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

“I don’t knowwhat to think,” Lang said, his shoulders slumping a little as the four scribes warmed themselves by a large fire in the front room. Jeremiah and the other scribe, who introduced himself as Ari, had retreated to the back of the house.

“Why did you call for help from London?”

“The Grigori have been swarming the city. In the last week, we’ve had a rush of attacks. I have six scribes here at the house, and they’ve all been patrolling every night, yet we’re still losing human women to the attacks. Then a few nights ago, Jeremiah’s mate, Chelsea, arrived with the other Irina, so I’ve kept Jeremiah and Ari here at the house guarding them while the others are out trying to cover even more territory. We’re overwhelmed.”

“So you called to London?” Rhys asked. “Stockholm would be the closest house, wouldn’t it?”

“We normally have a good relationship with Stockholm house, but for some reason, they haven’t returned my e-mails or calls as they normally would. Something is going on, but I don’t have anyone to send to them.”

“So you called London. They said they were sending help?”

Lang nodded. “Then, when Chelsea showed up, I almost considered calling them back and canceling, but I know the Watcher in London. We’ve… discussed some of the council debates in Vienna, and we’re of the same mind. I thought I could trust him. I hope I can, especially with Irina here now. Forgive me, Rhys. I didn’t want to be suspicious, but you have to understand how—”

“Please.” Rhys raised a hand. “Your brother’s mate brought others here for safety, including a child. Extra caution is understandable.”

“There is no need to apologize,” Leo added.

Malachi asked, “Did Chelsea say what was happening with the other Irina who’d been at Sarih?fn? Did she know where any were going?”

“She didn’t. I’m sure the less each knew about the others’ actions, the safer they all were. She did say Sari was staying back with her mate and a few others to secure the compound before they moved.”

Leo turned to Malachi. “I’m sure Ava would stay with them. Damien wouldn’t let her leave without him.”

“Ava? Is that your mate’s name?” Lang asked. There was a frown on his face.

“Yes, that is my mate’s name. Why?”

Lang was still frowning. “That name seems familiar.”

Rhys, Leo, and Malachi exchanged looks.

“Jeremiah?” Lang called.

They heard footsteps, then Jeremiah’s head popped around the corner. “Yes?”

“The American Irina. The one Brooke and Candice were talking about. What was her name?”

“Um… Ana? No, Ava. It was Ava.” Jeremiah’s eyes swung to Malachi. “Is she your mate? No, she can’t be.”

Lang asked, “Why not? How many Irina named Ava would be at Sarih?fn? It has to be her.”

“No…” Jeremiah stepped into the room, suspicion clear on his face. “Brooke said that Ava was widowed. That she was grieving her mate.”

Lang sprang to his feet and Rhys stood to meet him, holding up his hands.

“There was a mistake. He’s not lying. Malachi is her mate, but he’s not dead. It’s… hard to explain.”

“Try,” Jeremiah said. “Because if he is truly her mate then she would know beyond a shadow of a doubt if he was living or dead. That is not something any Irin could confuse.”

Rhys looked at Malachi, then at Leo. Both of them nodded. “You have trusted us. Taken us into your home, even as you shelter your own Irina here. We give you our trust, in kind.”

Malachi rose, pulling up his sleeves to reveal his arms. He’d added to his talesm in Vienna, but they still only reached to the bicep on his left arm. A shadow of his old talesm could be seen on his right arm if he looked closely, but they were barely visible. Lang and Jeremiah halted, their aggression fading at the unexpected sight.

“I… I don’t understand,” Lang said. “How old are you?”

“That,” Rhys said, “is a somewhat complicated question.”

Malachi spoke, keeping his voice low. “I am over four hundred years old. This body, however, is… somewhat newer.”

Silence. Neither Lang nor Jeremiah were able to say a word.

Leo said, “We don’t know how it happened. He was killed. Max and Damien saw it with their own eyes. Ava did, as well. We saw her grief, and it was horrible. He was dead. But then… he came back. We don’t know how.”

“I heard her voice,” Malachi said to the stunned scribes. “It said, ‘Come back to me.’ And for some time, that was all I knew. My memories are coming back, but slowly. I dream walk with Ava, but—”

“She doesn’t know,” Lang said, his voice rough. “She would think they are only dreams, like we all experience after we lose a mate.”

“I didn’t even realize what was happening until we spoke to Gabriel.”

“Because I’m an idiot,” Leo said. “Sorry.”

“So, she is with Damien and Sari,” Jeremiah said. “If this Ava is the one who the girl speaks of, she stayed with Damien and Sari. As a sister. Brooke said she had no other people. She was alone.”

“She grieves for you,” Lang said, his voice still hoarse. “And you are alive. Heaven above, we have to help you find her.”

“Max called us,” Leo said. “He said to come here. He must know where she is.”

Jeremiah shook his head. “The location of Sarih?fn is guarded by very powerful magic. I do not know how he could have discovered it.”

“But you said it had been compromised,” Malachi said, pulling down his sleeves. It was still freezing cold in the room. “Perhaps he knows where they’ve gone now.”

Lang nodded. “It’s possible. Max knows all sorts of interesting types. He’s not the most conventional in his company.” He glanced at Leo. “No offense.”

“None taken,” Leo said. “My cousin claims to have gambled with the Fallen themselves. I’m hardly shocked by anything at this point.”

“Still,” Jeremiah said, “if he’s in the city, he’s keeping a low profile.”

“Is he keeping a low profile, or has he just not left his flat?” Jeremiah asked. “With Sarih?fn compromised, you know Renata is probably here.”

“Renata?” Leo asked. “Who is Renata?”

Lang smirked. “That, I’ll leave for your cousin to answer. Come.” He waved them toward the door. “Now that you’re here, we’ll feed you, then I’ll map out a section of the city for you to patrol tonight. You may have a mate to find, but until you do, you’re working for me. Oslo is a city under siege at the moment. We need as many hands as possible.” He looked over his shoulder at Malachi. “Even if they’re attached to bare arms.”