After Riley had taken a long nap, they’d wandered around for another couple of hours as Beck showed her hidden spots in the city — leave it to him to do a complete reconnaissance of a town. She’d been surprised the first time he’d paused to drop a few coins in the paper cup of a homeless person.
When he rejoined her, he murmured, “I got a lot to thankful for. Those guys remind me of that every day.” After that, she knew to slow down as he stopped by each of them, wishing them well and leaving behind a bit of money.
When Riley’s hunger had flared up Beck took her to the Mitre Bar on the Royal Mile, bought her a sandwich and some tomato soup. He’d settled for fish and chips and a beer. Then, to her surprise, he’d ordered a whisky.
“Do you like it over here?” she asked in between spoonfuls of soup.
“I really do,” he said. “It’s not home, but the folks are friendly and the place is so damned beautiful. Edinburgh’s nice, but wait ’til you see the Highlands. It’s like God’s own country.”
“You sound like Stewart now,” she joked.
“I see why he wants to move back here. I would if I was Scottish. Sure, some of the folks are kinda screwed up, but no more so than in Atlanta. I could live here, you know?”
That was a surprise. He’d always been a total Georgia boy.
It was like watching a moth spin a cocoon and then magically change into a butterfly. It was clear that by the time Beck returned to Atlanta, he’d be someone different.
What if that someone doesn’t want me anymore?
She studied him anew. What else hadn’t he told her about his training? How far would he go to become a grand master? Would he give her up just to make the cut?
Riley shook herself. Why would she ever think that Beck would leave her behind?
Because he could do just that.
# # #
After Beck shut the door to the hotel room behind them, the chain and deadbolt went in place. Then he tested each of them; apparently Riley wasn’t the only one who was spooked.
He took his shower first, mostly because she wanted to send an email to Peter. He’d already written her twice and was getting edgy because she hadn’t replied. Once she was done telling him some of the gruesome details, she surfed for a while. There appeared to be nothing new happening in Atlanta and nothing in the way of news about a demon summoning in Edinburgh. She found Beck watching over her shoulder.
“Anythin’?” he asked.
“They claim some kids were caught vandalizing Old Calton Burial Ground,” she said. “They don’t mention the dead people at all.”
“MacTavish asked the cops to hold back for a bit, at least until he can figure out who did this.”
“The International Guild has that much power?”
“Yeah. Almost as much as the Vatican.”
Whoa. That meant they could do whatever they wanted to news stories . . . or to people who got in their way. Like me?
She’d never really given it much thought, but now she wondered if the grand masters were happy about her and Beck being together. He’d never said anything, but he might not if he thought it would upset her.
A knock came at the door, startling her. Beck crossed quickly to the portal, checked through the peephole, then undid the locks. Brennan beckoned him outside and Beck complied, closing the door behind him. Tempting as it was to eavesdrop, Riley stayed put. The conversation was quiet, and though she didn’t hear the specifics, she suspected they weren’t discussing their favorite pubs or the best place to buy haggis.
Beck returned, securing the locks once again.
“What was that about?”
“Nothin’,” he said.
He was cutting her out of the loop, again.
You weren’t like this at home. “Is this the way it’s going to be from now on? You keeping secrets from me?”
Beck sat on the end of the bed, looking more tired than she had seen him in a long time. “There will be things I can’t tell you, Riley. It has to be that way.”
“Or what? If you do they’ll kill me or something?”
His eyes widened, but he made no reply. His stunned expression made her regret suggesting such a thing.
Riley took a deep breath, trying to settle down. “Sorry. So . . . what can you tell me?”
His nod said he accepted her apology. “Brennan was lettin’ me know that the woman they arrested, the one named Bess . . . her daughter is gettin’ worse.”
All because they couldn’t summon an angel.
“Those guys were set up, Beck. None of them had that much power and they shouldn’t have been anywhere near that kind of spell. That’s way above their skill set.”
Before he could reply, his phone pinged and he checked the message. Then promptly blanked it as if it was a state secret.
She’d had enough. “I don’t like that you can’t tell me everything, like I can’t be trusted.”
Beck put on his stone face. “I’m not likin’ it anymore than you are,” he replied. “But it comes with the territory.”
Maybe not. When they’d started dating there hadn’t been any of this “I can’t tell you” nonsense. There was just demon trapping, not some secret organization of grand masters who had their fingers in all sorts of pies.
Now it’s all about you and them. What happened to us?
Beck sat in bed, trying to read, but it was useless. Riley’s emotions were all over the map now — fine one minute, in his face the next.
Give her some time.
Still, she did have a point; there was stuff he couldn’t tell her, secret knowledge that had been passed down from century to century. He’d found it so amazing when he’d first started down this path, but now he saw how his job could hurt a relationship. MacTavish had warned him about that, but Beck had reassured him that Riley would be okay with it all. Now he wasn’t so sure.
She exited the bathroom holding one of his tee shirts.
“Did you treat the wounds?” he asked.
“Yeah. They still hurt.”
After he reapplied the bandages, Beck turned off the light on the nightstand as she settled in next to him. If this had been at home, they’d forget the bad stuff, lose themselves in each other’s loving. But Riley didn’t turn to him now.
He ran his fingertips down her uninjured arm, savoring the scent of her.
“Night, Den,” she whispered, and then closed her eyes.
He sighed. It wasn’t going to be easy to sleep next to her and not want more, but he wouldn’t push it. In some ways, it felt as if they were starting all over again.
It’ll be better tomorrow.
Beck put his arm around her and she snuggled closer, laying her head on his chest.
“Sorry, I can’t tell you everythin’” he said. “But I can tell you some things.”
Riley shifted her head so she could see his face. “Like what??”
“You never asked what happened to me when I was in Hell,” he said.
“I wasn’t sure if you wanted to talk about it.”
“Well, it’s time you know.”
Riley listened in silence as he told her what had happened after he’d been wounded by Sartael’s blade. What he’d endured while she’d sat vigil over him. How he’d known he was dying, how much it hurt to realize that he’d never see her again.
“You’ve been to Hell, you know what it’s like,” he said.
“For me, maybe, but not for you. Ori said it was different for everyone, even a Fallen.”
Beck grew pensive at the mention of her first lover. “Lucifer said if I gave him my soul I’d live, I’d come back to you and no one would ever know what I’d done.”
Riley jerked in surprise. “God, you didn’t. You couldn’t . . . ”
“No, I didn’t,” he admitted. “I love you more than anythin’ in this world, but I could not give up my soul. If I was dead, it was all I had left I could call my own.”
Riley bowed her head in relief. “Then how did you get out of Hell?”
“My momma. Sadie showed me the way out. Can you believe it?” he said, his voice catching at the end. “I thought she hated me.”
“No, I think she loved you in her own weird way.”
Perhaps now it was time to ask a question of his own. “Down at the hospital that day, when she was dyin’. What did she say to you?”
Riley looked up at him. “I’m surprised you haven’t asked me that before now.”
“Wasn’t sure if I’d like the answer.”
She nodded her understanding. “Your mother made me promise to keep you safe.”
It was his turn to bow his head. “I never understood that woman.”
“I don’t think she understood herself.”
As she fell asleep, Riley cuddled close to him. No matter how tired he was, Beck remained awake.
He wasn’t sure if it was between them, or something bigger on the horizon. One thing he did know; until he knew for sure, he’d keep his worries to himself.
(c) 2013 Jana Oliver
All Rights Reserved.