Home > One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #3)(14)

One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #3)(14)
Author: Ilona Andrews

“Then a blood debt needed to be paid. So I found them, one by one, and I killed them all. Took me most of these last eight months.”

That was my sister. She watched her husband murdered and then hunted his killers against impossible odds, all the while trying to protect their daughter, and she summed it up like she was describing going to a grocery store on Tuesday.

“By the time I was done, I had a list of relatives howling for vengeance a mile long and two offers of marriage.” Maud took another cloth from the kit, sprayed some black liquid on it and polished the breastplate.

“Didn’t take them up on it?” I winked at her.

“I’m done with vampires. Hell will freeze over before I let another one anywhere near me or Helen. They’re all the same. Anyway, there is no future on Karhari. You were my last hope.”

“Why send a message with a Ku?” I asked.

“Well, I didn’t have a lot of choices,” she said. “And this Ku was hitching a ride on an Arbitrator’s ship.”

“Really?” Why did I have an odd feeling about this?

“An Arbitrator stopped at a Lodge where Helen and I were hiding.”

“What?” It couldn’t be.

“No idea what he was doing on Karhari. I’ve never seen one up close before. Beautiful man, golden blond hair. Walked with a cane.”

George. Just like I thought. The man who’d orchestrated the peace summit.

“Anyway, he paused by my table and said that I looked like someone from Earth and how odd it was to see someone like me and Helen in that wretched place. And I said that I was from Earth and still had family on the planet. He told me that he wouldn’t be going to Earth for a while, but that he would be stopping in the vicinity to drop off some clients and that a Ku in his party liked delivery jobs, so if I were to write a message, he would see that it reached my family. It was a shot in the dark. I never thought it would work.”

George knew exactly who she was. Of course he did. He probably wanted something in return, if not now, then later. That man never did anything without calculating all the variables. And I didn’t care. From now on he would stay free in the inn as long as he lived.

“Thank you for coming to get me.” She reached out to me and I hugged her.

“It will be okay,” I told her the way our mother used to tell me when everything was bleak and all I could do was cry about it.

“It will be okay,” my sister echoed and hugged me back.

CHAPTER 4

I paced back and forth before the circular summoning gate. We were due to arrive in range of Earth at any moment. When we did, the empty space defined by the gate would become blood-red, I’d step into it, and then I would be home. If home was still standing.

Maud and Helen went to the stream to look at the colorful fish, but not before Maud told me I had turned into our mom and then laughed. At least she could still laugh.

“If you keep pacing, your shoes will start smoking from the friction,” Sean said.

I almost jumped. I hadn’t heard him come up behind me. I turned around and there he was, dressed in his usual jeans and a T-shirt, clean-shaven. His hair was still slightly damp. He must’ve recently taken a shower. The heavy duffel rested on his back, the small duffel was in his hands. The subcutaneous armor he had gotten from Wilmos had shrunk into swirls of tattoos and their dark edges peeked out from under his sleeves and above his collar.

“Hi.”

“Hi,” he said.

I realized that I hadn’t even thanked him yesterday. I’d just grabbed Maud and walked away and then didn’t leave the suite for the entirety of the trip back. Not that it was very long - about twelve hours or so - but still.

“Thank you for coming to rescue my sister.”

“You’re welcome.”

It would help if I stopped staring at him like a fool.

“How is she?”

“Maud?” Yes, who else would he be asking about? Ugh. “She’s resilient.”

“Look at the way she stands,” Sean murmured.

When you picked up a child and held her, it was natural to pop a hip out and sit her on it. I’d seen Mom do it in the pictures where she held me or Maud. When I picked up Helen, I had unconsciously done the same thing. Maud was holding Helen so she could see the fish better, but her hips were perfectly straight. She supported her daughter’s entire weight with her arms and Helen wasn’t light. I had no idea what the average weight for a five-year-old girl was, but Helen was probably forty, maybe forty-five pounds.

It’s hard to pop the hip out while wearing armor. Maud stood like a vampire.

“It will wear off,” I said. I sounded like I wanted to convince myself.

Sean didn’t say anything.

“Are you going to stick around?” And why did I just say that?

“Where would I go?” he asked.

I was making a spectacular idiot out of myself today. I had to get to the inn. Worrying about it was driving me crazy.

“I don’t know,” I said. “The galaxy is a big place. A certain werewolf once told me that he wanted to open his eyes and see it.”

“I saw it.”

“Learn anything interesting?”

Sean’s eyes flashed with amber. “I learned that sometimes what you go looking for isn’t as important as what you leave behind.”

My face felt hot. Did I just blush? I hoped not. “What did you leave behind?” Oh, I was such an idiot.

   
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