My relationship with Shiloh was at best contentious, and at worst, homicidal. I thought she was a prissy snob, and she thought I was a disrespectful punk. And because we were both right, neither of us were willing to give up the antagonism.

“Is today just out to get me personally?” I muttered, pushing past Mateo and stomping away.

She sat outside of Sam’s office door, serenely thumbing through a recent issue of Sanguine, a magazine for bougie vampires. I scowled. Did … did she bring that from her house?

Coming to a stop in front of her, I crossed my arms, cocked a hip, and waited for her to acknowledge me.

Her perfectly manicured brows were held a little high to be relaxed, and I knew she knew I was there. And she knew that I knew she knew it.

Knowing it would annoy her, I sucked on my teeth. Loudly.

Her left eye twitched. The Shiloh version of throwing a temper tantrum.

I knew it was only a matter of time before we were trying to tear each other’s throats out. One of my earliest post-death memories was sinking my teeth into the scarce meat of her cheek, tearing as much away as I could, while she tried to tear my arms out of their sockets. In a wistful sort of way, I was sad the scar hadn’t lingered.

Salma would scold us if we got into it again, but, oh, I was tempted. No one had ever gotten on my nerves the way Shiloh did.

“Oh my god, how long are you going to pretend you don’t know I’m here?” I finally snapped, throwing up my hands.

Shiloh lifted her eyes to me, affecting a surprised look, but I saw the glint of victory before she masked it. Her wide, flat brown eyes flashed red in the flickering fluorescent lights above us. She lowered the magazine to her lap. “Freckles! I had no idea you were there. You should’ve said something.”

My left eye twitched. Freckles. I shoved my hands in the pockets of my jeans, determined to not touch the marks on my cheeks as if I could rub them away. I scowled down at her.

“How unobservant of you,” I sneered.

She laughed, the low sound grating on my nerves. “It’s been a long evening, despite the early hour. I’ll admit it; I’m getting old.”

“You? Never,” I said, rolling my eyes. She was three hundred years older than me, and she never let me forget it.

“Shiloh, mija!” Mateo greeted her, catching up behind me. He stepped past me, his arms spread wide. Shiloh stood, setting her magazine to the side, smoothed down her skirt, and allowed our sire to fold her into his embrace. He squeezed her with visible warmth and affection.

“Te echamos de menos,” he said into her hair. She squeezed him back, a genuine look of love briefly crossing her face before she pulled back with a neutral, though pleasant, expression.

I crossed my arms again, and I could feel my face go mulish as I rolled my eyes. Oh sure, I finally bring one of the family to work, and she shows up to hog all the attent-- no. I’m not doing that.

I was not going to let myself spiral into the jealous side of my brain. I swallowed the simmering bitterness in the back of my throat, and forced myself to take a curious tone, rather than an interrogatory one.

“What are you doing here, Shy? Shouldn’t you be fluffing the cryptkeeper’s pillows?”

She shot me a glare over Mateo’s shoulder, pulling away from him. “Stop calling him that. He deserves respect, Freckles. He’s one of the oldest of us --”

“Oh, whatever,” I groaned. I didn’t care about the internet’s favorite vampire. Okay, that was a lie. I actually did think the old man was pretty cool, but I would never let her know that. “What are you doing here?”

Shiloh sighed, crossing her arms. “I’m having a meeting with Bastien Thibault. We were going to have dinner, but he changed plans to meet here at the last minute.”

I stared at her for a long moment before I turned to Mateo, raising my brows and clicking my tongue against my teeth.

“You told Bastien that we were handling it,” I said. “So, what? He just decided to ignore us?”

A muscle in his jaw jumped as he clenched his teeth, anger flaring in his eyes.

“What are you talking about?” Shiloh asked, looking between us.

“You’ll find out shortly, apparently,” Mateo gritted out. The affable paternalistic attitude had disappeared, and in its place was the power that had kept him alive throughout the centuries. Looking over my shoulder, he jerked his chin. “He’s coming.”

I turned to find Bastien approaching. Without looking away, I shifted to stand at Mateo’s side, crossing my arms over my chest. By the time I realized I had unconsciously mirrored Shiloh’s pose, it was too late. I decided to lean into it, and simply stared at Bastien harder.

I could only assume that it was having all three of us staring at him that made him falter, made his face lose some of its color, but I hoped I was right.

“Mateo, Bunny, nice to see you again,” he said. “Shiloh, thanks so much for meeting me here. We have a lot to talk about.”

I felt more than saw Shiloh glance at Mateo and I.

“I suppose we do,” she replied, voice even.

Mateo and I remained silent as Bastien led the three of us to one of the conference rooms. He closed the door as I entered, and I stopped long enough to make intense eye contact with him. I wanted it very clear that I did not trust him in the slightest.

He looked away first.

With a disdainful sniff -- one I stole right out of Shiloh’s playbook -- I took my seat beside Mateo. Bastien smelled anxious, like saltwater and electricity. It was a very human scent for the half Fae. But if he had attempted going around us to Shiloh and her boss, he had every right to be fearful.

But he’d get the chance to paint himself into a corner before we rendered judgment.

While he took his sweet time sitting down, I seized the opportunity to shoot a quick text to Sam, letting her know which conference room we were in. If I was right, and that … creature was the same thing killing supernaturals, then she and Mrs. Sato needed to be here. I nudged Mateo, showing him the text. He nodded his approval, and I sent it before adjusting my attention back to the others.

Bastien settled into his seat at the head of the table, smoothing his palms over the top of it. He was clearly trying to claim space, but it just looked like he was trying to calm himself down.

With an impatient sigh, Shiloh disrupted the tense silence. “Well? What is going on? I don’t care to be left out of the loop, Bastien.”

He nodded, lowering his gaze apologetically. “I’m sorry for the dramatics, Shiloh. Unfortunately, I do believe it was necessary. Mateo and Bunny are already aware of the issue I wanted to speak with you about.”

He turned to us, a stubborn set to his jaw. “I won’t apologize for going over your head, Mateo. I didn’t believe you and your family were taking the threat seriously, and I would do it again if it meant saving even one supernaturals' life.”

I watched Mateo’s face, looking for any hint to his thoughts, but got nothing. His mask was firmly in place.

“It’s been three days, Bastien,” he finally responded. “Since our meeting, Bunny has been recovering from life-threatening wounds. They almost died. You’ll have to forgive me for having other priorities.”

Bastien’s lips thinned. “I’m sorry to hear you were hurt, Bunny. I am. But eight people have been eaten down to the bone. My priority has to be seeking justice for them and their families. If anything, considering your higher priorities, Mateo ... you should be thanking me for contacting Shiloh to ease your burden.”

I slammed my hand against Mateo’s chest before he could successfully leap over the table at Bastien, shoving him back into the chair. When he wasn’t able to get away, I realized that Shiloh had sped around the table to help me hold him back. She held his shoulder in a tight grip, though her gaze was sharp on Bastien’s face.

“Explain yourself immediately, Mr. Thibault, before I allow my sire to tear out your throat for that insult,” she snapped, all pretense of professionalism gone.

With Mateo bristling and ready to go feral under our hands, Shiloh and I were united on this. A dangerous situation for anyone we considered an enemy. 

With a threatening smile, I said, “I don’t recommend continuing to take advantage of my sister’s limited patience, Bastien. Talk. Now.”

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