The dust took a couple of weeks to settle, after Kady’s abrupt departure from her old life and chaotic intrusion into her new one. She’d been in the middle of war with her own people when she’d died for the first time, and the others had found her desperately attempting to steal magic from a rival hedge group in order to survive, too anxious about her own life to properly mourn for her mother’s death, and certainly too caught up in her own frantic mind to trust any of these new people, much less believe them about their immortality, or her own.
But eventually she did grow to know them a bit. It didn’t mean she was ready to completely cut off the plans she’d had for herself, the path she’d expected her life to take, but it got to the point where she could sleep in a room down the hall from Penny Adiyodi and the others, and not feel like she needed to keep her guard up all night. These people were strange, and definitely dangerous, but she’d come to believe, foolishly or not, that they didn’t mean her harm.
Margo, with an authoritative finality that Kady appreciated when she herself felt so aimless, had ordered them all to run to ground and get some rest after the tumult of the past couple of weeks. They’d arrived via Penny’s Traveling to a well-furnished and magically enlarged home somewhere in the French countryside, and while Kady felt a certain amount of curiosity to explore a country entirely unfamiliar to her, she also didn’t mind following Margo’s instructions to lay low and get some rest before striking out on a sight-seeing tour.
So that was where she was, huddled under blankets in a room of her own, a fire damped in the grate across the way, lanterns still lit despite the late hour. She wanted to be asleep, but she found she couldn’t quite get her brain to go quiet. It was like now, after everything, she finally had a chance to think about all that had happened to her, and it was too much to hope to silence the thoughts with the expediency of unconsciousness.
She’d been reading a book earlier in the day, and decided to go fetch it from the drawing room, see if the words of Sir Walter Scott could send her into the land of dreams. On her way down the hall and past the entrance to the dining room, she heard a quiet murmur of voices. Her instinct was to freeze and back away, but she ignored it and kept going forward. She had no reason to feel uncertain of her place here. If anything, she was doing them a favor by staying where they’d told her to stay, instead of running away from the insanity they all represented.
It was Eliot and Quentin, standing just in the doorway, and as Kady walked by, she saw that Eliot’s hand was curved against the line of Quentin’s jaw, their heads tilted together in intimacy.
Now she was rethinking her boldness, but it was too late to turn back. Quentin heard the creak of a floorboard and spun to identify the intruder. His posture went tense as if to attack or defend, but then he softened when he saw her. Eliot’s reaction was a beat slower than Quentin’s, but when he saw that it was Kady who had come across them here in the dark, he didn’t relax. In fact, he pinned her with a look, almost a glare, sharp enough that for a moment Kady was rendered speechless.
Then, it occurred to her that the look was a silent question, and a warning, rolled all into one. She nearly laughed, despite her shock at finding them this way. “Oh, you don’t need to worry,” she told them, trying for a smile. “Um. Not on my account, anyway.”
“We weren’t worried,” Quentin said, matter-of-fact.
“I didn’t know,” Kady said, and then wished she hadn’t.
“No,” Eliot said. “There are those who would make trouble.”
“I’m not like that,” Kady said, and then, in an effort to explain, because for some reason the idea of being judged unfavorably by these two men was unbearable, she rushed on. “I’d have to be a hypocrite.”
At this, Eliot finally did soften, raising a curious eyebrow. “Why, Miss Diaz. I had no idea.”
“It’s not like Margo and Julia bothered to hide that they’re sharing a bed,” Kady blurted. “I’d hate to think you felt deception necessary on my account.”
The two shared a look, and she’d seen them communicate silently this way before, but she’d never noticed the love behind it until now. They were good at hiding what they were to each other, and the thought made Kady terribly sad.
“The deception was more for the world in general,” Quentin finally said, and he shifted a bit so he was leaning against the broad expanse of Eliot’s chest. Eliot hooked an arm around his waist, a gesture so automatic she was sure they’d been standing this way for years. Or. Or for centuries. How long had they… “Sometimes it’s easier to keep up certain appearances. Let people think whatever they want. It’s often not wise to add unnecessary fuel to an already high-tension situation.”
Kady swallowed, thinking of the discretion she herself had used on those rare instances when she allowed herself the luxury of a dalliance. Male or female, any partner she chose would cause some measure of scandal, even the relatively uninhibited underground world of New York hedges.
“Well,” Kady said. “You’re home now. With people you can trust.”
She hoped they understood she wanted to be included in that rarefied group of trusted confidants. Eliot smiled at her, surprising in its warmth after the guardedness of his expression when she’d first stumbled upon them. “To be clear,” he said, affecting nonchalance but still smiling at her, “sometimes we don’t bother with discretion, and we just kill anyone who gives us grief.”
Quentin was smiling too, but she couldn’t quite tell if it was in response to a joke, or was meant to be silent confirmation of Eliot’s words.
“Um,” Kady said, thinking of the carnage of the past several days, and wondering what these two would be capable of when they didn’t bother to hold back. “Well, I guess I’m glad we’re on the same side.”
She fetched her book, and on her way back up the stairs she saw Quentin and Eliot sharing a kiss, something chaste and familiar, still in the doorway where she’d found them. It wasn’t a performance strictly for her sake, but she couldn’t help but think they’d timed it so she’d see. So she’d know they’d be themselves around her from this point forward.
When she found her way back to her own room, she discovered she was ready for sleep at last.