I begin to shake with a rage I did not know I had. Luckily, for Sinan, the veil over my eyes prevents me from seeing him clearly. I raise my hand, and a stream of blazing light shoots in the direction of the old man. He freezes as the hot light strikes a spot uncomfortably close – for him – to his head. I push down the thought that I missed and, with my hand outstretched, I glide closer to my mother’s lover.
“Speak,” I bark at him.
He clears his throat. “Layla girl-”
“Spare me the excuses, old man. Speak truth! Or you shall not speak again.” Sinan’s eyes bulge out of his head. His mouth quirks.
“Tis how you were raised? You’d threaten your father?”
“I’m not threatening you, Dad,” I growl. “I’m promising you. Now start talking.”
Ghost Dude Bob sighs and sits up, the bowl of grapes vanishing. “I shall explain to my betrothed the situation she now finds herself floundering in,” he tells Sinan, “since you failed to complete your duty.”
Sinan bows his head, and a strange mixture of contrition and badly disguised defiance flits across his face. I have no time to wonder about it, because Jackie rises to her feet and stomps over to Ghost Dude, and I am instantly distracted.
Standing with her fists on her hips, her nails dig into her palms, just in case she needs some ammunition, I assume. She leans forward, pushing her face close to Bob’s. I cringe, hoping that another layer of gore is not about to be added to the mess in my room. I wonder if I can just burn this room when we’re done?
“Look here, O Holy Chile,” Jackie hisses. “I have someplace to be. I would greatly appreciate it, honey, if you would release whatever voodoo spell you have on that door and let me out of here. This little soirée has nothing to do with me.”
Keeping one eye on Sinan, I tune in to Jackie’s rant and hope she doesn’t try anything silly, like, oh, I don’t know, blasting an ancient, super sexy god with her power?
I did not just think that.
Ghost Bob gives Jackie an amused glance. His warm brown eyes turn appraising as they roam up and down her body. Startled, I suppose, by his intense scrutiny, the tall woman straightens her spine and stumbles backward. She hugs herself tightly, as though cold, smearing blood on her shirt. She backs up another two or three steps as Bob rises to his feet.
He reaches for Jackie, cupping her cheek in his hand. I can see the strain of her muscles as she fights not to lean into his touch. His thumb caresses her lips; she shivers and tries to pull away.
“Careful there,” Sinan calls out. “That’s not a real wo-” I cut off his words with another blast of hot, sizzling light. The old man covers his head and curses. I holds the short staff so tightly in my hand that I am carving slices in the wood with my talons. What is this acid-like feeling in my gut?
Ghost Bob breaks the silence. “You desire me.”
Jackie gulps. “I – I don’t. I can’t. I just – I – I need to go.”
“I can feel your power. You are an exceptional woman.”
“Not a wom – OW!” Sinan rolls to one side, clutching the arm that I kicked.
Jackie looks so miserable that I jump in to help my friend, purely unselfishly. “Excuse me, playa, but I thought you were supposed to marry me?” Oops. Okay, not so pure or unselfish. I hate it when my mouth moves faster than my brain.
“A god of my caliber is allowed – no – expected to wed more than once. I will have you both,” Ghost Bob says nonchalantly. My eye twitches, and I see Jackie shake her head and ease out of his grip. She lowers her gaze, possibly hurt and confused –
“Rise, Setu!” she snaps, and the biggest freaking blood golem I have ever seen takes form between her and Bob.
So. Not hurt and confused, then.
“What is the meaning of this?” Bob demands.
Jackie smirks. “I may not be Certified, but even you admire my strength. That must mean something good.” She licks her lips seductively and turns to me. “Layla, you stay out of it this time.”
I have to help her! “Jackie, this is quite possibly the dumbest thing you can do.” Damn my brain-mouth disconnection. I try it again. “You’ll die.” She cuts me a annoyed glance.
I throw my hands up in disgust with myself. Screw it. I give up.
I attempt another tactic. “Old man,” I call. Warily, Sinan looks up at me and grimaces. I lean very close to him and ask, “Are you planning to talk, or I need to rip what I want to know from your brain myself?”
When the color drains from his face, I realize the truth behind my words. With this level of power, I don’t need to beg him to speak; I can simply open his mind and snatch what I need. I begin to laugh, first quietly, then with loud, ear ringing guffaws.
So, of course, that’s the moment Bob’s eyes turn black and the house begins to rattle on the foundation. I spy Jackie floating several inches in the air just as the lights go out. Again.