You counted? she murmured.
I grabbed a bowl for Brutus and poured out some dry cat food that I knew he liked, then made myself a mug of tea. I warmed my frozen fingers round it while I considered my options. The trouble with magic is that it involves ancient skills and knowledge which have very little to do with technology. When it comes to the mystical arts and twenty-first century advances, it’s always best to work on the premise that never the twain shall meet. If they do, you can expect explosions and violent death and the very real possibility that you’ll be engulfed in a hailstorm made up of shards of glass and hornet stings.I pondered my options. As I’d told that good Samaritan yesterday, some things are best left to the professionals. I glanced outside. Eve would have already left for her trip up north, which meant I could vamoose over to her place, check on her cat, call a plumber and wait in the warmth. Sounded like a damn good plan to me. I nodded wisely to myself; go me.
Brutus butted his head against my shin and I crouched down to scratch behind his ears. ‘It’s cold here,’ I told him, rather unnecessarily. ‘I’m going to Eve’s to feed Harold and wait for help to arrive. Right now, a Saint Bernard with emergency rum rations would be particularly appreciated. You’re welcome to come with me if you want.’He flung a disdainful look in my direction. He’d never said anything but I had the distinct impression that he considered Harold – or rather Harold Fitzwilliam Duxworthy the Third, to give Eve’s familiar his true title (witches enjoy long titles and lines of heritage) – was beneath him. He abandoned my bid to stroke him in favour of turning round and presenting me with his arse, before sauntering off to find a morning sunbeam. I checked the clock. Okay: afternoon sunbeam. But only just. Still, I felt guilty for grousing at Brutus when he’d clearly been very patient before waking me up.‘I’m sorry!’ I called out. ‘I hadn’t realised the time.’
There wasn’t an answer. I shrugged. Without wasting any more time or body heat, I grabbed Eve’s keys and shoved my feet into a pair of wellies, which I’d bought last year as part of a misguided and impulsive plan to go foraging for herbs. The boots had lain unattended in the same corner ever since.Hugging my dressing gown closer, I nipped out into the shared corridor. Fortunately, no one else was around; the last thing I wanted was the good-looking guy at number twenty-three to see me wandering around with a shabby dressing gown and bed hair, even if it might have given me an effective opening to encourage him round to inspect my own bed. I darted to Eve’s place, quickly unlocked the door and hopped inside.
This wasn’t the first time I’d been round to her flat. I’d looked after Harold on a few other occasions when she’d been away for work and had once ventured there for a party she put on to impress her boss. Alas, I inadvertently mistook him for one of the local binmen who serve this building and always have a cheery smile and a kind word. When I asked him how the rubbish business was going, he assumed I belonged to one of the many witch-hating chapters and looked ready to throttle me. I apologised profusely but the situation was only compounded when Eve appeared to smooth things over and introduced me. Of course, he recognised my name. It might have been years since I had anything to do with the Order but apparently I was still mud as far as the upper echelons of the Second and Third Levels were concerned. Whatever.
Every time I was in Eve’s flat, I was struck by how clean everything was. I’d have known if she paid someone to do her dusting for her. It was possible she’d mastered a complicated series of runes that enabled her to use magic to keep the place spick and span but I suspected that she used nothing more than elbow grease. The poor woman needed to get out more.Joe stuck his head out his office door and glared at his younger sister Molly. I thought he ordered corkboard for the walls to add insulation so I don’t have to hear what’s going on in there.
Molly, who could hold her own with the kind of guys she worked for—which was to say completely badass—narrowed her eyes at his tone. Hasn’t come in yet, she said, her own tone cool, with an added watch it implied.Shit. Joe vanished back into his office and then they heard him crank up some music to window-rattling levels.
Spence left and hit the elevator. When the doors opened to Willa and Keane locked in an embrace, apparently checking each other’s tonsils, he pivoted on a heel and took the stairs.This sucked. He’d just made an incredible work breakthrough and he had no one to share it with. It felt . . . empty. He’d been alone before, plenty of times. In fact, he’d been alone for most of his life, but he’d never felt this hollow.