Home > How to Wake an Undead City (The Beginner's Guide to Necromancy #6)(6)

How to Wake an Undead City (The Beginner's Guide to Necromancy #6)(6)
Author: Hailey Edwards

“This is the part where it’s polite to say it’s the thought that counts, but you’re both loaded. The first High Society windbag to spot this will laugh until she deflates. You might want to consider upgrading sooner rather than later.” She patted my cheek, almost a slap. “Still, I can’t fault your taste in men. I would have licked off his freckles if I were a few decades younger.”

Linus made a strangled sound that forced me to twist a laugh into a cough.

“His freckles are my favorite,” I confessed, the daisy-shaped cluster under his left eye in particular. “I hope you’ll come to the wedding.”

“Any wedding of yours is bound to be a catastrophe,” she announced. “I hope you’ll serve popcorn.”

Painfully aware she was right, and what I had cost those closest to me, I gave the ceiling my full attention to prevent my eyes from overflowing.

“Grier is worth it.” Linus crossed to me, sank his fingers in my hair, and held on tight. “She always puts others first and never asks for anything in return.” Warmth suffused his features. “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her.”

“That’s because your blood is pooling in your lap.” Mary Alice snorted a laugh. “You think I can’t spot the resemblance between those doodles in your sketchbook and her? I’m old, but I’m not blind. The second I saw her with my own two eyes, I knew it was over. All I had to do was look at your face to tell you’d walk into traffic for her.” She flicked me a glance. “I’m glad she’s a goner too. Otherwise, we would be having a very different conversation. I wouldn’t allow just anyone to marry my protégé, you understand?”

Grateful I didn’t have to hear that talk given the course of this one, I asked, “We have your blessing?”

“I might as well give you my stamp of approval.” She mimed the action. “You’d marry him anyway.”

“I love him,” I ventured. “If that helps.”

“I can tell.” She shook her head. “That night he dragged you through here, you couldn’t take your eyes off him. He’s got a nice ass if you like pancakes, but it wasn’t butter you wanted to pat.”

Unable to look her in the eye, I dropped my face into my hands. “I need to use the little girls’ room.”

“Sheesh.” Mary Alice folded her arms across her chest. “You socialites are so fragile.”

“The bathroom is the second door on the right.” Linus released me with reluctance. “I’ll walk Mary Alice out.”

“Thanks for your hospitality,” I murmured, happy to make my escape.

On the way, he began quizzing her on what chatter had reached Atlanta and beyond about Savannah’s troubles, no doubt plotting ways to spin the news to our advantage.

Behind the closed bathroom door, I shut my eyes and counted to ten.

The knocks at my back came right on time.

“I died of embarrassment,” I called. “Invitations to my funeral will be delivered shortly.”

The soft laughter brushing against the other side of the door lured me out despite my stinging cheeks. I couldn’t resist Linus when all the masks fell away, and I saw the man I was going to spend the rest of my very long life with.

“You look good for a recently deceased.”

“Mary Alice doesn’t like me.” The whine in my voice annoyed me. I ought to be used to my outsider status by now. There was no point in trying to impress folks this late in the game. “She’s not thrilled we’re getting married.” I tapped his finger. “And she made fun of your ring.”

“You put that ring on my finger.” He looked at it, really looked at it, like he worried it might have been his imagination when I could have told him he never would have pictured an engagement ring like that one. “Nothing else matters.”

“You’re right.” A smile curled my lips. “You’re mine. That’s all that counts.”

But I was going to buy him a decent ring the first chance I got, even if it meant knocking him out with a sigil to pry this one off his finger.

A familiar ringtone interrupted my plotting, and I waited for Linus to answer.

“Midas,” he said for my benefit. “Lethe mentioned you would be joining us.”

A knock rang through the suite, and I frowned toward the entryway. “I’ll get it.”

No sooner had I opened the door than a muscular arm shot through the gap and made me gasp. I caught the thick wrist, twisting into a hold designed to take down larger opponents, before my brain registered the network of crosshatched scars. I slammed Midas face-first against the wall then yelped and jumped backward, tucking my hands under my armpits like they had minds of their own.

“What the heck?” I glowered at him. “I could have hurt you.”

The spun-gold hair that had given him his name fell into vibrant aquamarine eyes that showed amusement mingled with pride, a definite upgrade from the sorrow that crept into them when he thought no one was looking. “Just checking to see if you and Lethe do more than eat takeout and…well…eat takeout.”

