Her lips parted, her amber eyes excited, glowing in the candlelight. "Vampires overrunning us, Lykae hunting these very streets... It's the Accession. Finally!"

"And you sound like you're looking forward to it?" Danii demanded. "What? Do you want to have an Accession sale or something?"

"Some people benefit. People like me."

"Alumni, rah?"

"Ladies." Murdoch seemed to find Danii's surly behavior amusing. If she were surly, it was only because the air was hot in here. Danii always got irritable when hot.

"This makes sense," Loa said. "I'd heard Lothaire is here, and he often travels with Ivo."

At the mention of Lothaire, Danii stifled a shudder. Ivo was an evil, sociopathic fiend, but he was at least manageable.

Lothaire, the Enemy of Old, was incomprehensible. No one knew what he wanted, and no one could predict what he'd do next.

"You know where they might be?" Danii asked.

"They're definitely staying in the area."

"How do you know?"

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"Because Lothaire has been seen night after night," Loa replied. "There are kobolds camping in the sewers by the river. Ask some of them."

"I'll do that. Have you seen Nix?"

"Aye, she came round and bought... She made a purchase. But I don't know where she went. Now, back to you, Murdoch." Loa leaned over the counter onto her elbows, displaying more cle**age than Danii could manage with a thousand water bras.

When he raised his brows in admiration, Danii stormed from the shop. "Going to make a call outside." She refused to watch any more of this. After Lafitte's, she'd gotten her hopes up about the vampire, again, only to have them dashed now. Do I need to see a neon sign flashing THis GUY'S A PLAYER?

"Directly outside, Daniela," he ordered, surprising her that he'd even been aware she was leaving - and making her bristle at his commanding tone.

On the street, fog from the river was stealing over the Quarter, wrapping it in haze. She took a deep breath of low-tide air to calm herself and debated ringing up Nix. Usually calls were reserved for emergencies, because you never knew when a Valkyrie might need silence for stalking something.

Deciding this was an emergency, Danii pulled her sat-phone from her satchel, then dialed Nix's number.

And heard Nix's Crazy Frog ring tone going off in the next alley over.

CHAPTER 20

"I am astonished she's even talking to you," Loa said after Daniela had walked out, her tone turning decidedly neutral.

Murdoch narrowed his eyes. She'd been flirting for the Valkyrie's benefit? "Why give Daniela such a hard time?"

"Ooh, the vampire doesn't like Loa toying with his Bride."

"Answer me."

"Because she wants to be treated like other Valkyrie, and that's how I treat them," the priestess said. "Want some advice?" When he grudgingly nodded, she said, "Watch for her claws curling, vampire. In a Valkyrie, that means she needs a male to sink them into."

Daniela, with her claws sunk in my back as I took her -

"Oh, and here. These are on sale," Loa said as she bent down behind the counter. "For the ice maiden." She tossed him a pair of gloves. "Tell her I said to handle you with care... "

When Murdoch left Loa's, he wore a victorious grin. He'd purchased the gloves and had garnered a secret about the Valkyrie that could be very helpful to him.

But by the time Murdoch emerged to the now foggy street, Daniela was gone.

He started back toward the main thoroughfare. After several moments, he spied Lukyan at a distance, still intently prowling the streets for Ivo. The Cossack always seemed to be devoid of fear, almost as if he had a death wish. Vigilant Rurik traced on the roofs above him.

Yet there was no sign of Daniela.

Danii rushed to the sound, peering down the stygian alley. Finally, she spotted the soothsayer, talking to some figure in the shadows.

"Nix!" By the time Danii reached her, the figure had hastened away. "Who were you talking to?"

"Hmmm?" Nix's raven-black hair was wild, her golden eyes vacant as usual - she often saw the future more clearly than the present - but she also looked frazzled and tired. Though she wore an immaculate white dress, her hands were filthy.

"And why are you so dirty?" Danii asked her.

"I'm dirty? You're the one getting busy with a leech. You naughty, freaky minx."

"Answer the question," Danii gritted out. "Who was that?"

"Who was who?"

Typical Nix - she could be playing innocent, or she truly could have forgotten who she'd just been talking to seconds before. "What are you doing here?"

She blinked at Danii. "Laying low like po-po?" At Danii's glare, Nix's mien turned playful. "Trolling for some strange! No? Composing a tweet?"

"Nix, are you following me?"

"Do I need to be?"

Danii inhaled for patience. "I was looking for you. I need to tell you about - "

"Myst. Don't concern yourself. She's taken care of. As for your next question, you should go somewhere that is not here." She gazed around as if they might be overheard, then loudly whispered, "There are dempires about."

"Dempires?" Danii had never, in her long life, heard the term.

"And Lykae all around as well." Nix jerked her chin in the direction of the main drag.

Danii glanced over and spotted three Lykae walking by, twins and one more. All of them were striking examples of heart throbbing maleness, but then, Lykae often were.

Now they stopped, turned toward Danii and Nix, and sniffed the air. All three tensed with awareness of other Loreans. A standoff. Danii drew ice into her palm.

Then Nix wiggled her dirty fingers, beckoning them. Looking scarily crazed with her wild hair and unsettling eyes, she cooed, "Come, puppies. Come meet Destiny." Out of the corner of her mouth, Nix stage-whispered, "Destiny is my fist's name."

When the trio spoke in Gaelic, and carried on, Nix chuckled.

"What? What'd they say?"

"That we weren't worth the bother. That you're the frigid one and I'm crazy. Seems they've got our numbers!"

The frigid one. Lowly Lykae thought of her like that? My ego's on life support. Prognosis grim.

"We're eventually going to be allies with them, you know," Nix said dimly. "In-laws, even."

Danii snorted. The Valkyrie considered the Lykae little better than animals. "You're joking, right?"

"Would I joke about something like this?"