This is Issue #35 of DeathWatch, an ongoing Serial. Click that link to go find ‘A Beginning’ and read from there, if you need to catch up.
* * *
He could still feel the sting of her against his lips, the taste of her rough kiss, mingled with the wine, the heady excitement of the party, the intrusive curiosity of the guests, the way Lucida’s brother’s eyes followed him around the room, watchful, careful, amused and hungry all at once.
“Where?” Jet whispered, his lips brushing hers.
“Far corner,” she answered, keeping her voice as low as possible. She laughed then, tossing her head. “Come — don’t be shy.” The hand holding the knife carefully slipped between them; she tucked two fingers into his belt and pulled him against her, toward the bed as she backed up, step by step. “We Ilonan women are never shy,” she purred.
His eyes widened as he stepped after her, flushed, breathless, and the shocked look on his face was enough to make her laugh all over again. When she backed into the bed and he pressed up against her, she whispered again, “At my word, go right.” She kissed him again, lips hot, tongue sweet.
He couldn’t help himself when he immediately pulled back enough to ask, “Your right, or my right?”
Her expression was priceless and yet amused as she hissed, “You’re an idiot.” One hand reached up; she threaded her fingers through the tousled waves of his hair and pulled him in again, biting his lips.
“You have my knife,” he panted. “I can’t–”
“Now!” she commanded.
He spun right, looking for a weapon. He saw the intruder come forward, fury on his face, a broad, wicked sword curving from his fist. He had been a guest from the party, one who had left early, claiming a weak stomach or some other ailment. Jet threw himself forward, teeth bared. Sword or no sword, knife or no knife, he would not let the man harm Lucida in any way.
He realized some time later, he needn’t have worried.
She launched forward, silent and swift, and the knife she’d taken from him found its mark within moments, and then she dropped it to the floor.
She was so fast, so deliberate, as Jet reached the man, he did little more than catch him and lower him to the floor. He stared at the man’s eyes, at his mouth, as he struggled to breathe, to speak, and Jet remembered Eisen’s face as he laid on the stone in front of Immanis. Remembered the widening pool of blood. He watched him die, his heart still pounding, and reached to pick up the pocket knife, blood smearing over his hand and wrist and sleeve in the process. He glanced back over his shoulder, looking for Lucy.
Lucy’s eyes were wet with tears; her facepaint had run, the kohl around her eyes smearing. She looked at the man on the floor, looked to Jet, and with a deliberateness that put a crawling fear up Jet’s spine, she tore her skirts, pulled pins from her hair, and threw herself to the floor. She began to scream in Ilonan, and the sound of it was chilling. Her eyes were wide with terror; her makeup was smeared; her tears shone; her hair and clothing were mussed. She screamed, long and loud and shook with the force of her terrorized cries, her throat going raw.
Bewildered, almost frightened, Jet went to her, reached for her, his eyes wide. “Shh, shh, Lucy. It’s all right. You’re all right. See? He’s dead, Lucy, you… it’s okay, please–”
Lady’s maids and guards burst in, with Immanis himself quickly following, knives in his hands, his teeth bared. Light from the hall fell on both Jet and Lucida, the both of them bloody, he with a knife, her in tears. Immanis took but a moment to comprehend. His wrath was god-like; he strode to Jet’s side and pulled the young man away from Lucy by his hair, bringing knives to his throat, growling like an animal, cursing in Ilonan.
Lucida immediately put her hands on Immanis, slid them over his wrists, put her fingers against his blades and begged, tearful and shaking. She moved to put herself between Immanis and Jet, and pointed a shaking hand to the body half in the shadows, sobbing as she spoke. “No, Immanis. No, it was him,” she wept.
Immanis dropped Jet, snapping at the guards, gesturing to the dead body.
Jet staggered and leaned against Lucy, panting, struggling for equilibrium.
She sank to the floor with him, curling up in his arms and sobbing, clutching the fabric of his shirt, burying her face against his neck, inconsolable. Now and then, she looked up at him with tearstained eyes — a gaze only for him. It held no fear, only hunger.
Immanis inspected the man on the floor for a long while, grief and rage passing over his face as he looked at the body. Eventually, he returned to them both, crouching lowly, shifting to get himself between Jet and Lucy. “What happened?”
Jet moved to lean back, to get up and back away from Immanis. I’m not a threat. I’m not dangerous. I’m not even worth worrying about.
Before Jet could answer, Lucy said, “It was awful, brother! Your guest brought me back to my room, and said good night as a gentleman does. When I came into my room, that beast attacked me. He– he– I think he killed him, brother.” She sobbed, putting her hands to her face. “He saved me, Immanis,” she said, lifting her radiant face and smiling gratefully to Jet. “Your Black Stone saved me.”
Stunned, Jet looked to Immanis, and glanced to the body that was being removed by the guards.
“Leave us,” Immanis said, and his eyes were cold, and his arms were around his sister. “You will wait in my private audience chamber. I will speak with Lucida, and then I will speak with you.”
Jet glanced at Lucy, and she rose on a fawn’s legs, as unsteady in the moment as she had been graceful and deadly, earlier. He offered out a steadying hand and she stepped close and leaned into him, laying a hand against his chest, a hand against his cheek, smiling tearfully, baring her teeth. “Thank you,” she said earnestly. “For what you did. I owe you my life.”
Very sharp teeth indeed.
* * *