Home > Elven Doom (Death Before Dragons #4)(14)

Elven Doom (Death Before Dragons #4)(14)
Author: Lindsay Buroker

I wondered what she was getting at with these questions about Zav. She admitted it wouldn’t be a good idea for me to have a relationship with him. A part of me wished she hadn’t. What if she’d said you only live once and if you get the opportunity, you should definitely let him push you up against a wall and have his way with you? That had almost happened. Where might that have gone if I hadn’t mentioned my apartment and if his sister hadn’t shown up? To explosive levels of pleasure and passion, I gathered from how things had started out.

Mary was studying me. I wiped the stupid, speculative grin off my face.

“What do you think?” I waved my hand casually. “Workplace romances are always a bad idea, right?”

“Romances with men who think they own you are a bad idea.”

“Oh, I know that. I just wasn’t sure about the rest.”

She gave me a hard-to-read look. “As I said, I’m not here to tell you what to do, but you do seem less glum since you’ve started associating with more people.” One of her eyebrows twitched. “And you get a goofy grin and touch yourself when you talk about Zav.”

“I do not touch myself.”

She looked at my hand. Hell, it was on my chest. I snapped it down to the armrest and glared at her.

“And how’s your health? Have you been doing yoga and your breathing exercises?”

Uh, no. “I’ve been kind of busy.”

“I would love for you to take relaxation more seriously.”

“Me too. I just need life to slow down a bit.” I considered the last couple of weeks. “I actually needed my inhaler less than usual while I was over in Idaho.”

“Ah? Perhaps you subconsciously were more relaxed being engaged in an assignment where you didn’t have to kill anyone.”

“I don’t mind that. I only kill people who deserve it.”

Her eyebrow twitched again.

“Honestly, I found it more stressful than assignments where I just have a target to get rid of. I’m not a P.I. And I’m not… Well, I’m not dumb, but I’m not a genius. I know my limitations. Willard’s the one out of Intel. She does the brain stuff.”

“Maybe you found it relaxing to reconnect with Thad and Amber again.”

“I’m glad now that I did it, but that was stressful too. It’s probably that the air was less polluted over there. I’ve noticed my lungs tighten up when things get emotional and I’m frustrated, but they’re also majorly affected by environmental stuff. Mold kicks my ass. I’m annoyed at how many of my enemies live in underground lairs marinating in mold and mildew.”

“I see.” She sounded dry. Did she think I was in denial? “Then perhaps you should get an air purifier for your apartment and see if that helps.”

My phone dinged. That wasn’t my usual text or phone-call buzz.

“Hang on.” I frowned as I pulled out the phone and saw an alert from the app for the doorbell-camera I’d installed.

At a tap, the video popped up. Someone had stood in front of the doorbell for long enough to trigger the alarm. My frown turned into a groan as a familiar black-leather-wearing and lilac-haired woman was displayed. I showed it to Mary.

“The person who took my record, right?”

Mary squinted at the display. “She does appear to match my receptionist’s description. Is that your apartment?”

“Yes.” I turned the phone back to me in time to see Zondia lift a hand and blow my door inward. The camera blacked out. “Damn it. I have to go.”

“Will you confront her?” Mary asked. “Didn’t you say she was a dragon?”

“Yes and yes.”

Confronting her might not be a good idea, especially if Zav wasn’t around to stop her from surfing in my mind again, but what else was I supposed to do? Let her ransack my apartment and keep screwing with my life?

10

On the way back to my apartment, I decided that if Zondia was still inside, I would volunteer to let her read my thoughts.

The main secret Zav and I had been trying to hide was that I’d been the one to kill Dobsaurin, but all those dragons knew that now. The only other thing we were worried about was that they would find out Zav hadn’t truly claimed me. But, in the eyes of his people and his law, hadn’t he? What did it matter what I believed? I was the lowly lesser species that he’d claimed. Maybe my wishes or beliefs didn’t matter. Besides, if Zondia saw into my thoughts and saw that I had no intention of betraying Zav, she ought to leave me alone.

As I pulled into my parking garage, I wondered why it hadn’t occurred to me to let Zav read my thoughts. Or why he hadn’t asked if he could do a scouring or a probe—whatever the dragons called it. He’d said he couldn’t read my surface thoughts the way he could with most species, but Shaygorthian and Dobsaurin had been able to dig deep into my brain and pull out information. It had hurt like hell, but they’d been able to do it.

