First time reading? Start at the beginning here.
This time, the meeting was on Val’s turf. And by turf, she meant a lakefront house that her family owned and used to visit when she and her sisters had been children. She stood in the living room in front of floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out over the lake. On a bright summer day, it held a beautiful view: the sparkling waters of Lake Michigan, white sailboats drifting across the distance like clouds. Today, though, it was dark and gray, and the only view she had was of sheets of rain pounding against the lake’s surface.
The furniture was covered in white sheets to protect from dust, and the heater hadn’t been turned on long enough to warm the place. At least the heating worked, though, and so did the electricity. Yet the house remained eerily silent and empty-feeling, and Val felt like a ghost within its walls. How many years had passed since the last time she’d been here?
Her thoughts went back Dave, as they’d been doing all day no matter how much she tried to think of something else. She’d wanted to go check on him in person, but she’d already taken one stupidly huge risk today, so she’d settled for tracking him down and sending flowers. Northwestern Memorial Hospital was the best in Chicago. He’d be okay.
Except no, he wouldn’t be okay for a long time, no matter how good the medical treatment. Val should have gotten him out of there a lot sooner. She should have never allowed Blueblood to torture him. He probably hated her, and he had every right to. Val had stood by and done nothing but watch as he got hurt. How could he ever forgive her for that?
The floor creaked as Joey approached her from behind. But even if she hadn’t heard him, she would have sensed his general aura of grumpiness before he spoke.
“Blueblood is asking you to come downstairs.”
Val smiled to herself. Blueblood hadn’t “asked” anything. He’d told Joey to get her and ignored the man’s glare at being bossed around.
“He’s certainly making himself at home,” she commented as she headed for the stairs. Joey shadowed her as usual, but then he stopped. Val turned to him questioningly.
“I know you haven’t asked for my opinion…” he began.
She couldn’t sense his nervousness telepathically. He had enough experience to shield emotions that could be exploited, but it was written all over his usually inexpressive face.
“What’s your opinion, Joey?” she asked.
He shot her a grateful look but soon sobered. “I know men like Blueblood. When things are going their way, they’re all confidence and control. That charisma brings in all the yes-men and ass-kissers, and they ride the momentum of their own success. But they can’t handle failure. They don’t know how to course-correct. They just rage and crash the ship.”
Those were the most words Val had heard Joey speak together in a long time that didn’t involve threatening somebody with grievous bodily harm. He must have been really worried about her.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” she said. “Don’t get offended if I say it doesn’t exactly surprise me.”
He looked at her closely. “Then why are we still here?”
“Certainly not because I like and respect him.” She started walking again. “I just haven’t gotten what I want yet.”
They went downstairs to the basement. That sounded ominous, but except for the lack of windows, the basement looked like the rest of the house. It had pristine white walls and a dark blue carpet that Val had made them put a tarp over before they started interrogating Werecat. He now lay crumpled in the center of it, bruised and bleeding.
“Anything?” Val asked Blueblood.
“He says he lost consciousness and didn’t see anything.” Blueblood scowled and wiped the blood from his knuckles with a handkerchief.
“It’s true,” Werecat wheezed. “I’m loyal, Mr. Arcaño. I’ve always been—”
Blueblood kicked him in the face, cutting him off. “See if he’s telling the truth.” He pinned Val with his furious gaze. “Or will that be too unpleasant for you?”
“I’ll deal with it,” she said.
For authenticity’s sake, she really did delve into Werecat’s mind. The sensation of his pain made her momentarily dizzy, and she took a step back. It felt like he had a few cracked ribs, at least. Val gritted her teeth and went for his memories. As expected, he was watching White Knight when Madame Morphine moved, and then nothing. He woke up later confused and frightened.
Val broke the telepathic connection. “He’s telling the truth. He doesn’t know anything.”
Blueblood swore. Werecat sobbed in relief.
“I told you,” he whimpered. “I’m loyal. I’m loyal.”
Blueblood stormed off, the tarp crinkling noisily under his feet, but he only took three steps before stopping and turning on his heel. He stomped back to Werecat, grabbed him by the neck, and pulled him up to his knees.
Werecat choked, and then he started dying. The veins in his face became visible, turning dark blue as if a poison spread through them. His skin blackened, the texture becoming crusty, but the worst of it was the way his face contorted with pain. Val had seen people die in a lot of ways, but few of them looked like they hurt so much. His mouth opened to scream, but no sound came out. Finally, his yellow, cat-like eyes clouded over with an oily black, and Blueblood let go of him. His corpse fell forward, stiff and frozen like rigor mortis had already set in.
Blueblood brushed past Val as he stalked up the stairs, his surviving men following him in a heavy silence. The tension didn’t leave Val’s body until several minutes after he was gone.
We finally get to see Blueblood’s powers in use, and it’s not pretty. Hopefully, Val can avoid the same fate. 😉
I’ve been working on Almost Invincible and have booked my editor for early September. Hopefully, I should have it out to you guys by the end of that month!