Ten minutes later, they were seated on the couch having tea and I was trying not to stare.
For Pete's sake.
"Do you take sugar?"
I stared at the small cup. I'd rather not take it at all. "Please."
She nodded and I waited while she played the hostess. Damon sat across from us, his face healed, but there was still blood on him. I'd have liked to ask him why he didn't bother to go wash it off, but I had a feeling I knew why.
His alpha was a f'ing crazy bitch and he was better off not drawing her attention in any way, shape or form.
"So Damon must think you can find my nephew," the lady murmured.
I needed to think of a name to call her. Nobody would give me her name--I had heard rumors of shifters who'd served her for decades who didn't know. She shifted once more in her seat, took a sip from that delicate little mug of tea and then set it down, folded her hands primly in her lap.
I had a suspicion she was posing for me. Like an oversized Barbie doll...ah, bingo. Barbie. It also made her a little less scary in my mind--maybe not in reality, but who cared about reality?
Still pondering the statement she'd made, I finally made myself answer. "I never said I could find him. I don't even know what's going on with him. I just know I was offered a job." Slipping the demonic Damon a look, I resisted the urge to point out that I hadn't exactly been given much of a chance to refuse. I could have walked away from him. Tried harder. I hadn't.
"Are you telling me you can't?" she asked, once more tilting her head to the side. There was something creepy about that. It made her look too...practiced. Like she was mimicking human motions without actually understanding why she was doing it.
"I never said that either. I just don't know anything about the case and I need to do a little more research before I can begin to think about whether or not I can find him." There. That was honest enough, right?
"Are you good at your job?" She reached for her cup of tea again, staring at me over the rim as she took another small sip.
Cautiously, I answered, "Good enough, I think."
"Hmmm." After she set it down, she rose from her seat.
Like he was jerked up on a set of strings, Damon was on his feet. He shot me a narrow look.
I stayed on my ass. That woman might scare me shitless, but I'd grown up around women who scared me shitless and I was done living my life kowtowing to the people who frighten me. If you gave in and did what they wanted, they just pushed for more anyway.
And besides, I wasn't a damn cat. I didn't have to follow their f'ed-up sense of hierarchy.
She paced the room and when she turned back, she narrowed her eyes as she saw me still sitting. "You really are a bit of a problem child, aren't you?"
"Yes." I shrugged. "I'm sorry. It's in my nature."
"I know. Your kind have always had that sense of...arrogance." Her nose wrinkled when she said your kind. Like we left a bad taste--literally--in her mouth. "I was hoping that you'd be a little less so, since your blood is weaker."
"Well, you know what they say. Blood is thicker than water."
"Is it really, though?" She rubbed one hand against the other and resumed her endless prowl around the room. "They cannot stand you, little warrior."
I grimaced. Had she been talking to Jude?
Most people didn't know enough of us to really understand what we were. A handful of the older ones did. Others might know the name but they didn't understand, didn't realize what we were...somebody had once called me a watered-down offshoot of a nearly dead race. Not terribly complimentary, but it said it all well enough.
We'd been forgotten, by and large. So it was kind of disturbing that she knew anything about me at all. And even more that she knew of my troubled relationship with my family.
"Whether or not my family can stand me doesn't have much standing on my ability to do the job, now, does it?" I asked, forcing myself to stay focused on Kitty-cat Barbie. Losing focus with her around was a certain way to end up dead. "All that matters is if I can find him or not. Do you want me to try?"
"No." She smiled and as she did, the incisors in her mouth lengthened. That was the only thing that changed and it was awful to see. Pure awful.
She continued to smile even as she lisped out, "I don't want you to try, little warrior. I want you to do it."
Then, as her teeth shifted back to normal, she came back and sat down. "You'll find him, Colbana. And you'll return him to us, unharmed. Or I'm going to come after you and rip out your heart. I'll feast on it after I bury my nephew." She said it in the exact same tone she'd asked me if I'd like sugar, and she said it while reaching for her damned tea cup.
Part of me wanted to point out that her terms weren't entirely fair, but I was outmatched here. Outmatched, outclassed in every way and if she came for me here, on her terms, on her turf, I'd die. From a distance, it would be different and if she wasn't expecting it, it would be different.
But right now, if I pissed her off, I was dead. I rather liked not being dead. So I held my tongue and stared at her for a long moment. Then, without looking at the man next to me, I folded my hand around the sword on my lap and rose.
No wonder the damn thing had come to me.
I was in a room with a crazy bitch and a man who'd all but led me to slaughter.