“You call this respectful? Admonishing your superior?”
Eden flicked a look over her shoulder at Noah, a sarcastic tilt to her mouth. Noah nodded at her. He had to let Eden be herself and Eden being herself meant… telling everyone what she thought, damn the consequences. With a triumphant jut of her chin, she turned back to his father. “Maybe I wouldn’t have to admonish you if you started acting your age… what is that again? 1300 years old, give or take?”
Noah choked down a laugh, a laugh he would pay for later he knew by the death look his father was giving him.
“Your point being, Eden?” Alain asked in a deliberately bored voice.
“How about checking the ‘asshole within’ at the door from now on?”
Oh, Noah made a face, watching his father’s features tighten with anger. “Do not speak to me with such disrespect again, young lady. I am a member of The Circle and as such your superior.”
“Hmmph,” she huffed, turning her back on him as she shoved her feet into her Converse. “Whatever you say.”
Oh crap, Noah sighed. He’d hoped them having it out would mean some kind of resolution… not even more animosity. Noah reached for Eden’s hand and she squeezed his fingers before letting go. She wouldn’t look at him. Great. Reality intrudes again. He stood up and brushed her hair back from her face, forcing her to look up at him. He ignored Alain who was still standing watching them, his body bristling with tempered annoyance. “I’ve got to go on patrol, anyway. Maybe you could look for Tobe?” he suggested. He knew Eden had been worrying about her cousin since her arrival but with their tense last conversation still hanging over them both, they had been studiously avoiding one another. Noah had run into Tobe in the training room yesterday. According to Cyrus that’s where she’d been spending most of her time as Cyrus tried to locate her family. His meeting with Tobe hadn’t been too bad. He’d told her how brave Mhairi had been, how he owed her his life, and she’d seem to appreciate it. Why she blamed Eden and not him baffled him. But she was a woman and the only one of them he’d ever understood was Eden so…
“Where do you think she’ll be?” Eden asked softly. Noah felt the tension ease from his shoulders and his lips turned up at the corners. He felt a little smug. This was the first time she’d sounded amenable to his suggestion that she try and mend her broken friendship with Tobe.
“Try the training room,” he replied and pressed a soft kiss to her lips. The faint, soft floral scent of her perfume tickled his nose and the taste of sweet warm popcorn melted against his tongue as she kissed him back. It was with a little embarrassment he remembered his dad was in the room. Eden seemed to remember at the exact same time and they pulled away reluctantly.
“I’m sorry I called your dad an asshole.”
“You could direct that apology at me,” Alain grumbled.
Eden shook her head, her eyes laughing into Noah’s. “Not a chance.”
He grinned down at her and kissed her quickly again. “See you soon.”
She nodded, her fingers tracing down his arms. “Be careful.”
When she left the room, Noah met his father’s gaze. “When are you going to stop insulting my girlfriend?”
“Moi?” Alain growled. “She called me an asshole.”
“Well if the shoe f-”
“If you value your life you will not finish that sentence.”
Noah shrugged. “Whatever. You had that set-down coming. You’re horrible to her.”
As per usual his father waved the accusation off. “You better go, get ready for patrol.”
Noah nodded, annoyance at his father still wriggling in his veins.
He moved to leave but Alain stopped him. “Romany and McLeish are on their way.”
He froze, guilt crashing down around him. He’d promised he wouldn’t keep anything from Eden but when Cyrus had contacted McLeish to let him know Tobe and Cameron were safe in Boston, McLeish had delivered the news that he and Romany had a possible lead on the leader of the rebellious Neith and were coming to Boston as soon as McLeish was assured his Neith would be safe and secure during his absence. Noah hadn’t told Eden. And he’d asked the others not to say anything either. Their relationship was so tenuous at the moment, one snap and it would be broken. It was selfish… but he wanted those few days of peace with her. A few days of peace before the shit hit the fan.
And it looked like the shit was about to hit the fan.
“OK,” he replied hoarsely, hating what was coming next.
He hoped he found a soul eater out on patrol. He really needed to hit something.
