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Wes met Jo on the way up the stairs. “You’re filthy,” he said by way of greeting.
“You’re an idiot,” she replied, in spite of his being right. She was covered head to toe in grime and dark red-brown stains that could only be blood. Her pretty auburn hair strained to escape a haphazard bun but her dark eyes were bright with energy.
“On patrol?” he asked.
“Yeah. You, too?”
“No thanks to your idiot boyfriend.”
Her eyes flashed. “Did you get him killed?” Jo Nielson’s English accent always started showing when she was angry, and he heard hints of it now.
“Don’t think so,” he said quickly. “Told him to go home.”
“He’d better be there,” she warned.
Wes changed the subject. “What did you kill?”
“Yes, it was up to no good. I know the damn rules.”
“And you got rid of what was left of it?”
They climbed the stairs in silence for a time, but then she said suddenly, “You need to get rid of Carmen.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yes, you do.”
“She’s getting weird.”
“I made a promise.”
Jo had no answer for that right away. Wes knew her well enough to know she wasn’t ignoring him. She was working it over. So they plodded up the stairs in silence for a few more minutes before she finally said, “I don’t spend my time mucking about in other people’s dreams. I’m only ever in my head.”
You only need to worry about what I’d do. She left the obvious unsaid. Dreamwalkers could lose pieces of themselves if they dreamwalked too often, and Carmen was at it night after night. Wes didn’t like to think of someone else’s thoughts and impulses and nightmares filling in spaces in Carmen’s mind. He drew in a deep breath and said, “I’ll speak to her.”
Jo only grunted in response.
When they made it up, he made a pretense of letting the lady go first in order that he didn’t have to, but Tom and Angel were waiting there, ready to pounce. Angel was in front of him in a heartbeat. “What the hell happened?”
“You got away,” Tom said, stating the obvious.
“They let me go,” Wes corrected, since the obvious wasn’t entirely true.
“They let you go?” Angel demanded.
“Yeah. This one broad wasn’t gonna let me but then some Round Table guy stopped her. I think he thought I wasn’t worth the trouble but he got pretty beat up so--”
“Round Table guy?” Tom asked, watching Jo now as she headed to the bathroom.
“Yeah. Code names or something.”
“Huh,” Tom said, his attention now more than half on watching Jo wash her hands.
Wes neatly stepped around Angel and snapped his fingers in front of Tom’s face. “Eyes up, dude. You can interrogate your girlfriend later.”
Tom looked at him with annoyance. “You’re not covered in blood.”
“She won her fight. Now we’ve got some jerks, probably government, and they saw my face. The lady--”
“The broad?” Angel interrupted.
“Yes, the broad. She wants to meet me.”
Tom’s interest was piqued. “Gonna do it?”
Wes shrugged and dropped into a chair. “I dunno. Where's Robert?”
“Quiet time on the roof, I think. What about the monster?”
“What about it?”
“That’s kinda what we do, isn’t it?”
“Where did it come from? That’s not typical behavior for monsters.”
Tom wrinkled his nose. “What do you mean, so?”
Angel frowned and said, “I don’t want to leave Chicago.”
Wes frowned back and answered, “I mean, you were gonna do that anyway, right? When I went back to New York?”
Angel’s frown deepened, but she said, “Well, yes. But that’s… That’s down the road.”
Tom said, “I think we should stay and you should figure out what those guys are all about.”
Wes mmed. “And what would be the point of that?”
“If this is those UNSETIC people your dad was bitching about that one time--"
Wes shrugged. “If they are, so what?”
Tom growled, flopping back in his armchair, but it was Jo who answered, calling from the bathroom, “Wes isn’t a general yet and he’s not really training to be just now. He should keep out of it.”
Wes lifted a hand. “One vote for keeping out of it.”
“Angel’s with me,” Tom said, shooting an annoyed glance in the direction of the bathroom. “She wants you to stay.”
“Yeah, but I never said anything about getting mixed up with weird government people,” Angel said, her nose wrinkling with distaste.
Tom shook his head. “That’s short-sighted. If Wes keeps playing the game by his father’s rules and shutting everyone out then--”
“Then what?” Wes snapped.
The room fell silent for a moment. Tom’s jaw set. “Then you’re just like him.”
Wes could feel his blood turn hot and then cold. A pain settled in his temples and his hands tried to clench but he kept them relaxed through sheer bloody-minded force of will. “Pack,” he said. “We’re leaving.”
Then he stood and stalked toward the hallway and Carmen’s room.
Lena was there in a chair in the corner, playing a game on her phone to settle her nerves. She watched Wes walk in, watched him move to the side of the bed and sit, looking down at Carmen.
Carmen Montero was beautiful. Drop dead gorgeous, in fact. She had long sheets of coal black hair and warm, clear skin and fine features. Sleeping added a helpless quality to her beauty, and Lena always felt she had to be here to watch Carmen when she dreamwalked. Wes clearly felt the same urge, because he wasn’t going anywhere any time soon.
“How long?” he asked.
“An hour, maybe two.” Lena shut her phone off and looked over at him. “It’s hard to say. Sometimes it takes her a while to find a dream.”
“Can we wake her up?”
“We could, but I wouldn’t. I heard you want to leave.”
His eyes narrowed. “That was… hasty. I suppose. We’ve got…”
“The club,” Lena supplied.
“And Angel is a McRae.”
“And the McRaes don’t like your dad, so they’re willing to spite him by ignoring you.”
“But government weirdos.”
“Seems to me that you should be working out your allies and your enemies now so that it’s that much easier when you’re a general.”
Wes frowned, but he only said, “Yeah.”
“So Tom was right.”
Grudging now. “Yeah.”
“And if they let you go once…”
“What if they don’t next time?”
She smiled ferally. “We’ll be watching.”
Wes watched her for a moment, frowning. Carmen mumbled incoherently in her sleep and turned over. “What about her?”
“What about her? Do you think they’ll care so much about Hunter politics that they’ll turn over one helpless girl to a pack of assholes trying to kill her?”
“You work for those assholes.”
She smiled again. “In theory.”
“Could get them in good with the Court if they turned her over.”
“They’re government and human?”
“Yes,” he replied, frowning again.
Lena nodded. “I’m not saying government types are particularly trustworthy, but those ones seem like… well, maybe not trustworthy. I don’t know. But I don’t think they’d let an innocent woman get killed.”
Wes exhaled slowly. “So you vote stay?”
She shrugged. “I’m not really one of your people. I only have to pretend to spy on you. I go where you go.”
“But if you were one of my people?” His pale green eyes focused on her with almost uncomfortable intensity, but she’d been on the receiving end of that gaze before. It didn’t have the safe effect on her--or, at least, not the effect he might have hoped for.
“I’d vote stay,” she said honestly.
He was quiet again for a long moment before he said, “Well, I did promise to find her if she didn’t try to follow me.”
Lena started her game up again. “There you go. Keep your promise. Can’t hurt, right?”
Chapter 12 is waiting for you to read it.