“Oh, that one,” he murmured, the twist to his lips changing infinitesimally. “I did it to myself.”
“Why?” she asked, shocked.
“In our culture it’s a sign of mourning.” He began to do up the shirt that was hanging open.
“Who are you mourning for?” she asked quietly, unsure of whether he would answer.
He didn’t. It didn’t surprise her. He went over to the cupboard and pulled out a box that was about the length of her arm. He placed it on the bed and picking up the sheath, strapping it back onto his arm.
Opening the box, he studied the contents silently before drawing out a black-bladed dagger that glowed with a blue aura. He slid it into the sheath before taking out a longer one that he placed in the back of his trousers.
“I hope you’re not planning to murder my parents,” she said.
He gave out a short laugh. “No, I do not. I just don’t like to be unarmed. I lost my last blade in a tactical retreat.”
There was a knock at the door. Isabella opened it and poked her head around. “There’s someone here to see you.”
The door was suddenly pushed open and a large creature ran in, jumping up at Storm like an overexcited puppy. He grinned at it, kneeling down. He spoke to it in a soft language that she vaguely recognised from her childhood.
Beth studied the creature in more detail. It looked more like a tiger than an overgrown puppy; its coarse black fur was striped with white, its long tail flicking back and forth, its huge paws against Storm’s chest.
He seemed to ask it a question, and it keened in response. He asked another and it chuffed, seeming happier about whatever it was. It seemed to have a human understand of what he was saying to her.
“Kyra is coming with me,” Storm said to Beth, “are you?”
“Of course. I need to make sure you don’t hurt my family.”
His head tilted slightly as he looked at her. “Is my word not enough for you?”
“You never gave me your word,” she pointed out.
“True,” he smiled. “Let’s go.”
Storm breezed out of the room with a preternatural grace, the tiger-creature padded along at his heels. Beth followed.
The trio silently passed through the living room, which was now empty. Storm stopped in the long corridor.
“Ready?” he asked, holding out a long-fingered hand.
She took it and confirmed that she was ready.
Between one blink and the next, they’d travelled to her family house. They stood in the back garden, near the tree by the back wall.
“Why didn’t we just do that from your room?” she asked.
“Because the walls and ceilings of all the bedrooms are lined with lead to stop people getting in and out like that. Makes it more difficult to be ambushed in your sleep,” he replied.
Kyra was sat beside him quietly, watching the two of them with an amused look to her features.
Beth realised she was still holding onto Storm’s hand. She took hers back and did her best to ignore the comforting feeling of protection when he was close to her.