Harper sat in the bat cave, thinking about the dead woman. No, the dead demon. A demon who would have killed her and Alec both.
The drive back had been uncomfortable. When she looked at Alec, she saw the woman lift her gun; she heard the shot.
She turned her coffee cup one way, then the other. It was a demon she’d left in that hallway.
“Hello? Earth to Harper?” Conner waved a hand in front of her.
She blinked, shook her head to clear it, and smiled at him. “Hey, you look better. How’s your shoulder?”
“Sore, but I’ll live.” He moved his arm to show that some of his mobility was back.
“Good,” Harper said. She picked up the coffee, then put it back down. “It must be nice, healing so fast. You have to be a demon to do it, but still… nice.”
“Are you all right?” Conner asked. When she nodded, he sat next to her. “Alec told me what happened.”
Harper shrugged. “It’s not a big deal, really. We would have killed her, anyway. Saved us a bullet.”
“I left the gun, though,” she said, frowning. “I didn’t think to grab it. Will your pawn-guy be on the hook if the cops find it?”
“He’ll be fine,” Conner said. “Hey, why don’t we go for a walk? I need fresh air, and I bet you could use some too.”
“That sounds great,” Harper admitted. She got up, but before they could leave, the door opened. She expected Alec and wasn’t disappointed. But then Brittney followed him in, surprising her.
“Rain check,” Conner told her.
“For what?” Brittney asked, looking between them.
“Fresh air,” Harper said. She felt better having Brittney there. She motioned her over. “What’s up? When did you get here?”
Brittney flopped in one of the chairs. “Ten minutes ago, about. Got distracted by him.”
Harper glanced at Alec, who looked to be in a dark mood. “Everything okay?”
“Fine,” they both said at once. Harper wasn’t convinced.
Conner smiled at Brittney, ignoring the vibes between her and their leader. “Thanks for coming.”
“Anytime. Well, anytime — assuming you get me a VIP parking pass,” Brittney lifted her foot to show off her cherry red heels. “I can’t handle another walk from the parking garage in these.”
“You could wear flats,” Harper said, smiling.
“What? With these slacks? Do you know what that would do to the crease line?” Brittney shook her head, pretending offense.
Alec looked irritated and disappeared into the back.
“I’ll see what I can do,” Conner told her. “Now, you texted about Emma?”
Brittney sat up straighter, looking serious. “Yeah, we had a chance to talk last night. I already suspected part of what she told me, but last night was a waste of time.”
Conner frowned. “What? Because we didn’t find James?”
Harper blinked. “She knew we wouldn’t?”
“Look, she’s terrified for her son,” Brittney said. “Everything stems from that.”
“She lied,” Conner said.
“Not about all of it,” Brittney told him. “Everything she said about the zurochs taking him was true. But what she didn’t tell us was that one of Trentreen’s men paid her a visit after. He promised James wouldn’t be hurt if Emma convinced you to go after him. He was bait, that’s all.”
Conner closed a hand into a fist atop the table. “It was suspicious. Too big of a coincidence that it was James who Trentreen kidnapped.”
“Why does he hate you so much?” Harper asked. “You told us before that you had history with him.”
“We met when I first moved to Vegas,” Conner said. “Spent some time together, ran some cons. But we had a falling out… that ended with him losing his right eye. Never forgave me that.”
Brittney gave him a curious look. “Apparently he’s been harboring hate ever since.”
“And paranoia,” Conner said, smirking. “I told him if he ever came out of the unders, I’d take his left eye too.”
“Gotta give credit where it’s due,” Brittney said. “Technically, he hasn’t left the unders. He’s drawing you in instead.”
Conner’s smirk withered. “Right. So what? Emma comes to me, I go looking for him…”
“He probably had set a trap,” Brittney suggested. “You must not have fallen for it.”
Harper thought of how fast the zurochs showed after the wulfsers and how they’d ran. “Or maybe we just got lucky.”
She shrugged. “Maybe, yeah. Either way, you got out when you shouldn’t have. And James was never there. Trentreen has him somewhere else.”
Conner’s face darkened. “Does she know where?”
“No,” Brittney said. “If she did, she would’ve said, Conner. She told me the truth, and she was well aware you’d find out. She may have kept James from you, but she doesn’t want you hurt.”
