chapter LIXMature

Graeme had begun to worry.  He wondered if he should go search for Gabriel, if something terrible had happened to her.  They’d done something new, something dangerous, and he worried that rumor of it had spread quickly.  If perhaps they should be extra cautious.  One never knew when demons would put a price on one’s head.  He thought of Gabriel’s lovely throat and fear wrenched a knot into his stomach.

She’d only been gone an hour and a half, he told himself, but it was weak.  A lot could happen in ninety minutes.

Just as he grabbed his duffle bag from under the bed, the hotel door unlocked with a click that echoed through the room.  He hadn’t realized how quiet it had been.  He curled his fist around the straps of the bag and tugged it toward him.  As the door opened, he tore down the zipper and slid his hand into the bag.

Gabriel breezed into the room and Graeme’s breath caught in his throat.  She was actually aglow.  Lit up like a streetlight, like the star on top of the Christmas tree.  A man followed her into the room and shut the door behind him; without looking at what he was doing, he smoothly flicked the deadbolt into place.  A pit formed in Graeme’s chest and he couldn’t tell if it was jealousy or anxiety or a poisonous residue left from the heart he’d consumed, but it dropped like an anchor into his stomach and he felt sick again.  His fingers curled around the hilt of a knife and he discretely slid it into his belt as he rose to his feet.

“Graeme!”  Gabriel’s voice was sweet, full of light and air and a saccharine kind of joy that he hadn’t ever heard.  The roll of nausea that had taken hold of his stomach roiled again as he thought, she’s practically a stranger.  She smiled at him and he settled, incrementally, every second that her eyes were on him.  She continued, “I have someone I’d like you to meet.”

He said nothing.  His palm itched as if it ached for the comforting weight of the knife.  Graeme couldn’t even bring himself to look at her guest, his eyes were fixed on her.  She was the sun and he was the earth and nothing shone brighter than her, nothing else deserved his attention.  Mesmerized still by the illumination that buzzed beneath her skin, he felt simultaneously alight and impure.  There were rotten things in him, things that should never see the light of day, and though her brightness threatened to expose them, he stood his ground.  Let her see, he thought.  Let her know all that I am.

Gabriel faultered only for an instant, as if she’d expected him to be equally thrilled at the addition of a third member to their little team.  She said, “Graeme, this is Sebastian.  He’s a Demon Hunter.”

“Is that so?”  Graeme shifted his eyes to Sebastian, scrutinizing him through slitted lids.  Roughly two hundred pounds, lean, with casually disheveled blond hair, Graeme didn’t like him.  Sebastian didn’t flinch under Graeme’s gaze, instead, he met it with his own.  For a long moment, the two of them surveyed each other.  Graeme decided he hated him; he hated the alertness in his blue eyes, the confidence in his posture, the unsubtle way Sebastian’s hand hovered close to his own belt, as if waiting for an excuse to draw his weapon.  He hated the way Sebastian stood so close to Gabriel, the way his eyes sometimes gave away that he was fighting the urge to look away from Graeme and back at her.  He hated him because he knew it all too well, and Gabriel was his.  He wanted to burn Sebastian’s eyes to black coals while they were still in his skull.

Sebastian offered him a cruel smile and said, “I hear you’ve had some trouble keeping a demon out of your meatsack.”

That son of a bitch, Graeme thought, and opened his mouth to reply only to be cut off.  Gabriel, her tone no longer honeyed, was cold and sharp.  “That’s enough.”

They looked at her simultaneously, a bit taken aback, as if they’d forgotten she was watching them.

She continued, satisfied that she had their attention.  “Put the rulers away and grow up.  We have work to do.”

The End

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