Maybe that was why Zav hadn’t suggested it. Maybe there was no way to do it without causing pain. But if I could let him see without a doubt that I didn’t plan to betray him, wouldn’t that be worth enduring some pain?

Yes, I decided, but I would rather he do it than Zondia. Even as I jogged toward the elevator, prepared to walk in and volunteer myself for this, I hoped I was too late and that she was already gone.

But she wasn’t. I’d sensed her aura as I’d driven closer and, as the elevator rose, I could tell she was still on my floor, still in my apartment.

It had taken me twenty minutes to fight traffic and get over here. What was she doing in there? I didn’t have a diary to read. Maybe she was watching Netflix or perusing my Lord of the Rings books. How offended would she be if I asked if she had a job back in her world that she should be doing?

When I stepped off the elevator, a neighbor was eyeing the shards of wood littering the floor in front of my blasted-open door. Her arms were full of canvas grocery bags from the store on the first level, and she continued past, only glancing inside. Thankfully, no gouts of fire streamed out at her.

As I approached, I drew Chopper. I considered summoning Sindari, but he hadn’t had any more luck fighting dragons than I had. At least Chopper could cut into them—if they let their guard down.

You will not succeed at harming me with your dwarven toothpick, Zondia spoke into my mind.

I don’t want to harm you. I want to pry your scaly butt out of my apartment.

I stepped into the doorway, ready to spring aside if a gout of fire roiled my way.

It did not. Zondia was in the open kitchen scowling at something on the counter. Other than the broken-down door, she hadn’t destroyed my apartment, at least not to the extent that the dark elves looking for their book of alchemical recipes had. Drawers were open, and the files on my desk had been strewn around, but it was a relatively modest ransacking.

“My butt is smooth and sleek.” Zondia looked at me over the counter, her violet eyes ice cold.

“I’m sure whatever mates you’ve claimed will appreciate that.”

“I assume you have not shown this to Zavryd’nokquetal?” She raised the poster he had given me shortly after we met, one of himself posing in human form with his leg up on a chair. There was a hole through the face, courtesy of the dark elves.

“I think I told him about it.” I couldn’t remember. “He hasn’t been in here for a while.”

“You told him that you created a likeness of him to pin on the wall and put holes in? What did you do? Throw your sword at his face?”

“He had the poster made for me, and it was a dark elf’s bone knife, not a sword.” I crossed the living room, realizing how that poster could look to the suspicious Zondia, and opened the drawer where I’d stuck the blade. “This is it.”

I showed her, but if she recognized it as dark elven or the object that had pierced the poster, she didn’t show it.

“I never did find out which ones did it,” I said, “but they also stabbed a hole in one of my bras and pinned it to the door with a note. Did you see that while you were illegally trespassing and rummaging through everything in here?”

“No.”

I tossed the knife onto the desk. “What will it take to get you to leave me alone? If you find proof that I don’t have any bad intentions toward Zav, will you return to your world and let us capture the dark elves who are threatening my people and who killed a bunch of shifters in another world? Your mother ordered him to find them.”

“I know this.”

“You’re interfering with that by playing tricks on him and getting him to leave Earth.”

“To leave you. For his own safety.”

As I stared at her, not sure what to try next to deal with her, I had the sense that I was dealing with someone young. Someone young but very powerful. Much as Zav did, she radiated that dangerous aura of a predator. She could kill me easily without even trying.

“If I had proof,” Zondia said, “that you are genuinely smitten with him and not plotting against him, I would leave.”

The reasonable statement surprised me. I hoped she meant it, since I was about to volunteer my innermost thoughts to her.

“Do I have to be smitten with him? Can’t I just think he’s okay and not plan anything nefarious toward him?”

Her eyes narrowed. “Your lust for him suggests more than feelings of okay.”

“Humans can lust after people without being enamored with them.”

Her lip curled. Maybe that hadn’t been the best argument.

I lifted my hands. “Listen. I’m willing to let you read my mind without fighting so you can see for yourself. Will that satisfy you?”

Her eyes stayed narrowed. “Some elves are gifted enough telepaths to trick even a dragon into failing to see truths that are there.”

“I’ve never met my elven family or been off Earth. I have no training in magic. Do you really think I’m one of those people?”

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