“On the corner of the house under the eaves, over there.” She pointed to her right. “It’s so I can see anyone who is at the door. Is there something wrong?”
He shook his head. “Not at all. I’ll be right back. Just checking all the shutters.”
Outside again, he located her monitoring device and then did another pass around the property just to make sure he hadn’t missed anything. After that, he stepped out of view and dematerialized up into the big maple. Removing that camera, he ghosted around to the rear and took the other one off its mounting as well. Both had activation switches that were easy to operate and he turned them off—and the units were small, so the pair fit into the deep pockets of his peacoat.
As he walked back inside once again, Mistress Miniahna looked up. “Is everything okay?”
“Yes, madam. All is in order.”
“Did you see anyone?”
“No, I did not.” He glanced at Saxton. “Perhaps she should have our contact information?”
“Yes, indeed.” Saxton put an elegant hand into his jacket. “Here is my card—Ruhn, we don’t have one for you, do we.”
“I can tell you my number?” he said to the mistress.
“Here is a pen.” She opened a little drawer in the side table next to her. “Will you write it down for me on his card?”
But fortunately, Saxton smoothed the awkwardness over by taking what she offered. “Ruhn? What is your number?”
Swallowing hard, he recited the digits and tried not to feel as though he were stupid.
“Here you are.” Saxton stood up and gave the older female the card. “Call either one of us. Day or night. I will do my own independent title search on the property, although I do not expect to find anything of note out of place. And then I will reach out to Mr. Romanski as your solicitor and see what we can do about your difficulties.”
Mistress Miniahna stood and clasped the card to her heart. “I am very grateful. In truth, I hate to be an imposition, but I am not…my granddaughter is probably right. I should not handle this alone.”
“You said your granddaughter is not far?”
“About twenty miles away.”
Saxton nodded. “There is a good chance that things will get a little more messy before they get better. I cannot tell you to vacate your property, but I would advise it.”
“I really would prefer to stay.”
“We understand. Please consider the option, however.”
After they both bowed low, and the mistress bid them best of night, Saxton put his shoes back on and they left and got in the truck.
“So I found something,” he said as he drove them out the lane to the county road.
“Here.” He took the cameras from his pocket. “I only saw two. Maybe there are more, though.”
Saxton held both in his palms. “Where did you find these?”
“The trees. They’re watching her.”
As Saxton said something vile under his breath, Ruhn turned out of the driveway and hit the gas.
“I could not agree more,” he muttered.
For the next twenty minutes or so, the King’s solicitor made some phone calls, one of which was to Vishous, and then there were a number of others where the person on the other end wasn’t immediately apparent.
After that, they were just riding along, heading back to the Brotherhood’s compound.
“I’m going with you when you go to talk to the humans,” Ruhn announced.
“Yes, I should be ready tomorrow night or the next. I have research to do.”
“And I’m going to make routine trips out there to the property.” He felt Saxton look over at him. “You might let her know—or choose not to tell her. Whatever you deem best. But I can dematerialize there now that I know where it is, and I’ll be discreet. I don’t want her there all by herself, however.”
“We need to talk about what happens if you meet up with any of them. Particularly if it’s before I finish my investigation into the property records.”
“I won’t hurt them. But I shall not be gentle when I remove their presence from the mistress’s property.”
Abruptly, a strange scent reached Ruhn’s nose…a dark spice. And it was strange. Whatever it was got into his nose and somehow into his entire body. He’d never smelled anything so good, actually. It was—
Ruhn frowned as something in his body shifted, a rushing instinct thickening his blood…thickening somewhere else on him, too.
When he realized he was aroused, he recoiled in the driver’s seat, his hands gripping the wheel hard, sweat blooming on his chest and running up into his face.
This was sexual attraction, he realized with shock.
He jumped in his seat. “I’m sorry, what?”
“Are you all right? You just made a strange noise.”
Aware that his heart had begun to beat with panic, he swallowed through a tight throat. “I am well. Very well.”
“All right. Anyway, Vishous wants to look at the cameras, and I will bring them to him. And then I will…”
As the King’s solicitor continued talking, Ruhn tried to follow the conversation, filling in the breaks of silence with what he hoped were appropriately supportive and affirming nods and mm-hmm’s.
Behind his eyes, all in his skull, however, he was screaming.
The one defining thing in his life, back as far as he could remember, was that he did not belong. Not even with his loving parents as he had grown up, not with what happened during the bad years, not when he was searching for his lost sister…and not even as he joined the Brotherhood and lived in their beautiful mansion and accepted material things that he had not earned.
He was someone who had been ever apart, and for the longest time, he had assumed—or perhaps prayed—that all of that isolation would be relieved by him finding, finally, the place in the world where he belonged.
This shocking attraction? To a male? It seemed just one more unwelcome reminder that he was never going to fit in. After all, that kind of thing might be accepted in the glymera, but never in the civilian class.
Closing his eyes briefly, he said, “Yes?”
“You don’t look well.”
“I am fine. Worry not, I am well enough to do my duty.”
And he would complete it, regardless of this momentary…whatever it was—after which he was going to take his leave of the household. He would find a station somewhere in one of the big estates here in Caldwell so he could still see Bitty, and he would resume his handymale ways, fixing and doing manual upkeep.
Until he was claimed by the Fade.
An unspectacular life, perhaps. But not all were granted grand destinies, and who was he to think he was special enough to warrant that, anyway. What he was certain of? He had enough secrets he needed to keep.
A strange, misplaced attraction to Saxton was not going to be added to that list.
Peyton ended up not leaving the training center for the day, but then no one did. All of the trainees stayed—and he was careful to keep away from them. After his debriefing with Rhage, he left the office and considered joining the others for the food that he could smell in the break room. A non-specific rolling nausea and highly specific frontal-lobe headache cured him of that bad idea. And besides, the last thing anyone needed was Craeg snapping and going on the attack.
Although with the way Peyton was feeling, he was liable to leave himself undefended, accepting an old-school rythe of sorts.
At least Novo was still hanging on. Craeg had fed her and so had Boone, from what Peyton had been told. He had been surprised the Brothers hadn’t been used, but then it seemed as though the clinical staff recognized that the trainees wanted to be the ones who helped their fallen soldier, even though the Brotherhood certainly had stronger blood.
God…he wished he could have given her a vein. And she had to be at least in and out of consciousness; otherwise she couldn’t be feeding.
But again, no one asked him and he knew better than to volunteer.
Left to his own devices, he made his way down to where the classrooms were, and what was on the far side of door number three worked well enough: He took up res in the empty company of the tables and chairs and blackboard where Tohr had taught them about bomb making and detonation, and V had done a course on torture techniques.