Luca was standing outside of a dance hall in Boston when a gorgeous blonde woman threw herself at him. Bastard or no, he was a gentleman, so he caught her, one hand on her slim waist, the other on her shoulders. Her hair fell forward into his face, filling his nose with an intoxicating scent that no perfume could duplicate.
He’d known, of course, from the moment she appeared – there were features Mike’s vanity refused to change, her eyes and the perfect golden-yellow of her hair foremost among them but the perfect swirl of her earlobes high on the list – but the scent cinched it. Mike smelled like Mike, like bottled sex. Like an extremely sinful pagan heaven.
“My Master,” she breathed, the beaded fringe on her short dress trembling. He glowered down at her – what game was she playing now? “Thank God you’re here!”
Mike was his friend, lying miserable piece of shit or no, so he looked down at her hopeful face, with that quavering little lip. “I’m here, my pet,” he murmured softly. The air quavered around them, and they both tried to ignore it; she’d set the roles up, and, for now, he’d play along. “What do you need?”
“Tell this horrible man that he can’t have me?” Her acting ability was, as always, amazing, but he couldn’t help glaring at her for a moment. He’d done this twenty years ago with Mike’s daughter. He wasn’t about to do it again with her.
She winked at him, and he sighed and gathered her more efficiently into his arms. “Of course he can’t have you, my dear,” he said, intentionally forgetting for a moment that the woman in front of him could decide at the drop of a hat to be a man. She was his friend, she was a woman in need…
He looked up at the bellowing monster of a man who was bearing down on them, and hurriedly set Mike back on her feet. Pressed against his arm, she murmured Workings in a rapid torrent of Words and Greek, his Name slipping off her lips in that way that always sent shivers down his spine.
“The woman is mine,” the monster shouted. “Bought and paid for.”
“You’re mistaken,” Luca said calmly, shielding Mike as she continued to spin Workings. He felt the strength and fortitude she was lending to him in his bones.
“I know where my money went, boy,” the man snarled. His breath was rancid. His being… was not human. His Masking was bad, and Luca could see the edges of twisted black wings through the glamour.
“Doesn’t look like it, son,” he retorted. Mike was a clever little devil; as long as she kept up the Working, this should be easy. “Looks like you’ve mistaken my woman for a whore.”
“That’s because your woman is a whore,” the beast snarled. Luca hid a smile. <i>Walked right into that one, you rotten little shit.</i>
“Did you just call my wife a whore?” he bellowed. Mike timed it perfectly – her Working ripped a hole inside the monster’s guts just as Luca’s concealed hawthorn dagger gutted him.
The fight was over in moments, a brief brawl from which the monster staggered away. He’d die within a day, his injuries deep and splintered with poison, but by then, Mike and Luca would be far away and forgotten.
Late that night, in a hotel room on the other side of the city, Luca studied Mike’s perfect feminine beauty. “You invoked my protection.” From a Daeva who loved to rub in his – her – its superior age, it had been an odd move.
“I did.” She blushed a little, letting her tousled hair cover her face. “I didn’t think I could take him on my own. And I wasn’t sure you’d help me otherwise.”
He shook his head. “I should leave you stuck like this for that one. You know I’d never turn down a lady in distress.”
“Do it,” Mike smiled, “and you’ll never be free of me, featherface. Besides…” She was an actress. He had to remember that when she sounded that vulnerable. “I wasn’t sure you would. I’m not a real lady, after all.”
She was an actress. She was crying. She was a <i>Daeva</i>. She was a woman (at the moment), crying in his hotel room.
“Aw, hell.” He wrapped his arms around her, holding her close. “Shut up, Mikey.”
She shut up.