Black Spring Page 56

I took his hand, forced him to look at me before he did anything foolish.

“Don’t,” I said. “I’m already in trouble. Don’t give him an excuse to hurt you, too.”

His eyes were brilliant blue in his fury. “Do not ask me to stand by and watch harm come to you.”

Puck watched us with avid interest. “And what will you do to prevent it, my son? The evidence points in one direction only—toward Madeline.”

“Quite conveniently. We are all very well aware that Madeline would not and could not have murdered Evangeline,” Nathaniel said through his teeth. “Lucifer is allowing this farce to continue for reasons of his own. I know what you wish to do with Madeline.”

“At the moment I wish her in a cell,” Lucifer said. “Which is where she will go, to be held until the court of the Grigori can be assembled for her trial.”

Samiel looked at me in panic. He’d been captured by Lucifer’s men and held once before. I’d intervened on his behalf and ended up as Lucifer’s Hound of the Hunt. The outcome had been better than Samiel’s execution, but had saddled me with another connection to Lucifer. No matter what was decided at this trial, Lucifer would get something he wanted out of it. Lucifer always got something he wanted out of every situation.

“You haven’t asked Alerian about the shifter yet,” I said. “Wait until your brother gets here before you decide to lock me up for no damned reason.”

Alerian appeared at that very moment, silently entering the hallway.

“Waiting for your big entrance?” I said.

He did not dignify my remark with a response. Instead, he looked at Lucifer with no small amount of resentment. “You requested my presence?”

It was pretty clear that Alerian didn’t think much of Lucifer’s request.

“Yes,” Lucifer said, passing the “evidence” back to his servant and waving him away, along with anyone else hanging around. “What do you know of this shapeshifter that Madeline claims has been lately in Chicago, and now here?”

“I know nothing of this creature,” Alerian said calmly.

“I thought you couldn’t lie to one another,” I said.

“I am not lying,” Alerian said, narrowing his eyes at me. The sound of the ocean crashed inside my head. Every time Alerian got angry with me, I felt like I was about to drown in some metaphorical sea.

“If you’re not lying, then you’re definitely parsing the question,” I said. “You know something about this kind of shifter in a general, if not specific, sense. Especially since it’s your personal Frankenstein’s monster.”

“I answered the question my brother asked,” Alerian said.

“Ask him more directly,” I told Lucifer.

“I do not take orders from you, my granddaughter. It is, in fact, the exact opposite. You are beholden to me and my will, as my Hound of the Hunt.”

The implications were clear. Because I carried this curse as Lucifer’s Hound, he could make me do whatever he damned well pleased. And that meant that if he ordered me into a cage and told me to stay there, I would have to do it. I’d been afraid for a long time that it would come to this, and now it finally had.

The second implication was that he would not challenge Alerian, or make him answer any further questions. Lucifer was steering this event so that he would get the outcome he wanted. All that remained for the rest of us was to wait.

The only people left in the hallway were my group—Nathaniel, Samiel, Jude, Beezle and myself—and the three brothers.

And Evangeline, whose body had been left in the middle of the floor like an accusation.

“Don’t you want to cover her with a sheet or something?” I said to Lucifer.

“Cannot bear to see the evidence of your crime?” Lucifer asked.

“No, I just think it’s unseemly to leave her out in the open like that, all carved up,” I said. “You were going to marry her. You’d think you would have more respect for her remains.”

Lucifer reached for me then. I don’t know what he would have done—slapped me or grabbed me or just put his hand on my chin—but Nathaniel stepped in front of me before he could do it.

“Do not touch her,” he said. His voice vibrated with an intensity I’d never heard before.

Nathaniel had always been the one who counseled calm, who recommended the wisest course. He always kept a lid on his feelings. He was always impatient when I lost my temper, or when I defied a being much older and more powerful than I.

Now he was facing down Lucifer, practically chin to chin. Lucifer had finally crossed some line that Nathaniel would not tolerate.

Or maybe it was just that he really, truly loved me. But my head was already on the chopping block, and I didn’t want his there, too.

“Nathaniel,” I said, taking his face and turning it toward mine. “Don’t. Don’t do something that can’t be undone.”

His anger was a palpable thing. I was shocked that Lucifer hadn’t struck Nathaniel down for insubordinate behavior already.

Nathaniel’s eyes searched mine. I wished desperately for the ability to read his mind, and for him to see into my own thoughts. Everyone in the hallway was watching us with varying levels of concern and curiosity.

Lucifer had taken a step away from us. He was probably calculating how to turn this to his advantage, but I didn’t care. I needed Nathaniel to know that it was not acceptable to me if he died defending me from Lucifer’s wrath. I would not go through that again. I would not watch someone else stand in the path of a sword meant for me.

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