“We train.” I anchored my hands at my hips. “She works me harder than you ever did.”

“Mmm-hmm.” Pocketing his phone, he invited himself in. “I came to tell you in person that I can’t go to Raleigh with you.”

“We’ll be fine on our own,” I assured him. “Lethe was being overprotective by asking you.”

“Grier, I know what’s happening in Savannah. I can’t keep secrets from my alpha, not ones that involve my sister. That means Mom knows too.”

“I understand.”

“I don’t think you do.” He raked a hand through his hair. “Until and unless Lethe returns to Atlanta, I’m the stand-in. With the true heir in Savannah, knee-deep in vampires, Mom won’t let me leave. She’s made it clear I’m to remain within the city limits, and I can’t break her commands. It’s not a matter of choosing her over you, I mean I physically can’t disobey a direct order.”

The Atlanta pack was a meld of fae gwyllgi and warg genes. Their Faerie origins were ancient history, meaning they had more warg DNA than fae, and their pack hierarchy borrowed heavily from that culture, but they definitely had their own unique quirks.

“We don’t want to put you in an awkward position.” I indicated a couch where he could sit. “Linus and I can go on alone. An escort to meet with your mom, however...”

“You can’t afford to appear weak in front of Mom if you expect her to offer you aid,” he said grimly. “If I escort you, it sends the message that you’re prey in need of protection.”

“Oh.” I had to restrain myself from smacking my forehead. “I should have thought of that.”

“Just because Mom doesn’t recognize our bond doesn’t make it any less tangible to me.” He dropped onto the sofa with a grimace. “You’re pack, Grier. I won’t let you face this alone. Lethe and Hood would kill me if I wimped out and tried.” Amusement surfaced when he glanced up at me. “That’s why I brought an old friend.”

“Your old friend or my old friend?” I eyed the door. “I didn’t see anyone else in the hall.”

Granted, the design punched you in the face each time you looked at it, so you had to wait for your double vision to clear before taking in any new details.

“See for yourself.” He jerked his head toward the door. “Go on.”

After squaring my shoulders, I approached the door and—almost took a boot to the face.

“Taz.” Luckily, instinct took over, and I ducked before kissing her tread hello. “You’re here.”

“I got you into this mess.” Her grin was just as crazed as I remembered. “I’m here to get you out of it.”

“I got you into this mess,” I corrected her, too afraid of what she might do to me if I risked hugging her. “The Marchands put a price on your head. You never would have crossed paths with them if not for me.”

“Evil Twin attempted to murder me.” A spark of anger flashed in her eyes. “I’m sorry Good Twin has her lace panties in a wad over it, but her sister deserved what she got and then some.”

Setting aside my excitement to see her, I had to give it to her straight. “You’re not going with us.”

“Yes, I am.”

“No, you’re not. It’s dangerous enough for Linus and me, but it would be a suicide mission for you.”

“We’re having her glamoured,” Midas volunteered. “I have a distant relative who specializes in tailoring appearances. The disguise will hold until she releases it.”

“Glamoured.” A trick of the fae to alter a person, place, or thing’s appearance. “I see.”

Just how many distant relatives the Atlanta pack sheltered made me nervous. The only one I had met so far was Shane Doherty, and Lacroix killed him. One minute, an ancient power. The next, an empty shell. Society members in good standing weren’t supposed to intermingle with fae, but thanks to the Marchands, Taz was a dead woman walking. She could afford to bend the rules.

“Take a good look.” Taz framed her face with her hands. “This might be the last time you see this mug.”

A ripple of shock fluttered through me. “You would keep the disguise?”

“I’m tired of hiding. It’s not in my nature. This is a second chance at life. A new life. Free of baggage from the old one.” Lower, she confessed, “I would be a fool not to take it. Without Midas brokering the deal, I could never afford it.”

The sentiment mirrored Amelie’s so clearly, I was forced to admit I might have judged my old friend harshly. Taz was a soldier. She had done her duty, and it cost her. Amelie had brought misfortune on herself, but who was I to judge who got handed a second chance? Who was I to deem one person worthy over another? The very nature of a second chance dictated it should go to someone, not necessarily worthier, but more determined not to repeat past mistakes.

   
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