PW pursed her lips but wouldn’t meet his eyes.
Georgia, who until this point had stood by looking miserable, plugged back into the conversation. “Let’s go, PW.”
Giguhl, realizing this was his last chance to have his say, marched over to PW and grabbed her arm. “Can I speak to you alone?”
Without waiting for her answer, he pulled her toward the shadows under the stairs leading to Slade’s office. I tried to pretend I didn’t want to eavesdrop on their conversation, but who was I kidding? I started to sidle in their direction, but Slade stopped me. “Do you need a place to stay?”
He shrugged. “I just figured if you and the mancy were on the skids, maybe you’d need a place to crash.” The look in his eyes told me that sleeping was the last item on his to-do list.
“Slade, not now.” I started to dismiss him altogether, but paused. On second thought, maybe it was time I laid this out for him in clear language. “Actually, scratch that. I need you to understand something. I won’t be ‘crashing’ with you ever again. Am I clear?”
His jaw went hard. “I was just trying to help.”
“Yeah, help me out of my pants,” I shot back. “Look, we had some fun. It’s over now. I thought we’d discussed this already.”
“Sabina, I don’t know what the hell is going on with you, but I have no intention of making a move on you. You made your feelings quite clear on that score months ago.”
I grimaced. He was right. I’d set him straight back in October just before we’d left New York to go find Maisie. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to insult you.”
“That said, if you change your mind, I make an excellent fuck buddy.”
My lips twitched. “Dude, why don’t you try that shit on Alexis? She’s totally your type.”
“Now I really am offended.” He tried to sound mad, but an undertone of interest filled the spaces between the words. “That bitch wants my job.”
“Slade, do you really expect me to believe you wouldn’t fuck her anyway?”
He fanged his lip and looked over at the bitchinatrix. “I didn’t say that.”
Males, I thought. “Go for it, stud.”
He looked back at me quickly, his expression unsure. “You wouldn’t be mad?”
“Hell no. Maybe a good lay will improve her disposition.” And keep both of you out of my hair, I silently added.
He pursed his lips. “I’ll think about it.” Then he made a beeline toward her. That taken care of, I turned back to see Giguhl and Pussy Willow coming toward me. The demon’s shoulders slumped. Not a good sign.
I raised my brows in question. “Well?”
PW raised her chin. “You win this time, Sabina. He’s yours.”
I rolled my eyes. “I’m sorry you’re leaving. Give my best to Zen. Maybe we’ll come down for a visit soon.”
She hesitated, like she felt guilty for being so bitchy. Then she tossed her wigged head back and strutted away like a he-woman on a mission. Giguhl sidled up to me, his shoulders slumping. I patted his arm as we both watched the vampire and faery take their leave. “Sorry, G.”
He sighed forlornly and shrugged. “Not your fault. She’s punishing me.”
Frowning, I looked up at him. “Why?”
He pressed his lips together firmly, like he wasn’t going to tell. Then, he blew out a breath. “I told her she needed to stop hiding behind that broke-down wig and deal with her shit.”
My mouth fell open. “Really?”
He nodded solemnly. “Don’t get me wrong. Pussy Willow is fun. But I miss Brooks sometimes. He was nicer and more real, you know?” He crossed his arms. “Anyway, that’s what we were arguing about when you got here tonight. I told her it was time to get over what happened in New Orleans and move on. She needs to figure out how to find synergy between both sides of herself so she can live her truth.”
Hearing the word “synergy” come from a seven-foot-tall demon threw me off for a moment. “Let me guess,” I said. “Oprah?”
“She’s pretty wise… for a mortal.” Giguhl shrugged. “But it wasn’t just Oprah. I care about that fae bitch too much to let her keep fooling herself”.
My memory flashed back to the night when the faery decided to leave Brooks behind and adopt his drag queen persona full time. The decision came after a particularly vicious attack that almost killed the faery. At the time, I understood why the changeling felt that wearing the wigs and dresses made him feel insulated from harsh reality. But the longer Brooks maintained the illusion of Pussy Willow, the less likable he became. “Wow, G, I have no idea what to say. You were a good friend to be so honest with her.”
The demon huffed out an ironic laugh. “Right. If I’m such a good friend, why did she just kick me to the curb?”
