“So let me get this straight,” I said around bites of the sandwich I’d guilted Devin into making me. “Some of these vamps are old enough to have been around before the Fae,” I set down my sandwich and made air quotes, “went extinct?”
Audrey nodded, taking a delicate sip of her chamomile tea. She’d removed her navy trench to reveal a white cashmere sweater. It looked soft and expensive. “More than that. One knew my mother, and he recognized me because I look very similar to her.”
I glanced at Jason, wondering if he knew how old some of the vamps hanging around Shelby were.
“He definitely wasn’t among those who attacked us at Rose’s,” he explained. “They were all rather . . . unexperienced.”
“Do you think Rose knows the extent of what she’s gotten herself into?” Chase asked. His sandwich plate was already empty.
“Probably not,” Devin replied from where he leaned against the far counter. “If she knew, I don’t think she would have turned away your offer of help. Old vampires can be . . . tricky.”
I turned back to Jason, who’d been watching the conversation silently. He’d only been “born” in the 1800s, relatively young for a vamp, but his maker had been much older. She had indeed been tricky, but she’d also had her heart ripped out by a demon right in front of my eyes. “Do you think he was among those who attacked you?”
“No,” Audrey interrupted. “I did not catch the entire spectacle, but he was not among those who fled.”
I didn’t appreciate her referring to Jason getting beaten into a bloody pulp as a spectacle, but I let it go. “So they know you’re Fae, and what, they’re threatening to expose you?”
She nodded. “To the wolves and demons, yes. Demons are the main reason we went in to hiding to begin with.”
Of course they were. “Not that I’m surprised, but what did the demons do to you?”
She took another sip of her tea, then lowered her cup with a heavy sigh. “Most Fae are skilled at glamours. Who do you think helped create the artificial skies in the underground realms? We were also used to disguise the more . . . unique looking demons so they could move about the realms freely.”
I frowned. “So what, demons forced you to make skies and disguises?”
She glared. “They enslaved us. Only a few, but they were always looking for more. I believe there are still some being kept by the Council to this day.”
Thinking of the more recent addition of the docks, I tended to agree with her, but didn’t say so out loud.
“I like my life here,” she continued. “I don’t like being forced to run yet again, and I don’t like the vampires upsetting the peace.” She glanced at Jason, then back to me. “I don’t like vampires, period.”
“Okay,” I said, “so where does Nix fit into all this?”
She looked for a moment like she wouldn’t answer, then she explained, “Nix came to me for help. She’d been working with a demon to acquire a new identity, but that demon disappeared. She thinks that demon was working with the vampires, trading demon magic for connections up here.”
I narrowed my eyes. “And just how would she know that?”
She glared at me. “Before the vampires decided to blackmail me, they approached me with an offer of partnership. They did not reveal their plans to me, simply offered an alliance and protection. I told Nix as much, and advised her to stay away from them.”
“So they offered to protect you, in exchange for . . . ?” I pressed.
“Magic,” she said like I’d asked a stupid question. “They wanted me available to create illusions for them. Then Nix informed me the demon she’d been working with was trading demon magic to the same vampires. Perhaps they took her for the same reason they attacked him,” she gestured to Jason. “This other demon has disappeared, and they’re going after anyone previously connected to him.”
Chase was shaking his head, staring down at his untouched mug of coffee.
“Chase?” I questioned.
He looked up, then shook his head again. “I can’t believe he managed to hide all this from me.”
“Can’t you though?” I blurted without thinking.
Chase winced. “I really wanted to trust him.”
I nodded. “I get it, I really do, but you really didn’t notice anything?”
He shook his head, draping a lock of black hair across his deep gray eyes. “Sam was always secretive. He had his own life. I wanted to trust him. It wasn’t like I followed him everywhere.”
I waved him off, internally cringing at how trusting he could be given Sam’s past. I didn’t trust anyone that much, let alone those who’d screwed over the people I cared about.
Devin cleared his throat, breaking the awkward silence. “So basically, we need to figure out just what the vampires are planning, and which demons are involved.” He looked to me. “We need to find out what else Rose knows. She’s our only connection to the vampires.”
This time my cringe was not internal. “She won’t be talking to me any time soon, not unless I agree to kill Nix.”
Jason finally stepped forward from where he’d been leaning against the wall. “What if you agree to turn her in to the council to face punishment? She did kill several humans, after all. I can understand Rose wanting justice. You would too.”
I glanced at Audrey, wishing Jason hadn’t chosen now to press the issue.
Catching the hint, she set down her mug of tea. “I should be getting back to my inn before the vampires realize something is amiss. It’s likely best they don’t know I’m working with you.”
Devin nodded. “I’ll show you out.”
Once they’d left the room, I aimed a glare at Jason. “Way to air my private business in front of an outsider.”
He rolled his eyes. “She’s friendly enough with Nix to have offered her a job despite her being a demon. I doubt I voiced anything she didn’t already know, and it’s an issue that needs to be addressed.”
“It’s my issue. She’s my cousin. Let me deal with her how I see fit.” I looked to Chase for backup.
He wouldn’t quite meet my eyes. “Jason is right. Helping Nix go on the run was one thing. Now she’s the only thing standing in the way of getting the witches on our side. What do you think Rose would do if the vampires offered her Nix’s head on a silver platter?”
My shoulders slumped. “Do you really think she’d side with the vampires against the wolves? We saved her life once.”
Jason took a step forward. His dark blue eyes were earnest. Pleading. “Years ago. And we’ve done nothing for her since, except protect the person who murdered her sister.”
I shook my head at how stupid I was. “You’re right. You’re completely right. She hates the vampires, but she most certainly hates Nix more. If this group of vamps are the ones who took Nix, all they need to do is figure out that Rose wants her. Nix will be dead, and Rose will be against us, taking away our two best chances of proving Chase’s innocence.”
Chase and Jason watched me silently, waiting for me to fully process my stupidity.
“There’s still one issue,” I sighed. “We don’t know where Nix is, who has her, and why.”
Jason nodded. “I’m sure the witches would help you track her if you agreed to turn her in to the council.”
I clenched my jaw. “They’ll kill her. I know she might deserve it, but I’ve killed people too. We’re both half-demons. Both our fathers were murdered. Why am I the one the council wants to employ, while she’s the one they want to kill?”
Chase stepped forward, gently setting his hand on my shoulder. “She killed innocent people in cold blood. She even tried to kill you more than once. You’ve never harmed anyone who wasn’t trying to kill you, or the people you care about.”
I placed my hands on the center island and stared down at them.
“Xoe,” Chase pressed.
“You don’t know the real reason she killed those humans. I know there are wolves, vampires, and probably demons who call me a murderer.”
“They don’t know your reasons,” Jason argued.
I slid my hands off the island as I pushed away. “And we don’t know hers. We’ll get to the bottom of this without the witches.” I turned to leave the kitchen.
“How?” they both asked in unison.
My back facing them, my shoulders lifted and fell with a heavy sigh. “The Demon Council wants to work with me for a reason. I’m valuable to them. I think it’s time to test just how much that value can buy us.”
I left the kitchen before they could argue, hoping I wouldn’t run into Devin on the way out. I needed to make my phone call before anyone could talk me out of it.
I’d spent my entire adult life trying to stay off the Demon Council’s radar, but I was done hiding. I was tired of being put in difficult situations not of my own creation. It was time for the monsters to start playing by my rules.
I am demon, hear me roar.