“What’s going to happen now?” Harper asked her. “I mean, she followed through, even if Conner made it out. She kept her end of the bargain. They’ll let him go now, right?”
Conner stared at her. “Come on, Harper. You’re not that naive. Demons can break promises as easily as anyone else — and are happy to do so. Let him go? No, not a chance.”
“Emma feels the same,” Brittney said. “She’s at my place still, which I think is for the best. If they can’t find her, they can’t threaten her… and James is safe enough until then.”
“Safe from death, maybe,” Conner allowed. “Trentreen won’t throw away his only chance to get at me. That doesn’t mean he won’t have him hurt.”
“Is there a way Sarah can track him like she was planning in the unders?” Harper asked.
“No,” Conner said. “She’d need a starting point to follow — the unders gave us that. The rest of the city, though? Not a chance. You’re talking about a grain of sand in a hay barn.”
“Right,” she said. She stared at the wall, thinking.
“I mean, I have an idea,” Brittney said.
Conner motioned at her. “Well come on then, don’t hold back.”
“Trentreen wants you. Let’s give him what he wants,” Brittney placed her hands on the table. “Be stupid, get taken. You aren’t a grain of sand.”
“No.” Alec stepped into the room again, arms crossed.
“We can follow him,” Brittney said. “Or hell, we could put some kind of tracker in place, you’ve got money, you could afford it. Or a spell, or—”
Alec’s disgust with the idea was palpable. “What do you think happens when they take him, Brittney? Trentreen sets out some tea and biscuits? They catch up on old times? Maybe have a beer?”
“I think he’ll torture him,” Brittney said, voice flat. “I think he’s been planning revenge for so long that he’ll want to savor it. And that buys us time.”
“Oh, so you’re not just suggesting he risk his life then, but hoping they torture him first,” Alec said.
Conner said, “I’ll do it.”
“No,” Harper and Alec said together.
“Conner, we’ll find another way,” Harper said. “You can’t risk this.”
“Another way?” Conner said. “Okay, sure, what is it?”
Harper hesitated. “Well, I don’t quite know yet, but—”
“What about you, Alec?” Conner said, snapping his eyes to the vampire. “No? Nothing? We don’t have time for ideas! Trentreen wants me to suffer, and he’s got my son.”
Alec cursed, then looked away, furious. “Fine. We get one shot though, so—”
“Alec!” Harper said. “You can’t think this will work!”
“I think Conner has made his choice,” Alec said. “You head to the San Francisco. Drink, gamble, complain about your bitch of an ex. Demanding sacrifice for a kid you never wanted. Be angry. Bitter. And use your charm on whatever demon walks by that looks good in a skirt.”
Brittney was nodding. “Expecting you risk your life. Worst part? You might have, if she’d asked. But she lied to your face.”
“Went behind your back to Afterlife,” Alec added. “Aired your dirty laundry from way back when. You turned a new leaf, but that doesn’t matter now, because they just see you like she did.”
Conner stood. “Yeah, I get it. No point in staying good when everyone treats you like a monster. I’m out of here.”
Harper followed him to the door. “Be careful, Conner. Please.”
He hardly bothered to look her way. “I’m a demon, Harper. You want someone to take a walk with, get a dog.”
Then he was gone, the door slamming behind him.
“He meant that,” Harper said. “When you kept going on, his aura changed. He isn’t just upset, he’s excited. He wants to do this.”
“Good,” Alec said, unconcerned with her anger. “He needs to be a demon for this, or they’ll see right through him.”
Brittney looked less sure, but she nodded at Alec. “The best lies are based on truth.”
“Cool,” Harper said. “Sounds great. And I suppose when he’s the demon we leave dead in a hallway, I guess that’s fine too! We can pat each other on the back and say that he made the choices that led him there. You really are a pro at this, Alec.”
Alec stepped toward her, his eyes flashing black. He shimmered, but then stopped himself. She could see what his restraint was costing him, and it should have scared her.
Instead, she felt only despair. “If he dies, it’s on you two. So I’m gonna get a drink and you both think on that for a while, okay?”
“Harper,” Brittney said, sounding hurt.
“Get hold of the others,” she told her friend. “Let them know that Conner’s going to need the cavalry.”
As she left, she saw Alec and Brittney exchange a look. It was the first time they seemed on the same side, and the irony wasn’t lost on her.