Home > Shadow Hunt (Disrupted Magic #3)(13)

Shadow Hunt (Disrupted Magic #3)(13)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

“Is Maven around?” Lex asked.

“She’s waiting for you in the back,” he replied. “Do you guys want coffee?”

“Sure,” Lex said, looking at Molly and me. We both nodded.

“Make it four,” Quinn said, looking suddenly enthusiastic.

“Whoa, Mr. Quinn drinking the coffee. Crazy,” the kid said in a monotone, and I suddenly remembered that marijuana was legal in Colorado.

He handed out the full cups, and Quinn took a couple of sips, looking fascinated. “Huh,” he said, wrinkling his nose. “I don’t remember it being so . . . gross.”

“You get used to it,” I told him.

He put the cup down on the counter. “Or not.”

“Ready?” Lex asked me.

I nodded and she looked at Molly. “Wait here, please. Just as a security thing.”

Molly rolled her eyes, but gave Lex a little salute. “I’ll stay out here, too,” Quinn said, locking eyes with Lex. “Give you guys some privacy.”

I pulled in my radius as we entered a large room with a concrete floor and a small stage. Folding chairs were set out around a card table, and a young woman was perched on a chair with one foot folded under her. Maven was very young-looking, with a fashion sense I would describe as eclectic, if I needed to be polite: she wore a baggy denim dress that hung to the floor, along with huge, eighties-style glasses that somehow clashed with her bright orange hair. And she had layers and layers of cheap costume jewelry that reminded me of Mardi Gras beads.

Lex introduced me, and Maven gestured for us to sit. I took the seat farthest from her so I could keep her out of my cinched-in radius.

“Thank you for meeting with me,” I said formally.

She smiled. “You certainly piqued my interest,” she said, her diction completely at odds with her appearance. She sounded like people in old movies, with that fancy, mid-Atlantic kind of accent. She waved at me. “It’s all right—you can release it. I wouldn’t mind being human for a little while.”

Surprised, I released my grip on my radius. Maven gasped, clutching at her chest as her heart started beating and her lungs struggled with the sudden need for air. Vampires usually do those things anyway, to blend in and to speak, but they don’t have to devote energy to it, any more than I have to devote energy to walking on my tiptoes.

So Maven’s shocked reaction was typical of most vampires, but for once, I was equally floored. When a vampire is in my radius, I get a vague sense of their power and age. Dashiell was powerful, but not very old. Molly had average power, average age. Quinn was young, and a little stronger than most vampires his age.

But this woman . . . “Holy shit,” I breathed out, feeling the sudden compulsion to stand up and curtsy. She really was the oldest vampire I’d ever felt, at least a thousand years old. A thousand years old.

And she had every bit of power those years afforded.

Chapter 11

There was a long silence. Lex perched on the edge of her seat, looking back and forth between us like she didn’t know who to protect from whom. It would have been funny if I wasn’t so gobsmacked. Wait, had I really just used the word gobsmacked?

“It’s okay,” Maven gasped, smiling at Lex. “We just need a moment.”

After a few minutes, we were both more or less recovered, although I now had a thousand questions. This woman was powerful as hell. What was she doing in Boulder, Colorado? She could literally be running the world.

Stay on task, Scarlett. I took a sip of my coffee, and Maven’s nostrils flared.

“May I?” she said hopefully.

“Um, yeah. Of course.” I slid the cup over to her, and she took a tiny sip, looking intensely thoughtful.

“Hmm,” she said, nodding her head a little. “I usually keep a cup lying around as though it’s mine, but I’ve never actually tasted this stuff.”

“Have you been around nulls before?” I asked, hoping the answer was yes. She wouldn’t be much help to me if I was the first null she’d encountered in all that time.

“Yes, but it’s been decades, and coffee wasn’t what it is now. Lex,” she said, turning to face the boundary witch. “Can you go get me a frappe . . . and an espresso, and maybe some of those scones we just baked?”

Lex paused, looking wary, and I couldn’t entirely blame her. Her one job here was to protect Maven, which she couldn’t do from another room. She sort of trusted me, but leaving Maven unguarded with a null went against all her instincts. “I don’t think—”

“It’s okay,” I reassured her. I trusted Lex. And now that I’d met Charlie . . . well, whatever Maven told me was going to apply to her too someday. To Maven, I said, “My friend Molly is waiting outside. Why don’t I text her to bring it in?” Lex shot me a grateful look.

After the text was sent, Maven raised her eyebrows at me. “So. What was it you needed to ask me?”

I took a deep breath. “Okay. I don’t know very much about the history of nulls. Dashiell, my cardinal vampire, is relatively young. Most of the leadership in LA is young.” This was common knowledge, and Maven nodded, gesturing for me to continue. “Everything I’ve ever heard, however, suggests that nulls can’t have kids. I want to know if that’s true.” I had a further explanation ready—the thing about a boyfriend who wanted to have kids someday—but I decided to keep it as simple as possible.

“Ah.” Maven sat back in her chair, regarding me. I tried not to squirm.

“You’re pregnant,” she said softly.

I winced, and Lex’s gaze shot toward me, her eyes widening.

Before I could answer, Molly walked into the room carrying a small round tray of beverages and scones. Her path brought her straight into my radius. “Hi,” she said cheerfully to the other vampire. “I’m Molly. Love your dress.”

Maven blinked, then looked down at herself and back up in a thoroughly human gesture. “Thank you.”

Molly glanced at Lex and me, trying to gauge the mood. “Is . . . everything okay?” she asked.

“Um . . .” Of course, it had occurred to me that Maven might figure it out. Not because she could smell it on me or anything—even if vampires could smell pregnancy, like dogs, it wouldn’t apply to a null—but because I’d come on such short notice, in secret, and I looked very much like I’d spent the last week vomiting.

But I knew enough about Old World politics to know that if I didn’t confirm it, and there was no proof, Maven wouldn’t have to act on it. “Let’s speak hypothetically for a moment, can we?” I said carefully.

“Of course.” The vampire began lifting beverages, taking small, appreciative sips. She looked up at Molly and gestured to the last empty chair. “Will you be joining us?”

Molly glanced at Lex, who shrugged her assent.

“Thank you.” Molly perched on the edge of her chair, picking up a coffee from the tray that was already marked with her lipstick.

“Hypothetically,” I started again, “if a null wanted to get pregnant, would it be possible?”

Maven finished a sip and set down her cup. “Yes,” she said simply. “But very difficult.”

Something inside me uncurled. Maven knew something about this. We had been right to come here. “Have you heard of it happening before?”

She nodded. “In . . . let me see . . .” She glanced at the ceiling, squinting. “It was the 1240s, I believe.”

Molly actually spat out some coffee, though she managed to turn her head at the last moment so it would land on the floor. “Holy shit,” she blurted.

I raised an eyebrow at her, widening my eyes to say, Dude, we knew she was old.

Molly nodded and sent a contrite look toward Maven. “Sorry, um, ma’am,” she said. “I didn’t mean to interrupt. I’ll just go get napkins—” She started to stand up, but Maven waved her off.

“Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it later.”

“Did you actually meet a null who was pregnant?” I asked, trying to get her attention away from Molly’s gaffe. Lex was still silent, but she was looking at me like I’d sprouted another arm.

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