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The Singer Elizabeth Hunter 2022/7/22 11:38:29

“Just that we are together. We speak. We… we’re together. I don’t remember everything, but she’s there. Every time I close my eyes, she’s there.”

Leo said nothing, just blinked in surprise. Finally, he faced the road again. “Well, no wonder you didn’t want to wake up earlier.”

They fell silent for another few kilometers, but when they saw the lights of Budapest in the distance, Leo reached back and shook Rhys’s knee. “Wake up, old man.”

“What?” Rhys muttered. “I’m awake. I’m up.”

“We’re almost to Philip’s,” Leo said.

Malachi could see Rhys shaking his head and rubbing his eyes in the rearview mirror. The scribe patted his cheeks and grabbed his water bottle to take a drink.

“So, what have you ladies been gossiping about without me?”

“I was telling Malachi some of the funniest stories about Ava.”

“Like the time she told the bar full of Grigori that I was a catch.”

Rhys’s eyes gleamed mischievously in the light of a passing truck, then the corner of his mouth curled into a smirk.

“Did you tell him about the time she kissed me?”

Malachi hissed, “What?”

He slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting the back of a red van, and Rhys went flying into the passenger seat, smashing his nose on the headrest.

“For heaven’s sake,” Rhys yelled from the back. “This again?”

Malachi didn’t knowwhat Rhys was griping about. By the time they’d arrived at his friend Philip’s scribe house on the outskirts of Budapest, his nose had completely healed. Other than the smear of blood on his collar, he looked none the worse for wear.

They grabbed their bags out of the back of the Range Rover and walked toward the entrance.

“We’ll rest for a couple of days here,” Rhys said. “I’m still waiting to hear from Max. He should have a meeting with Gabriel by tomorrow at the latest. After that, we’ll know more about what’s going on in the city and what the political climate is like.”

“Do you still think we should keep quiet about what happened to Malachi?”

“Damien said not to tell anyone about Ava unless we absolutely had to. If that’s the case, I say we avoid talking about Malachi as well. Unless the word has spread from Cappadocia, we should be fine.”

Leo said, “I don’t think the scribes in Cappadocia have much communication with the houses in the city.”

Malachi had realized that if no other descriptor was given, “the city” always referred to Vienna. According to Leo, it was the center of the Irin race. Everything, from finances to art to government, centered on Vienna, where the Irin had lived for centuries under the noses of the human population. Malachi couldn’t remember it at all.

“Rhys?” Malachi tried to get his attention as they walked up the block to the nondescript building on the corner that looked like it housed a bar on the first floor.

“Leo said there are no Grigori in Vienna.”

“It’s true. The Fallen abandoned that city long ago.”

“But why? If it’s the center of the Irin race, wouldn’t they have focused their efforts there?”

Rhys gave him a grim smile. “Of course not. How could they lull the most influential Irin into a complacent state of greed if they hung around and caused trouble?”

“You mean they don’t think—”

“Vienna hasn’t seen a concentrated attack from the Fallen or their Grigori since the Rending, Malachi. According to many, the Grigori are a nuisance, nothing more.”

Leo only nodded. “It’s true. We may be fighting all over the world, but in Vienna… they dance.”