I like her. Devlin racked the balls, dragging them into position. She’s smart.
I have nothing that shakes. I am healthy. And you, Enforcer? Are you well?I’m good. Okay, how about this. You drop your staves, I let the pressure off your nuts—you do have nuts?
Yes, he breathed. At the moment in a most uncomfortable position.Continuing: I let you go, we bow to each other, and we chat off the record. I hoped this took us from formality and fighting and into conversation.Gee dropped his staves. I stepped back and crossed my hands at the waist, the staves sweeping out behind me. We bowed in that formal manner and I set my sticks on the floor.
Would the Enforcer care for tea?Gee snapped his fingers and Brenda Rezk inclined her head. It looked like the security person from Atlanta was learning how to be a servant, which was part of every good blood-servant’s job. She was a prideful but resolute woman, determined to move up in Leo’s ranks and doing a fine job of it, though serving tea didn’t look like her cup of the beverage. The fact that she was working directly with Gee, however, suggested that she might be up for the number one or two security spot when the new Master of the City took over in Georgia.
I placed my staves into Brenda’s hands and followed Gee from the gym into the cleaner-smelling hallway. Less sweat and blood and fighting pheromones and more soap, shampoo, food, coffee, and tea scents. Gee led the way to the small room that was used as a consultation room and gestured me to one of the sofas. I had few happy memories of this room simply because bad stuff had happened here. But I took a seat and tea was delivered by a gray-liveried servant wearing white gloves, overseen by Brenda. Tea and little sandwiches and a small plate of fruit. Beast sneered. I ignored her.
When the servants left, Brenda closed the door behind her, guarding the hallway and our privacy. I said, I think I whupped your butt in there, dude.High above head fluttered a large banner. Even from this distance, Ōkami could see the outline of the Minamoto crest in its center. For an instant, his vision darkened with anger, but Ōkami reached beyond the sentiment, settling for apathy.
It was much easier not to care.A haunted moan unfolded across the old tile roof. The main edifice had not been constructed as many of the modern strongholds were now built. There were no tiered gables. It possessed a single story. The only form of true protection was the river along the outermost border; a single bridge availed intruders with access to the domain. Back then, these things were thought of as unnecessary. The fallen fortress of the Toyotomi clan had been built when no one thought to challenge their protectors.
Had his father been a protector? Had he truly been a great man who cared about those beneath him? Ōkami had not thought so. For most of his life, he’d believed his father had simply succumbed to a selfish notion of honor. One that idealized his death and held him up as a standard of greatness. But Mariko had offered Ōkami a different perspective. It was not anything she said, but rather all that she done. All she became. Two months ago, Mariko had arrived to their encampment in Jukai forest as a spoiled daughter of a callous daimyō. But she changed. She allowed her mind to be open to other possibilities.To the chance the things she’d believed all her life might be wrong.