“You got a picture?”
“No, Jack said you didn’t need one.” My legs trembled and I locked my knees in place. This was not the time to show weakness of any kind. Not to this woman. Whatever her past had been, it had hardened her to the point of seeing others’ plights and feeling no empathy. That was not good.
“Jack? You spoke to that dick?”
My eyebrows shot up. “He spoke highly of you. Said you were the only one with the skills I need.” Okay, so maybe those hadn’t been his exact words, but she was still on the fence. Even after I saved her ass.
“That doesn’t sound like Jack.”
“He said you owed him cookies,” Cactus offered.
Elle glared at him. “I’m not baking any fucking cookies. Do I look like a—”
Bram blew out a sharp breath. “Enough, Elle. Enough. Do this job, you know you want to.”
She glared at him, but there was a twinkle in her eyes too. “Pushy man.”
“You love it. Now let’s do this. We have other tasks ahead of us.”
I liked him, maybe better than I liked her. Or maybe it was because he seemed to be working in my favor.
“I need you to describe him to me, think you can manage?” Elle asked, once more crossing her arms. Defiance radiated from her.
I nodded. “Yes, I can do that.”
“Well, let’s get this fucking show on the road then, shall we?”
Indeed. Time to find my father and straighten out the Rim once and for all.
Yet, I had a feeling our journey was far from over.
Looking back, I had no idea just how accurate that hunch was.
“Describe him then, and tell me his name. Anything you can give me will help. Not only physical shit, but what he’s like.” Elle’s eyes swirled as she spoke.
My words tumbled, one after another. Basileus. Long hair, mostly dark brown with strands of auburn. Gray beginning to show. Muscular body, shorter than me. Green eyes that faded to black when he was angry. Most powerful of our family. A broken soul from being manipulated. Favored some children over others. Put his family in danger because of his foolishness.
“That’s enough,” Elle said. I looked up, not realizing I’d looked down at any point. “He did a number on you, didn’t he?” Her words were the first that showed any sort of understanding, her eyes soft with a shared pain.
I chose not to respond. “Can you find him then?”
Her eyes swirled, the three colors blending faster and faster. “Yes, I’ve got a bead on him. Northeast from here.”
My eyebrows climbed. “That’s it?”
“Well, shit, I don’t know the exact location, but we’ll travel with you. Make sure you find him so you can deal with your daddy issues.” My jaw dropped and she walked away from me. Bram’s lips tightened, and he shook his head.
“I’d apologize, but then that would be all I do. You’ll get used to her.”
Cactus shook his head. “I’d worry more she’ll push one too many sore spots on Lark.”
Bram nodded. “Yeah, that too.”
They mounted up on Ophelia and I paused. The Bastard had brought us here, but that had been the only deal. I walked to his side and put my hand on his shoulder. Before I could ask for another ride, he spoke.
“I will take you. I have not had an adventure for some time.”
I pulled myself onto his back. “Thanks. But calling you The Bastard is getting old. If I can’t know your real name, I’m giving you one.”
He grunted as Cactus climbed up behind me. “Do as you wish, Elemental. Your kind always have.”
I wanted to swat him for sassing me, but I settled for winding my fingers through his mane. “There is a legend in our family about a horse that carried our first king into battle. How the horse had become the first familiar after saving the king’s life by taking a blow for him. His name was Shazer.”
He bucked as we lifted off into the air. “Bah.”
A cold nose pressed against my cheek. “It’s a good name.”
My mind, though, was already moving forward. Northeast . . . the direction was not lost on me. The Wretched Peaks lay in that direction, what the humans called the Himalayans.
The home of the Sylphs was nestled in those mountains.
“Cactus, we sent emissaries to the Eyrie.”
“And they swore oaths that my father was not in their home.” I tightened my grip on Shazer’s mane until the coarse strands cut into my fingers.
“Just because we are headed in that direction now does not mean he is there. A whole wide world is northeast of us.” He rubbed my shoulders, but instead of soothing me, it only served to cause more friction.
“Don’t, Cactus. Please don’t.” I didn’t care that he was right.
We flew for hours, neither the dragon nor Shazer losing speed. Which gave me time to think.
Something was shifting in our world, and my mind wouldn’t leave alone the pieces I could see. I’d been in the Deep and seen and helped a coup for the throne happen. I’d ousted Cassava from the Rim. In the Pit we’d set Fiametta straight. My heart rate began to climb as the pattern emerged in front of me.
I was being used to set people on the thrones of power. People the mother goddess wanted. Chills swept through me that had nothing to do with the cold air around us.
Peta spun in my lap and put her front feet on my chest so we were nose to nose. “What is this fear I feel? What have you thought of?”