“Maybe she’s not ready to face her figurative demons so she decided to get rid of a literal one.”
Giguhl shook his horned head sadly. “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt, Red.”
The next evening, I woke on the couch with a spoon stuck to my cheek. Following the dramatic exit of the faery and vampire from our lives, Giguhl and I had retired back at the apartment to drown our sorrows in gallons of ice cream and a couple of bottles of tequila we’d stolen from Slade’s bar.
My head pounded like a bass drum and my eyes burned in the dusk’s unholy light. A groan to my right had me turning over to peer at the floor. Giguhl had one leg propped up on the coffee table and the rest of his large body sprawled on the kilim rug in front of the couch. “Red?” he hissed.
“Mrrph,” I replied.
“Am I dead?”
“Maybe,” I said with a groan. “If so, we were sent to the Pit of Despair.”
His eyes popped open. He smacked his black lips together and grimaced. “I think a feral cat broke in while we were sleeping and shat in my mouth.”
I couldn’t argue with that sentiment, so instead I moaned and sat up. Immediately, regret set in. “Why did we think mixing tequila with triple chocolate heartbreak crunch would be a good idea?”
Giguhl hoisted himself into a sitting position, his knees pulled up against his chest. “I’m never drinking again.”
I shot him a look.
“Okay, I’m never drinking again today.”
I scrubbed my face and stood up. “I’ve got to get moving. Rhea is expecting me at the Crossroads in an hour.”
“What’s going on there?” Giguhl asked. I realized then that we’d both been so wrapped up in personal dramas that I hadn’t filled him in on the Maisie situation. I gave him a quick rundown on the plan. His bloodshot eyes widened. “Holy crap! You’re drugging her?”
I cringed both from the guilt and the effect his shriek had on my fragile cranium. “Not exactly. Just giving her a mild sedative.”
“Sabina, please. You’re totally drugging her.”
“Okay, fine. We’re drugging her. But it’s for her own good.”
“Well, I’ll give you this. If Rhea thinks it’s for the best, then it probably is.”
Giguhl squinted at me. “Why don’t you sound convinced.”
“I am. It’s just that I haven’t seen Rhea since my fight with Adam. I’m worried she’s going to read me the riot act.”
“Maybe he hasn’t told her what happened?” His tone was heavy with skepticism.
“Who knows? I haven’t seen him.” But Alexis had—at the Crossroads. Would he be there that night when I went to help Rhea? The thought made me even more nauseous.
Giguhl rose and came to pat me on the shoulder. “He’ll come to you when he’s ready. You hurt him, Red. He needs time to get a handle on his feelings. In the meantime, focus on helping Maisie. I know you feel guilty about the means, but like you said, it’s for her own good.”
I didn’t want to keep talking about all this. I needed to keep busy or I’d end up right back on that couch with tequila. Instead, I busied myself making coffee.
“So what’s your plan tonight?” I said, changing the subject.
Giguhl groaned and came to lean his elbows on the counter separating the kitchen from the living area. “I’ve got to find some warm bodies for the Marauders. We’ve got another bout the night after tomorrow.”
I paused in the process of scooping grounds into the coffee filter. “Another one so soon? I’m surprised.”
The demon shrugged. “I guess getting canned by Orpheus lit a fire under Slade. He’s filling Vein’s event schedule to try to make up for the income he’s gonna lose running drugs for the Hekate Council.”
Even though Slade’s main job for the Council was peacekeeping among the nonmage races in the city, he also made a pretty penny running the mages’ “herbal remedies” through the Black Light District. Made sense that he’d be looking to make Vein more lucrative now. “So you need to find two girls to replace Mac and Georgia?”
He shook his head. “I wouldn’t have needed any but the next bout happens the night after the full moon. The league requires no werewolves play during the four-day window on either side of the full moon. That means the other were I had on the bench as a sub for the last bout is out of the picture, too. I’d like to find a few new players so we have substitutions, but with such short notice I’ll be lucky to find the one player I have to have to meet the requirements for a full roster.”
I closed the lid on the pot and hit the start button. “What about the nymphs?”
“No dice,” he said. “Slade’s short-staffed as it is and said he can’t afford to take another nymph off rotation for the night. Besides, I need someone stronger than a faery.” He paused dramatically. “I need a vampire.”