Velimai set the tea canister on the counter, then looked around for something. Not finding it, she left and came back a few minutes later with an e-tablet in her hands. She scrawled something and held it out for Doc to read.
The mayor’s the one who’s going to need help when Chrysabelle comes to her senses.
He held his hands up. “No argument there. I was in a council meeting when the mayor’s announcement went down. My council members are plenty concerned about what this means for the rest of us.”
She nodded as she scooped tea into a little silver ball.
“We’ve got to keep Chrysabelle from doing anything rash. We can’t lose her, too.”
Setting the tea aside, Velimai wrote something new. How could the mayor do this? Doesn’t she understand how the city will react? Her image flickered again.
“I hear you loud and clear. Maybe we should put the TV on? See if there’s anything new.”
Yes, Velimai signed. One of the few he understood.
The intercom buzzed. Velimai went over to the panel and pushed a button. The guard from the front gate appeared on the small screen. “There’s a visitor here for Ms. Lapointe. Name’s Mortalis.”
Velimai nodded vigorously so the guard could see her.
“Okay, I’ll send him through.”
She clicked the screen off, punched a few other buttons, then turned to Doc. She pointed toward the driveway, her eyes questioning.
“Got it.” He walked back to the foyer, opened the front door, and stood waiting. The gate into the estate was already swinging wide. One of Dominic’s cars pulled through, looking eerily like no one was driving it.
The driver’s door opened, then shut.
“I’m here,” Mortalis called out. “You’ll be able to see me better when I get inside.”
“Better? I can’t see you at all.” Doc stepped out of the way, not really sure where the shadeux was.
“How’s this?” The voice came from the foyer.
Doc turned. Mortalis was slightly visible now, a faded image that reminded Doc of when Fi had been caught in a death loop. “You look like a freaking ghost.”
Mortalis smiled unsuccessfully. “Speaking of ghosts, how’s Fi taking it?”
Apprehension crept into his eyes. “And Chrysabelle?”
Footsteps interrupted him. Fi padded down the stairs, Jerem behind her. “She’s catatonic.” Fi shook her head. “I’ve never seen her like this. I don’t know what to do.”
“Maybe we should take turns sitting with her,” Mortalis offered.
Velimai came out from the kitchen, holding a tray with the tea stuff on it. She nodded at Mortalis.
“You want me to go with you? We can sit the first shift.”
She nodded again, moving past him slowly and up toward Chrysabelle’s room. He followed without further comment.
Jerem shifted uncomfortably. “I’m going to crash for a few hours so I can be awake for her later. I’m in the garage apartment if you need me.”
“Thanks, bro.” Doc grabbed Fi’s hand and led her into the living room as Jerem left. “I need to talk to you.” He took a seat on the couch and pulled her into his arms, holding her tight against him.
“Do you need to suffocate me, too?”
He eased up a little. “Sorry. I just don’t ever want to lose you again. Ever. After watching what happened with Mal… time is short, baby. We have no idea what tomorrow will bring. I’m sorry for what I said. I meant it to protect you, but I know it didn’t come out that way. I’m tired of being separated from you. Tired of wondering every day when I’m going to see you again. When you went missing, it just about killed me.”
She settled into his embrace a little easier. “That still doesn’t fix our problem.”
“I’m working on that. I talked to the council about divorcing Heaven.” He hesitated. There was no way Fi was going to take this well.
Her eyes brightened and she smiled. “That’s awesome!”
“Well, yes and no. There are some… stipulations.”
She frowned. “Like what?”
“In order to keep the alliance between the PC pride and the São Paulo pride, and to allow the São Paulo pride to save face, I must provide them with a bond of allegiance.”
“What’s a bond of allegiance?”
He blew out a long, slow breath. “It means I have to give my firstborn child to the Brazilian pride, to be raised as one of their own.”
“You have to give up a kid?” Her face fell. “I… I don’t even know if I can get pregnant. I’ve been a ghost for so long. I—”
He shook his head. “The child has to belong to the São Paulo pride as much as to the Paradise City pride.”
She squinted at him. “What are you saying?”
“I have to get Heaven pregnant.”
Her squint turned into a stare. “You have to become a sperm donor?”
“Not exactly. It has to happen the old-fashioned way. It’s a last-ditch effort to cement the relationship and keep the couple together.”
Fi took a few long, silent breaths, then, just as quietly, got up and stalked away from him. Doc shook his head. The only thing worse than Fi yelling at him was Fi not saying a word.
This was bad. The kind of bad that made the apocalypse seem like a picnic.