The tall redhead turned around and looked at Jay with purple eyes. “Yes?”
“How long are you going to deprive the rest of the world of your company? We all miss you,” Jay said softly.
Lorelei stood and shook her head. “Tis not my place to say when I shall return down there, you know that as well as I.”
Jay sighed. “You know that Hailiee won’t relent until she’s broken you,” he replied.
“Then my latest employer will see why I am the best at what I do. My will shall not be broken nor bent by any other, and no matter how long it takes, Hailiee shall learn that.”
Jay smiled and shook his head. “You’re too stubborn, Lorelei.”
She shrugged and turned back toward the window, watching the dark streets come to life with the usual assortment of night creatures. “Tis the nature of those such as myself.”
“You mean the nature of the Shaken? You know you’re not one of them.”
“But I am,” she said softly. “Part phoenix, spirit, and Amazon. There is nothing else I could be. If I am not among the Shaken, then I am nothing.”
“That’s not true,” Jay said as he stepped across the room toward Lorelei. “You are more than that, and you are as a sister to me.”
Lorelei shrugged again and pulled back the black curtains to watch a fey leap onto the back of a werewolf and ride through the streets.
“I will talk to Hailiee and see what I can do.”
“Don’t make the extra effort, Jay. I have decided that I am done with Lorelei, she may return to her home.”
Lorelei and Jay turned around to see Hailiee standing in the doorway. Hailiee was a Tract, a rare mixture between a vampire and a werewolf. Jay bowed mockingly in front of her as he waited for Lorelei to grab her bag from the floor.
“Hailiee,” Lorelei said in an icy tone as she looked through her.
Hailiee reached out and grabbed Lorelei’s left wrist, smiling cruelly as the girl hissed in pain. “My son shall miss you, Shaken,” she said.
Lorelei glared at Hailiee and snatched her wrist away. “Your son will simply miss that there is not a woman whose door is close to his own that he can beg attention from.” Lorelei brushed past her and walked out into the hallway.
Jay didn’t even glance at the Tract woman as he followed Lorelei down the hallway. He’d forgotten how fast she was, when he finally caught up with her, she was standing in the street, watching everything move by with empty eyes.
Jay reached out and put a gently hand on her shoulder. “Lorelei, the Netherworld needs the Temptress again.”
Lorelei shook her head and pulled her cloak tighter around her. “Nay, the Temptress is not ready to return yet. I have been gone for six months. I need to remember who the Temptress is.”
Jay grinned, frightening a young fey who was watching too closely. “You need child souls for that.”
Lorelei nodded. “I do.”
Jace opened his eyes quickly and looked around. He was still lying in his bed, the curtains still drawn, blocking the new daylight. Ever since that night six months ago, he’d been plagued by dreams of the Temptress and the vampire that he’d met in the alleyway in the Netherworld. Even though it had taken six months, he’d finally managed to gather the nine hundred thousand child souls he owed the Temptress for removing his phantasm problem.
Jace had sent the payment last night at midnight, the witching hour, in a black bag with “Temptress” written in blood, just like she’d requested. He was still shaken from watching the bag shimmer and disappear in the same ianthine smoke that the Temptress herself had disappeared in after sealing their deal.
Reluctantly, he slipped out of bed, steeling himself against the rush of terror and pain that usually greeted him after he left his bed, courtesy of the phantasms. But instead, there was nothing. Nothing but the sense of another presence watching him from across the room.
Slowly, Jace turned and faced the sunlight that was now weakly shining through the large bay window. A silhouette of a figure was perched in the window sill, one long, muscular leg hanging down, the all-too familiar onyx heel scraping against the wood floor.
She tossed a glowing gem up in the air and caught it in her palm. “Your payment was a bit late for my tastes, Jace.”
“My apologies, Temptress. But as we say among humans, better late than never,” he said quickly.
She sat up and leapt down from the windowsill. “If you are too late, it can cost you your life. But so can keeping secrets.”
“Why didn’t you tell her about what you are?” asked another familiar voice from behind him.
Jace whirled around to see Jay standing behind him, the dimples below his lower lip reminding Jace what he really was.
“What are you talking about? I didn’t keep any secrets.”
“My world is dying, Jace,” she said softly as she walked closer. “It needs men like you to bring it back to life.”
“Lorelei, he doesn’t know what you’re talking about,” Jay said gruffly.
Lorelei’s hardened into amethysts as she stared at Jace. “No one told you about what you are?”
“What am I?” he demanded.
Lorelei shook her head and cursed in a language Jace didn’t recognize.
“Calm down, Lorelei. No one told him probably because they were protecting him from the Tracts. He was born during the rebellion twenty years ago.”
“Rebellion?” Jace asked. “What are you talking about? The first time I heard about the Netherworld was six months ago when I met Jay,” he said, watching Lorelei.
She turned and looked back at Jace. “Auruger,” she said with a small bow.