South Boston had been quiet. Whatever douchebag alerted security to possible soul eater activity in the south had Noah’s irritated and very sarcastic thanks. Bored, Noah had gotten back into his car and drove north to Downtown. He strolled down the streets in his leather jacket, his kaskara strapped to his back underneath it. He willed himself to concentrate, to not think about what was going on back at the mansion, about what would go down when Romany arrived.
Noah shook his head, glancing behind him at the sound of a car passing down Essex. His eyes were fierce in the dark as he turned back around, heading slowly north up Kingston Street. It was 4am. Quiet. Still.
The hair on the back of his neck rose and Noah stilled.
A dance of shadow between buildings at the top of the junction. A muffled cry got caught in Noah’s sensitive ears and he saw the slide of feet as one person shoved another out of sight behind the buildings. His spidey senses weren’t exactly screaming soul eater but he took off anyway, his running footsteps silent across the street. He darted into the dark, ready to shrug out of his jacket if need be.
A brute of a man in a white t-shirt and baseball cap had a woman pinned to the brick wall. She struggled and screamed against his hands as he ripped at her nylons, forcing her legs apart. A calm fury took hold of Noah.
It was one thing to deal with monsters that were human in appearance.
Another thing entirely to deal with humans who were monsters.
Without a word, no sound to let the would-be rapist know he was there, Noah reached for him and grabbed the heavy-set man by the back of the shoulders. He pulled hard enough to dislodge him from his attack against the woman, sending him stumbling backwards further into the dark. He faced Noah now, the light spilling in from the street illuminating the utter shock on his face. “You think this makes you a man?” Noah asked softly, disgust curling his lip.
The guy blinked at him and then glanced at the woman who stood frozen with shock and terror. He licked his lips, the whites of his eyes visible, like a trapped animal strategizing a way out.
Noah didn’t wait for an answer. He pulled back his elbow and slammed a fist into the attacker’s face. The attacker crumpled, his legs buckling first. He fell to the ground like a ragdoll that had been weighted, his head smacking against concrete with a sickening thud. Feeling somewhat better, Noah turned from the unconscious man to check on the woman but she was already coming out of her stupor. With tear-streaked cheeks she gave him a wide-eyed, terrified look before taking off, her sandals slapping against the concrete manically as she slid around the corner and out of sight before Noah could say a word.
Sighing, Noah pulled out his iPhone. He’d like to say this was the first time he’d dealt with this sort of thing while on patrol but it wasn’t. He dialed Cyrus.
Princeps, I’ve got an unconscious would-be rapist here. What do you want me to do?”
The phone crackled with tense silence. Ever since Cyrus’ wife (Eden’s mom), Merrit, had been raped by Ryan Winslow, Cyrus had taken on a certain policy when it came to rapists. It was a controversial policy but not one anyone felt like arguing over unless they wanted their own asses handed to them by Cyrus.
“I will send in some men to deal with him. Where is he?”
Noah knew exactly what Cyrus meant by ‘deal with him’. By the time the Neith were finished with this guy he wouldn’t have an instrument left to rape a woman with. “Corner of Bedford and Kingston. Behind the café.”
“Wait there until my men arrive and then I want you to go to Logan International. McLeish and Romany’s flight is due to arrive soon.”
A sick feeling coiled in Noah’s stomach. “Does Eden know?”
“Call me when you pick them up. I will tell her then. She is with Tobe right now and I do not want to upset any progress she may be making there. It is nice to see them talking.”
“Talking or fighting?”
“A bit of both.”
Noah smiled, a humorless smile. “Guess I have that to look forward to, too.”
“This will not come between you and Eden unless you let it.”
“Easier said than done.”
“Hmm.” Cyrus sighed. “The flight arrives at 4.45am. Be there.”
The line went dead as Noah replied, “Yes, Sir.” He grunted. Cyrus didn’t know how to deal with this any better than they did. He wondered if the Princeps had ever been this pissed at Darius before.
The unease in his stomach grew and Noah leaned back against the brick wall, drawing in a deep breath, trying to calm his nerves. Eden had to pass the test. For all of them.
She had to pass the test.